These memories are in my book, but for those that didn't purchase one here is what I know from the late 1940s to the late 1950s when the 4 Lakes were drained because of a multiple drowning tragedy on a icy lake we knew as 'Sandy Bottom'.
Hebburn had 4 beautiful Lakes & along with the Park they had been part of the Ellison family’s private garden in the late 1800s. I wanted the true story of how the Lakes came about because in another book on Hebburn's history, the author wrote that the lakes were flooded sandstone quarries and he was wrong. The Ellison family of Hebburn Hall created those 4 Lakes on their farmland a few years after the 1859 map below.
Maybe the author was confused with a water filled Quarry nearby that can be seen on the 1859 map 200 yards east of Ellison Hall.
I remember that Quarry was completely filled with water to ground level, just yards south of Leslie’s sports field (now Sullivan Walk Estate). but the water was hidden by cork dust/granules floating on the surface making it look like a sandy coloured flat piece of land
Many years later I learned how the cork got into the water. It was waste insulation from a local shipyard which was dumped there. Most local people knew it was there and had heard rumours it was 90ft deep and people had disappeared into and had never been seen again. As kids we’d throw stones into it and see the water suddenly appear for a few seconds then quickly be covered again. Not much health & safety in the early 1900s!
Hebburn did have a smaller Quarry near our lakes and it was the little Dene in Hebburn park where the sandstone was quarried for the construction of the original Hebburn Hall hundreds of years ago. Just for interest our Hebburn sandstone was also used to build the Wouldhave-Greathead Memorial on Ocean Rd adjacent to the old Lifeboat.
Our 4 lakes (or Ponds as the Ellison’s called them) were created in the 1860s-1870s just after this 1859 map was printed. They were the Ellison families garden ponds just like today we have garden ponds. Clay and earth was laid to form embankments, then large sandstone rocks placed around parts of the lakes to reinforce them and also create a nice feature. Creating the embankments would have been a massive job in the 1860s & 70s without machinery, and just using manual labour & horse and carts. The embankments worked the same way a dam does, and when completed, the little Burn that has ran from the White Mare Pool area for millenia was diverted to fill up the lakes. The 4 lakes covered 25 or more acres and stretched from close to Campbell Park Road in the east to the far end of Toner Avenue.
Today, Fountains Crescent. Mountbatten Ave, Kelly Rd, Laburnum Grove, Fuschia Gardens, Lavender Walk, Acacia Grove, The Willows etc are where our beautiful lakes once were. A small section of what we called the ‘first’ lake bank can still be seen today close to where Finchale Road starts at Campbell Park Rd. The lake bank ran parallel to Campbell Park Rd nearly to the Park’s bottom gate, roughly opposite Cambridge Ave. Opposite the 1952 built shops on Coniston Avenue standing on that eastern embankment stood the derelict Pump House constructed from bricks & built 1937-38. There had been two pumps, 2 separate suction pipes going into the lake plus delivery pipes coming from the east end of the building which can be seen on the 2nd photo below. My memory starts in 1953 when I was 9 years old and it was derelict then, with pipe work still in place but pumps and electrical equipment all gone. I don’t know when it closed but it could have been unused since after the war. At a guess I think the water was for the Bedewell Works (Bomb Factory) being built in 1937-38 at the same time as the Pumphouse.
On the aerial view above, the little Burn can be seen continuing on through what we called the ‘Dip’ towards Jarrow and ending in the river Don.
Today ‘Hebburn Lakes School’ stands where the Pump house and First lake bank was. Outside the pump house were what looked like two steel jetties going a few yards into the lake. The ‘jetty’ closest to the pump house and nearer the camera on the photo below supported and protected the two suction pipes which extended out & then bent 90 degrees down to the lake bottom. Strainers on the end of the pipes at the lake bottom prevented debris being sucked into the pump. The water at this point was maybe 8ft.
The jetty furthest from the camera was the one people swam off on hot summer days when the water looked so inviting. As I say, the new ‘Hebburn Lakes School ‘ is where this photo was taken.
The next lake to the west & close to Finchale Road was known as the ‘Island Lake’. Acacia Grove & Cherry Tree Walk are built on the land where that Lake once was. The small island was protected on the west side by floating weeds similar to water lilies. On the other side was clear water. Swans & ducks nested on the island & not many people ever went on it as it was overgrown with trees & bushes.
The lake north of the ‘Island lake’ was simply known as the ‘Second Lake’. It was close to the Park swings, Banana Slide & Roundabout the children played on and it still had the remains of the wooden Boathouse sticking out of the lake bed at the water’s edge, as shown in the photo below. Today Hebburn Comprehensive School stands on this land.
Fresh water constantly fed into the lakes from the little stream that came down from White Mare Pool area to where Burn Heads Farm was and where Toner Ave school is today. As water was constantly going into the lake’s they were always topped up apart from when there were droughts. The overflow ran out via the first lake into the original burn which then went under Campbell Park Rd via a 4 feet diameter concrete pipe into a lovely little valley we called 'The Dip' located between Windermere Crescent & Cambridge Avenue. That valley is long gone, filled in by our Local Council for some unknown reason...
The burn passed on the north side of St Bede’s Well. Below is an 1800s Sketch of ‘The Dip’ looking from St Bede’s well towards the lakes & Ellison Hall.
Then it disappeared through a gully and under the Slag Heap, staying underground until it emerged in a small valley with allotments either side called Pig Sty Avenue. It went on past the north end of Jarrow Cemetery, under what is now the A19 Tyne Tunnel road and on into the river Don.
As a young lad in the 1953s I lived in a newly built Council House in Grasmere Rd about 100yds from the First Lake. My playground was the Slag Heap, the valley & stream (the ‘Dip’), Hebburn Park & the Lakes.
In those days there was lots of wildlife in and around the lakes eg lots of birds called Swifts flying around feeding on midges that were a real nuisance on summer evenings. On the water were Swans, Ducks, Coots, Moorhens. In the water were Frogs, fish called Sticklebacks, some fish called Minnows and what we were told were Rainbow Trout. Sky Larks hovered and sang all summer high up over the Dip. On the slag heap were crows called Jackdaws, Little Owls & Kestrel Hawks nesting in un-accessible parts.
The commonest birds in those days were Sparrows (Spuggies) & Starlings and they shared our houses, building nests that looked like little haystacks squeezed behind the gutters and downpipes. Today Sparrows are rare and seem to have disappeared. The above photo shows the First Lake looking east with the Slag Heap looming over Windermere Cres Estate. That ‘heap’ was created with liquid molten slag from Palmers Steel Works Blast Furnaces in Jarrow. When the iron ore was melted the slag rose to the top and loaded into special trucks and taken away on a rail track to the Jarrow/Hebburn border and dumped. Many years of dumping slag created this massive mountain. My mother Marian Rodgers, born 1922 Cuthbert St said when the workmen dumped the molten slag at night it lit up the sky. In my day, workmen were employed to removethe slag heap using explosives, then it was crushed into different grades of gravel by the ‘Crusher’ and sold as hardcore for road construction and foundations etc.
I hope you enjoyed this Hebburn history lesson from my memory. Not bad for a 78 year old
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