After leaving Holland and going back to England to work I settled in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north east of England. It is steeped in history from Roman times. Benwell, in the western suburbs of Newcastle upon Tyne was the site of a fort on Hadrian’s Wall called CONDERCUM. The later name of Benwell is of Anglo Saxon origin deriving from Beonnam-Wall meaning a place within the wall.
Today most of what remains of the fort at Benwell is largely buried beneath modern housing, but the defensive Roman ditch called the `Vallum’ can still be clearly be seen along with the nearby ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to a local god called Antenociticus. From Benwell the Roman wall continued east, towards the fort near the river at Newcastle called Pons Aelius. Between Benwell and Newcastle City Centre Hadrian’s Wall more or less ran along the course of what is now the Westgate Road. This road is built along the site of a Roman defensive ditch situated just north of Hadrian’s Wall.
In Roman times the fort of Pons Aelius at Newcastle was probably not as important as that at Benwell, although it had a significant role in guarding a Roman bridge across the Tyne. Pons was the Latin word for Bridge, so Pons Aelius was the name of both the fort and the bridge at Newcastle. In fact Pons Aelius can be translated to mean `the Bridge of Hadrian’, as Aelius was the family name of the Emperor who gave his name to the Roman Wall.
The Roman Bridge at Newcastle was built of timber on stone piers and may have continued in use for many centuries. Records suggest that the bridge may still have stood in Norman times and if this is so then it was not finally destroyed until 1248 during a raging fire. It is highly likely that a medieval bridge which replaced this burned structure still utilized the Roman foundations.
In Anglo-Saxon times the vicinity of the old Roman fort at Newcastle came to be known as Monkchester after a small community of monks who settled in the area. The later name Newcastle did not come into existence until Norman times when Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror built a castle here on return from a raid into Scotland. Naturally Robert called the building his `New Castle” and the name stuck. Robert’s castle was built right on the site of the Roman fort of Pons Aelius.
A medieval walled town grew up around this new castle which became an important stronghold in the northern defenses against the Scots. Its military importance stimulated trade and commerce and the expanding town of Newcastle developed into a major sea port. By 1300 Newcastle’s importance was such that it was permitted to appoint its own mayor and a century later the town became a county in its own right, independent of Northumberland which lay outside its walls.
Rope making, shipbuilding and glass making were among the early trades to develop in Newcastle but without a doubt the most important of all the industries of the town was the mining and export of coal. The Tyneside pits were among the first to be worked in England and for centuries Newcastle was the most important exporter of coals to London. Thus we have the familiar modern phrase `To carry coals to Newcastle’, an expression of something which is quite needless.
The river Tyne is the famous river that flows through this area. Newcastle sits on the north bank of the river, while Gateshead Borough on the south side is the home to over 200,000 people. It is quite a diverse area with a heavily built up centre comprised of blocks of flats and busy roads, while the south west of the borough has much open rolling countryside. Throughout its history the town of Gateshead has lived in the shadows of the commercially powerful and historically wealthier Newcastle, but despite this strong competition Gateshead has managed to rigidly hold onto its own identity and refuses to become a mere subburb of the Geordie capital. Today Gateshead is widely famed as a venue for top level International Athletics and is also the home of the famous Metro Centre shopping and leisure complex, which is undoubtedly the biggest modern tourist attraction for visitors to the region.
Gateshead Jewish Community
Gateshead is the home to a small community of ultra-orthodox Jews, which is known worldwide for its educational institutions. Talmudic students from many countries come to Gateshead to attend its Yeshivas and Kollels, and girls come to study at its teacher training college.
At the conclusion of World War II, having seen an influx of refugees fleeing Nazi Europe, the fledgling Gateshead yeshiva had grown to a student body of 120. Around 1947, Rabbi Gurwicz’s brother-in-law Rabbi Leib Lopian, at that time a faculty member of the Gateshead Kollel, wrote to the former in London urging him to contribute his vast talents to the burgeoning yeshiva. Rabbi Gurwicz was invited to join the staff of the Gateshead Yeshiva, an offer he duly accepted.
Under Rabbi Gurwicz’s leadership, the number of pupils at the yeshiva increased many times over. He also served as the revered leader of the British Agudah. Rabbi Gurwicz led the yeshiva until his death in 1982. At his funeral, eulogies were delivered by Rabbi Bezalel Rakow, Rabbi of Gateshead; Rabbi Shammai Zahn, Rosh Yeshiva of Sunderland; Rabbi Avraham Gurwicz, son of the deceased, and Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon and Rabbi Zeev Cohen, dean and principal of Gateshead Yeshiva, respectively. Rabbi Gurwicz’s coffin was carried by his past and present pupils, through the streets of Gateshead, past the synagogue and kollel. Then the cortege of about 1,000 people made its way to Newcastle airport where the coffin was flown to London, and from Stansted Airport to Israel. The interment took place in Jerusalem, where more tributes were paid by leading Israeli rabbis.
