From South Shields to Hebburn and Cleadon to Whitburn ... the history of South Tyneside place names

A new book tells you everything you need to know about the history and origins of the old County Durham place names - including many across South Tyneside.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 3:20 pm

If you ever wondered where Boldon, Cleadon, Hebburn, South Shields and Whitburn came from, then wonder no more.

A new paperback book covers all of this and a huge host of more information.

Author Paul Chrystal’s new publication is called The Place Names of County Durham and it is a 128-page wealth of knowledge on the old county of Durham which largely remained in place until boundary reforms of the 1960s.

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What's in a place name? A new book explains the origins of names of places in South Tyneside.

It even has a section on old pubs and where their names came from such as the Alum Ale House in South Shields.

A foreword to the book says: “Place names are invaluable and essential signposts to our history.

"They provide enduring and reliable evidence about a specific place or region reaching back well before the evasion and subsequent occupation of the British Isles by Romans in the first century.”

For instance, did you know where the following place names originated from:

Palmer's dry dock in Jarrow which is one of the photos to feature in the new book.

*The Boldons come from Bold meaning a building and dun which means a hill;

*Cleadon, which has been in existence for more than 1,000 years, has had various names including Clifdon which comes from hill of the steep slopes;

*Further afield, there is Dryburn in Durham which comes from the Middle English name for a dry stream. And did you know that Dryburn was Durham’s place of execution until Durham Jail was built?

*The name Felling is recorded as early as 1217 and comes from a place which lies on the eastern descent of a fell;

The Olympia roller skating rink in South Shields. The photo features in the new book on The Place Names of County Durham.

*How about Hebburn? Old names such as Heabyrm date back to the early 1100s and was followed by Heberine, which comes from the old English term heah byrgen meaning the high tumulus;

*Any guesses at South Shields? It originates from Schele or Shield from Middle English;

*Then there’s Whitburn which is also thought to date back to the 1100s. The old English word hwit means white and burna means stream.

But there is also a thought that the burn part of the name may come from bern, which is a version of a barn.

The Old Ferry Landing in South Shields is another of the photos to feature in the new book.

Sections on coal mining in South Shields, Sunderland and the Hartlepool area add to the intricate historical detail of the book.

And so do sections which cover the rivers of the county as well as the 10 highest mountains of County Durham. There is also an A-Z on interesting old County Durham pubs.

As to the Alum Ale House? It comes from its location which is close to a former alum and alkili works.

Then there is an excerpt on the Balancing Eel pub in South Shields which took its name from a reference in Alice in Wonderland.

If you think this is all the book has to offer, think again. This is still only a brief description of the fact-filled publication.

The Place Names of County Durham by Paul Chrystal is from Stenlake Publishing and costs £13.95. To find out more, visit

Cleadon Old House in November 1950. Cleadon features in the new book on the place names within the old County Durham.

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An undated photo of South Shields beach. South Shields is another place to feature in the new book.