Birtley, Tyne and Wear

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War Memorial Garden, Birtley - - 1925600.jpg
War Memorial Garden
Birtley is located in Tyne and Wear
 Birtley shown within Tyne and Wear
Population 11,377 (2001)
OS grid reference NZ271563
Metropolitan borough Gateshead
Metropolitan county Tyne and Wear
Region North East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district DH3
Dialling code 0191
Police Northumbria
Fire Tyne and Wear
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament Blaydon
List of places
Tyne and Wear

Coordinates: 54°54′00″N 1°34′37″W / 54.900°N 1.577°W / 54.900; -1.577

Birtley is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, in the County of Tyne and Wear, England. It is situated to the south of Gateshead and is physically linked to Chester-le-Street across the County Durham boundary lines. Until 1974, Birtley and the adjoining areas of Barley Mow, Vigo and Portobello were part of the old Chester-le-Street Rural District. 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 April 1, 2006 after a local referendum agreed to abolish it.[1] The former parish has a population of 11,377.[2]


Birtley is the home of the Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Birtley, and the Komatsu Heavy Engineering Company which operates from the previous premises of Birtley Iron Works (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 south west Birtley, reclaiming much wasted brown field site. The Royal Ordnance Factory 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 any hits. The phrase 'misty valley' was coined by Tommy Lawton, a worker at the ROF in the 1970s.

The ROF factory which is operated by BAE was replaced in late 2011 by a new purpose built 350,000 sq ft (33,000 m2) factory in nearby Washington replacing 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.[3]

It was announced in 2011 that the supermarket Morrisons was to build a 25,000sq ft new supermarket development in the town which would create hundreds of jobs. In July 2013, the Welsh firm Watkin Jones were appointed contractors and after lengthy delays, Construction began in the Autumn of 2013, and following problems with laying foundations a revised store opening date of January 2015 was announced.[4] Birtley has been without a major supermarket since Somerfield closed its doors in April 2009.

Just near to the site of the old station, is where the well known Birtley Brick Works was located. Once employing most of the town's workforce, it is a shadow of its former self. 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.[5] 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.[6]

Danish supermarket operator Netto had a premises in Birtley until October 2011, but they were bought out by rival supermarket The Co-operative Food which opened soon after.


Elizabethville was a sovereign Belgium area of Birtley housing Belgium refugees who worked at the Royal Ordnance Factory during world war one.[7] When the war ended, and the inhabitants largely repatriated, it was occupied by British and other nationalities[7] before demolition and replacement with more permanent housing. Its history is told in the book The Birtley Belgians.

Angel of the North[edit]

Angel of the North

Antony Gormley's famous Angel of the North completed in February 1998 is situated on high ground on the site of the baths of the old 'Betty Ann Pit' to the north of Birtley and overlooks the area. It is seen by around 90,000 people per day by people on the A1 and on the East Coast Main Line.[8] In the summer of 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; these consist of:

  1. St Joseph's (RC)[9]
    Built in 1843 after the 1791 Catholic Relief Act and designed by John Dobson in early Gothic style. Currently serving in this parish are Fr Antony Duffy and Deacon Peter Lavery.
  2. St John the Evangelist (CofE)[10]
  3. Birtley Methodist Church[11]
  4. Birtley also has a large Cemetery with a Chapel and Crematorium.

Transport links[edit]

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 December 5, 1955. Her sister, The Station Hotel, was closed in 1971, having been opened in 1868 or earlier.

The bus operator in the town is Go North East. It operates local services to nearby Washington. Birtley is one of the main stopping areas on 'The Angel' route which travels from Newcastle to Durham every 10 minutes.