Here is some information from the book, The Streets of Hebburn:
Map courtesy of Mick Knowles, from the book, 'History of Hebburn'.
THE HALF WAY TREE: - or Mid Oak - a giant and ancient maritime tree landmark, situated high on the Hebburn Fell (presently Parliament Street).
On ancient maps, the old-time cartographers employed with various commercial enterprises, were not always interested in all features concerning the full topography of the area in which they were working. But, using the primitive methods at hand, they managed to satisfy the needs of their clients, landowners, or others concerned in specific locations of land and properties.
Consequently, old maps often show land as a featureless and generally devoid of objects of no interest to their employers. The writer has had an uncommon interest for many years in an area of land stretching from Heworth (including the lands along the fells and riverside called ï¿½The Hainingwoodï¿½), through Hebburn, and down to Jarrow - once ancient hunting grounds.
One prominent feature shown upon the old maps of Hebburn was 'The Half Way Tree'. What it was half way between seems to be now only a matter for conjecture. Some suggestions were that it was halfway between the two villages of Hebburn - that is Hebburn Colliery and Hebburn Quay. Such could simply not be so upon the grounds that even though it may be said that coal had been mined hereabouts for many centuries, the old oak tree was old long before the comparatively modem collieries were sunk.
Widening the scope rather more in that quest, it seems that there are no other prominent markers into which the tree can be estimated to be halfway between. The Black 'Steeth', as local jargon had it so described, seems to have been the first Staith to be built on the river; but for want of more age, the Black 'Steeth' is as much out of date in the question as the colliery which it was built to serve.
That leaves the answer open to area, rather than local district and to river travellers rather than road travellers.
That the tree stood roughly halfway between the coast and Newcastle seems to be the most obvious answer and that it stood reasonably near to the river, rather than to the Shields to Newcastle Road, making that landmark more or less too far off the normal beaten track to be classified as the halfway road marker.
Making it so, that we arrive to the answer by the only logic available, that the old tree was a maritime landmark, used by Keelmen, Fishermen, Master Mariners and other Watermen in their slow sojourn up and down the sandlogged river.
Being that the tree was a landmark in its own right and it was used as such as a reference point by cartographers.
Its position was not shown in any cross-reference to verify its exact whereabouts. Therefore, any modern person looking for that location is liable to total gross error.
The old tree actually stood nearly halfway up the Hebburn Fell, in what is now called ParliamentStreet - near to where the Indian Takeaway stands (formerly Rene's fish & chip shop).
Owing to the growth of the Hebburn Ballast Hill which gradually hid it from view, it seems to have lost its vital significance as a navigation marker early in the eighteenth century.
The Mid Oak, as the tree was known locally, standing near St Andrew's Church, was really old, and was really past its best when Andrew Leslie (1819-1894) was active in building his shipyard and houses for his workforce. Being a danger to the growing public it had to be cut down; but space was left around the great stump, which stood for many years as a monument and general meeting place in the Hebburn Quay. It came to be known as the 'Radical Stump', [Shown on maps as 'Javel' Tree]. The last of Leslie's houses were built in Parliament Street and Church Street, and the 'The Radical Stump', or 'The Reformer's Tree', was at last removed to make way for those houses.
In 1850, this was arable land, known as Middle Hill Field, occupied by John Redhead, and leased from landowner Cuthbert Ellison.
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