Keys to the Past


Starting with W - 45 Glossary entries found.

In this section of the website you can find out more about specialist and technical terms archaeologists sometimes use. There is also lots more information about famous people and historic events in the north-east.

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W S Hicks

See Hicks, W.S.

Waggonway; Wagon Way

A wagon way is a track with wooden or iron rails built to move wagons of coal easily. Unlike railways, the sleepers were usually stone. The earthwork on which the rails ran is normally all that survives. The earliest examples were built in the late 16th century, but most date to the 18th and 19th century.


An early form of railway for the transportation of freight by wagons on rails on a road.


See Wailes, William.

Wailes, William

William Wailes was a local stained glass manufacturer. He was born in Newcastle in 1808AD and originally took up a grocery and tea-dealing business. Though he had studied stained glass in 1830AD at Munich, (Germany) it was not until 1841AD that he gave himself over to glass manufacture. Previously he advertised, with the food provisions, decorative enamels for sale. (The grocers was taken-over by his original assistant).

Wailes set up in various Newcastle premises - though was soon to become one of the largest employers in the field outside of London. Most of his output is to be found in local Northeast churches - but by no means is this exclusively so. Several designers were employed by Wailes such as Francis Wilson Oliphant R.A. (1818-1859AD), Henry Mark Barnett and George Jospeh Baguley (1824-1915AD). (Some of these men were later to set up their own respected studios, such as Baguley and Barnett separately). The stained glass made by Wailes's firm is particularly noted for its following of Medieval styles and colours - indeed the Medieval revivalist Augustine Welby Northmore Pugin (181-1852AD) who designed the Houses of Parliament, London 1840-1860AD, frequently used Wailes glass exclusively from 1842AD till his death.

Commemorative windows for individuals or groups were becomingly increasingly popular at this time and Wailes workshop produced many examples of note. These were common to young children - and Wailes and his wife, Elizabeth, must have known the anguish suffered as they lost three children in their infancy themselves. A further daughter was death - and a Wailes window, (at Saint Andrews, Newcastle), is amongst the first to shown the use of sign language.

The studios of Wiles designed and made their own glass for new churches. They also undertook the restoration of Medieval stained glass at York Minster, and worked around existing windows, as at Ely Cathedral. Wailes was among the exhibitors of 'The Great Exhibition' of 1851AD held at London's original Crystal Palace. The partnership of Wailes Company with his son-in-law Thomas Rankine Strang (1835-1899AD) took the firm as a viable concern after Wailes death in to the 1910s AD - though retained and was constrained by the style of the Medieval revivalist work, then out of fashion.

Wailes's entry to glass making was unexpected to other artists. William Bell Scott wrote the Wailes is the last man one would have expected to organise and succeed. Indeed Wailes did undergo financial difficulties - though only after buying the Saltwell Estate in Gateshead, in 1860AD. Here he landscaped the grounds and built the colourful Saltwell Towers as his home. Wailes sold the estate to the Gateshead Corporation for £35, 000 in 1876AD - when it became Saltwell Park. Wailes died in 1881AD whilst living at Saltwell, (a condition of the sale), and was buried at Saint Peter's Church, Bywell, Northumberland. This was a place where there were both business and family links; there is glass attributed to Wailes in the church, and it is where his father had been buried.


Also known as panelling - this is wooden lining of a room's walls. The panels may be divided into further segments by further applied strips of wood.


See Wainscot.

Walled gardens

An ornamental, or more usually kitchen, garden where plants are grown in the middle of a brick walled enclosure, as part of a country house. They usually face south to catch most of the sun's light. The walls allow the shelter of the plants, as well as a side for supporting glasshouses and sometimes may have internal heating flues, like a hypocaust, from a controlled fire in a corner. Such heat is dispersed against winter frosts, allowing Mediterranean style plants to be grown.


This is a sub-division of land, usually used in the Yorkshire region that the Viking kings, (such as Eric Bloodaxe), took over. It is a Scandinavian word meaning a 'weapon-taking'. There was a wapentake based around Sadberge, in the south of County Durham. Such a divison of land had its own courts. The Sadberge example was bought by the Bishops of Durham from King Richard I in 1189AD for £400 and the services of six knights in Lincolnshire - though the sum was never paid.

