Gateshead - Encyclopedia

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GATESHEAD, a municipal, county and parliamentary borough of Durham, England; on the S. bank of the Tyne opposite Newcastle, and on the North Eastern railway. Pop. (1891) 85,692; (Igor) 109,888. Though one of the largest towns in the county, neither its streets nor its public buildings, except perhaps its ecclesiastical buildings, have much claim to architectural beauty. The parish church of St Mary is an ancient cruciform edifice surmounted by a lofty tower; but extensive restoration was necessitated by a fire in 1854 which destroyed a considerable part of the town. The town-hall, public library and mechanic's institute are noteworthy buildings. Education is provided by a grammar school, a large day school for girls, and technical and art schools. There is a service of steam trams in the principal streets, and three fine bridges connect the town with Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There are large iron works (including foundries and factories for engines, boilers, chains and cables), shipbuilding yards, glass manufactories, chemical, soap and candle works, brick and tile works, breweries and tanneries. The town also contains a depot of the North Eastern railway, with large stores and locomotive works. Extensive coal mines exist in the vicinity; and at Gateshead Fell are large quarries for grindstones, which are much esteemed and are exported to all parts of the world. Large gas-works of the Newcastle and Gateshead Gas Company are also situated in the borough. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The corporation consists of a mayor, 9 aldermen, and 27 councillors. Area, 3132 acres.

Gateshead (Gateshewed) probably grew up during late Saxon times, the mention of the church there in which Bishop Walcher was murdered in 1080 being the - first evidence of settlement. The borough probably obtained its charter during the following century, for Hugh de Puiset, bishop of Durham (1153-1195), confirmed to his burgesses similar rights to those of the burgesses of Newcastle, freedom of toll within the palatinate and other privileges. The bishop had a park here in 1348, and in 1438 Bishop Nevill appointed a keeper of the "tower." The position of the town led to a struggle with Newcastle over both fishing and trading rights. An inquisition of 1322 declared that the water of the Tyne was divided into three parts: the northern, belonging to Northumberland; the southern to Durham; and the central, common to all. At another inquisition held in 1336 the men of Gateshead claimed liberty of trading and fishing along the coast of Durham, and freedom to sell their fish where they would. In 1552, on the temporary extinction of the diocese of Durham, Gateshead was attached to Newcastle, but in 1554 was regranted to Bishop Tunstall. As compensation the bishop granted to Newcastle, at a nominal rent, the Gateshead salt-meadows, with rights of way to the High Street, thus abolishing the toll previously paid to the bishop. During the next century Bishop Tunstall's successors incor p orated nearly all the various trades of Gateshead, and Cromwell continued this policy. The town government during this period was by the bishop's bailiff, and the holders of the burgages composed the juries of the bishop's courts leet and baron. No charter of incorporation is extant, but in 1563 contests were carried on under the name of the bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty, and a list of borough accounts exists for 1696. The bishop appointed the last borough bailiff in 1681, and though the inhabitants in 1772 petitioned for a bailiff the town remained under a steward and grassmen until the 19th century. As part of the palatinate of Durham, Gateshead was not represented in parliament until 1832. At the inquisition of 1336 the burgesses claimed an annual fair on St Peter's Day, and depositions in 1577 mention a borough market held on Tuesday and Friday, but these were apparently extinct in Camden's day, and no grant of them is extant. The medieval trade seems to have centred round the fisheries and the neighbouring coal mines which are mentioned in 1364 and also by Leland.

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