Gateshead is a large town in Tyne and Wear, England and is the main settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead. Historically, it was part of County Durham prior to the creation of Tyne and Wear in 1974. The large urban town lies on the southern bank of the River Tyne opposite Newcastle upon Tyne and together they form the urban core of the Tyneside conurbation. Gateshead and Newcastle are joined by seven bridges across the Tyne, including the landmark Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The town is well known for its iconic architecture such as the Sage Gateshead, the Angel of the North and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
There has been a settlement on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne, around the old river crossing where the Swing Bridge now stands, since Roman times.
Theories of the derivation of the name 'Gateshead' include 'head of the (Roman) road' or 'goat’s headland', as the River Tyne at this point was once roamed by goats.
The first recorded mention of Gateshead is in the writings of the Venerable Bede who referred to an Abbot of Gateshead called Utta in 623. In 1068 William the Conqueror defeated the forces of Edgar the Ætheling and Malcolm king of Scotland (Shakespeare's Malcolm) on Gateshead Fell (now Low Fell and Sheriff Hill).
During medieval times Gateshead was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durham. At this time the area was largely forest with some agricultural land. The forest was the subject of Gateshead's first charter, granted in the 12th century by Hugh du Puiset, Bishop of Durham. An alternative spelling may be "Gatishevede", as seen in a legal record, dated 1430.
The earliest recorded coal mining in the Gateshead area is dated to 1344. As trade on the Tyne prospered there were several attempts by the burghers of Newcastle to annex Gateshead. In 1576 a small group of Newcastle merchants acquired the 'Grand Lease' of the manors of Gateshead and Whickham. In the hundred years from 1574 coal shipments from Newcastle increased elevenfold while the population of Gateshead doubled to approximately 5,500. However, the lease and the abundant coal supplies ended in 1680. The pits were shallow as problems of ventilation and flooding defeated attempts to mine coal from the deeper seams.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution the population of Gateshead expanded rapidly; between 1801 and 1901 the increase was over 100,000. This expansion resulted in the spread southwards of the town.
In 1854, a catastrophic explosion on the quayside destroyed most of Gateshead's medieval heritage, and caused widespread damage on the Newcastle side of the river.
Robert Stirling Newall took out a patent on the manufacture of wire ropes in 1840 and in partnership with Messrs. Liddell and Gordon, set up his headquarters at Gateshead. A worldwide industry of wire-drawing resulted. The submarine telegraph cable received its definitive form through Newall's initiative, involving the use of gutta percha surrounded by strong wires. The first successful Dover-Calais cable on 25 September 1851, was made in Newall's works. In 1853, he invented the brake-drum and cone for laying cable in deep seas. Half of the first Atlantic cable was manufactured in Gateshead. Newall was interested in astronomy, and his giant telescope was set up in the garden at Ferndene, his Gateshead residence in 1871.
In 1831 a locomotive works was established by the Newcastle and Darlington Railway, later part of the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway. In 1854 the works moved to the Greenesfield site and became the manufacturing headquarters of North Eastern Railway. In 1909, locomotive construction was moved to Darlington and the rest of the works were closed in 1932.
Sir Joseph Swan lived at Underhills, Kells Lane from 1869–83, where his experiments led to the invention of the electric light bulb. The house was the first in the world to be wired for domestic electric light.
In 1835, Gateshead was established as a municipal borough within the historic County Durham. By 1889 it had been made a county borough, but in the same year one of the largest employers, Hawks, Crawshay and Company, closed down and unemployment has since been a burden. Up to the Second World War there were repeated newspaper reports of the unemployed sending deputations to the council to provide work. The depression years of the 1920s and '30s created even more joblessness and the Team Valley Trading Estate was built in the mid-1930s to alleviate the situation.
In 1974, following the Local Government Act 1972, the County Borough of Gateshead was merged with the urban districts of Felling, Whickham, Blaydon and Ryton and part of the rural district of Chester-le-Street to create the much larger Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead.
In the past decade, Gateshead Council has begun developing plans to regenerate the town, with the long-term aim of making Gateshead a city. The most extensive transformation thus far has occurred in the Quayside, with almost all the structures there being constructed or refurbished in this time.