Note: The Blyth & Tyne route from Backworth to Newcastle (New Bridge Street) opened on 27 June 1864, with a station provided at the village of Longbenton; most sources call this station Benton, although it was Long Benton in Blyth & Tyne timetables. There was already a station known as Benton on the North Eastern Railway’s East Coast main line.
until it closed in 1958.
||The second Blyth & Tyne Benton station opened at its present site on 1 March 1871, almost midway between the earlier B&T Benton station and the B&T Forest Hall station; it replaced both of these stations, which closed on that date. In 1874, when the NER absorbed the B&T, Benton station on the East Coast main line was renamed Forest Hall, the name which it retained
The Ordnance Survey map published in1859 showed what would become ‘Station Road’ as a country lane with no buildings close to the site where Benton (2nd) was to open. The nearest building of note was Long Benton parish church, now dedicated to St Bartholomew (St Andrew’s until 1791). The map of 1897 shows only a few large houses nearby, but by 1916 urban development, with terraced, detached, and semi-detached of various qualities surrounded the station.
Benton station was provided with a main building on the up (south-east) platform brick-built and showing Gothic influence, not unlike that provided over a decade earlier at North Seaton. It had two wings, the north-eastern being single-storey, whilst the reminder, including the stationmaster’s accommodation, had two storeys. The north-eastern wing had a bay window projecting onto the platform. The station was entered through a wooden extension to the north-eastern wing, where the booking facilities and an office were located. An enclosed verandah stretched between the two wings, providing a waiting room, and it was overlooked by first-floor windows. A porters’ office was also in this section of the building. At the south-west end of the building was a flat-roofed extension containing a lavatory, and beside it was a small wooden shed.
The north-east platform had a delightful brick-built waiting shed, with a hipped slate roof embellished with cresting, and with elaborate finials at both ends. Like the verandah opposite it was fronted by timber and glass. A standard NER iron footbridge, at the north-east end of the station, connected the platforms. A short distance north-east of the down platform, and beyond the Station Road bridge, was a tall signal box built with double overhangs because of the constricted site.
A 3-ton crane and two goods sidings, entered from the west, were provided behind the up platform. These facilities were closed on 14 August 1967.
Bridge Street) was as late as 7:56am, and there was no earlier train to Newcastle from any station on the line from the coast. Perhaps this reflected the social class of the areas served, with managers and clerks as the customers – who would start work later than workers of lower status. Travelling to or from the northern reaches of the former B&T, eight further trains on weekdays, nine on Saturdays, and four on Sundays called at Benton; the first departure to Newcastle direct was at 8:46 am.
|In summer 1896 Benton had a service of about a dozen trains each way between Newcastle Central and New Bridge Street via the Coast on weekdays, and nine on Sundays. Trains ran at irregular intervals on weekdays, and surprisingly there was no clear concentration of services at morning and evening rush hours. The first departure for Newcastle direct (New
The irregular and infrequent steam trains were replaced, from 29 March 1904, by frequent third-rail electric trains between Newcastle (New Bridge Street) and Benton. The new service was extended in stages via Tynemouth to reach Newcastle Central three months later. Steam trains to and from Newbiggin and Morpeth via Hartley continued to call at Benton. The regular-interval electric service in 1904 was:
30-minute intervals: Newcastle Central – Monkseaton – New Bridge Street
30-minute intervals: Newcastle Central – Monkseaton (did not serve Benton)
30-minute intervals: New Bridge Street – Benton
30-minute intervals: Newcastle Central – Riverside – Tynemouth (did not serve Benton)
The Coast Circle route from Newcastle Central to Jesmond, with Manors (North) replacing New Bridge Street, was opened on 1 January 1909, but until 1917 the new link was used only by Newcastle Central – Benton trains. The summer 1920 timetable shows trains every half hour throughout the day on weekdays, with a more intensive rush hour service, and an hourly service on Sundays. By the late-1930s this had increased in frequency to 20-minute intervals on weekdays and half-hourly on Sundays.
