Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Byker-Hill, Northumberland

The place names in England -- names like Byker-Hill, Walls End/Wallsend, Ponteland, Spittal -- are interesting and curious to me.  They were the locations where my ancestors were born, baptized, married, lived, or died.  I can't help wanting to know more about them. 

In the 1800s, Byker-Hill (or Byker Hill or Byker) was located east of Newcastle upon Tyne in Northumberland.  Historically, according to the website Byker Lives, there were several coal pits there as well as quarries, brick, lead, and glass works, flax mills, and a tannery.  Byker is now a geographic area within the city of Newcastle in Northumberland.

Among my Northumberland ancestors, Byker Hill is the location of several events.
  • Elizabeth Thompson was born in Byker Hill in 1817, according to the 1871 and 1881 U.K. Census.  Elizabeth married Robert Laws in 1834.
  • William and Martha (Reay) Doyle lived in Byker-Hill when their son, William, was baptized in 1828.

These two couples are in-laws.  In 1863, Elizabeth Laws, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Thompson) Laws married Andrew Doyle, son of William and Martha (Reay) Doyle.

While researching Byker-Hill, a town where my coal mining ancestors lived, I came upon a song by that title.  It should have been no surprise that it was about coal miners.  The nearest I could come to learning its origin was that it was a folk song, written in the early 1800s.  It's probable that my Doyle and Laws ancestors heard and perhaps even sang "Byker Hill."  I share this in honor of the men in those families who were all "collier lads."  (Sing along if you like:  the lyrics are below the video.)

            Byker Hill

            If I had another penny
            I would have another gill
            I would make the piper play
            The Bonny Lass of Byker Hill

            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more
            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more

            When first I come down to the dirt
            I had no trousers and no pit shirt
            Now I've gottin' two or three
            Oh Walker Pit's done well by me.


            The pitman and the keelman trim
            They drink bumble made from gin
            Then to dance they all begin
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Geordie Charlton had a pig
            He hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig
            All the way to Walker Shore
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Oh, gentle Jenny's behind the barn
            With a pint of ale underneath her arm
            A pint of ale underneath her arm
            And she feeds it to the baby


As is true of many folk songs I found three or four variations of lyrics and more than a few extra or alternate verses.  You can see several variations here at Mainly Norfolk:  English Folk and Other Good Music.

How I wish there were photographs of Byker-Hill from the 1800s.  I would like to know what it looked like.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Those are interesting place names. I like to research the places my ancestors have lived too. It helps to understand the way they lived.

    1. And I find I can envision my ancestors in their environments when I can find information about where they lived, too, Colleen.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...