Derivation of the Place Name "Felling"

How did The Felling get its name?
The quick answer: the same way as The Low Fell and The High Fell got their names. All three are part of The Gateshead Fell.

This is the personal view of me, Jon Bratton, the author of this website, and it is contrary to the currently (as I write this) perceived wisdom of other local historians, who in my view took a too Fellinsular view (oh yes, that's a word), who are convinced that the name of Felling, or as still said, The Felling, relates to the felling of trees. In fairness to Joan Hewitt and others this is the derivation given by Allen Mawer, MA in his 1922 book The Place-Names of Northumberland and Durham. I know she read him because in her book she quotes from his book.
This does not alter my view. [Since forming this view I have recently come across an article written by local historian Chas C. Taylor and published in a Heslop's Advertiser in 1939. Here's a snippet

He arrives at a similar conclusion to mine, formed independently. I have never come across any writings of Joan Hewitt or others who have mentioned this departure from the "tree felling" idea]
The use of the 'The' perhaps has given credence to the belief that the name stems from the felling of trees but in fact there is much evidence, given here below, that the definite article was regularly used, even as late as 1834, when talking of The Low Fell and The High Fell and...but... the main point is that Felling is part of a fell. 

Fell is a Norse word for a high and, at its height, barren/moor-like/tree-less landscape and it describes the topography of the area south and east of Gateshead lying between the river Tyne to the north and east and one of its tributaries, the Team, to the south and west. 

From the Team Valley, once wooded, the land rises steeply through the Low Fell (see Durham Road on map) to the non wooded moor-like High Fell (see Old Durham Road, Sheriff Hill on map), and, at its pinnacle, at 520 feet, the Windy Nook and Carr's Hill (see map) after which it descends (see Coldwell Lane on map) to the Felling, becoming increasingly wooded, beyond the Park Lane (ie Hunting Park Lane) A184 (see map) til it reaches the River Tyne. In the Felling area it was called the Hayningwood and haining means it was preserved/enclosed by eg hedge, but see ** below 


team valley 29 feet
durham road, low fell  288 feet
queen elizabeth hospital 518 feet
windy nook 449 feet
coldwell lane 367 feet
Felling Square 242 feet
Christchurch 104 feet
River Tyne (Elephant and Castle) 68 feet

Try it for yourself

Let's consider the North/South plane. The original Durham Road travelling from South to North passed up the Newcastle Bank, then the Long Bank (passing by Eighton Banks), continued to Beacon Lough and started to descend to Gateshead Town Centre by way of Sheriff Hill / Sod House Bank, ultimately reaching the Tyne by way of Bottle Bank.

So this huge topographical lump has as names hills, beacon (beacon means a hill, as well as a signal) and banks on its North-South plane, on its south west side the rise is known as Low Fell and High Fell and on the north east side, the fall down to the Tyne is called Fell-ing, at one time always, and sometimes still, called High Felling and Low Felling. The exact mirror image, but for the -ing There had to be a distinction...both sides of The Fell couldn't have the same names and the "ing", a place-name ending used all over the Country was an obvious distinction 
(“Fell-ing” meaning “the dwellers on the Fell)***

                                                         It is consistent and makes perfect sense. 

The perceived wisdom ignores that the other 3 planes recognise that it is a fell (moor) or hill and claims its name derives from the felling of trees. It never even discusses, nor discounts as a reason for the name, the fact that Felling lies on the north east descent of a fell.
Undoubtedly, there was, indeed, a large blanket of trees hugging the south shore of the Tyne from Gateshead to Bill Quay, the Bishop of Durham having his hunting park in Gateshead and the Dean, next in the hierarchy, having his hunting park in Felling. However, huge areas of Britain were once covered in trees and are not now because of the 
en masse felling of trees. Fellynge, or other spelling variations, already existed to describe that place, full of trees at its Northern lower end ..not nameless, until the trees were felled. That would beggar belief as does this

