The thriving, go-ahead township of Hebburn is well looked after by the governing powers, and flourishes. It is not intended to inquire into the antiquities of Hebburn, the origin of its name, or the date of its founding. It is, doubtless, an ancient place; but it is not to be confounded with Hebron of old, “that was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt”. As to its name, that is probably derived from some burn that in former days wandered among the pleasant woods that formerly existed on the slope lying towards the Tyne. Like Rome, it was not built in a day, but unlike the Eternal City, it can only boast of one hill. Like most towns on Tyneside, Hebburn has had a chequered history. This refers, of course, to modern Hebburn. The dwellers along the banks of the town have now little to fear from foreign foes, though they may dread foreign competitors. Like other centres of industry that have sprung up during that “iron age” Hebburn has felt the dire effects of depression in trade in their constantly recurring periods, and there were times when its prospects were not so rosy as they are at present. No later than six years ago Hebburn presented a very different appearance to what it does at the present day. It is true that the main features of the township are the same now as then. The principal works were those of the Messrs Tennant, Messrs Andrew Leslie and Company, and the Tharsis Copper and Sulphur Company, who, with the mines and the Tyne Coal Company, found employment for the inhabitants, and many others who were non-resident. The beautiful Presbyterian Church of St.Andrews, the spire of which is the admiration of all beholders, then as now stood at the top of Ellison Street, and close by were the Institute and schools erected by the founder of Hebburn's first iron shipbuilding yard. But the place had an altogether different appearance. Carr Street, now the principal thorough-fare in the township, at that time consisted of entirely private houses. Prince Consort Road, the street with the ugly black pailings at one side, was then the principal street. The Ellison House Hotel (on Lyon St and Prince Consort Rd corner), of which Mr. Hall is now proprietor, was then in the occupation of Mr. Bewick; but there is little or no change with respect to that large hotel.
The next important street six years ago was Tennant Street, in the new town, and here again there has been little change either for better or worse. The parish church of St. Cuthbert's stood in the centre of what had been fields, and strangers had no little difficulty in approaching it in wet weather. Argyle Street, which bids fair to become the principal street in the town, was then only beginning to take form. Lyon Street was a puddle from one end to the other, and was blocked in the centre by the Colliery Pond. The old wagon-way, the only connection between Jarrow and Hebburn next tothe river, was, as it is still, a dangerous road, and reminded one of those days when the streets of Jarrow were in the condition which gave rise to the story of a man finding a hat on the mud, and afterwards discovering that the owner and his horse were out of sight below.
The Shields Road, or highway between Jarrow and Hebburn, was in little better condition, the footpaths being badly made and seldom repaired, and the road unlighted. At the time of which we are speaking, the Local Board met in the lower-room of a cottage in Prince Consort Road which room was lighted by one window and almost filled by a big table, which left little or no room for the members, to say nothing of the gentlemen of the press. Mr. Buchanan, of Tennant's Works, was then chairman, and Mr. T.G. Mabane, now mayor of South Shields, clerk, as he is at present. But with the revival of trade there came a change to Hebburn. Works of township improvement long contemplated were commenced, and many of them successfully completed. Hebburn at present has a population of between 13,000 and 14,000 people, an increase of between 2,000 and 3,000 in the last four years. During the last two years between 200 and 300 new houses, exclusive of public buildings, have been erected, and during that period, and within the next four months, between £17,000 and £18,000 will have been expended in street improvements. The rateable value is now about £55,000.
Among the public buildings erected of late years are the Local Board Offices, a fine block of buildings in Argyle Street. It is in the Queen Anne style of architecture, and the inside is in keeping with the exterior. The board room is splendidly furnished, and the portraits of the late Mr. Forster, the first chairman of the Board, and Mr. Buchanan, who held the post of honour, previous to the present chairman, Mr. C.F. Forster. In the same street, are Hedley Memorial Schools, so named after the late Rev. W. Hedley, the predecessor of Rev. F.A. Langston, the present vicar. To the late Mr. Hedley, together with Mr. Carr-Ellison, belong the credit of erecting the schools. But there is no portion of the triple township that has benefitted more from these improvements than has the Colliery. The New Town was practically finished from the commencement, and the quay has gradually improved; but for long the colliery was utterly neglected. The streets were unpaved, there were no footpaths, and the whole place was in darkness at night. Now nearly the whole of the streets are paved and lighted, and new Board Schools, rivalling the New Town schools, have been erected.
