Jesmond 1850 – 1950

Jesmond had been outside Newcastle until the 1832 Reform Act which also expanded the city to the East & West.

A detailed history of Jesmond can be found in “An Account of Jesmond” by F.W. Dendy, 1903.

Until about 1800 the land had been farmed, and contained several streams which flowed east and south east towards the Ouseburn, carrying rainwater across Jesmond from the town moor in the west to the Ouseburn in the east.

Coal had been discovered and excavated from about 1600, initially in modest quantities. Progressively more land was worked for coal and from around 1730 became an intensive industry, serving the growing city of Newcastle and its factories from around 20 separate pits.  Coal mining in Jesmond had already been in sharp decline by the time of the tragic collapse of the Heaton Mains mine in 1850.

Stote’s Hall
ca 1910. Demolished after serious damage in WWII, it stood on the land now bare between the sharp bend in Jesmond Dene Road and the bank of the Dene itself, opposite its junction with Collingwood Terrace.

The land on which Jesmond was later developed as a suburb in Victorian times had been given over to the Corporation of Newcastle by eight or so landowners.

The best known landowner of Jesmond in the 19th century was the wealthy industrialist William Armstrong (later Lord Armstrong) who developed a highly successful engineering industrial base on the Tyne. By the 1860’s, aged 55, his businesses operated without his direct involvement and became more interested in landscaping. He bought Jesmond Dene House (built 1822) for his family home, complete with extensive stables and gatehouses. He commissioned architect John Dobson to design the grand Banqueting Hall on the steep sides of Jesmond Dene for professional and social hospitality. He also planned the creation of Jesmond Dene by re-shaping the formerly unkempt Heaton Wood, and turning the valley into his family garden, by using landscaping techniques on an industrial scale. Once the landscaping had been completed, he opened the Dene to the public on two days of the week, for a small admission fee.

Later, he repeated the project on a grander scale at Cragside, near Rothbury, and in 1883, gave Jesmond Dene and the Banqueting Hall to the Corporation of Newcastle.

A few other significant houses still stood on these lands at this time, including Stote’s Hall (Rebuilt 17th c. Demolished 1950’s. Jesmond Dene Road. picture right), Jesmond Manor House (eleventh century or earlier. Rebuilt 18th c. demolished 1929. The Grove), Jesmond Towers (early 1800’s. Bemersyde Drive, originally West Jesmond House, later La Sagesse convent and school), Orchard House (now on Fenwick Terrace), Eldon House (near the present Acorn Road and Osborne Road), Jesmond Cottage (1831. The Grove, later Akhurst School), the Castle (at Castle Farm), Villa Reale (1817. later Sandyford Park, Nazareth House then Chapman House, now part of Central High School), South Jesmond House (originally The Minories. demolished 1910), Broomfield Tower (Jesmond Vale opposite The Cradlewell), Goldspink Hall and Jesmond Vale House (both in lower Jesmond Vale near the Blue Bell public house). Other buildings include Crag Hall (ca 1788. Miners’ cottages near Matthew Bank), Busy Cottage Mill (Jesmond Dene, originally a grain mill then iron works, now Millfield House), Deep Dene House (Jesmond Dene, originally Heaton Cottage and grain mill, then a flint mill, now Fisherman’s Lodge) and a few other mills along the course of the Ouseburn.

As the industrial prosperity of Newcastle was growing rapidly in the 1880s, a huge demand for new housing followed. The opportunity to provide that housing in the comparitively smoke-free outer areas of Heaton in the east, Fenham in the west and Jesmond in the north was eagerly taken up as the city enjoyed its new found wealth and prosperity.

The land owners made their land available for housing developments under Covenants which specified how their land could be developed. Architects and builders complied with those conditions, which restricted the style of buildings that they would permit on their land, and which put restrictions on their use into the future.
An example of one of those covenants is available from this site.
download here

It was because of those Covenants and the Christian values expresed in them, that the area remained mainly residential throughout the 20th Century, with the few pubs in Jesmond being around the periphery.

City architect John Dobson planned the development of a residential suburb of new, terraced housing which was built progressively from South to North to home the new middle class.

Osborne Road in 1912 showing an electric tram running northwards. At first, the line ended near Acorn Road though waslater extended to the Northern end of the Road.
The tower of St. George’s church can also be seen in the background.

In 1850, the population of Jesmond was about 2000.

In the 1860’s Osborne Road was created as far North as St. George’s Church.

A new railway line to the coast, running North – South through the area was constructed and opened in 1864, before many of the terraced homes had been built.
This included 2 stations in Jesmond, (now Jesmond Station and West Jesmond Station).