"..a place where timber has been felled-a reasonable assumption as much of the county"...indeed much of the country... "was at one time thickly forested". If place names derive from the chopping down of trees why aren’t there many more towns called “Felling” ? There are no other Fellings! 
It's obvious. Places with trees have names and the name doesn't change to reflect that trees have been chopped down to build farms or factories.
 That clip comes from notes by historian Joan Hewitt but feallan (click the link) means to ‘fall’ (‘i-falle’), fall headlong, fail, decay, die
In Anglo Saxon ' feallan' does not relate to the act of felling trees.
(As an aside, note name first appearing in 1325 but below she says in 1217 there is reference to "Manerium de Fellynge")
Here, Mrs Hewitt makes the 'tree felling" point again

In this next clip she is implying that because people add the definite article The Felling this adds weight to the notion that the name comes from the felling of trees

Not so, when people said The Felling on the north east side of the fell those on the south west side said The High Fell and The Low Fell

I’ve used the definite article above when talking about Low Fell and High Fell for I’ve seen many references to bits of the Gateshead Fell being called, in times past, for example The Low Fell

In this book, for example, there's these

Below at * I've provided a link to a page in the book where you'll see the last two lines read “There is another nursery and seedsman in Gateshead, on a smaller scale, and there are several market gardeners in Bensham and on the Low Fell
The new Durham Road to this day is called, by the locals, The Fell . As said earlier the ending of “ing”, used in many towns and cities throughout Britain primarily means “the people of.. / the dwellers at..”  *** and it is my absolute conviction that this is the reason that this part of the Gateshead Fell was, and still is, called Felling.

So that is my theory. I'm sure I'm not alone..others will have expressed a similar view, orally, but I can find nothing specific in writing. ( I now have..see here being said in the 1930s) Remember, you read it here first, online..published today on 1st July 2014...

*one example, of many I've seen, of the use of the Low Fell may be found here
An Historical, Topographical and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham 
comprehending the various subjects of Natural, Civil and Ecclesiastical Geography, Agriculture, Manufactures, Navigation, Trade, Commerce, Buildings, Antiquities, Curiosities, Public Institutions, Charities, Population, Customs, Biography, Local History, Volume 1 by E. MacKenzie and M. Ross...published 1834

Looking through the Trade Directories gives some insight into how the geographic names emerged as the whole Gateshead Fell between the Tyne and The Teams became more than just a place of forests at river level and heathland higher up where tinkers and robbers squatted in makeshift dwellings. As we know the road from Durham left Birtley going up Newcastle Bank, then the Long Bank to Wrekenton.The places that developed on either side of the whole road from Wrekenton to Cramer Dykes was given the address of Gateshead Fell, including Carr Hill and Windy Nook in some Trade Directories. The middle section was often also called Sheriffs Hill. Apart from a Working Man's club name, which came much later, the address High Fell was never used...Low Fell as a significant place didn't exist until the New Durham Road was built, which almost exactly mirrored the Sunderland Turnpike Road running eastwards through The Felling ie both roads weren't hugging the lowest point at the rivers Tyne and Teams but were a little uphill from each at Low Felling, Nether (Low) Heworth and Low Fell respectively. The lowest points were called Felling Shore, Heworth Shore and Team Valley respectively. The new road through the emerging hamlet then known as Gateshead Low Fell became known, and is still known, as The Fell. It seems, from the Trade Directories, that within 20 or so years of the New Durham Road being built, the area's name changed from Gateshead Low Fell to simply Low Fell

**“haining” means to save or preserve. Farmers still “hain” a field of grass to make hay. A “haining wood” is a copse where the trees were safe from felling. ( ironic?)
It is a place-name found in Northumberland and Scotland

*** ing is more often applied to "the people of.. a tribe leader's name, particularly in the South of England eg Reading...the people (followers) of Reada but it is also used as " the dwellers at...a landscape feature eg Tring...  Tre', meaning 'Tree'