The new church of St. Oswald has also been erected in this part of the district, and the surrounding ground, with the vicarage, is almost completed as far as secular agency is concerned. A few loads of sods laid on the ground around the church would greatly improve the appearance of the place. Another addition to the public building of Hebburn is the extension to the Mission Church of St.. Oswald at the colliery. As was said, Lyon Street was formerly a puddle; now it is one of the best made streets in the township. The Colliery Pond has been removed to the other side of the road, and the colliery works walled in, and Lyon Street into the heart of the colliery on the south side of the colliery railway, which will be crossed at a point lower down. By this improvement, the old vexed question of the Waggonway Road will be solved, and that, too, to the advantage of the public. The Shields Road is now lighted as far as the Jarrow boundary. Most of the improvements have been planned and carried out by Mr. Fred West, the energetic surveyor to the Local Board who, during the two years he has been in office, has super-intended the laying out of some 20 streets. If there was nothing else to say about the rate-payers of Hebburn, these parts with regard to the improvements of the township go far to prove their title to being a go-a-head people.
In carrying out works of public utility, very much depends upon the way in which members of the local authority work together. To the credit of the members of the Hebburn Local Board it must be said that they have always worked well and pleasantly together, and they have been ably seconded by the officials in their employment, for what they have done they are deserving of praise. Townships, like individuals, are not always in a position to demand success but they may do a great deal to deserve it. Hebburn deserves success, and to all appearance the inhabitants in this respect will be yet abundantly rewarded. There is a great deal to be done before the township is what it should be, but if the local authority but continue to make their village a veritable “City of Health” Hebburn will become second to none among the towns of Tyneside. It has a large area yet un built upon, and has excellent river frontage unoccupied. It has already within its boundaries some of the most important works in the North of England, and there is every prospect of it rivalling the neighbouring borough of Jarrow while it runs its race with the “Borough of Wallsend” that is to be, in wealth and importance.
In the near future further developments may be expected. The shipbuilding yard of Messrs McIntyre will continue to add to the inhabitants, for already 100 houses have been built. The recent amalgamation of the firm Messrs. A. Leslie and Co. with the North-Eastern Engineering Company of Wallsend will also materially aid the development of the township, as the Hebburn works of the new firm will doubtless be greatly altered and enlarged. Among the other firms who are enlarging their boundaries are Messrs. Brown and Keswick are mentioned, and there is rumour of a wire works being established in the heart of the township. As house building must keep pace with the development of yards and workshops, it is to be expected that there will be a large increase in this respect in Hebburn also. Such is the case. Plans are in the preparation for the laying out, as building sites, of the land known as the Recreation Ground, and lying between the railway and Argyle Street. In the midst of all this progress, the happiness of the people is not being lost sight of. Negotiations have long been in progress between the Local Board and Mr. R. Carr-Ellison for the leasing of a piece of land as the Recreation Ground; and there is reason to believe such a place will be secured in the neighbourhood of Hebburn Ponds, to the south of the Shields Road.
Among the works of public utility not yet mentioned is the establishment of a horse and cart ferry between Hebburn and Walker. The scheme is now in the committee stage, the engineer being Mr. Spence, C.E., of Newcastle, and doubtless something definite will be made known before long. The question of a bridge across the Tyne at Hebburn has not been abandoned, and what now seems a dream may be a reality before the end of the next decade. There are several public buildings yet wanting in Hebburn. One is a permanent infectious disease hospital to replace the present temporary one, and the other is a post office. Both have frequently been spoken of, and doubtless they too will be erected in due course. A remarkable feature in Hebburn life is the prevalance of secret drinking houses, or shebeens, as they are called. They still flourish and in all likelihood will continue to flourish, until the people get educated past the drinking point, or the sober portion of the community so outrun the other as to render the carrying on of the illicit trade in drink unprofitable. Not less remarkable is the activity of the temperance party in Hebburn, especially in the Quay district. They have done a good work all over the township, but the Quay appears to be their head-quarters. There, in St. Andrew's Institute, Mrs. Coote, wife of Mr. A. Coote, the Minories, Newcastle, of the firm of Messrs. A. Leslie & Co., has inaugurated and carried on a temperance work which cannot fail to have great results. Neither time nor money has been spared in carrying on the crusade against drink, and now we hear that it is proposed to erect a cafe similar to the one opened in Wallsend a few weeks ago. Seeing that Jarrow has shared in the prosperity which has made and is making Hebburn, it will not be out of place to tell the story of Jarrow's progress during the last few years, and it shall form the subject of a future article.
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