Birtley, Tyne and Wear
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War Memorial Garden
Birtley shown within Tyne and Wear
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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. Since 1974, these neighbouring areas have been considered part of 'greater' Birtley in County Durham. 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. The former parish has a population of 11,377. The ward of Birtley in the Gateshead MBC had a population of 8,367 in the 2011 Census.
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 (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.
The Royal Ordnance Factory was a major target of the German Luftwaffe in World War Two. Thanks to its reputation as a 'misty valley', Birtley and the factory survived many hits. The phrase 'misty valley' was coined by Tommy Lawton, a worker at the ROF in the 1970s.
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 and replaced 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.
It was announced in 2011 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 and after lengthy delays. Construction began in autumn of 2013, and following problems with laying foundations, a revised store opening date of January 2015 was announced. However, the revised date of January 2015 was subsequently revised again because of delays in the building process, with a current and on-target planned opening to take place in April 2015. Birtley has been without a major supermarket since Somerfield closed its doors in April 2009.
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.
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. 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.
Elisabethville was a sovereign Belgium area of Birtley housing Belgium refugees, who worked at the Royal Ordnance Factory during World War One. It was a community of 6000 residents who were accommodated in a mixture of hostels and cottages. When the war ended and the inhabitants were largely repatriated, it was occupied by people of British and other nationalities before its demolition and replacement with more permanent housing. Its history is told in the book The Birtley Belgians.
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' 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. 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:
- St Joseph's (Roman Catholic) (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 Antony Duffy and Deacon Peter Lavery.)
- St John the Evangelist (Church of England)
- Birtley Methodist Church
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. 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 every 10 minutes.
- Referendum to abolish Civil Parish
- Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Gateshead Retrieved 2009-09-14
- "Gateshead MBC ward population 2011". Retrieved 4 July 2015.
- Komatsu Manufacturing & Assembly Plant Birtley
- Birtley Community Partnership
- BBC - World War One: How 250,000 Belgium refugees didn't leave a trace
- St. John the Evangelist Church
- Birtley Methodist Church.