Article Index

East from here, towards Heddon-on-the-Wall, lies Close House (26), a fine country mansion built in 1779. The Close House Estate was owned by the Bewicke family (no relation to Thomas Bewick, the famous local wood engraver) and at the time when the early locomotives were first brought into use, Calverley Bewicke, (over whose land a wayleave for the waggonway had previously been obtained when horses hauled the wagons) threatened a legal action to prevent the use of ‘monster’ locomotives, which he regarded as a serious and dangerous nuisance. Fortunately for the history of locomotive development, the dispute was satisfactorily resolved!

Now follow the track north up to The Rift (27) on the brow of the hill. Part of the range of stone farm buildings, some with their distinctive stone archways in traditional Northumbrian style, have been attractively renovated.

Passing the old farm buildings, turn left opposite the cottage and walk around the perimeter of the paddock and down through the wooded Rift Dene and back towards the village. Beyond the dene, the scrub covered mound on the left hides a few foundations of the winding engine of the old Hope Pit (28), known locally as the Chuckee Pit. This pit had been worked periodically during the 18th and 19th centuries, but eventually closed in 1893-4. The embankment which carried the waggonway linking this pit to the station sidings ran down from here towards the river.

Continue across the field, through the gate and along the path bordering the housing estate. Beyond the houses, the path crosses an open landscaped area, Engine Dene (29).

It was from near here that brick earth was extracted during the Victorian era and brick makers were employed by the Blackett Estate to manufacture bricks and tiles for use in the village. The rate of payment was equivalent to 4p for every hundred bricks produced! One man could make about 1,000 per day.

When Septimus Forster, a Northumberland coal-owner, leased the Wylam Hills Colliery (30) during the 1870’s, he was given permission to construct a waggonway from the colliery (which lay to the north-west of the village, behind Wylam Hills Farm) down this dene to the station, but there is no record of this ever having been done. Although this colliery closed at the time of the First World War, coal was being extracted from nearby Horsley Wood during the 1920’s.

Cross the dene, past the end of AlgernonTerrace and join Holeyn Hall Road opposite Wylam Hills, which was until the 1990’s an active dairy farm. The farmhouse remains a fine solid stone building, built about 1858 and typical of many Northumbrian farmhouses of that period, now at the centre of a new housing development.

One of the village’s more unusual past industries, a Patent Lead Shot Manufactory (31) was located in what was the stock yard of the farm. It was presumably because of the Blackett family’s close associations with lead mining in Allendale and Weardale that the industry was introduced into the village. Under an agreement dated 18th November 1799, between Christopher Blackett, Joseph Locke, a Newcastle merchant and Richard Welton of Newcastle, a glass-blower, Welton was to be paid 23/- (£1.15) per week for seven years for his services as a shot-maker in the manufacture of lead shot at Wylam. This document still survives in the Northumberland Archive at Woodhorn.

A unique feature of this industry was that, instead of building an expensive shot tower, use was made of a disused pit shaft for casting the shot – an ingenious and cheaper alternative. Little is known about the early history of the firm of Locke, Blackett & Co., which was founded in 1797 but the local directories show that they remained in Wylam until at least 1834, and were important lead merchants in Newcastle. The firm remained independent until 1936 and became part of the Associated Lead Manufacturers group in 1950. As late as 1877, a Newcastle merchant, Robert Lampen, had the lease of the ‘Shot Pit’ in Wylam, but there is no record of shot being produced after that date.

There are few houses of special architectural or historic interest in Wylam, but two, Holeyn Hall and Oakwood House, are sited in private grounds north of the village, and to the east of Holeyn Hall Road, which links the village with the A69 Newcastle-Hexham-Carlisle trunk road.

John Dobson, the famous Newcastle architect, was involved in designing substantial extensions to Holeyn Hall (32) in 1858, only six years after it was built for Edward James, a wealthy Newcastle lead merchant, who had previously rented Wylam Hall from the Blacketts.

In 1894, Charles Parsons (who subsequently became internationally famous as the inventor of the steam turbine) purchased Holeyn Hall and carried out several of his engineering experiments in the adjoining workshops and parkland. During the First World War he made Holeyn Hall available as a Convalescent Hospital for the treatment of wounded soldiers. He owned the Hall until his death in 1931, but spent much of his time in later years at his estate at Ray, near Kirkwhelpington.

Oakwood House (33) lies to the south of Holeyn Hall and is well screened by trees. A Georgian building, it was the home of various members of the Blackett family during the 19th century, although they also owned (and occasionally occupied) both Wylam Hall and Wylam Cottage (34). Houses (32), (33) and (34) are all in private grounds.

That completes the walk. We hope you have enjoyed it.