In the LNER era, whilst electric lamps were installed at every other station on the Coast Circle, Benton continued to be lit by gas. The lamp standards were of a most unusual elaborate style not usually associated with railway stations. LNER running-in boards of a style believed to be unique to the Coast Circle incorporating the company’s early diamond logo were fitted. In January 1948 the station became part of the nationalised British Railways North Eastern Region, and in the early/mid 1950s half-flanged tangerine totem name signs were installed; no other Coast Circle station received them at this time, perhaps because they had serviceable LNER nameplates fitted to the electric lighting. However, continuing to be out-of-step with the other stations, the gas lamps and totems were replaced in about 1961, with fluorescent strip lamps bearing the station name on the diffusers, mounted on concrete posts. Shortly before this, vitreous enamel BR(NE) nameboards had replaced the LNER signs.
In January 1967 the North Eastern Region was abolished, and Benton was transferred to the Eastern Region. Early in the 1970s the other Coast Circle stations had tall vandal-proof lamps installed, with black-and-white ‘corporate identity’ signage, but Benton did not.
The familiar 1937 electric multiple units were eventually condemned as ‘life expired’ by British Rail, and phased out over a two-year period to be replaced with diesel multiple units; the final EMU ran on 17 June 1967. The diesel units provided a slower service, and the longstanding 20-minute frequency of trains was reduced to half-hourly intervals; an express service each hour did not call at the station. However the new Tynerider branded services introduced in October 1970 – the same old DMUs with jolly orange transfers added to them! - restored the 20-minute interval service, and even included trains in the early hours of the morning to return night-time revellers to their homes. Royal Assent was given in 1973 for conversion of the route to light rail ‘Metro’ operation, and the more frequent service continued until the direct trains between Newcastle Central and West Monkseaton were withdrawn on 23 January 1978 for Metro engineering work to take place.
matching frontage of the waiting shed on the opposite platform was also removed. The NER footbridge gave way to a much less appealing structure; having only step-access this was replaced in 2011 with an ‘accessible’ bridge including ramps and lifts. A new structure has also been added at the north-east end of the down platform with ticket-issuing facilities.
||With the exception of South Gosforth, the buildings at the stations from West Jesmond to Tynemouth, reopened as Metro ‘halts’, were treated sympathetically. Benton retained its main building, but the wooden building at the north-eastern end was replaced with a brick structure, and the timber-and-glass frontage of the verandah was removed. The
BRIEF HISTORY OF BLYTH & TYNE RAILWAY (Newcastle [New Bridge Street] – Jesmond – Benton – Backworth)
The southern end of the Blyth & Tyne Railway has a complicated history. Until 1861 there was a single route from Blyth and Seghill onward through Prospect Hill to Percy Main, with a terminus adjacent to the NER station. However in that year a new branch
was opened, following the route of the former Whitley Waggonway, extending from Hartley to Tynemouth. It should be noted that this included the stretch to what is now Monkseaton, which was to be known as the ‘Avenue Branch’, and that the line beyond to Tynemouth was half a mile inland of the present day Monkseaton – Tynemouth Metro line.
At the Tynemouth end the original terminus was quickly replaced with a new one on a short branch which curved south eastwards, and that in turn closed when its branch was extended to a third terminus, which adjoined the 1847 Tynemouth terminus of what had been the Newcastle & North Shields Railway.
In 1864 the Blyth & Tyne reached Newcastle, with a terminus at New Bridge Street. This was achieved by diverting trains onto a new line just south of Holywell, then through Backworth, Benton, and Jesmond. At Backworth a new line was opened to join the 1861 Whitley (Monkseaton) to Tynemouth route. Trains could now travel on the B&T from Newcastle (New Bridge Street) to Tynemouth, making the Holywell – Prospect Hill – Percy Main route, and the ‘Avenue Branch’ between Hartley and Whitley (Monkseaton) redundant. These two lines closed in June 1864 on the day when the Newcastle – Tynemouth service was inaugurated.