War of the Roses

Roses, Wars of the, series of dynastic civil wars in England fought by the rival houses of Lancaster and York between 1455 and 1485. The struggle was so named because the badge of the house of Lancaster was a red rose and that of the house of York a white rose.


(of castle) An area of land within a castle or a castle's jurisdiction. Sometimes the baileys of a castle called be called separate wards. The can be portions of land at some distance to the main holding's of the magnate - but still included as part of a ward. For example, 'Bedlingtonshire' was treated as part of Chester-le-Street ward (see Norhamshire).


An area used for the breeding and rearing of rabbits.

Wars of the Roses

See War of the Roses.

Washing floor

Washing is one of the processes used in dressing metal ores. The mixed ore and rock which has been mined has by this stage already been broken up. This mixture is then shaken in water on a sieve, so that the heavier ore sank to form a bottom layer and the lighter top layer of rock could be removed. Washing was done in areas known as buddles. Early buddles were sloped areas covered in stone with stone sides. In the 19th century buddles were made of wood and from the mid 19th century circular stone buddles were also used. Although earlier the washing was done by hand, in the 19th century water power, horse power and steam power were all used to drive the sieves.

Watch tower

A tower from where watch is kept for raiders with a way of signalling, by beacon or telegraph, to another area.

Watching brief

A watching brief normally takes place during the construction phase of new building . They are usually undertaken in response to an archaeological planning condition. In practice they involve the presence of an experienced archaeologist on-site to observe and identify any archaeological remains. The archaeologist would record any less-significant remains found. However, important finds may require more extensive excavation by an outside team. Watching briefs may be "constant" (i.e. a permanent archaeological presence maintained throughout construction) or "intermittent".

Water mill; Watermill

A place where the passage of water onto paddles - falling or being pushed vertically or horizontally - turns, through mechanisms, millstones to grind a material down. Such materials might be crops, for animal or human consumption, chemicals or stone, (such as flint), which require reduction in size or the removal of un-necessary parts. (See also threshing barn). Gathering ponds, millraces, dams and sluices are all parts of a watermill complex. The earliest watermills in the region are connected with the Romans on Hadrian's Wall - there were mills at Cawfields and Chesters, (both Northumberland).

Wattle-and-daub; Wattle and daub

A technique for creating walls using wood supports, (the wattle), to hold a mixture, (the daub), of mud and dung whilst it dried to become weatherproof.

Wayside cross

In the medieval period and late simple stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. These were partly to mark the way for travellers in wild areas. Good examples can be seen at {Killhope D5277} and Belsay.


A place where wagon loads of railway carriages can be weighed. This would allow the assessment of the goods for transport costs.


See dam.

Well house

A building over a well housing machinery for raising the water.

Well pit

A pit dug into the ground - so as to reach the water table.


The bucket and hauling equipment at the top of the well for water. This may be quite decorative for large or religious wells.

Wesley, John

John Wesley was the unintentional founder of Methodism. He was a theology student at Oxford in 1729AD where he, with friends, preached to the poor and prisoners. This group was nicknamed the Methodists as they strictly followed the Methods of the Bible. In 1738AD, Wesley was inspired to take this style of work again - but throughout the whole of Britain. To achieve this he travelled widely, (including Northumberland, Newcastle and Durham), and preached thousands of sermons. He recorded his travels in journals that have been subsequently published.

This work started local societies and chapels following Wesley's teachings. A house for orphans was established in Newcastle upon Tyne's Northumberland Street - Wesley's third institution founded in 1742AD. This was because Wesley had received little official support from the Church of England. An annual conference of these local societies was started - which lead to the formation of the Methodists as distinct from the Church of England. John Wesley was often supported in his preaching by Charles, his younger brother (1707-1788AD) and a noted hymn writer.


A follower of Wesley, John.

Wheel cross

A wheel cross is a cross with the cross-head surrounded by a circle. The earliest wheel crosses were made in early medieval Ireland and the style was soon used by the Anglo-Saxons. However, it was also quite common in the later 19th century, when Anglo-Saxon artistic styles came back into fashion, and many wheel crosses can be seen in Victorian cemeteries. A good example of a 19th century wheel cross can be seen at Lady's Well, Holystone.

