The Moor: Past, present and future...
The Town Moor was part of the Town and the ancient grazing rights belonged to individual Freemen. It was probably part of the manor of Newcastle and thus included in the grant of the town to the Freemen by King John. It was evidently part of the property of the Freemen in the reign of Henry III, who granted permission to dig coal there, however the grazing rights probably go back to long before the Conquest. The Nuns Moor was purchased and added to the Town Moor after it had come into private ownership by royal grant after the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.
There is a tradition that the Moor was given to the Freemen by Adam of Jesmond (sometimes confused with Sir Adam de Athol) however it may be that he only granted some grazing rights within the Manor of Jesmond.
In 1770 the Freemen suggested that the Moor (referring to an area on the southwest side of what is now Barrack Road and Ponteland Road) which was very rough and undrained, should be improved. Then in 1771 the Common Council, without consulting the Freemen, enclosed and purported to let this part of the Moor. The Freemen defending their rights, entered and took possession of this land. The Lessee, Joshua Hopper, supported by the Council, commenced a law suit for trespass. The action was tried on 10 August 1773, interestingly it began at 7 o'clock in the morning! Counsel for the Freemen, Serjeant Glynn, the Recorder of London having admitted trespass, was called upon to justify it. When he closed his speech Counsel for the Corporation, on being asked if he did not mean to make a reply made the memorable response, "How can I reply? - he has pounded me in a common and I cannot get out!"
A compromise was effected and the Town Moor Act was passed in 1774, at the expense of the Corporation, establishing for ever the right of the Freemen to the grazing on the Moor, without prejudice to the ownership. The management of the Moor was set out in that Act. It was slightly modified by the Newcastle upon Tyne Improvement Act 1870 which gave statutory recognition to the Stewards Committee of the Freemen as the body to represent the Freemen in connection with the Moor. These two Acts established the governing and use of the Moor and constitute the "dual control" which was perpetuated in the 1988 Act. The City Council hold the legal ownership of the freehold and the Freemen have an absolute right to herbage so mutual agreement is required on nearly all matters relating to the land. The Freemen's rights are called "sole or several pasture".