The North East is home to some of the most unique attractions in the country.
It has a stunning coastline as well as nationally recognized landmarks such as the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and the Penshaw Monument.
But the area has some hidden gems that you might not realize are there. A number of them have been in the region for centuries and have a fascinating history behind them.
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Below are some of the weird and wonderful things that will be on your doorstep. How many of them did you already know?
Willie the stuffed dog
Inside The Turks Head in Tynemouth is a display cabinet containing a stuffed border collie called Willie. The dog has lived in the Turks Head since 1880 – and there is an unwritten rule that whoever runs the pub must agree to keep him there. Willie has been watching over the bar for an incredible 142 years.
The dog is called ‘wondering Willie’ because of the Victorian story of how he came to call Tynemouth home. According to the story, the sheepdog was one day helping his master drive a flock of sheep from the Cheviots through North Shields when the noise of the town startled the sheep and they scattered.
Willie quickly rounded up the runaway sheep – but counting the flock revealed that one was still missing, and Willie’s master quickly sent him out to find it. The devoted collie scoured the entire town for the missing sheep – but while he was away, his master checked the flock again and realized that he had actually miscounted and that all the sheep were accounted for.
With night falling and Willie nowhere to be seen, searching for a lamb he would never find, the shepherd had no choice but to continue his journey without the dog. When Willie finally returned to the scene and found his master gone, he was devastated.
Legend has it that the collie stayed there for months hoping his beloved shepherd would return, surviving on scraps and refusing help from the locals. One day a ferryman noticed a sickly looking Willie wandering the town and decided to take him aboard his ferry to put the poor dog out of his misery.
Willie found himself thrown overboard and into the Tyne – but the determined dog miraculously managed to swim back to shore. After that, the collie finally began to accept care from the coastal residents who had become accustomed to seeing the dog on his walks.
It is said that Willie’s fur became shiny again and he was soon fattened on the food given to him by generous locals. Willie became something of a celebrity in Victorian North Shields where he enjoyed spending time at the docks, announcing the arrival of each ferry by barking madly as they approached. A chorus of local children learned to join in his barking, causing such a commotion that Willie was eventually banned from the boats.
A ferryman named Ralph later took the collie under his wing, and Willie lived out the rest of his days accompanying his new owner around North Shields – although it is said that he never stopped hoping to see his old master one last time . Willie died of old age in 1880, and Ralph had him stopped and mounted at Turks Head to ensure the dog’s incredible history lived on.
In a field, south of Cramlington in Northumberland, stands a giant spoon. The 15ft stainless steel statue, created by Bob Budd, is called “Eat for England”.
According to the BBC, the large piece of cutlery was erected in 2006 as part of a lottery-funded art competition. The broadcaster reported in 2014 how the artist decided that somewhere the food was produced was the best place for a huge dessert spoon. He also called it a “carrot” to attract rural people.
Visitors can park in Seghill and walk to the outdoor attraction along a public footpath that points towards Klondyke. But you will get wet crossing the Seaton Burn – which has no bridge.
From then on, it’s an easy straight line to Eat for England, which is not visible from the road. There is barbed wire on both sides of the path, so if you have children or dogs, keep them close.
It is also possible to walk to the giant stage from Cramlington. Access is via an underpass below trunk road A189.
The Red House sculpture
At first glance, the sculpture in Sunderland might look like the remains of an old building or a really bad case of fly tipping. But it depicts the ground floor of a home that has been destroyed and left to the elements.
The sculpture, located next to the National Glass Center on the river, is made entirely of red stone. Part of a sofa, a table, books, a chair, a sink and other household items sit on the footpath next to the River Wear. Many believe the idea behind it was to honor the nearly 300 people who were killed in the city as a result of German bombing raids during World War II.
The weighing house
Tucked away among the stalls at Grainger Market in Newcastle is The Weighhouse. The premises were originally used in the 19th century by stallholders and buyers to check the weight of their purchases. At that time it was a legal requirement in all markets.
Weight is still acting on the market. People can pay 50p to stand on a giant scale and weigh themselves. An employee then gives them a ticket indicating their weight. Customers are guaranteed an accurate and confidential service.
High above Barrowburn in the Coquet Valley is a tombstone which reads: “Murder Cleugh here 1610 Robert Lumsden killed Isabella Sudden”. The squire Sudden, who is said to have had a fondness for married women, stoned Isabella to death, realizing that she would bear his illegitimate child. The law eventually caught up with him and he was brought to trial in Alnwick. He was sentenced to a month in prison, and almost got away with murder.
Mr. George’s Museum of Time
The family-run clock and watch museum is located in the center of Haydon Bridge in Northumberland. The museum contains a wide selection of mechanical clocks, keys, tools and parts from the 18th century and the end of the 20th century. Mr George’s is also a specialist workshop and gift shop. Customers visiting for a watch or watch refund can view the collection of watches and clocks on display while they wait.
South Bailey drain lamp
The lamp is located in the Old Bailey grounds of Durham and dates back to the late Victorian era. The cast iron lamps were invented after the Great Stink of 1858 when London’s sewers caused a foul smell.
The waste gas destroyer lamps remove the waste gases and their dangers. The idea then spread from London, with lights around 100 historic ventilation pipes in the care of Northumbrian Water.
Emily Wilding Davison statue
A statue of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison is in Carlisle Park in Morpeth, Northumberland.
Emily is one of the people responsible for securing women’s suffrage. But during her lifetime she was known as a radical who was brutally imprisoned and tortured by the state.
She was arrested and imprisoned for her part in demonstrations and activities in support of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Emily went on hunger strike in prison several times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions, a tube was forced down her nose or down her throat.
Her name became known around the world in June 1913 when she stepped onto Epsom racecourse and was met by the thundering hooves of King George V’s horse Anmer. She never recovered from her injuries and died four days later in hospital. She was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Morpeth.
The statue, unveiled in 2018, depicts Emily tipping food from a bowl she has been given, knowing the consequences that would follow. It was created by County Durham-based artist Ray Lonsdale and funded by Northumberland County Council and Morpeth Town Council at a cost of £55,000.
Above the village of Elsdon in Northumberland is Winter’s Gibbet – a ghostly reminder of a murder committed by William Winter in 1591.
Winter was convicted of murdering Margaret Crozier at Raw Pele near Elsdon and executed at Westgate in Newcastle. His body was hung in chains and left to rot in a place near the present gibbet.
A century later, Sir William Trevelyan of Wallington Hall ordered a replica of the gibbet to be constructed along with a wooden figure of Winter.
The head has been stolen and replaced several times over the years. There have been reported sightings of Winter’s ghost at the location in question.
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