Blackfell Hauler House
Bowes Railway is a 21 mile long, scheduled ancient monument and one of the earliest and best preserved rope haulage railways in the UK. Attributed to George Stephenson it was a system for transporting coal from the North Durham coalfields to the Tyne. Built in 1913, Blackfell Hauler House is one of two remaining hauler houses on the line. Since the railway ceased carrying coal in the 1970s, the building and its surviving machinery has been unused and has gradually fallen into disrepair.
Of all the buildings on Bowes Railway, Blackfell had been the subject of the most anti-social behaviour. Metal theft and vandalism had wrecked the machinery and the building became a location for alcohol, drugs and graffiti abuse.
The main objective of this project was to repair the building, making it safe, and to bring it back into sustainable use. Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust worked with the Bowes Railway Trust and Gateshead Council to make the project happen. The funding came from the Architectural Heritage Fund, Historic England, the Challenge Fund and the Pilgrim Trust, the Joicey Trust and the Lamesley Ward Fund.
The fabric of the building was deteriorating so fast that the building would have shortly collapsed resulting in the loss of this significant piece of heritage.
The Trust secured the building from the Bowes Railway Trust, raised the funds and worked with a specialist team of professionals and a historic building contractor to undertake the work. It also cleared an acre of land adjoining the building and secured the site for the future by finding a tenant to use the building.
The project is a crucial step in preserving the wider Bowes Railway scheduled Monument. It has acted as a catalyst for further projects and brought stakeholders together to discuss/plan the future of the railway. It has also supported the work of the Bowes Railway Company in their quest to promote the entire system, attract volunteers and operate a museum for visitors.
The building is now in good use and its future maintenance is secured by having a tenant. The Trust is moving on to other projects but this project has created good relationships between all partners so is likely to result in future collaboration with the Bowes Railway Trust.