1820-1828 Burradon and Camperdown
by Alan Fryer
At the beginning of this period Burradon was a small hamlet of around thirty people. At the centre of the settlement were two farmsteads, but were often tenanted by just one farmer. The hamlet of Burradon was in the centre of a contained tract of land of some 540 acres. Camperdown had not yet come into existence. A road (Salter's Road) ran through the area on exactly the same course as the main highway does today. It was bounded by the fields of Weetslade and Hill Head farms.
A pit was sunk in in 1820 and would be the beginning of a new community, eventually leaving the previous centre of Burradon as an isolated farmstead. The colliery was described as "large" in one contemporary source, but this is a comparative term and was small in terms of what would come later.
By 1828 rows of colliery housing, of around eighty dwellings had been erected in Weetslade Township, with possibly one pub and a shop, but the whole area would still have a largely rural feel to it.
1820 - A coal pit was sunk at Burradon. Work commenced on this in 1819. The pit was sunk by Lord Ravensworth and partners, who were known by the name of "The Grand Allies". They owned the nearby colliery of Killingworth, where they employed the soon to be famous engineer George Stephenson. He was to play a large part in installing an engine at Burradon Colliery. In a letter to his friend, and fellow engineer, Joseph Cabry (Dec 1819) he mentions that the engine at Burradon is "working satisfactorily". The continued development of the steam engine to pump water and the introduction of gunpowder in the sinking of shafts meant that by the beginning of the 19th century deeper mines could be sunk to the richer coal seams. Mining north of the ninety fathom dyke, where the coal seams are deeper because of a geological fault, was achieved in 1802 on the sinking of Killingworth Colliery. Backworth and Burradon collieries were soon to follow.
Fryer Map of Northumberland 1820
1821 - The census of this year lists 52 persons living in the township of Burradon, a rise from 29 persons in 1801 which represented an increase of 79.31% compared to 26.36% in Northumberland and 34.93% in England and Wales an increase presumably due to increased quarrying. They consisted of nine families in nine separate dwellings. This was only an increase of four persons since 1811. It is not recorded how many workers were employed at Burradon Colliery at this time, but what is clear is that they were not living within the township and a settlement at Camperdown does not seem to have come into existence until after 1826. One guess as to the location of the workforce could maybe be at Killingworth Colliery, which was 25-30 minutes walk away and under the same ownership.
1824 - The land tax returns of this year, and of 1806 and 1812, lists the landowner of Burradon Township as William Ogle, paying £11 14s. 8d. William Ogle was of the Causey Park (near Morpeth) branch of the family. The family had held Burradon since the 16th century. The occupiers (farmers) were Thomas Spraggon and Robert Bell. In a later document Bell is named as the farmer of Hill Head.
1824 - The land tax returns for South Weetslade, of this year lists Charles Brandling esq. as the landowner. The land was mostly occupied by John Colbrook and others and were assessed at £5 15s. 3d. Charles Brandling occupied 5s. 6d. worth of land. In 1812 he had been listed as the sole landowner and occupier.
1825 - The historian and publisher Eneas MacKenzie had this to say of Burradon in his History of Northumberland: “... It consists of two farmholds, and a few cottages for labourers and colliers. Adjoining on of the farmhouses are the ruins of a strong old fortress... Near the village are quarries of good freestone, and a brick manufactory. Persevering attempts have been made by the owners of Killingworth mines, during the last five years, to work the colliery here, but the intersections of dykes etc. render very difficult and expensive.” McKenzie also had this to say of the whole of Earsdon parish of which Burradon was one of eight townships. "...The surface is gently undulated; and the soil which is strong, is well adapted for wheat, turnips and potatoes. The farms are mostly let on leases, and the whole are well cultivated... There is a poor house at Hartley and another in the township of South Blyth."
1828 - The Parson and White directory, Burradon entry, of this year gives the following information:
- "...some excellent freestone quarries belonging to Tate and Brown". [The quarry in 1811 had been owned by Matthew Ridley of Blyth].
- "...a large colliery which was opened a few years ago by Lord Ravensworth and partners at great expense”.
