Birtley is a moderate sized town of around 25,000 (2001 Census) in the Borough of
Gateshead, on Tyneside, England. It lies between the local cities of Newcastle (5
miles north), Sunderland (9 miles east) and Durham (10 miles south) and nestles
between the A1 motorway to the east and the main east coast railway line to the west
of the town.
Just over the motorway is the town of Washington, one of the New Town Developments
of the 1970's, which has grown around the original Washington Village - the ancestral
family home of the first US President, George Washington.
Three miles to the south is the historic market town of Chester-le-Street.
Birtley was originally in Co Durham until 1974, when it transferred to Gateshead
in the new Metropolitan Borough of Tyne and Wear. Despite this, it kept the postal
address of Co Durham, so may be listed as 'Co Durham' or 'Tyne and Wear' or ‘Gateshead’
(or any combination of the three). Just to totally confuse the situation, there is
also a small village called Birtley in Northumberland about 20 miles north west of
us, near Hexham.
Probably our greatest claim to fame, and best landmark, is Antony Gormley's famous
'Angel of the North' which overlooks the town from the north and can be seen from
much of the town.
Two of the town's best know sons are actor Tim Healy and footballer Bryan Robson.
Birtley has a long industrial past, mainly in coal mining, brick making and heavy
engineering. 'The Angel' is actually situated on the site of one of the former coal
The mining has now gone and much of the industry has changed, but Birtley remains
a thriving industrial and business centre for both the local community and the region.
Today it's major industries includes a broad mix of engineering, cable making, chemicals
and distribution warehouses, with numerous smaller manufacturing and service industries.
Most of the industry lies either to the east or west of the central area, which is
largely residential. Over the years this has expanded into large housing estates
notably to the south, north and north east.
There is a busy little shopping area along the main road through the Town Centre
which hosts a range of retail outlets, and business services.
This road used to be part of the old 'Great North Road' before the bypass, now upgraded
to motorway, was built. It dates from Roman times, being the road from the Chester-le-Street
encampment to the north. (Hadrian's Wall ended a couple of miles east of Newcastle
in what is now the town of Wallsend.)
There are 4 primary schools and a comprehensive. The comprehensive was replaced
with a new build complex on the same site in 2008 and Barley Mow Juniors was likewise
replaced in 2010.
At present the town has four Churches - St John's (Anglican), St Joseph's (Roman
Catholic), the Methodist Church and a developed Community Church. There is a large
cemetery at the north of the town, with attached Chapel and Crematorium serving the
In recent years a community partnership of residents groups, local businesses and
Councillors & MP, has formed to tackle the particular needs of the area and develop
it for the future. The partnership has developed ‘The Hub’ - which opened in September
2009 in a renovated Main Street shop - as a drop in and resource centre for the local
community and community organisations. www.birtleycommunitypartnership.org.uk(external
Birtley has a 9 hole golf course, a sports centre with a local football team, a large
swimming pool, library and medical centre.
For the cyclist, the Consett-Sunderland cycle route (part of the coast to coast route)
passes through the south end of the town along a former mineral railway.
We are quite central for many of the regions attractions, including:
Beamish Open Air Museum,
Gateshead Metro Shopping Centre,
Gateshead & Newcastle Quay side (notably The Sage, The Baltic Arts Centre and Millennium
National Glass Centre at Sunderland,
and of course, 'The Angel'.
Birtley - our town, a quick guide
The ‘Wheel of Time’
A monument representing some of the industrial and community history of Birtley.