“ Near Newcastle, South Tyneside „
Like most small towns throughout the country Jarrow appears to have little to offer the visitor and when you ask people living in the town what they think of Jarrow you will probably be told there is nothing in Jarrow but most people can not see the wood for the trees and in fact Jarrow has a fair bit to offer. Parks and Recreation King George V playing field has four full size football pitches and hosts Sunday league matches, Saturday morning junior football matches and has a swing park for children. Valley View Park is divided in two by a road, which goes over the small River Don, which at this point is no more than a two metre wide, stream; one side of the park has been cultivated to have a country feel with an abundance of trees and wild flowers, children fish in the Don for stickleback and use stepping stones to get from one bank to the other; over the road in the other part of the park you find a swing park for children, a picnic area, tennis courts and two bowling greens, this part of the park is very neat with flower beds and low privet hedges but around the embankment of the river again you have the feel of being in the country with wild flowers and trees. Only a few minutes walk from Valley View Park is Springwell Park; this is a small park developed on both banks of the Don, again children use this park in the summer for catching sticklebacks with nets. The Bede Gallery is the main feature of Springwell Park, it was opened in the early 1970’s and usually houses displays of photographs of past life in Jarrow but at times does have some very good exhibitions of modern art. Mill Dean Farm is within walking distance of the parks; the farm is a children’s town farm with all the usual animals, children can bottle feed lambs and watch sheep being sheared among other things. The farm has special family fun days and runs educational visits for schools. Monkton Stadium is the home of the Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club, Steve Cram and David Sharpe are former members of the club and Jarad Deacon still trains there, all three have represented Great Britain at Olympic Games level. West Park can be found on one side of the Shopping Centre and Druids Park on the other side. West Park has laid out flowerbeds, lawns, tennis courts and a children’s play area. Druids Park has a children’s play area, large green for family games and a picnic area. Shopping and Night Life Jarrow shopping centre is adequate for grocery shopping and day to day essentials, there is Morrisons, Summerfield, Iceland, Woolworth’s, three butchers, three florists, four greeting card shops, three fruit and vegetable shops, Boots and Savers. If you want clothes or shoes you don’t stand much chance of finding what you are looking for in Jarrow, there is a branch of Peacocks and Select but that’s it and the rest of the shopping centre is made up of shops selling inexpensive goods and charity shops. You can get a Metro from the Town Centre into Newcastle, which takes about ten minutes or South Shields, which takes about seven minutes. Nightlife in Jarrow is non-existent for the younger generation, there are plenty of pubs, social clubs and bingo halls but youngsters have to go to Newcastle or South Shields for meals and nightclubs. The nearest cinema complex is ten minutes out of Jarrow town centre on the business park. History The Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel links Jarrow with Howdon and when it was opened in the early 1950’s it had the longest escalator in the world and today it is still the longest working wooden escalator in existence. The tunnel is actually two tunnels running parallel with each other, one for cyclists and one for pedestrians. St. Paul’s Church and St. Bede’s Monastery were founded in the 7th Century and the church is still in daily use. The Benedictine Monastery is where the great scholar St. Bede lived, worked and died; his most famous work is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Unfortunately the Monastery is now in ruins. Jarrow Hall is in the grounds of Bede’s World; the Hall houses a museum of genuine Anglo-Saxon artefacts and caters for educational visits and Bede’s World is a reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Jarrow with a working farm, village, demonstrations of Anglo-Saxon crafts and life in a Monastery. Other Famous Sons and Daughters of Jarrow The late Catherine Cookson was born and grew up in Jarrow and visitors can book on a coach tour of the Cookson Trail taking them to many venues in the area that inspired Catherine and mentioned in her books. Ellen Wilkinson was brought up in a working class Jarrow family; she became Member of Parliament for the Town, a union organizer, parliamentary secretary to the ministry of home security during World War II and then Minister of Education in 1945. The musicians John Miles and Alan Price are both Jarrow boys and Alan Price based one of his songs on the town – Come on you Jarra Lads, we’ll make your hearts feel glad etc., the song was about the Jarrow March of 1936 when the men of Jarrow walked to London to demonstrate against unemployment. Jarrow’s Rose of Tralee This year the Town is to host the National Finals of the Rose of Tralee competition, it has this honour because last year the winner of the English Rose of Tralee competition was from Jarrow. Tralee is a small town in Ireland and each year an Inter-National competition is held to select the Rose of Tralee, competitions are held throughout the world and each Countries finalist goes to Tralee for the World Final. The competition is not a beauty pageant as such, girls who take part have to have Irish ancestry and be able to show some skill reflecting Irish culture such as Irish dancing, singing, pla ying the harp or violin etc.; candidates for the competition also have to have academic ability. The establishment of the Irish community in Jarrow dates back to the potato famine, which drove many thousands to emigrate, many of these families found jobs in the once great Palmer shipyard on the Jarrow bank of the Tyne and the strong Irish communities are still very evident today.
