Family's track record of station design

A FAMILY firm of architects left their mark on much of Northumberland — including the design of Morpeth Railway Station.

The Greens, from Newton Fell House, near Nafferton, South West of Ponteland, were prolific in the North East during the first half of the 19th Century.

Their work was described by Peter Carling, Morpeth Antiquarian Society Treasurer and former Chairman, in an illustrated talk at a meeting of the Society.

The father made agricultural machinery and was a builder, but it was his sons, particularly his second son John and his grandson Benjamin, who made the family name famous.

John's elder brother, William, remained near Corbridge, but John and Benjamin moved to Northumberland Place, west of Shieldfield in Newcastle.

It is often difficult to discover which of them designed a particular building. The early work is all John's, the later work is Benjamin's, but often they collaborated. When Benjamin fell ill in the mid-1850s, his work was often completed by his cousin, John Green Jr.

John and Benjamin designed more than 20 churches, mostly in Tyneside and North Durham, and they were responsible for altering or repairing several others, including Woodhorn, Whittingham and St Nicholas' Cathedral in Newcastle.

The first church John Green designed was the Scotch Church, which has since been demolished. It was built in 1820 in Blackett Street, just North of Grey's Monument, which of course had not been built then.

Unusually, the church which they designed at Newburn had to be orientated North-South to fit between the many bell pits in the area.

One of the best Green churches is at Earsdon.

John Green became architect to the Duke of Northumberland in 1829, so many of the churches which he designed were built on land belonging to the Duke, such as those in North Shields. In Northumberland, the Greens designed churches in the North Tyne Valley, in Stamfordham in 1836 and at Cambo for the Wallington Estate.

Several of their churches have since been demolished; others like St Mary's Catholic Church in Alnwick, have found new uses. It is now the town museum. One behind Newcastle Central Station is now business premises. The Greens were also responsible for the design of the Westgate Cemetery, and a small cemetery in Jesmond.

One of John Green's first jobs was to supervise the construction of Cresswell Hall for the Baker Cresswell family. Perhaps this is how he earned the job at Woodhorn.

The Greens designed several famous buildings in Newcastle. The Theatre Royal, with its imposing portico columns jutting out into Grey Street is theirs, as most probably is the Grey Street block next to it, between Shakespeare Street and Market Street.

Though John Dobson had won the contract to design St Thomas' Church in the Haymarket ahead of the Greens, John Green beat Dobson in a competition to design the Newcastle Lit. and Phil.

Two of the North East’s most famous monuments, Grey’s Monument and Penshaw Monument, are also the work of the Greens.

They designed several less famous buildings too, including private houses in Sunderland and Whitburn, a bank in South Shields, almshouses at Rye Hill and North Shields and the elegant solid Park Farmhouse buildings on the Duke’s land in Hulne Park.

The Greens did not confine themselves to designing buildings, they also designed several bridges. John designed the bridge over the North Tyne at Bellingham and the bridge over the River Tees, South of Darlington. Fine stone bridges though these are, he is more famous for the Chain Bridge over the Tyne between Scotswood and Blaydon. Though replaced and demolished in 1967, this is the famous bridge mentioned in the Blaydon Races song. They constructed two other chain bridges, including one at Warden on the South Tyne, also now replaced, to a Captain Brown design.

In 1837, Green was asked to design viaducts at Ouseburn and Willington on the new railway from Newcastle to Tynemouth. The pillars were constructed of stone and look quite traditional today, though in 1837 they were very advanced. However, the railway was carried over the pillars on an even more amazing wooden structure made from pegged and laminated pickled wood. Eventually this rotted and was replaced by steel, but to the same design.

The Willington Bridge is only used by light Metro trains today, but the Ouseburn viaduct still carries all the heavy main line trains to Edinburgh. This was only the start of their railway work.

They designed several stations along the line to North Shields, and later a station at Tynemouth, but most have since been demolished.

By 1847 John Green was 60 and less active. It was his son Benjamin who designed all the stations between Newcastle and the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick.

His designs are often more elaborate than his father’s or their joint designs.

This can be seen at Morpeth, where the station was designed with his characteristic round finials.

Though a few of the stations have since been demolished, Benjamin’s elegant designs can still be seen at Stannington, Longhirst, Acklington, Warkworth and elsewhere up and down the line.

The next meeting will be the Annual General Meeting and pooled supper on April 25.