Statue of the week

The statue of George Hawks is sited near one of his company's finest feats - the High Level Bridge.

The statue of George Hawks is sited near one of his company's finest feats - the High Level Bridge.

By the 1840s, Hawks Crawshay and Sons was the largest ironworks on Tyneside, employing 843 men, 157 youths and 10 boys under 13.

In 1846, work began on one of its greatest pieces of engineering - the High Level Bridge, at a cost of £112,000. A total of 5,050 tons of iron were cast and George Hawks drove the last key into place on June 7, 1849.

According to Gateshead Library local studies records, there was a dispute at the time over the proposed playing of the works band at the opening. George put his foot down and said that if his band was not allowed to appear, then neither would the Queen as the bridge still technically belonged to the firm.

The firm also built iron bridges at Sunderland, York, and as far afield as Constantinople and India.

It diversified into engines for paddle steamers, hydraulic dredgers and lighthouses.

George Hawks was elected Gateshead's first mayor on January 1, 1836, and again in 1848 and 1849.

The company built Hawks Cottages in the 1830s in the Saltmeadows district of Gateshead for its workers.

They were demolished in 1960 against the wishes of many of the residents.

In 1863, George Hawks died, aged 63, at his family home near Morpeth and was buried in the family vault at Bensham.

Two years later, a marble memorial statue was erected by his friends and workmen from the company on Windmill Hills. It is now part of the Windmill Hills town park.

Hawks Crawshay closed in 1889. This was the end of a family venture with small beginnings which grew into one of the most famous industries on Tyneside.

It had begun as William Hawks works near the Tyne, east of Hillgate in the 1740s. The founder of the iron dynasty was William Hawks, a foreman blacksmith at Ambrose Crowley's iron works who lived for a time in Quality Row, Swalwell.

The statue was made by Joseph and Robert Craggs, who had a marble yard in Percy Street, Newcastle.

It was unveiled by MP William Hutt before a large crowd in which "every class was well and truly represented".


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