Black Hut at Catcleugh Reservoir

Building Byrness Northumberland

Black Hut at Catcleugh Reservoir

Building In Byrness, Northumberland

The last remaining hut built to accomodate the workers who constructed the Catcleugh Reservoir.

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This may look like a little run down shack sitting next to Catcleugh Reservoir, but this wooden hut is actually the only remaining building left from when the reservoir was constructed.

Our story begins 41 miles east in Newcastle. Towards the end of the 19th century, Tyneside saw massive industrial expansion that saw the River Tyne become the most industrialised river in the world. From Scotswood down to Tynemouth, shipbuilding, coal workings and factories sprung up and up to went the population.

The Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company needed more drinking water so a new reservoir was needed.


Catcleugh along with Kielder, Hepple Haughs on the Coquet and Ullswater were considered but after surveys were done Catcleugh was chosen and announced in the Newcastle Daily Journal on 27th February 1889.

Catcleugh was chosen due to it being on the River Rede, forming a chain of reservoirs and there was only a farm to move. However objections to the plans came in from The Duke of Northumberland. The Duke had fishing rights on the River Rede and there was no plans for a fish ladder for the salmon.

At the end of the negotiations, he got the Newcastle and Gateshead water company to supply his properties in Tynemouth, fishing rights on the reservoir and a boat house which is still there. Otterburn Mill also objected the plans but they were guaranteed a certain amount of water each year, an agreement which still stands to this day even though the mill has closed.

Construction took place between 1893 and 1903. Because of its location, a three foot narrow gauge railway was built from West Woodburn to the site to bring supplies up as the A68 was only a cart track.


Accommodation was also needed for the workforce. In total 47 huts where built either side of the railway with the north side being called Newcastle and the south side Gateshead. 28 huts were accommodation with other huts being workshops, doctor's surgery, hospital, police station, pub canteen and social hall.

This hut is number 11 on the Newcastle side and is built without foundations and sits on the earth with it being made of wood covered in tar. Lighting was with paraffin lights and there was an open fire in each room. There was no running water.

This was a large hut with the kitchen in the middle and two rooms either side. Families would live in here with the husband working on the reservoir and the wife being a landlord and taking in lodgers to earn extra. There was more workers on site during the summer months. People from across the country came to work here with the oldest being 82.


After completion, the site was cleared leaving two huts as sheds, eventually becoming one but this was abandoned around 1940. A local historian called Beryl Charlton approached Northumbrian Water and Northumberland National Park and asked them to save the hut.


In 1993 work was done to save the hut and it is now grade two listed.


The reservoir opened on the 21st June 1904 by the Lord of Newcastle. It took 15 months to fill and holds 2.3 billion gallons of water increasing the companies storage by 75%. Kielder holds 44 billion gallons.

Access to the hut is by guided tour only on the first Sunday of each month starting at 13:30. You hear a talk before having a look in the hut and a walk up to the dam to see the valve house and slipway.

After that you get to look in St Francis Of Assisi Church in Byrness to see the memorial window.  To book, visit Northumberland National Park website.

The National Park have a nice video on YouTube about the house and the reservoir which includes some old photos.

Where Is Black Hut at Catcleugh Reservoir

Where Is It?

What three words
grumble.coconuts.fall

Lat / Long
55.321866, -2.39498
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Where To Park?

What three words
promotion.reserved.shred

Lat / Long
55.323941, -2.400763

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Parking is at Reservir House just across the road. Please note the hut is only viewable on a guided tour.

Ashley Lightfoot

Place contributed by Ashley Lightfoot

I love history, exploring churches, castles and ruins with my camera in tow. I am a member of English Heritage. Northumberland is my second home and any chance I get, I'm up there with my Dad, who volunteers with the national park, discovering a little something with a story behind it. The rest of my time, I'm just a simple greenkeeper!

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