Lying on the south bank of the Tyne estuary and approximately seven miles from Newcastle you find the town of Jarrow. Like most small towns that are close to large cities Jarrow does not have a lot to offer the visitor, but Jarrow will always be were my heart is, it’s home, it’s the place where I grew up and helped make me the person I am today. When I was a teenager the town had two cinemas, a nightclub, bowling alley, swimming pool and an abundance of bars and working men’s clubs but gradually all but the bars and working men’s clubs have disappeared and for evening entertainment youngsters now have to travel to Newcastle or South Shields (the adjoining town to Jarrow) and for the cinema it’s about ten minutes out of town to the business park where a multiplex can be found. Outside the North East of England anyone who actually knows where Jarrow is will probably associate it with the Jarrow March of 1936 when the men of Jarrow marched to London to demonstrate against the high unemployment in the Town, Jarrow people were a proud community who did not want handouts, they wanted jobs. Ellen Wilkinson, who was MP for Jarrow at the time referred to Jarrow “as the town that was murdered”. Ellen was a daughter of Jarrow, brought up in a working-class family, educated at the University of Manchester; she became a union organizer, parliamentary secretary to the ministry of home security during World War II and minister of education in 1945. Unfortunately Jarrow still suffers from high unemployment today. However I believe Jarrow still has a few attractions for the day visitor. There is King George V playing fields with four football pitches which host Sunday league football matches and Valley View Park with it’s swing park for the kids, the narrow river Don running through the tree area of the park, tennis courts and bowls greens, this is a lovely park in the summer. Next to Valley View Park you wi ll find the Bede Art Gallery, which generally has showings of photographs of old Jarrow, with special event weeks throughout the year. Not far from Valley View park there is Mill Dean Farm, this is a children’s town farm, with all the usual animals and children have the opportunity to bottle feed the lambs, feed the poultry, milk a cow and watch sheep being sheared depending on the time of year. Mill Dean Farm also has special event weekends. There is also the West Park, locally known as the duck’s park, with much the same as Valley View Park plus a Victorian bandstand. Between Valley View Park and West Park you will find Monkton Stadium, which at one time hosted many big sporting events until Gateshead Stadium became the main venue in the North East. A couple of famous sporting sons of Jarrow who were coached at Monkton Stadium are Steve Cram and Jared Deacon, Jared was part of Great Britain’s 4x400m relay team at last years Olympic Games and Monkton Stadium is still his regular training venue. At the opposite side of Jarrow Town Centre you find Druids Park, locally known as Charlie’s Park, this is a small park with a children’s play area, picnic area and large green for games. Next to the park is the river Tyne walk and cycle route and a very small beach (only about 500 square metres of sand) that not many people actually know exists. Druids Park separates the two attractions that probably bring most day visitors into Jarrow, St. Paul’s Church and St. Bede’s Monastery ruins stand on one side of the park and Jarrow Hall and Bede’s World on the other side. Both St. Paul’s Church and St. Bede’s Monastery were founded in the 7th Century, the church is in perfect order and still in daily use and is one of the most popular venues for Anglican weddings in Jarrow; it has an extremely long tree lined path from the road to the main door of the church and some stun ning scenery for backdrops of photos. The monastery was a Benedictine monastery and unfortunately is now in ruins. It was given the name St. Bede’s because of another famous son of Jarrow the Venerable Bede, who lived, worked and died in the monastery; Bede was a great scholar and his most famous work is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People which he completed in AD731 and it is actually the first work in history in which the AD dating system is used. A short walk along the banks of the river Don brings you to Bede’s Well, where the Benedictine monks collected their fresh water. At Bede’s World you can find out about life in a reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village and farm where aspects of architecture, crop and animal husbandry of the Anglo-Saxon era are explored and demonstrated to visitors along with demonstrations of other Anglo-Saxon skills. You also have the opportunity to handle replica artefacts and participate in activities such as bead making, pot making, spinning and bobbin weaving. Jarrow Hall houses a museum with genuine Anglo-Saxon artefacts and caters for educational visits. School children dress in habits and have the opportunity to experience what it was like living in a monastery or Anglo-Saxon village using St. Paul’s Church, St. Bede’s monastery, Bede’s well and Bede’s World. Other famous sons and daughters of Jarrow include the musicians Alan Price and John Miles and the late author Catherine Cookson who was born and grew up about five minutes walk away from St. Paul’s Church and visitors can book on the Cookson Country Trail which takes you by coach to many venues in the area which inspired ‘Wor Kate’ and are used in her books. Jarrow Hall has also been used as a location in three or four movies, which have been made of Catherine’s books. Jarrow has excellent links to Newcastle it takes ten minutes from Newcastle city centre to Bede sta tion on the metro and metros leave Newcastle every eight minutes. The Tyne road tunnel and Tyne pedestrian and cycle tunnel entrances are both located at Jarrow and a second Tyne road tunnel is in the process of being built. The town may not be a hive of entertainment and nightlife but it is close enough to Newcastle for all the entertainment you need and as small towns go I can think of a lot worse places to live. If you enjoy history Jarrow does have at least a days worth of interesting places to visit.
