The nineteenth century brought tremendous change to the industrial landscape in North Northumberland. The arrival of the railways meant the transportation of people and goods opened up new opportunities for local communities and industry. Mechanisation transformed industry bringing a more diverse range of employment than had previously existed.
This page provides links to some websites which explore the background and history of the main industries in North Northumberland from the nineteenth century onwards, namely:
The Durham Mining Museum website offers a wealth of information for those researching the history of the mining industry in the North East of England. The following links to the website relate to mines in the North Northumberland area.
A full history of the Ford Moss Colliery appears on this website in the History section.
The Blackhill Campaign. A 50 minute documentary film, made in 1963, follows the campaign organised by the miners and local citizens of the villages of Blackhill (Unthank) and Scremerston in Northumberland to fight the National Coal Board’s decision to close the Blackhill Colliery. Following their defeat the film then shows them in their efforts to open a private drift mine at Allerdean. Click here to view the film on the British Film Institute player: http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-blackhill-campaign-1963/
The history of shipbuilding in Berwick, from the mid-eighteenth century until its eventual demise in 1979, is described in great detail on the Berwick Shipyard website (principal developer William Swan, with extensive contributions by Graham Toward). The site describes its aims and scope as folllows:
“When Berwick Shipyard closed its gates for the last time in 1979 it marked the end of a chapter in the town’s industrial history. The purpose of the Berwick Shipyard website is to keep the memory of shipbuilding at Berwick alive and to celebrate the achievements of the yard and those who worked there. Within these pages you can trace the historical development of an industry that was first established at Berwick in 1751 and continued up until 1878 before it’s revival in 1950. You can find out about early yards on the Tweed and their output over the years including the role that Berwick shipyard would play during the 19th century in the development of what today is Britain’s biggest ship-owning company.”
Berwick Shipyard website is extensively illustrated, and as well as the histories of the principal companies which worked in Berwick, it includes detailed lists of the ships which have been built in the town, and many of their stories.
For 19th century farming in Northumberland, the Woodhorn and Northumberland Archives have produced a Farms Index for 1860. It lists the farms by name and gives the township and parish in which they were situated.
Sheep Tales & Spinning Yarns is a website developed from a project based in North Northumberland, and it tells the story of sheep farming, shepherding and lives of families living in the border hills past and present. It offers many contemporary and historical photographs, as well as an archive of oral histories from local people.
A comprehensive set of statistical data on agriculture and land use from the 19th century through to the 21st is provided by the following two websites:
A narrative history of the British countryside at different periods from 13,000BC to 2000AD appears on Agriculture UK. It explores many aspects of farming, food production, and livestock, supported by numerous pictures and videos.
The arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century transformed the local area, making it easier for the majority of the country’s population to travel. Visits to the seaside became popular, and local industries took advantage of the railways to transport their goods.. The railway station at Tweedmouth was opened in 1847, with the station at Berwick opening a year earlier in 1846. There were also goods marshalling yards at both stations employing hundreds of people. The Tweed Valley branch line, connecting the border towns to Tweedmouth station, opened in 1849. Both Tweedmouth and Berwick stations were eventually connected with the opening of the distinctive Royal Border Bridge in 1850, by Queen Victoria. The station at Tweedmouth closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts to railways, leaving Berwick station to serve the local community on the East Coast Main Line.
The Network Rail Archive provides a historical insight into many areas of railway infrastructure in Britain. “The archive brings together documents that relate to our ‘engineering inheritance’, a collection that represents the development of the most significant structures, engineers and innovation on the railway from the nineteenth century to the present day.” Among the material which has been made available are documents and historical plans about the following:
The history of the railways in this region can be widely traced through its now disused stations. a number of which are still visible. Listed below are the closed railway stations of North Northumberland, covering the East Coast Main Line and the now defunct Alnwick to Cornhill Branch Line. The Disused Stations website provides histories of each station together with maps and photographs:
East Coast Main Line
Alnwick – Cornhill Branch Line
The following websites are also recommended for anyone interested in researching the railways:
The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) Encyclopedia is a reference work documenting the history of the LNER, one of the ‘big four’ railway companies which were established in 1923.
The Railways Archive is an extensive historical repository, giving access to electronic copies of original railway documents, together with supporting data; it covers railway law, safety, economics, and politics (but not railway ephemera).
The Railscot website provides a history of the railways in Britain, with an emphasis on Scotland.
The early 19th century was ‘Boom Time’ for the herring fishing industry along the East Coast of Scotland and England. With generous government bounties on the herring caught and catches sold abroad from herring boats over 60 tons, it was a lucrative industry. At the peak of the Herring Boom around 1907 over 250,000 tons of herring were cured and exported.
At Sandstell Road, Spittal in the 1840s, Robert Boston & Sons established a herring curing business. The curing of herring at Spittal can be traced back to 1806, a short history can be found on the Mouth of the Tweed website.
Salmon net fishing on the River Tweed can be traced back to the 12th century. Up to the 1980s net salmon fishing employed hundreds of men annually on a seasonal basis. Since then netting salmon on the River Tweed has contracted substantially, with only two fishing stations remaining in order to conserve salmon stocks.
A fascinating history of the salmon fishing industry can be found on the Tweed Foundation website. Here are four links from this website for those interested in the history of net and rod fishing on the Tweed and the Eye: