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County Durham
Grid reference: NZ332651
Location: 54°58’47"N, 1°28’49"W
Population: 27,526
Post town: Jarrow
Postcode: NE32
Dialling code: 0191
Local Government
Council: South Tyneside

Jarrow is a town in County Durham, standing on the south bank of the River Tyne, with a population of 27,526 at the 2001 census.

Jarrow's name is famous from opposite ends of its history: Bede and the Jarrow March. Jarrow was where Bede composed the first book of English history; The Ecclesiastical History of the English People in the early 8th century and created the narrative which all future works were to follow. Jarrow industrialised in the middle of the 19th century as a centre for shipbuilding but all this ended in 1935 during the Great Depression. The unemployed labourers of the town and from many others around gathered at Jarrow in 1936 and set off on the famous Jarrow March or Jarrow Crusade, marching to London to protest against their unemployment.

Name of the town

The name of Jarrow is first recorded around 750 AD in the phrase æt Gyruum, which is Old English, in which Gyrwas (dative plural Gyurwum) means "marsh dwellers", from gyr meaming "mud" or "marsh".

Later spellings are Jaruum in 1158, and Jarwe in 1228.

Today Jarrow residents' popular nickname for Jarrow is "Jarra".

History and naming

The ruins of St. Paul's Monastery

There was a 1st-century Roman fort here. It became an English fortress in the 5th century

In early Christian England the Monastery of Saint Paul was founded in Jarrow, part of the twin foundation Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory. The monastery was the home of the Venerable Bede, whose most notable works include Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) and the translation of the Gospel of John into English. At the time of its foundation, it was reputed to have been the only centre of learning in Europe north of Rome.

In 794 Jarrow became the second target in England of the Vikings, who had plundered Lindisfarne in 793.

The Monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII. Its ruins are now associated with and partly built into the present-day church of St Paul, which stands on the site. One wall of the church contains the oldest stained-glass window in the world, dating from about AD 600. Just beside the Monastery is "Bede's World", a working museum dedicated to the life and times of Bede. Bede's World also incorporates Jarrow Hall, a grade II listed building and significant local landmark.

19th century to present

Jarrow remained a small town until the introduction of heavy industries like coal mining and shipbuilding. Charles Mark Palmer established a shipyard – Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited – in 1852 and became the first armour-plate manufacturer in the world. John Bowes, the first iron screw collier, revived the Tyne coal trade, and Palmers was also responsible for the first modern cargo ship, as well as a number of notable warships. Around 1,000 ships were built at the yard.

Palmers employed as much as 80% of the town's working population until in 1934 it was suddenly closed, the yard bought by the National Shipbuilders Securities Ltd. (NSS). This organisation had been set up by Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government in the 1920s, but the first public statement had been made in 1930 while the Labour Party was in office. The aim of NSS was to reduce capacity within the British shipyards. In fact Palmer's yard was relatively efficient and modern, but had serious financial problems. From 1935, Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic, was partially demolished at Jarrow, towed in 1937 to Inverkeithing for final scrapping.

The launch of the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary from Palmers shipyard in 1912

The closure of the shipyard was responsible for one of the events for which Jarrow is best known. Jarrow is marked in history as the starting point in 1936 of the Jarrow March to London to protest against unemployment in Britain. Jarrow MP Ellen Wilkinson wrote about these events in her book The Town That Was Murdered (1939). Some doubt has been cast by historians as to how effective events such as the Jarrow March actually were[1] but there is some evidence that they stimulated interest in regenerating 'distressed areas'.[2]

Outside links


  1. Lloyd, T.O. Empire to Welfare State, 1970
  2. Marwick, Arthur. Britain in our Century 1984


  • Gibbs, Philip. England speaks (1935)
  • Lloyd, T.O. Empire to Welfare State (1970)
  • Marwick, Arthur. Britain in our Century (1984)
  • Wilkinson, Ellen. The town that was murdered: Depicting in brief the history and demise of Jarrow (1939)