Northumberland Holidays
Northumberland Holidays
Before 440
440 - 789
789 - 1000
1000 - 1400
1400 - 1700
After 1700
The History of Northumberland after 1700

The Industrial Age in Northumberland
The Industrial Revolution which swept Britain in the late 18th and 19th centuries inevitably caused major changes in Northumberland, and saw the growth of many new industrial towns such as Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Darlington and others. Steel, coal, railroads, shipbuilding and chemicals all brought prosperity.

Gateshead Bridge

For the working masses, though, it was a different story. Poverty, long hours, unsafe machinery and overcrowding in new city slums were just some of the hardships they were compelled to bear, all of which led to the rise of trade unionism.

One early example of militant protest occurred in 1761 in the marketplace in Hexham, when the North Yorkshire Militia - ever after known as the Hexham Butchers - massacred a group of demonstrating lead miners.

Industry needed an efficient transport system to carry materials and coal. Primitive railways, consisting of horse-worked track, had existed since the early 17th century. By the early 18th century, locomotives such as Trevithick's design used in the northern coalfield were replacing horse power. The world's first steam passenger railway was opened by George Stephenson in 1825 and ran between Stockton and Darlington. The construction of Stephenson's Rocket was so brilliantly executed that locomotive design did not change substantially for another fifty years. By 1830, over 375 miles of track had been maid throughout Britain. Stephenson was born in 1781 and his modest birthplace in Wylam, a suburb of Newcastle, is now a museum open to the public.

The industrial age created a new aristocracy, which is perhaps best exemplified by the 1st Lord Armstrong, an inventor and engineer, who made his fortune in chemicals, shipbuilding and munitions. His house, Cragside, now maintained by the National Trust, was the first house in Europe to be lit by electricity, which was generated by hydro power from the lakes and watercourses constructed on the estate.

Visitors to Northumbria can observe at first hand the industrial heritage of the region in a large number of museums and attractions, arguably the best of which is the award-winning Beamish Open Air Museum, a few miles south west of Washington. Here, visitors can re-discover just about every aspect of life in the north east of England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a High Street, a coal mine and village, a railway, and a farm, all faithfully reproduced on a life-size scale over a sprawling 260 acre site.

Saturday 25 November 2017