54.945979, -1.662688 to 54.947704, -1.651798
8 Aug 2022
8 Aug 2022
Hon Charles Montagu (1689 -)
Description (or HER record listing)
Northbanks Way was the second waggonway to Dunston. Permission to build a waggonway was obtained by the Hon Charles Montagu in leases dated 1689/90 and confirmed in May 1692. However, because of a shortage of capital, no serious thought seems to have been given to building one until 1695. Montagu was faced with a choice of four routes from the colliery as well as which staiths to choose – Dunston or Swalwell. The choice rested not only with cost and technology, but also with politics. Montagu ended up opting for Swalwell, Dunston and an option for keeping wains. The way to Dunston had been completed by 1699. Modifications seem to have been made after only the first year of running and a new way was to be made ready by spring 1701. The abrupt closure of Northbanks has left more waggonway remains than many others, for example embankments at Gellesfield and behind Southfield Road, and a quarter of a mile of double cuttings and trackbed down the north face of Dunston Hill. A more lightly built way lies lower down the slope and is that shown in the last year of the way’s existence. At the bottom of the main Northbanks Way, higher up, is a remnant of the battery of Battery Well which probably represents the cure of this run. In 1703, the Northbanks Way was valued at £5739 17s 8¼d, the most expensive so far built. The expense was justified according to accounts for 1704-23 which show the Northbanks Way was carrying annually over 1600T. During this period some 781,675 waggonloads were carried to Dunston, something in the order of 1.75 million tonnes. A Northbanks branch to Blackburn was probably built in 1717. Blackburn Colliery was redeveloped in 1722 and a waggonway was built over Blackburn Fell. It opened in 1723 and reused timbers lifted from Northbanks; much of the Blackburn Way is still visible. However, the way had a short life as way leaves were denied and it was quietly killed off.
There is a short section of the Northbanks Way which is still visible as earthworks. This is relatively easy to walk, though strolling through horse fields can inevitably cause some issues if using mobility aids etc. Also, the hike up to the field is extremely steep. Caution should be taken.
Ordnance Survey, 1890s. The footpath in the centre of the map follows the path of the waggonway.
Northbanks Way facing west. Though hard to see on this photo, some earthworks can still be seen.
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The way facing east. The alignment can be seen better from this angle.
Historic Environment Records
Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past
Tyne and Wear: Sitelines
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