Looking north across the car park are the stone houses of Falcon Terrace and to the left, the former village school, now occupied by the Library, Playgroup and a small Railway Museum (where displays illustrate Wylam’s unique contribution to early railway history and there are working scale model locomotives of Wylam Dilly and Puffing Billy). In the mid-nineteenth century Wylam Ironworks (23) occupied the site later used for the school. Few signs of the iron industry remain, although lumps of the waste clinker (‘scoria’) can be seen in the retaining walls to gardens on both sides of Main Road through the village.

Stephenson's Cottage

The ironworks was established by Thompson Brothers in 1836. The brothers were the two sons of Benjamin Thompson, a director of the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Company who also had an interest in various industrial enterprises in the North East. He lived at Wylam Hall for several years while his sons managed the ironworks. The firm built steam locomotives at Wylam and produced six engines (each costing over £1,500) for the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Company between 1838 and 1841.

Thompsons left in 1844 and although Bell Brothers took over the works, the discovery of iron ore in the Cleveland Hills in the late 1840’s and the subsequent development of ironworks around Middlesbrough (Bells themselves established an ironworks at Port Clarence on the Tees in 1853) meant the death of small and comparatively isolated ironworks like Wylam, and the local works closed in 1864.

The single blast furnace at the works stood on the line of the road, immediately outside the school playground, and behind this were rows of beehive coke ovens set into the bank. Several of the disused ovens remained until the school was built in 1909-10.

From the old north station yard car park, follow the track of the former waggonway/railway eastwards for some 250 metres and on the left among the outbuildings of Bythorne Farm is the site of the former North Wylam Colliery (24). This pit, the last to work in the village, was once known as the ‘Ann Pit’ and later as the ‘James Pit’. It closed in 1933.

Some two centuries ago the Hedley locomotives began work and ‘Puffing Billy’ and ‘Wylam Dilly’ might have been seen belching smoke and fumes whilst pulling wagons along this route between the colliery and the river staithes at Lemington. There are now two, small, working scale-models of these locomotives exhibited in Wylam Railway Museum.

About 200 metres past the farm and standing close to the track is Stephenson’s Cottage (25) the birthplace of Wylam’s most famous son – George Stephenson. Officially known as High Streethouse, from its position alongside what had at one time been the old post road between Wylam and Newburn, this small stone cottage, with its red pantiled roof, is where Stephenson was born on 9th June 1781. At that time, there were four families living in the cottage, each occupying a single room, and the Stephensons, who had six children, lived in one of the ground floor rooms. The family left Wylam in 1789, when George was only eight years old, some twenty three years before the famous locomotive experiments were carried out in the village by Hedley and his colleagues. The cottage is now owned by the National Trust. For opening times contact the tenant (Tel: 01661 853457 or look at the National Trust’s website www.nationaltrust.org.uk ).

Immediately beyond the cottage, turn left through the gateway and follow the track leading behind the back of the building. The oak tree on the right was planted by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle in June 1881, to mark the Stephenson centenary, and new trees were planted alongside the waggonway in 1981, the bicentenary of his birth.