This linked Jesmond to New Bridge Street in Newcastle, or north to Gosforth, Benton and east to Backworth and Monkseaton. Initially trains were pulled coal-fired steam engines.

In the 1870’s, Osborne Road was extended North to join Benton Road and by 1880 it linked Jesmond Road in the south with Benton Road in the north.

In the 1883 William Armstong donated his landscaped park, Jesmond Dene, to the City of Newcastle.  He had initially used the park for his own family’s enjoyment and the hospitality of guests, and had later opened it to the public on two days of the week for an admission charge.

By the 1890’s the house building in Jesmond had reached its greatest pace, most of the southern area had been developed into a residential suburb.

By 1900, the population of Jesmond had reached 15,000.

A tram line was installed in Osborne Road in 1902, and the No 38 tram, powered by electricity from overhad cables, ran throughout the day to provide a convenient and, relatively, comfortable link between Jesmond and the city centre. (picture left)

The tram network was such a success that the railway operator, NER, immediately lost 4 million passenger-journeys a year.
They responded rapidly by upgrading their steam hauled railway and progressively introduced a new, electrically powered suburban railway which would link Jesmond with Newcastle City Centre.
The initial section between New Bridge Street and Benton opened in 1904 and was quickly followed by several extensions, along the Tyne, to the Coast, a junction to the mainline at Benton, and with the southern, Tynemouth branch reaching into the City Centre.  By 1909 trains through Jesmond would take residents on a new line to Manors and then into the City Centre.

Vitally, these developments linked residential Jesmond to many of the thriving industrial centres of work along the Tyne, such as Wallsend, Walker and Byker, over the Tyne to Gateshead and Jarrow, as well as the coastal towns of Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.


The railway and tram network between them encouraged and sustained the rapid development of Jesmond as a highly popular commuter suburb of the City and attracted many professionals, the expanding workforce of management and secretarial workers and as a consequence, was lively with young families and the supplies of coal and foodstuffs they consumed.

By 1910 the northern half of Jesmond had been almost fully developed with residential terraces, although a number of larger plots. particularly north east of Osborne Road were occupied by single residential homes in large grounds.

Glenthorne Road in West Jesmond is pictured (right) in around 1910. This was one of the many terraces built in the west, close to the electric railway’s West Jesmond station.

Jesmond had been built on gently sloping land which carried a number of small streams runing from the Town Moor towards the Ouseburn.  Aggrevating drainage, the soil in most of the area was predominantly a thin layer of earth on top of a dense and impervious clay.  Rainwater flowed slowly under the surface on top of that clay, and in times of heavy rain, a large volume of rainwater would flow down the gently sloping streets and quickly fill the victorian drainage system to capacity. When the surface rain water could not be drained away fast enough, one of the consequences was flooding. Jesmond Road at its lowest point between Osborne Avenue and Shortridge Terrace was particularly susceptible to flooding. (picture below left)

Jesmond Road during the floods of 1913

The Russian novelist Yevgeni Zamyatin lived in Jesmond, in Sanderson Road, in 1916.  He was contemptious of Jesmond residents’ rigourous routines and their dislike of spontenaity.
He wrote “‘By Sunday, the stone doorsteps of the Jesmond houses had been scrubbed to a dazzling whiteness.  The houses were of a certain age and smoke-begrimed, but the steps were
gleaming rows of white, like the Sunday gentlemens’ false teeth.  The Sunday gentlemen were produced at one of the Jesmond factories and on Sunday mornings, thousands of them appeared on the streets with the Sunday edition of the St Enoch parish newspaper. Sporting identical canes and identical top-hats, the Sunday gentlemen strolled in dignified fashion along the street and greeted their doubles.’ 
‘Lovely weather, isn’t it?’  ‘Oh yes, much better than yesterday.’

(his St. Enoch refers to Jesmond’s St.Georges)

Zamyatin’s novels “Islanders” and “We” inspired George Orwell before writing 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  Even the vicar of St. Georges is parodyed, as the Rev. Dewley, for his strict timetable. In We, residents are separated from their true, natural envionment and subject to constant observation, reflecting Zamyatin’s view of Jesmond residents’ scrutiny by the masters of their conventions – their Churches.

Another notable critical thinker who lived in Jesmond was Ludwig Wittgenstein.  He lived in Brandling park in 1943-44 while working as a researcher in the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVI) nearby.  Although he treated his work with almost obsesive intensity,
this period was in between his two active periods as a radical philosopher and he returned to Cambridge in 1944.

By 1950, the population of Jesmond had remained almost unchanged since 1900 at just over 15,000.