At the time of the Jarrow March-aside from Steve Cram and the Venerable Bede still probably Jarrow's main claim to fame- the town's MP, Ellen Wilkinson, referred to Jarrow as "the town that was murdered". As a born and bred Jarrovian it grieves me to say that there still isn't a great deal of life to be found here. If for some reason you are thinking of visiting Jarrow then I would, however, recommend a trip to the Bede's World Museum. Take the Metro to Bede station and it's a well signposted ten to fifteen minute walk from there in the general direction of the river. Combined with the adjacent St Paul's Church it's a good way to spend a half-day before heading back into Newcastle. Other than that, unless dodging garish tracksuit wearing adolescents or admiring grafitti and urban decay is your particular cup of tea, I'm afraid there isn't a great deal to see or do here. The Lonely Planet summed up Jarrow with the apt-epithet of "a grim outpost". I'd really like to condracict them. I really would...
If you're from outside Jarrow, and especially if you come from the hated South, then you might find the place a charming, quaint, derelict backwater. The great irony that afflicts Jarrow is that everything is so cheap, yet no-one has any money so it doesn't matter anyway. As a visitor, you would benefit from the former part of that statement without necessarilly suffering the latter. As a student, I find my money goes a lot further outside term time than when I'm at college. A previous reviewer mentioned the abundance of young delinquents to whom he referred as "charvas". These people should not be seen as something to fear, but rather something to be laughed at and mocked (but not in front of them, obviously). Many a time my afternoon has been brightened by seeing one of the aforementioned in a truly disgusting and improbable tracksuit combination. Jarrow should be seen as an exciting place to visit, where the smallest sum of money can buy quantities beyond your wildest dreams, and where every conversation is a challenge. At least you get a phrase book when you go abroad. And don't think that just because you can make yourself understood in Newcastle, the same will apply here. Strange things happen as you head east along the Tyne. Tourist attractions include (in fact ARE) Bede's World/Jarrow Hall and St Paul's Church, both of which are very close to each other, and both of which are impossible to find for non-residents, which is a shame. As for residents, most don't even know these places exist, apart from a few more enlightened young folk, who added to the serenity at the ruins of the monastery (where Bede wrote his 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' as far as I'm aware) by spray painting such informative slogans as "LEE WOZ ERE" (sic). It should be noted, however, that there has rarely been a better time to visit Jarrow, as now visitors have the opportunity to go and watch Morrison's being built. The town boasts a few amenities, most notably a bus station, a metro station and a pedestrian tunnel (with historic escalators), all of which should take you out of the place should it all become too much. To be fair, Jarrow isn't great, and I wouldn't go out of your way to visit. But if you do have to, then your chances of survival aren't so bad.
Jarrow is famous for the Jarrow March... and little else. The Queen visited Jarrow on the 8th of December 2000. Little else happens, ever. Jarrow has: a small(ish) secondary school, quite a few small(ish) infant and primary schools, a hospital, a very cheap pub (the Ben Lomond - a pound a pint - visit it!) and a statue of a Viking. The Viking statue is next to the Viking shopping centre, surprisingly. Jarrow's main claim to fame is that STEVE CRAM went to school here. Wow. So did I. Having recently picked up a South Tyneside tourist brochure, I can assure you that Jarrow is nothing like it says in the brochure. The bus station smells, and its seats have been specifically designed with a near-45-degree slope on them, so all the old-age pensioners (and Jarrow is full of them) slide off them. A few weeks ago a 16-year-old was raped at Jarrow metro station. And a few weeks before that someone hanged himself in the school. It's all happening... Charvas There are so many Charvas in 'Jarra' that I felt they deserved a subtitle. I don't know if charva is just a Geordie word, but basically it is the name of a species of teenager who hang around on street corners in big groups, drinking cheap cider, and accosting passers-by ("Hav ah god a telly on me head leeya-ike?"). The female of the species has a very large, ridiculous fringe that curls round and, if we're lucky, obscures their face. The males have a similarly ridiculous fringe that sticks straight up into the air. I am worried that the species is increasing in numbers - there are definitely more 10-year-old charvas around now than a few years ago. All genders of this species speak in a really irritating nasal whine which is something between a whinge and strangulation. In Bristol I believe they're called Pilkies. (For more info. on charvas see my review of Hebburn) Anyway, the only things I can think of that Jarrow can be proud of are: Bede 's World - did I mention that the venerable Bede lived in Jarrow. It was all forest then, of course, but you can visit Bede's world which not only has a museum but also a medievil working farm. St. Pauls church dates from the 6th century AD, and is very cold. The Jarrow football team (Jarrow Roofing FC) is in the Northen Alliance League Second Division. As you can probably guess, they're not very good. They're still better than Sunderland, though. To summarise: Jarrow is not worth visiting. If you live in Tyne & Wear you may have to pass through Jarrow on the Metro system, but please don't go out of your way to visit. You have much better things to do with your time (like visiting the Metrocentre and St. James' Park, for example).