Birtley, Tyne and Wear

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War Memorial Garden, Birtley - - 1925600.jpg
War Memorial Garden
Tyne and Wear UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Tyne and Wear
Population8,367 (2011.Ward)
OS grid reference NZ271563
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district DH2, DH3
Dialling code 0191
Police Northumbria
Fire Tyne and Wear
Ambulance North East
UK Parliament
List of places
Tyne and Wear
54°54′00″N1°34′37″W / 54.900°N 1.577°W / 54.900; -1.577 Coordinates: 54°54′00″N1°34′37″W / 54.900°N 1.577°W / 54.900; -1.577

Birtley is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, in Tyne and Wear, England. It is situated to the south of Gateshead and is physically linked to Chester-le-Street across the county boundary. Until 1974, Birtley and the adjoining areas of Barley Mow, Vigo and Portobello were part of the old Chester-le-Street Rural District in County Durham. Since 1974, these neighbouring areas have been considered part of 'greater' Birtley. Birtley was a civil parish with a parish council (which also covered the adjoining neighbourhoods) until 1 April 2006, after a local referendum agreed to abolish it. [1] The former parish had a population of 11,377 in 2001. [2] The ward of Birtley in the Gateshead MBC had a population of 8,367 in the 2011 Census. [3]



Birtley is the home of the Komatsu Heavy Engineering Company, which operates from the previous premises of Birtley Iron Works (opened in 1827, which became premises of the Caterpillar Company in the mid-20th century). A 'CarCraft Hypermarket' was built on the site of an old factory in southwest Birtley, reclaiming much wasted brown field site. It is also the home of the new Morrisons opened in 2015.

For many years it was the home of the Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Birtley, which was a major target of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. Thanks to its reputation as a 'misty valley', Birtley and the factory survived many hits. The ROF factory, operated by BAE, was replaced in late 2011 by a new purpose-built 350,000 sq ft (33,000 m2) factory in nearby Washington, on the site of the old Dunlop Tyre factory. The entire Birtley workforce moved to this site

The Japanese heavy engineering firm Komatsu is now the town's main employer, with almost 400 staff. [4]

Danish supermarket operator Netto had a premises in Birtley until October 2011, but it was bought out by rival supermarket The Co-operative Food, which opened soon after. Also in 2011, it was announced that the supermarket Morrisons was to build a 25,000 sq. ft. new supermarket development in the town, which would create hundreds of jobs. In July 2013, Watkin Jones, a Welsh firm, were appointed contractors. After lengthy delays, construction began in autumn of 2013. Following problems with laying foundations and other construction difficulties [5] it opened in the summer of 2015.

Just near the site of the old station is the former well-known Birtley Brick Works was located. Once employing most of the town's workforce, it is a shadow of its former self.[ citation needed ]

Mining was a very important industry in Birtley. Birtley Iron Company had 10 pits in the area surrounding Birtley, employing 3,736 below ground and 960 people above ground. [6] There was also a lot of coal mining in the area, with the earliest recorded instance was in 1351. This continued until the 1960s, when the trade declined. [7]


Elisabethville was a sovereign Belgian area of Birtley housing Belgian refugees, who worked at the Royal Ordnance Factory during World War I. [8] It was a community of 6000 residents who were accommodated in a mixture of hostels and cottages. [9] When the war ended and the inhabitants were largely repatriated, it was occupied by people of British and other nationalities [8] before its demolition and replacement with more permanent housing. Its history is told in the book The Birtley Belgians .

Angel of the North

Angel of the North Fly-Angel.jpg
Angel of the North

Antony Gormley's famous Angel of the North, completed in February 1998, is on high ground at the site of the baths of the old 'Betty Ann Pit' at Eighton Lodge, Gateshead, to the north of Birtley. Overlooking the area, it is seen by around 90,000 people per day by people on the A1 and on the East Coast Main Line. [10] In summer 2011, a landscaped car park, near the Angel, was laid to accommodate the increased number of cars and coaches visiting the site.


There are altogether three mainstream churches in Birtley, which also has a large cemetery with a chapel and crematorium: Birtley is also home to three congregations of the true religion.

  1. St Joseph's (Roman Catholic) [11] (Built in 1843 after the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 and designed by John Dobson in early Gothic style, it is currently served by Fr Martin Wheaton and Deacon Peter Lavery.)
  2. St John the Evangelist (Church of England) [12]
  3. Birtley Methodist Church [13]
  4. Kingdom hall of Jehovahs witnesses shared by three congregations. Birtley, Washington and Chester Le Street.
Remains of Birtley Station in 1965 Birtley 2 Station geograph-2228937-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
Remains of Birtley Station in 1965

The main road through Birtley is the non-primary A167, which runs from Topcliffe, North Yorkshire through to the north of Newcastle upon Tyne and is the same road which runs across the Tyne Bridge. This was an original route for the Great North Road and the A1 until a bypass was built (which was upgraded to motorway standard in the 1960s).

