Title: Bankwell Stairs, Off Pipewellgate, Gateshead
Reference Number: GL002528
Item Description: Pipewellgate was originally a separate township. It was called after the ‘pipe well’ from which wooden pipes carried Gateshead’s water supply. An account for 1631 states ‘paid ye mason for hewing and laying stones at the pipewell’. - The suffix gate is used in the sense of street or lane. The street was of medieval origin although was largely rebuilt in the eighteenth century.
Pipewellgate ran parallel to the river and consisted of small factories, workshops and tenemented houses. It was generally regarded as one of the worst residential areas in Gateshead. Reports of local doctors and inspectors frequently condemned the area. In 1850 Inspector R. Rawlinson wrote of Pipewellgate, 'Neither plan nor written description can adequately convey … the true state and condition of the room-tenements and of the inhabitants occupying them. The subsoil on the sloping side of the hill is damp and most foul, the brickwork of the buildings is ruinous, the timber rotten; and an appearance of general decay pervades the whole district … Single rooms are let off as tenements which are crowded with men, women and children; the walls are discoloured with age, damp and rot; the windows are broken, old rags, straw and boards occupying the place of glass, so that means of light and ventilation alike are absent'. (Manders, 1973)