St Georges Church ca 1888

During the first half of the 20th century, there were over 10 churches in Jesmond, of many denominations.  The parish church is St. Georges (picture, left) at the north of Osborne Road.
This church was commissioned by wealthy shipbuilder Charles Mitchell, designed by famous Newcastle architect John Dobson and Thomas Ralph Spence, and was completed in 1888. It is distinctive for its tall Italianate ‘campanile’ tower and its interior art nouveau detail.

Others, (with their date of construction or consecration) include Jesmond Church (1861), St Hildas, Holy Trinity (1905, again 1922), United Reformed, Jesmond Methodist, Holy Name Roman Catholic (1928), Church of Scotland (1905), Baha’l and the Quaker Friends meeting house.

Many other churches built in Jesmond have since gone, several having being demolished during the 1980s. Those which have disappeared include the Synagogue (though the building was retained and is now part of Central High School) and Jesmond Baptist Church. A nunnery was attached to La Sagesse girls school.

Some worshipers still meet regularly at the ruin of St Mary’s chapel on the west of Jesmond Dene.

Reflecting the growth of new housing for the city’s prosperous families, many schools were constructed too. The largest included the Royal Grammar School and Central Newcastle High School in the south, Church High School in the centre, and La Sagesse girls school in the north (which closed only in 2008). For the younger pupils, a large
primary school was built to the west, Jesmond Primary School.  Another, Ackhurst boys school operated until the 2000’s.

Other buildings constructed during this period and having a social function include (or, have included), Jesmond Masonic Hall, Spiritual Evidence Society, Jesmond Cinema and Jesmond Little Theatre. Northern Counties orphanage, Fleming Memorial Hospital, Northern Counties Deaf and Dumb Institution and Princess Margaret Maternity Hospital were all constructed on the west of Jesmond. Several sports grounds were opened in the east and north, including the Cricket ground (now Northumberland County Cricket Club), and two lawn tennis clubs. Still operating very
successfully today is Jesmond Pool, built in St Georges Terrace in 1938 and subsequently renovated by a voluntary and Community partnership.

There are also 3 large cemeteries; Jesmond Old Cemetery (Jesmond Road), All Saints (Jesmond Road) and St Andrews (Tankerville Terrace).

Other notable buildings include the Manor House (still standing), the Mansion House (still in regular civic use), Jesmond Dene House (now an hotel) and Stote’s Hall (on Jesmond Dene Road, re-built in 17th cent and demolished around 1950. Picture above).

St.Mary’s Chapel and St. Mary’s Well
The following is taken from “An Account of Jesmond” by F.W. Dendy, 1903.

St Mary’s Chapel in 1976

A site of particular historical interest in Jesmond are the ruins
of St.Mary’s Chapel near the junction of Reid Park Road and Jesmond
Dene Road, and St. Mary’s Well nearby on the footpath behind
Grosvenor Road.

St. Mary’s Chapel at “Jesu Mount” was regarded as one
of the most important shrines in Christendom in medieval times.  The reason for this veneration was due to the fact that evidence of the enactment of healing miracles at St. Mary’s Well had been received and accepted by the Pope in Rome.  It was held that Jesus, at the request of the Virgin Mary, had performed miracles between AD 1125 and AD 1250 at the Well, which was in a wooded hollow, a short distance to the west of the Chapel.

The Chapel was originally built in the middle of the 12th century.  It has been suggested that the Lords of Jesmond brought relics from the Holy Land to the Chapel which caused it to become the object of pilgrimages. Pilgrim Street in the City Centre is so named because the pilgrims would lodge there on their way to St. Mary’s at Jesmond.

In 1428 the Chapel was partly ruined and Pope Martin requested that it should be repaired. The shrine became so important that up to 1449 presentations were made to it by the King of England.

In 1548 the Chapel was suppressed by Edward VI. It was sold to the mayor of Newcastle in 1549 who then sold it to John Brandling, Squire of Jesmond. The Chapel was disendowed, dismantled, and put to secular uses, finally becoming a barn and stable.  It fell into ruin and in 1883 the plot of ground on which it stood, about one acre, was given by Lord Armstrong as part of his gift of Jesmond Dene to Newcastle for a public park.

Although the Chapel is in ruin with wild plants growing inside and has no roof, it is still
a popular place with many people who appreciate the tranquility of the site. A few faithful worshipers meet regularly to pray and maintain the neat and tidy condition of the site.

Other References

A more detailed and well researched history of Jesmond appeared for a while on the Newcastle City Council web site. A copy has been saved and can be viewed here.
Regrettably the links from this recovered page will not work

Researched and Compiled by DC 1978-2010