Jarrow, located in the North East of England, is a town steeped in history. It is home to one of the most important historic sites in the world, the Monastery of Saint Paul, which was home to the Venerable Bede.

St Paul’s Monastery, Jarrow – Graeme J. Baty via istockphoto

Here are ten interesting facts you might not know about the town:

1.) It was the second target in England of the Vikings in 794.

In the wake of the sack of Lindisfarne the previous year, The Vikings are said to have sailed up the river Tyne, to the Tyne of Don, alighted from their ships and plundered the monastery. They were met with some resistance where a Viking leader was killed, and a storm subsequently arose in which some of their ships were wrecked at the mouth of the river and overwhelmed by the sea. The Laud ‘E’ manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reads:

‘794 . . . And tha haethenan on Northhymbrum hergodon, and Ecgferthes mynster aet thone muthe berefodon. And thaer heora heretogena sum ofslaegen wearth, and eac heora scipu sume thur ofer weder wurdon tobrocene and heora feala thaer adruncon. And sume cuce to tham staethe comon, and tha man sona ofsloh aet thaere ea muthan.’ 

Translation: ‘And the heathens ravaged in Northumbria, and plundered Ecgfrith’s monastery at Donemuthan (*), and one of their leaders was killed there, and also some of their ships were broken to bits by stormy weather, and many of the men were drowned there. Some reached the shore alive and were immediately killed at the mouth of the river.’ 

2.) The dedication stone for St Paul’s Church is the oldest in the country, dating the building to the 23 April, 681 A.D.

St Paul’s dedication stone – Stanley Howe via Geograph C.C

The stone was moved from its original position in the eastern part of the north wall of the old nave that was demolished in 1782, and is now built into the north porch.

The Latin script translates: “The dedication of the church of St Paul on 23rd April in the fifteenth year of King Ecgfrith and the fourth year of Ceolfrith Abbot, and under God’s guidance founder of this same church.”

3.) The present-day church of St. Paul, which stands on the site and one wall of the church contains the oldest stained-glass window in the world, dating from about AD 600.

St Paul’s Original stained glass window The world according to bead.

The window with its haloed figure was reconstructed from pieces of glass excavated from St Paul’s and has now been installed in the museum at Bede’s World. The special interest of this glass lies in its possible connection with an account written by the scholar Bede, who was a monk at Jarrow in the early 700s.

Bede wrote that in 675 Abbot Biscop went abroad to Francia (what is now France) to find glaziers to fill the windows of his new church, St Peter’s, which he had founded the previous year. Bede states that glazing was a technique previously unknown to the English, although we know that clear window glass had been used during the Roman occupation of Britain.

4.) Jarrow Hall

Jarrow Hall via Wikipedia

Jarrow Hall is a grade II listed building that is open to the public as a museum, it is home to many interesting exhibitions throughout the year, but it most notably houses the Bede Museum. Telling the story of Bede and his time, from the beginnings of the Anglo-Saxon period through his life, death and legacy. Bede was an author, scholar, linguist and translator who composed works on astronomical timekeeping and the motions of the Sun, Earth and Moon.

The museum is home to Europe’s largest collection of coloured glass from the 7th and 8th centuries alongside unique stonework, artefacts and the Abbadia Reliquary. Also featured in the museum is a full-sized reproduction of Codex Amiatinus; the oldest complete Latin Bible in existence.

5.) The first armour-plate manufacturer in the world

Launch of HMS Queen Mary beneath the distinctive gantry cranes of Palmers’ yard via Wikipedia

Charles Mark Palmer established a shipyard – Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited – in 1852 which became the first armour-plate manufacturer in the world.

The Company was primarily based in Jarrow, but also with operations in Hebburn and Willington Quay – all on the River Tyne. The company collapsed in 1933 and the Jarrow works were closed. The Hebburn works were purchased by Armstrong Whitworth, though the shipyard was still often referred to as ‘Palmers’, and later in 1973 sold to Swan Hunter.