were replaced with a splendid new through station. This created the coastal section of the familiar Coast Circle and Metro route, although there were to be realignments at Whitley Bay in 1910 and Monkseaton in 1915 where new, larger stations were built.
|In 1874 the B&T was absorbed by the NER, and the opportunity was taken to reorganise the railway routes in the Monkseaton / Whitley / Tynemouth area. With the growth of housing and holidaymaking on the coast the ‘inland’ route from Monkseaton to North Shields was superseded in 1882 by one within sight of the sea, and the two formerly competing termini at Tynemouth
In response to the growth and electrification of street tram networks on North Tyneside the Coast Circle route via both Wallsend and Carville was electrified in 1904 on the third rail system, and the irregular and infrequent steam service was replaced with a frequent interval service. For almost six decades the basic pattern was three trains per hour in each direction, with extras in the rush hour.
In 1963 the Reshaping of British Railways (‘Beeching’) report made no reference to the main Coast Circle line, but the Riverside Branch, via Carville, was recommended for closure (which was eventually implemented in 1973). However on a visit to Tyneside shortly after the report’s publication Beeching made it clear that the Coast Circle line was a likely candidate for closure. In the mid 1960s the ageing electric multiple units, dating from 1937, were being allowed a few more minutes to complete their journeys, and the decision was made to replace them with diesel multiple units cascaded from other areas rather than with newer electric stock. In June 1967, shortly after the line became part of British Rail’s Eastern Region – the North Eastern having been abolished - the last EMUs ran, and the third rails were removed.
The service of three stopping trains per hour in each direction was replaced with a half-hourly service, plus one ‘express’ serving only the coastal stations, Wallsend and Manors; it is no surprise that custom was lost at the stations whose service was cut. However in October 1970 the tide turned, and the Eastern Region launched the vigorous Tynerider campaign to revitalise the line (including the Riverside branch) and the South Shields branch. Although the Riverside continued to have a sparse service at rush hours only, the Coast Circle’s 20-minutely service returned, with the new feature of trains in the early hours to bring revellers home from Newcastle city centre. Passenger numbers increased dramatically, and strengthened the case for further investment. The idea of incorporating the local railways into a rapid transit system was examined, and in 1973 Royal Assent was obtained to use the Coast Circle as the basis of such a network, which was to become the Tyne & Wear Metro.
(except Tynemouth) were closed for conversion work to be done: this included West Jesmond, South Gosforth, Longbenton, Benton, and West Monkseaton on the former B&T Newcastle route, thus their inclusion in the list of Disused Stations. Backworth closed in 1977 and Manors North in 1978 and were not to reopen on the new Metro line (although Manors underground station replaced Manors North, and Northumberland Park was opened in 2005 immediately south-west of the site of Backworth).
||The engineering work to bring about this transformation was ambitious, involving the driving of tunnels under central Newcastle and Gateshead and constructing a sixth bridge over the Tyne between these centres, so that the Metro could be separated from the ‘main line’ system. For some time between January 1978 and November 1982 all of the stations on the Coast Circle
Almost all of the Newcastle – Backworth route remains as part of the Metro system. Only at the southern end has there been any significant change. A short distance north of the original Jesmond station the Metro route of 1980 curves to the south-west to enter the tunnel beneath central Newcastle and the new Jesmond station.
Click here for a list of sources and a Blyth & Tyne bibliography
Tickets from Michael Stewart except 7292 CJ Dean and 8444 Brian Johnson . Street map from Rod Davey. Totem from Richard Furness. Bradshaw from Chris Totty. Route map drawn by Alan Young.
To see other stations on the Blyth & Tyne Railway Newcastle - Backworth line click on the station name: Newcastle New Bridge Street, Manors North, Jesmond, West Jesmond*, Moor Edge, South Gosforth*, Longbenton*, Benton (1st site)*, Forest Hall, Benton Square and Backworth (2nd site).
* Station reopened as part of the Tyne & Wear metro. Three other Metro stations on this line are new sites and are not included. These are Palmersville, Northumberland Park and Ilford Road.