- "The whole township is the property of William Wallace Ogle esq."
- "Thomas Spraggon, farmer" [x1824].
- "Robert Bell, farmer Hill Head". The Killingworth entry lists Thomas Bell as the farmer of Hill Head. He may have worked the southern part of the farm out of Killingworth village. Robert Bell was perhaps a relative. This indicates that at some previous time the Ogle family had purchased at least part of the Hill Head farm lands, a section that abutted Burradon, as in the 1850s when the Ogle property was sold part of Hazlerigg and Hill Head was included along with Burradon Township in the package. Hill Head was in Killingworth Township. Hill Head farm was at times probably worked as an extension of Burradon Farm and it is also possible that the farmhouse may have remained unoccupied at periods. The farmers of Burradon after 1851, the Younger family, worked this land in the 1870s from their base at Burradon.
1828 - Greenwood's map of this year has some inaccuracies and is at too small a scale to yield detailed information, but some features are worth noting:
Greenwood Map of Northumberland 1828
- This has two areas of quarrying in its vicinity. Quarrying had probably been undertaken here, off and on, for centuries to provide local building stone. It had no doubt been expanded in recent years on the purchase of the quarry By Tate and Brown to provide stone not just for local usage, but to be sold commercially.
- This is marked as co. pit on the map. A wagonway (1820) runs from the colliery in a southerly direction joining on to an existing wagonway at Killingworth; whether the wagons of coal were hauled by horse or rope via stationary engines is not clear at the present time. There does not seem to be any housing at Burradon Colliery, namely Pit Row, which we know by census returns was in existence by 1841. It could be that the map is simply not detailed enough to be able to distinguish Pit Row from the rest of the colliery buildings.
Camperdown, the Weetslade Township part on the north side of the main highway, shows from east to west:
- Lane Row - Was probably built no earlier than the construction of the Seaton Burn Wagonway in 1826.
- West Row - This again this is not before 1826 as the limit of building is constrained by the wagonway.
- Chapel Row - It would not have been known by this name in this year, only later when a chapel was built close by.
- Halfway House pub? or a shop later owned by Mr. Purvis
- The 1841 census does not mention the Halfway House being in existence. The map clearly indicates some building at this location, but a shop was known to have existed beside the Halfway House.
Camperdown, the Killingworth Township Part on the south side of the main highway
- Only one building lines the road. It is impossible to say whether this is the Grey Horse pub or Railway Cottage, although there is definite evidence that the Grey Horse was in existence in the 1830s.
- The Seaton Burn Wagonway (1826) is clearly shown on the map along with the engine winding house at Hill Head
- Hill Head farm is also shown.
The Seaton Burn Wagonway
The Seaton Burn Wagonway runs on an east-west course through Burradon and Camperdown. It was not originally connected to, or for the use of, Burradon colliery - this had its own wagonway for transporting coals to the Tyne - but had a major impact on the landscape of the two settlements. Originally it was known as the Brunton-Shields Railway, having been built by the Grand Allies in stages (1826 and 1837) from Brunton Colliery to the staiths on the Tyne between Wallsend and North Shields.
A Typical Wagonway
It was a rope hauled wagonway being served by several stationary engines and self-acting inclines along its route. One of these stationary engines was in the west of Camperdown (Hill Head) and was permanently manned. A cottage was provided beside the engine house for the engine man and his family. (see our YouTube channel for a video of the Bowes rope hauled self-acting inclined wagonway at http://uk.youtube.com/shinkicker1200
The Wagonway proved to be a boon to the ever increasing number of collieries that were in its vicinity. They would join on to the line saving them the expense and logistical problems of constructing their own wagonway. The last colliery to connect to the line was Seaton Burn in 1837, which was owned by the Grand Allies. In 1878 a change of ownership of the line occurred and the Brunton-Shields railway finally became known as the Seaton Burn Wagonway.
At a later date the line was connected to the Blyth and Tyne railway via a line running towards Backworth. In 1920 the Blyth and Tyne line had been taken over by the North Eastern Railway. By the date of the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey (c.1915) Hill Head engine house was already marked as disused.