Wheel house

Iron Age hut circle that has walls or screens coming from the circular outside wall inward to divide the room up. In plan this would look like the spokes of the wheel. Such houses are common in Northern Scotland.

Another name for a gin-gang.

Wheelpit; Wheel pit

A rectangular pit for a wheel that allows a wheel to operate without raising the level of the water flow from a leat or mill race to beyond that it would not travel.


Hard, brown-black stone, (a type of dolerite). Used for the rubble core of Hadrian's Wall and in other situations were shape was not important, as it was too hard to carve into shapes, such as road layers.


Wilfrid is a Anglo-Saxon saint associated with Northumbria - but by no means exclusively so. (His life is a contrast to that of Bede). He was born to a wealthy family and out of his own choosing entered religious life when 14. He was first at Lindisfarne (Northumberland) - but then travelled to Rome on the first of his many journeys. (With Wilfred was Saint Benedict Biscop who was had turned to a religious life. He was later to found Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, (both Tyne and Wear) monasteries). Wilfred returned once he had studied canon and scripture law at seminaries in Rome and France.

Upon his return Wilfrid was awarded lands to build monasteries. He was appointed to represent the Roman styles of worship at the Synod of Whitby in 664AD. This dealt with methods of worship, the calculation of the dates of Easter, and types of tonsure (monastic haircuts) were discussed. Wilfrid's arguments won the day. He was appointed as Bishop of Lindisfarne and York in time, building churches in the Roman manner at Hexham (Northumberland) and Ripon (Yorkshire) and York. These buildings were constructed in stone, with crypts, spiral stairs, pillars and ornate decoration whilst Wilfrid was in favour.

However, Wilfrid was out of favour and deprived of his legal rights as Bishop. He was deprived in such a way three times and put forward his case to the Pope in Rome twice in person. On returning once he was imprisoned. Whilst out of favour he acted as a missionary in Frisia (the Netherlands and Germany), Sussex (where he had a narrow escape from pagans after being shipwrecked) and then in Mercia (the English Midlands). Wilfrid died at his own monastery of Oundle, (Northamptonshire). His own followers carried out his work in Northumbria, by Acca as Bishop of Hexham, and abroad. Willibrord (653-739AD) was a pupil of Wilfrid's at Ripon - but acted as a missionary to Frisia and died his founded monastery in Luxembourg. A hagiography of Wilfrid was written by Eddius Stephanus - who knew, and travelled, with Wilfrid.

William Wailes

See Wailes, William.

Wind pump

A pump powered by the wind and used to drain land.

Winding engine; Winding-engine

This is an engine used to winding up rope or metal cables. The first steam winding-engines, housed as stationary engines, appeared in the 1780s - at Walker in 1784AD. They replaced horse-operated gins.

Winding house

Building where a winding-engine was housed to operate a winding mechanism and the winding drum around which the cable or rope was wound. These would have a boiler house and a chimney as a flue. The winding drum was a specially shaped 'cylinder' or wheel. This had an incised long groove or spiral on which guided the metal cable or rope - so as to stop any overlaps or stoppage, which would cause the jerking or stopping of the load in transit. These were used as part of waggonways and parts of railway inclines. They were also used in the 19th century were pit-cages (which carried the miners up and down the shaft) used controlled by a winding-engine. Before that they had abseil down, use ladders or climb down metal chains.


A mechanism whereby a horse or men rotating a central point with, an attached harness, may raise or lower, something from below using a bevel drive.


A mill powered by the wind, used to grind material. There are several types - the post type first appears in the Medieval period, smock and tower are generally later. These rely upon a slight wind to turn sails, which turn internal machinery to turn millstones. In the event of high wind speeds damage may be caused to the machinery - so there are mechanisms to reduce the sail area in proportion to the wind-speed. Windmills are situated on the tops of hills or near the coast in Northumberland and Durham - where the earliest record is one on Coquet Island in 1248AD. They were widespread use till steam-driven mills - though the interest in windmills as part of the picturesque meant that one was built in the 1920s near Ponteland, though was never intended to be used as such.


Side arms to the main body of a country house. They may act as accommodation, offices, stables and so on. They may project forward of the main house or to either side. Wings may be part of the initial scheme or as later additions.


