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North East’s role in the Civil War

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IN the autumn of 1864, a Tyne Commissioners’ dredger working in the river off the Lawe at Shields brought-up a nine-pounder breech-loading cannon.

A dozen or so years earlier, a six-pounder piece of ordnance had been found on the sands below the Lawe, along with a number of skeletons. Previously, cannon balls had also turned up in the vicinity.

They were all relics of an era in Tyneside’s history which often gets forgotten about in a timeline of otherwise outstanding eras, be they the Roman invasion of the North or the Industrial Revolution.

This was the region’s role in the English Civil War when our landscape – hills and fields still familiar to us today – were marched across by great armies.

It was a hectic time. In 1644, the Scots under the great General Leslie, in support of Parliament, laid siege to Newcastle. Sunderland was captured, and on March 6, the Marquis of Newcastle, commander of the Royalist forces, took up position with 14,000 troops on Boldon Hills, in what became a stand-off with the Scots on Cleadon ridge.

The sense of adventure and danger conveys itself to us even today. It is still thrilling to think that there was a Royalist fort on the great headland of the Lawe in Shields and that, from it, the paroxysm of a country was observed.

So I have been greatly interested to learn that in March, South Shields will host a fascinating series of talks which will look at the North East’s role in the Civil War

The first, on March 6, will look at the ascendancy of the Stuarts and at how royalty came into conflict with Parliament, with a look at the Battle of Newburn Ford to the west of Newcastle.

Subsequent talks will look at the build-up to war and the events that led to the invasion by the Scots, followed by an exploration of the siege of Newcastle, plus the less well-known siege of South Shields.

The lecture series will conlude on March 27 with a field trip to Newburn to understand the dynamics of the battlefield.

All the talks will take place at South Shields Museum between 2pm and 3.30pm. Individual talks are £5 each and must be pre-booked, or you can pre-book all four at a discounted rate of £15.

Telephone 0191 4568740 or e-mail info@southshieldsmuseum.org.uk.