Wallsend got its name from the fact that it was the eastern terminus of Hadrians Wall with a fort and a length of Wall going down to the Tyne. At this point the river could not be forded and the steep slope would be a deterrent to attackers. In modern times the meaning of Wallsend would seem to refer to its demolition, since it almost completely disappeared under shipyards; much stone had been previously used for housing and walls. But in recent years the site of the fort has been carefully excavated, so that in some ways more is known about it than any other fort on the Wall. It was intended to develop the area for light industry, but a change of heart or mind had taken place and it has become a historical site for visitors.
The fort covers four acres with three principal gateways north of the wall. It was discovered that the area had been under cultivation before the Romans took over. The fort was built of stone and had a strong surrounding wall with towers at the corners and guarding the gates. There were ten barracks, six in the northern half and four in the south. In the centre was the headquarters with offices and assembly places. On one side was the hospital and two granaries; on the other the commandant's house. There were also workshops and on either side between the central buildings and barracks, there was space for parade and exercising. Unlike some forts on the Wall, the gateways had no partial blocking and continued open as double gateways.
During a long period of occupation there were changes - barracks in the third century were changed into chalets with separate accommodation. Later still in the fourth century some timber-strip-like houses were constructed, and it has been suggested, for family occupation. The fort site has been marked out on the ground, and there is a Heritage Centre adjacent in Buddle Street, which helps with interpretation, archaeology, local history and shipbuilding, which still goes on. John Buddle, honoured in this way, was a colliery viewer.
Wallsend and Willington, in the Middle Ages, belonged to the Prior and Convent of Durham. After the Dissolution, Willington passed into lay hands, where as Wallsend was part of the endowment of the Dean and chapter of Durham. The old chapel of Holy Cross, consisted of nave and chancel, and its ruins still stand on the top of the steep hillside. It fell into disrepair and was said to be the haunt of witches. The new church of St Peter was built from 1807 to 1809 and enlarged in 1892. The font is that from Holy Cross. A new church was built for the west parish in 1866 with a tower to the east end and dedicated to St. Luke.
In 1800 Wallsend was a village with seven farms - Wallsend Hall, Mount Pleasant, Village Farm, Red House, The Grange and Middle Farm, White House and Carville Hall. The latter was formerly Cosyns Hall. Cosyn was a Newcastle draper, and Horsley c. 1720 noted a number of Roman stones built into his house. In the garden was an old sundial inscribed:
Time tide doth haste. Therefore, make haste We shall (die all) is implied by the dial itself.
The hall was rebuilt in 1750 by another draper, Robert Carr, related to the Carrs of Etal and renamed Carville. In the late nineteenth century the estate was purchased by Joseph Wigharn Richardson, and the hall pulled down. Mount Pleasant was purchased by Wallsend Slipway Company. Swan Hunter took over the lands of the Alkali Works and used them for their east shipyard.
At that time shipbuilding was predominant and in 1903 Swan Hunter combined with Wigham Richardson of Walker. In 1906 to the delight of all around on a public holiday they launched their vessel, the 'Mauretania' of 31,938 tons. This and a sister ship the 'Lusitania' were built for the Cunard Gompany and they were the pride of the Tyne. They won back the Blue Riband of the Atlantic from the Germans and held it for22 years. In 1915 'Lusitania' was brutally sunk by a German U-Boat. The 'Ark Royal' (1981) and the 'Esso Northumbria" (1968) (253,000 tonns) were more impressive in some ways, but never more admired than 'Mauretania powered by Parson's turbines.
An incident often recorded about Wallsend is when Prince Nicholas of Russia, from 1825 known as the 'Iron Tsar', had arranged to visit Wallsend Colliery. Having put on his protective gear, he was taken to the pithead. Seeing the black hole, he was afraid and likened it to 'the mouth of hell', so thee-did not receive its distinguished visitor.
Willington Quay was the place where George Stephenson set up house at his marriage in Newburn Church (1802). In 1803 his son Roben was born here The cottage has gone, but is remembered in the 'Stephenson Memorial Schools'. George Stephenson was self-educated, but he made sure that his son had proper schooling as well as practical training in engineering. The Stephensons moved on, but the Willington viaduct is a reminder of railways~ 1,050 feet long, 76 feet high with 7 segmental arches each of 120 feet span. At Willington there was a haunted house - Willington Mill, subject to all kinds of unnatural noises and ghosts that drove residents away
Willington had a ropery, taken over from 1900 by Hood Haggie and Clellands who established a ship repairing yard. There were other industries but Howdon -Pans was obviously famous for salt. There were salt pans here when the property belonged to the Prior of Durham and these continued. Salt was most; important for the preservation of meat and fish. From 1702 salt was taxed..
Probably on account of severe taxation the salt pans were given up after 1787. Glass makirig was started in Howdon in the first half of the seventeenth century - glass makets were brought in from lorraine. One family were Tyzacks
John Tyzack, a Quaker, lived at Howdon Hall. The Henzells also appear as owners of glassworks, and Joshua was manager at the time when they trans-ferred to Lemington as tile Northumberland Glass Company. The shore at Howdon proved difficult for shipbuilding. The dredging of the river raised the water level and caused floods. From 1866 the level of the land was raised by ballast from ships and Howdon Hall, the oldest house in the parish was demolished. A popular local song was founded on the fact that here was the place where the river was crossed at Jarrow.
Nowadays Howdon to Jarrow has another form of crossing - under the river. In 1951 a pedestrian and cycle tunnel was opened to the public, and in 1967 a much larger tunnel for motor vehicles, relieving some of the strain on the bridges, but traffic was still too crowded. Ferries still operate across the river.