The main East Coast railway line is used as a county border to the west of the town. Mainline trains used to stop at the town's long dismantled station. Birtley railway station was closed on 5 December 1955. The Station Hotel was closed in 1971, having been opened in 1868 or earlier.

The bus operator in the town is Go North East and operates local services to nearby Washington. Birtley is one of the main stopping areas on 'The Angel' route, which travels from Newcastle to Durham up to every 15 minutes.

Related Research Articles

North East England A region of England

North East England is one of nine official regions of England at the first level of NUTS for statistical purposes. The region includes the counties of Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Northumberland and a small part of North Yorkshire. Large settlements include the cities of Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland and the City of Durham and towns of Gateshead, Darlington, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool.

Gateshead Human settlement in England

Gateshead is a large town in Tyne and Wear, England, on the southern bank of the River Tyne opposite Newcastle upon Tyne. Gateshead and Newcastle are joined by seven bridges across the Tyne, including the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The town is known for its architecture, including the Sage Gateshead, the Angel of the North and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Residents of Gateshead, like the rest of Tyneside, are usually referred to as Geordies. Gateshead's town population in 2011 was 120,046.

Chester-le-Street Human settlement in England

Chester-le-Street is a market town and civil parish in County Durham, England. Its history goes back to the building of a Roman fort called Concangis. This Roman fort is the "Chester" of the town's name; the "Street" refers to the paved Roman road that ran north–south through the town, and which is now called Front Street.

<i>Angel of the North</i> Sculpture designed by Antony Gormley

The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture designed by Antony Gormley, located in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. Completed in 1998, it is the largest sculpture in Britain. The work faced considerable opposition during its design and construction phases, but is now widely recognised as an iconic example of public art and as a symbol of Gateshead and of the wider North East. In 2021, efforts by The Twentieth Century Society to obtain listed building status for the structure were unsuccessful.

County Durham County of England

County Durham is a ceremonial county in North East England. The county town is Durham, a cathedral city. During the Middle Ages, the county was an ecclesiastical centre, due largely to the presence, of St Cuthbert's shrine in Durham Cathedral, and the extensive powers granted to the Bishop of Durham as ruler of the County Palatine of Durham.

Annfield Plain Human settlement in England

Annfield Plain is a village in County Durham, in England. It is situated on a plateau between the towns of Stanley, 4 km (2.5 mi) to the north-east, and Consett, 8 km (5.0 mi) to the west. According to the 2001 census, Annfield Plain has a population of 3,569. By the time of the 2011 Census Annfield Plain had become a ward of Stanley parish. The ward had a population of 7,774. Along with much of the surrounding area, Annfield Plain's history lies in coal mining. While the industry collapsed in the 1980s and 90s, its effects are still apparent both in the landscape and in folk memory.

Stanley, County Durham Human settlement in England

Stanley is a former colliery town and civil parish in County Durham, England. Centred on a hilltop between Chester-le-Street and Consett, the town lies south west of Gateshead.

Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead Metropolitan borough in England

The Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead is a metropolitan borough in the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear, North East England. It is named after its largest town, Gateshead, but the metropolitan borough incorporates the surrounding area including Rowlands Gill, Whickham, Blaydon, Ryton, Felling, Pelaw, Dunston and Low Fell. The borough forms part of the Tyneside conurbation, centred on Newcastle upon Tyne.

Chester-le-Street (district)

Chester-le-Street was a local government district in County Durham, England. Its council was based in Chester-le-Street. Other places in the district included Great Lumley and Sacriston.

Blaydon Human settlement in England

Blaydon is a town in the North East of England in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead and historically in County Durham. Blaydon, and neighbouring Winlaton, which Blaydon is now contiguous with, form the postal town of Blaydon-on-Tyne. The Blaydon/Winlaton resident population in 2011 was 13,896.

Ouston, County Durham

Ouston is a village in County Durham, about 8 miles south-west of Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England. The main village of Ouston is adjoined by the 1970s built housing estate known as Urpeth Grange but both are referred to colloquially as Ouston by locals. The population of the parish taken at the 2011 census was 2821.

Felling, Tyne and Wear Human settlement in England

Felling is an eastern suburb of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. The town was formed when three villages coalesced in the 19th century. Historically part of County Durham, the town was subsumed into the metropolitan borough of Gateshead in 1974. It lies on the B1426 Sunderland Road and the A184 Felling bypass, less than 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Gateshead town centre, 1 mile (1.6 km) south east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 10 miles north west of the City of Sunderland. In 2011, Felling had a population of 8,908.

