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Jarrow, Durham

Historical Description

Jarrow, a market-town, a township, a municipal borough, and a parish in Durham. The township stands on the river Tyne, and has a station on the N.E.R., 3 miles SW by W of South Shields. It takes its name from the Saxon word gyrwy, which signifies a marsh, and alludes to a neighbouring bay called the Slake. This bay is on the NE, covered about 470 acres, and was so important in the Saxon times as to be the chief port of Egfrid, king of Northumbria, and the anchoring-place of his fleet, but has since been reclaimed. A Roman station once occupied the site of the town, and is proved to have done so by several inscribed altars which have been found here. A monastery was founded in 680 on the deserted station by Benedict Biscop, was plundered by the Danes in 788, and burned by them in 867; underwent subsequent restoration, was burned again by William the Lion of Scotland, underwent a second restoration in 1074 by Earl Waltheof and some monks from Mercia, and in 1083 was. made a dependent cell of Durham. The Venerable Bede entered the monastery as a student in 684, resided here till his death in 735, wrote and left here those works which have made his name so famous, and was buried in the church. The monastery seems to have long been a sort of Culdee seminary, and it sent forth Aldwin to Melrose and Renfrid to Whitby, but after its subjection to Durham it sank in character, had few inmates, and was governed by a " master." The original church was built after the Roman manner by workmen brought from France, and it had windows of glass, which were then a novelty in Britain. The reconstructed church of the eleventh century, as afterwards restored and altered, and also some remains of the monastic buildings, are still standing. The chancel measures 40 feet by 15, is built of cubical stones like those in Roman walls, has mainly a Saxon character, with decorated windows inserted about 1400, and contains some fine oak carving, panels for stall desks of Later English date but of flamboyant character. The tower is Norman, rises from two low round arches, and is of two stages, the upper one rising from a slope. The present nave was built in 1866. A rude oak seat, called Bede's chair, probably hewn out by an axe, is in the vestry, and has been much chipped by visitors, who wished to have splinters of it for relics or charms. The remains of the monastic buildings seem to be of Norman date, with parts of even earlier date, and stand on the S of the church.

Jarrow and its neighbourhood present a striking contrast now to what they were in the time of Bede. " Could Bede see the place now," a writer says, " he would imagine chaos come again. He would see the whole breadth of the river occupied with a host of vessels of all nations, scores of tall chimneys vomiting volumes of black smoke, houses clustered right and left as far as the eye can reach, half lost in reeks and vapours of a thousand sorts, issuing from coke and brick kilns, from forges and roperies, from manufactories of glass and alkalies. He would see steamboats and steam engines, and along the banks of the Tyne ranges of ballast hills-that; is, hills, almost mountains, of sand that ships coming from the south of England and the Continent have brought as ballast and emptied here." This description applies truly to the whole parish in all its reach along the Tyne. There are now iron shipbuilding works, blast furnaces, iron foundries and rolling mills, and marine engine works employing about 7000 people. There are also chemical works, paper mills, lead works, and two large floating docks. A graving dock, at the W end of the yards, was opened in 1865, is rendered easily accessible by means of two entrance piers, and has a depth on the sill of about 16 feet at ordinary spring tides. The town has ahead postomce, a railway station, four churches, and United Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist, New Connexion Methodist, United Free Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, and Roman Catholic chapels, corporation chambers, mechanics' institute, a cemetery covering 12 acres of ground, under the control of a burial board of nine members, a dispensary, an hospital, and a park of 8 acres, and publishes two daily and two weekly newspapers.

The township is threefold, and bears the name of Hed-worth, Monkton, and Jarrow, and is divided into six wards. Acreage, 4314, of which 522 are tidal water; population, 50, 858. The manor of Jarrow belongs to the Drewett family, and that of Jarrow Grange to Lady Northbourne. Monkton competes with Bede's Hill and with Sunderland the claim of being Bede's birthplace, and it has a spring called Bede's Well, which so late as 1740 was a superstitious resort for an expected healing of diseased or infirm children. The parish contains the townships of South Shields, Westoe, Harton, Heworth, Hedworth, Monkton, and Jarrow. There are three ecclesiastical parishes, St Paul's and St Peter's, Jarrow-on-Tyne, and Christ Church at Jarrow Grange. The living of St Paul's is a rectory in the diocese of Durham; net value, £232. The living of St Peter's is a vicarage in the diocese of Durham; gross value, £345. Patron, the Eector of Jarrow; that of Christ Church is also a vicarage in the diocese of Durham; net value, £269 with residence. Patrons, Lord and Lady Northbourne. Population of St Paul's, 15, 310; of St Peter's, 7290; of Christ Church, 11, 384.

Jarrow Parliamentary Division of Durham was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one½member to the House of Commons. Population, 80, 607. The division includes the following:-South Shields or Chester Ward (Jarrow division)-Boldon, Harton, Hedworth Monkton and Jarrow, Whitbum; so much of the parish of Heworth as is not included in the municipal borough of Gateshead; Jarrow, municipal borough; South Shields, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyCounty Durham 
Ecclesiastical parishJarrow St. Paul 
Poor Law unionGateshead 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Jarrow from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for County Durham is available to browse.


Online maps of Jarrow are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering county Durham online:

DistrictSouth Tyneside
RegionNorth East
Postal districtNE32
Post TownJarrow