Coal mining remains at Dunston Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018227

Date first listed: 29-Sep-1998


Ordnance survey map of Coal mining remains at Dunston Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Gateshead (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: NZ 22048 61571


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000 coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity. Extensive coal workings are typical of the medieval and post-medieval coal industry, although this style of exploitation continued into the early 20th century in some marginal areas which were worked on a very small scale with little capital investment. In its simplest form extensive workings took coal directly from the outcrop, digging closely spaced shallow pits, shafts or levels which did not connect underground. Once shallower deposits had been exhausted, deeper shafts giving access to underground interconnecting galleries were developed. The difficulties of underground haulage and the need for ventilation encouraged the sinking of an extensive spread of shafts in the area worked. The remains of extensive coal workings typically survive as surface earthworks directly above underground workings. They may include a range of prospecting and exploitation features, including areas of outcropping, adits and shaft mounds (circular or sub-circular spoil heaps normally with a directly associated depression marking the shaft location). In addition, some sites retain associated features such as gin circles (the circular track used by a horse powering simple winding or pumping machinery), trackways and other structures like huts. Some later sites also retain evidence of the use of steam power, typically in the form of engine beds or small reservoirs. Extensive coal mines vary considerably in form, depending on the underlying geology, their date, and how the workings were originally organised. Sites can include several hundred shafts spread over an extensive area. Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of extensive coal workings, together with rare individual component features are considered to merit protection.

The mining remains on the north side of Dunston Hill represent a rare opportunity to study the relatively unsophisticated mining technology of the early Tyneside coal industry. Evidence of this form of mining was a once a common feature of both banks of the River Tyne but most of these remains have been modified in more recent times by land reclamation and landscaping. The monument therefore represents a rare and valuable survival of these remains. In addition, the remains of the Northbanks-Dunston waggon way cutting are considered to be the finest example of pre-1720 railway engineering known to survive nationally. The site was also the location for the earliest recorded railway brake-testing experiment.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument is situated on the northern slope of Dunston Hill and includes the earthwork and other remains of early coal workings and part of an early waggon way embankment and cutting. In the period preceding the early 17th century, the coal industry of Tyneside was dominated by a small number of powerful estates and private cartels. In later centuries most of the royalties at Dunston Hill were divided between powerful coal owning families. Within the monument, the outcrop of the Main coal seam marks the former boundary of the later Clavering estate. It is believed that several of the larger shafts along this outcrop were sunk by the estate to exploit the deeper Maudlin and Hutton seams. Mining at this time was largely confined to outcropping coal seams, which were generally free-draining and easily worked. These remains are represented by an irregular band of earthworks, where coal was extracted directly from the surface using very simple methods. The outcrop of the Main coal seam is known to have been mined on the north side of Dunston Hill by at least the Elizabethan period. A 430m long section of the outcrop which is a rare survival of a once much larger area of outcrop coal mining on both banks of the Tyne, is included within the scheduling. By 1650 the Main seam is known to have been almost exhausted. Outcrop mining prevailed until the early 17th century when most of these deposits were becoming exhausted. At this time mining activity was becoming more reliant on deeper coal seams located increasingly inland, requiring the construction of extensive waggon ways to transport the coal to the River Tyne. The monument includes the best preserved part of one of the early waggon ways including a cutting, which is believed to be one of the finest examples of pre-1720 railway engineering, and a section of waggon way embankment. The cutting was the location for the first recorded railway brake-testing following its construction in 1699. All modern fenceposts, gates and stiles are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 30928

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bennett, G, Clavering, E, Rounding, A, A Fighting Trade: Rail Transport in Tyne Coal 1600-1800; Volume 1: History, (1989), 103
Bennett, G, Clavering, E, Rounding, A, A Fighting Trade: Rail Transport in Tyne Coal 1600-1800: Volume 2: Data, (1989), 9
Clavering, E,
Clavering, E, (1997)
Rounding, A,
Rounding, A, (1997)

End of official listing