Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fugar and Washingwell History Project

Washingwell Woods Jan 16 (1)

Last year the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £10,000 to the Sunniside History Society to support a project to draw out the history of the Fugar and Washingwell area of Gateshead, much of which is in my ward. The project grew out of a proposal by me that the historic orchard that once belonged to the medieval Fugar House (demolished in 1950) should be renovated and restored. When I took the proposal to the History Society, of which I am deputy chairman, it was decided that the project should be about the whole area as it is packed with 2000 years of history.

So, we split the project into 3 phases. The first is to draw out the history of the area from the 13th century, when it is believed Fugar House was established, to 1950 when it was demolished. The second phase will cover the Roman period (there was a Roman fort at Washingwell) and the 3rd will deal with the orchard restoration.

So, we are into the 1st phase now and part of the requirements we need to fulfill is to involve Washingwell School. So last week, 3 of us from the society met up with one of the teachers from the school to walk around the site and discuss the historic issues that will feature in the resulting booklet and dvd.

Washingwell Wood is very familiar to me. I used to walk through it to get to school back in the 1970s. And when I was first elected to the Council in the late 1980s, I persuaded Gateshead to tackle the fire in the nearby Watergate pit heaps. After a number of years, the fire was extinguished, the heaps were removed, the land restored and Watergate Park was created.

Washingwell Woods Jan 16 (3)

One of my roles in the project is to study the landscape to see if there are any historical features. And I think I've found some. In the photo above is a mound. It is totally unnatural. It is typical of the mounds built in the medieval period on which were constructed forts, better known as motte and bailey castles. And applying my knowledge of historical features, I think I've also found the medieval road into Whickham, possible early fortifications for Fugar House and 2 fords across the Black Burn.

Those taking part in the project will be meeting tomorrow evening to discuss our findings. It could be an interesting meeting!

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