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Coal mining remains at Dunston Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Dunston Hill and Whickham East, Gateshead

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.9486 / 54°56'55"N

Longitude: -1.6573 / 1°39'26"W

OS Eastings: 422045.232008

OS Northings: 561604.446865

OS Grid: NZ220616

Mapcode National: GBR JCV6.ZV

Mapcode Global: WHC3Q.JW06

Entry Name: Coal mining remains at Dunston Hill

Scheduled Date: 29 September 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018227

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30928

County: Gateshead

Electoral Ward/Division: Dunston Hill and Whickham East

Built-Up Area: Gateshead

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Whickham

Church of England Diocese: Durham

Details

The monument is situated on the northern slope of Dunston Hill and includes
the earthwork and other remains of early coal workings and part of an early
waggon way embankment and cutting.
In the period preceding the early 17th century, the coal industry of Tyneside
was dominated by a small number of powerful estates and private cartels. In
later centuries most of the royalties at Dunston Hill were divided between
powerful coal owning families. Within the monument, the outcrop of the Main
coal seam marks the former boundary of the later Clavering estate. It is
believed that several of the larger shafts along this outcrop were sunk by the
estate to exploit the deeper Maudlin and Hutton seams. Mining at this time was
largely confined to outcropping coal seams, which were generally free-draining
and easily worked. These remains are represented by an irregular band of
earthworks, where coal was extracted directly from the surface using very
simple methods. The outcrop of the Main coal seam is known to have been mined
on the north side of Dunston Hill by at least the Elizabethan period. A
430m long section of the outcrop which is a rare survival of a once much
larger area of outcrop coal mining on both banks of the Tyne, is included
within the scheduling. By 1650 the Main seam is known to have been almost
exhausted.
Outcrop mining prevailed until the early 17th century when most of these
deposits were becoming exhausted. At this time mining activity was becoming
more reliant on deeper coal seams located increasingly inland, requiring the
construction of extensive waggon ways to transport the coal to the River Tyne.
The monument includes the best preserved part of one of the early waggon ways
including a cutting, which is believed to be one of the finest examples of
pre-1720 railway engineering, and a section of waggon way embankment. The
cutting was the location for the first recorded railway brake-testing
following its construction in 1699.
All modern fenceposts, gates and stiles are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000
coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war
nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four
coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national
archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of
national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a
comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the
industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity.
Extensive coal workings are typical of the medieval and post-medieval coal
industry, although this style of exploitation continued into the early 20th
century in some marginal areas which were worked on a very small scale with
little capital investment. In its simplest form extensive workings took coal
directly from the outcrop, digging closely spaced shallow pits, shafts or
levels which did not connect underground. Once shallower deposits had been
exhausted, deeper shafts giving access to underground interconnecting
galleries were developed. The difficulties of underground haulage and the need
for ventilation encouraged the sinking of an extensive spread of shafts in the
area worked. The remains of extensive coal workings typically survive as
surface earthworks directly above underground workings. They may include a
range of prospecting and exploitation features, including areas of
outcropping, adits and shaft mounds (circular or sub-circular spoil heaps
normally with a directly associated depression marking the shaft location). In
addition, some sites retain associated features such as gin circles (the
circular track used by a horse powering simple winding or pumping machinery),
trackways and other structures like huts. Some later sites also retain
evidence of the use of steam power, typically in the form of engine beds or
small reservoirs. Extensive coal mines vary considerably in form, depending on
the underlying geology, their date, and how the workings were originally
organised. Sites can include several hundred shafts spread over an extensive
area.
Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this
has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England
to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and
characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north
Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. A sample of the
better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and
technological range of extensive coal workings, together with rare individual
component features are considered to merit protection.

The mining remains on the north side of Dunston Hill represent a rare
opportunity to study the relatively unsophisticated mining technology of the
early Tyneside coal industry. Evidence of this form of mining was a once a
common feature of both banks of the River Tyne but most of these remains have
been modified in more recent times by land reclamation and landscaping. The
monument therefore represents a rare and valuable survival of these remains.
In addition, the remains of the Northbanks-Dunston waggon way cutting are
considered to be the finest example of pre-1720 railway engineering known to
survive nationally. The site was also the location for the earliest recorded
railway brake-testing experiment.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Bennett, G, Clavering, E, Rounding, A, A Fighting Trade: Rail Transport in Tyne Coal 1600-1800; Volume 1: History, (1989), 103
Bennett, G, Clavering, E, Rounding, A, A Fighting Trade: Rail Transport in Tyne Coal 1600-1800: Volume 2: Data, (1989), 9
Other
Clavering, E,
Clavering, E, (1997)
Rounding, A,
Rounding, A, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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