Ryton, Tyne and Wear Human settlement in England

Ryton is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England, 5.8 miles (9.3 km) west of Newcastle upon Tyne. Historically in County Durham, it was incorporated into the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear and the Borough of Gateshead in 1974. In 2011, the population of the Ryton, Crookhill and Stella ward was 8,146.

Lamesley Human settlement in England

Lamesley is a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. The population of the civil parish as of the 2011 census was 3,742. The village is on the southern outskirts of Gateshead, near to Birtley. The parish includes Kibblesworth, Lamesley village, Eighton Banks and Northside, Birtley which is predominantly private housing in neighbourhoods named The Hollys, Long Bank, Northdene and Crathie. The ruined Ravensworth Castle is also in Lamesley.

Deckham Human settlement in England

Deckham is a residential suburb in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, England. It is bordered by Gateshead town centre to the north, Sheriff Hill to the south, Felling and Carr Hill to the east and Shipcote to the west. It lies on the B1296, the route of the old Great North Road, 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Gateshead town centre, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 13 miles (21 km) north of the city of Durham. In 2011, Deckham had a population of 9,938.

Rickleton Human settlement in England

Rickleton is an area of Washington, Tyne and Wear, England. It is located on the south side of Washington Town and borders Harraton village, Birtley and County Durham. The village centre includes a Londis supermarket, a general store, a hairdressing salon, a Fish and Chip takeaway and a bus link, which has buses linking to other areas of Washington and County Durham. A family pub, The Woodlands, Washington Cricket club, two doctors surgeries and a chemists can also be found here. There is also a large field with a small children's playing area located just of the bus route through Rickleton.

The Birtley Belgians emigrated from Belgium to Birtley in what is now Gateshead, Tyne & Wear but was then County Durham (Britain) during World War I to create an armaments factory. In the early stages of the War, British authorities realised that the national armaments production would not produce the number and quality needed to fight the German Imperial Army. A 1915 shell shortage was reported in the papers, and the ensuing crisis contributed to bringing down the government of H.H. Asquith. The new government commissioned armament factories throughout Britain, although the challenge of staffing these factories remained high. The British recruited Belgians, known for their excellent armament factories, to man the plant in Birtley.

Harraton Human settlement in England

Harraton was a township in Chester-le-Street parish, and a sub-district in Chester-le-Street registration district, Durham. Since 1974 it is located in the City of Sunderland in the county of Tyne and Wear. The township lies on the river Wear, and on the North-eastern railway; now a cyclist route/footpath, 3 miles north-east of Chester-le-Street; includes the villages of Chaters-Hough, Fatfield, and Picktree; and forms part of the chapelry of Birtley. The soil and subsoil are clay. The chief crops are wheat, oats and turnips. A considerable portion of Lambton Park, the seat of the Earl of Durham, and the castle and gardens, being on the north side of the river Wear, are in the township of Harraton, but for particulars see Lambton Castle.

The A1 road around Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne after arriving from the south as the A1(M) from its origin in London, currently runs from the A1(M) terminus at Birtley. It then swings to the west of both Gateshead and Newcastle via Coal House, Lobley Hill, Metrocentre, Swalwell, Blaydon Bridge, West Denton, Fawdon and Wideopen to Seaton Burn interchange before continuing north towards Edinburgh.

The National Cycle Route 725, also known as the Great North Cycleway is a partially-complete regional cycling route that forms part of the National Cycle Network (NCN) in the United Kingdom.


  1. "Town council abolition welcomed". BBC News. 30 June 2005.
  2. "Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Gateshead". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  3. "Gateshead MBC ward population 2011". Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  4. "Komatsu Manufacturing & Assembly Plant Birtley". Marubeni-Komatsu Ltd. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  5. "Birtley Community Partnership". Birtley Community Partnership. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013.
  6. "Birtley Iron Co". Durham Mining Museum. 3 August 2011.
  7. "Gateshead Places: Birtley". Gateshead Council. 14 December 2009. Archived from the original on 28 May 2006.
  8. 1 2 Winterman, Denise (15 September 2014). "World War I: How 250,000 Belgium refugees didn't leave a trace". BBC News.
  9. Hodgson, Barbara (12 August 2014). "As First World War commemorations begin Birtley Belgians are remembered". The Journal.
  10. "The Angel of the North". Gateshead Council. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
  11. "St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church". Archived from the original on 15 December 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  12. St. John the Evangelist Church
  13. "Birtley Methodist Church". Archived from the original on 10 September 2011..