HeritageACT! Project - Puffing Billy Trail

Posted on Feb 11 2017

Our HeritageACT! scheme supported by Historic England is now well under way. We thought we would update you with some of the projects that are running - this is the "Puffing Billy Trail"

Sadly, present day Lemington has no obvious indications of Puffing Billy and its tracks, save for a few artefacts on derelict land which a thorough search throws up!

We did discover the remains of the Waggonway, and the huge amount of work required to clear the route even for walking, including many tons of brambles and at least one factory! The Waggonway remains lead to an embankment, now overgrown with trees, which leads to the site of the staiths, of which what appear to be a few remains can be seen. Just to the east of this point, again on derelict land, is another circular embankment which ends parrallel to the site of these staiths. This also appears to be railway related, and may date from slightly later. On the ground there are yet more brambles, as well as the remains of one of the staiths and the stone quays where the boats moored to be loaded where the river was in those days; it is now a couple of hundred yards at least further to the South following the diversion made in Victorian times.

The rich history of glass making and iron smelting in our area is highlighted, along with the need to investigate further. The Glassworks Cone is an iconic monument and there are quite substantial remains of the blast furnaces that were smelting away using the coal transported along the Waggonway in 1813. The possibility of excavating, investigating and displaying these remains are obvious and could lead to a futeure exhibit.

Even South West Denton close by the Vallum in the very north of the ward, is ancient with its history as a pack horse route for lead from Alston to Seaton Burn. It's very likely a lot older than that, and is known to be marked on maps dating back many centuries.

The links that have been established between Lemington, Newburn, Heddon and Wylam are also important, and it will be vital to build on these in the future. The line of the Waggonway today (or more correctly the line of the later Newcastle to Carlisle Railway) is designated as Hadrian's Way but has little or nothing to do with Hadrian in this sector. The idea of designating the section between Lemington and Wylam as "The Puffing Billy Trail" (which is largely what it is!) should provide opportunity for interpretation display boards and publicity for the whole area. Into Newburn and beyond to the west, the trail does indeed follow the line of the Waggonway. Perhaps we could think of taking these ideas forward with the glass and iron making aspects of our past?


Last changed: Feb 11 2017 at 8:32 AM