Rabbi Gurwicz was survived by his second wife Malka and three sons: Dovid, an electronics engineer, Rabbi Abraham Gurwicz, who succeeded his father as Rosh Yeshiva, and Rabbi Chaim Ozer Gurwicz, a lecturer at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. Rabbi Avraham Gurwicz is a son-in-law of his uncle, Rabbi Leib Lopian. Rabbi Gurwicz also left a daughter Sarah, married to Rabbi Zvi Kushelevsky, head of a Jerusalem yeshiva.
The London beth din kashrut division operates under the leadership of its director, Rabbi Jeremy Conway, a graduate of Gateshead yeshiva, the Mirrer in Jerusalem and Kollel Chacham Zvi in Amsterdam. Formerly the Rav of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Leeds, he was approached by Dayan Ehrentreu and appointed to head the division in 1988. Under his direction the department produced the really Jewish food guide, launched a website (www.kosher.org.uk), and expanded and improved the entire hashgacha system. Rabbi Conway is a popular lecturer and broadcaster, and has delivered several keynote addresses to European food industry conferences.
Pease pudding, sometimes known as Pease pottage or Pease porridge, is a baked vegetable product, which mainly consists of split yellow or Carlin peas, water, salt and spices. It is similar in texture to hummus, light yellow in colour, with a mild taste. Pease pudding was traditionally produced in England, especially in the industrial Northern areas – although it is now widely available, often in butcher’s shops.
- 225 g (8 oz.) Dried Split Peas
- 900 ml (1½ pints) Beef Stock (optional)
- 300 ml (½ pint) Water or Vegetable Stock
- 1 small Onion
- 1 Bouquet Garni
- 1 Egg
- Salt & Black Pepper
- Soak the peas as instructed.
- Drain the peas and place in a pan with the halved onion, bouquet garni and 300 ml (½ pint) of water or vegetable stock.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for approx. an hour or until tender. Stir occasionally, adding extra boiling water or stock as required.
- Blend the peas to produce a smooth puree, add the beaten egg and season. The puree should resemble a thick paste.
- Either place the puree into a greased and floured pudding cloth, tie it securely and boil in the beef stock for 1 hour. Alternatively, place in a shallow, greased ovenproof dish, level the surface and bake in a pre-heated oven 180°C; 350°F: Gas 4 for 30 minutes.
The Singin’ Hinnie
The Singin’ Hinnie from Northumberland, contains dried fruits. The Singin’ Hinnie is so-called because it sizzles as it cooks. You will discover, if you make it, why there was a special implement called Singin’ Hinnie hands to turn it over. This operation is quite difficult, best carried out with a fish slice in either hand. The Singin’ Hinnie is served hot, straight from the griddle, slit crossways and buttered and cut into wedges. It is a wonderful, easy, hot snack, good to welcome people home with on cold winter evenings.
- 12 oz. (350 g) plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 oz. (75 g) butter
- 4 oz. (125 g) currants
- 7½ fl. oz. (200 ml) milk
- Put the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl and rub in the lard or butter. Toss in the currants.
- Make a well in the centre and mix in the milk. Mix everything to a dough.
- Knead the dough lightly and roll it into a round about 10 inches (25 cm) across and 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick.
- Heat a lightly greased griddle on a low heat. Put on the dough and cook it until it is golden brown on each side and cooked through, about 15 minutes altogether. If you are using an electric with a concentrated circle of heat, you may find that you will need to turn the electric off completely for a time and let the hinnie cook on heat stored in the ring and the griddle.
- Serve the hinnie hot, split and buttered.
- 1 Tablespoon beef dripping (preferably from roast beef)
- 5 large potatoes
- 4 oz. (approx.) of cold roast beef cut in small slices
- 1 large onion
- Stock or water
- Diced carrot and/or turnip, (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Melt the dripping in a large casserole.
- Add sliced potatoes, meat and onion in layers with seasoning.
- Pour in the stock or water, almost to cover.
- Cook slowly until the potatoes are soft and floury and the liquid almost absorbed – at least 1 hour.
A suet crust can be cooked on top of the mixture.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.