The carbonate ore of Barium (BA). It is only found in a few locations worldwide and is named after the Dr. Withering who discovered it. The major worldwide source of Witherite is in the Fallowfield and Settlingstones area of Northumberland - though a further small amount has been found in County Durham. The Settlingstones Mine was the world's major producer of this mineral - used in preference over Barytes (BaSO4) to produce Barium (Ba). It was used in (experimental?) pottery glazes by Josiah Wedgewood.

Worked flints

Flints that have been knapped, (see knapping), or subjected to purposeful pressure-flaking.


A 19th century establishment for the provision of work for the unemployed poor of a parish; later an institution administered by Guardians of the Poor, in which paupers are lodged and the able-bodied set to work.

World Heritage Site

World Heritage Sites are sites of international historic or natural importance. They are

World War I

1914-18 World War I, military conflict, from August 1914 to November 1918, that involved many of the countries of Europe as well the United States and other nations throughout the world. World War I was one of the most violent and destructive wars in European history. Of the 65 million men who were mobilized, more than 10 million were killed and more than 20 million wounded.

Most fighting took place on the Western Front (E France and Belgium), the Eastern Front (Russia and Poland) and in Turkey. The heavy bombing of England that was common in World War II did not take place. However, there were some attacks on the civilian population of the north-east. Zeppelins dropped bombs on Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1916. One airship was shot down by planes based at Cramlington. A number of defences against attack from the sea were built. For example the Defence Lights were designed to search for enemy ships. Unusually, the Robert's Battery used an old battleship gun turret as part of the defences at the mouth of the Tyne, although these were not completed until the end of the war. Other remains includes the traces of trenches dug at Hive Point.

World War II

1939-45. World War II was the most devastating war in human history. It began in 1939 as a European conflict between Germany and an alliance between England and France, but soon widened to include most of the nations of the world.

Like many areas of the Britain the north-east was heavily bombed by the German airforce, the Luftwaffe. Several different kinds of defence were created against this kind of attack. Anti-aircraft guns were positioned, such as those built around Elsdon A network of radars known as Chain Home Low (Bamburgh, Cresswell, Kirkley Hill, Ottercops, Shotton) was set up - the site of one of these radars can still be seen at Craster. A set of decoy sites - dummy airfields- were also built to lure the German bombers away from their real target. One once stood near Long Houghton and the remains of another are still visible at Great Burdon.

These defences protected both the civilian population and the military sites in the area. An unusual set of sunken pillboxes was built into the runway at the RAF airfield at Middleton St George (now Teeside airport). Many other airfields were spread across the area- they housed both British flyers and Polish and American airmen. The latter groups left behind two carved stone eagles at the entrance at Millfield airfield.

A possible invasion from Germany was also feared, and many coastal defences were built. There is a large network of pillboxes throughout the region, particularly along the flat Northumberland coast, which was thought to be a possible landing site. There were also many anti-tank traps, large lines of huge concrete blocks, placed along the coast. These can still be seen at Widdrington and close to the causeway onto Holy Island. These were all part of a system of coastal defences known as 'Ironsides Crust', after General Edmund Ironside who was in charge of these fortifications. Large systems of ditches, used to prevent enemy gliders landing, were also dug. These can be seen on aerial photographs of the Blyth area. Large gun emplacements were also built to protect the important coastal ports, such as the battery built at Seaham and Blyth.

Other remains dating to this period included the exceptional site of {Low Harperley D4727}, a prisoner-of-war camp, used to hold German and Italian prisoners. The many buildings still survive as well as wall paintings created by the prisoners to remind them of home.

Wyatville, Sir Jeffrey

Wyatville was born to an architectural family and became an architect himself. He set himself up in practice in 1799AD in London with the builder John Armstrong. This partnership built many country houses for members of the nobility, as well as acting restorer. He worked in a variety of styles such as Classical and Mock Tudor on projects at Woburn Abbey and Endsleigh for the Duke of Bedford alone. His work in restoring and converting parts of the Medieval Windsor Castle allowed him to have the motto Windsor on his coat of arms, a knighthood and to live at the Winchester Tower during the reigns of Kings George IV and William IV, and Queen Victoria till his death, though he died in London. He was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1826AD of imaginative and archaeological paintings, often of the original Classical times.
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