Milburn House at Side is a well known Newcastle building, but the Milburn family commemorated in its name is not so familiar today. Two pubs, a printing works, shops and old housing were demolished to make way for the splendid new office block completed in 1905. Bewick's workshop and Collingwood's birthplace were two notable casualties. Milburn House was built with finance provided by the Milburn family and because of family connections with the world of shipping, is built with a luxury ocean-going liner with floors labelled deck-style, with 'A' at the top and working down to 'G' on the ground floor. Because of the steeply sloping site, there are five entrances to the street at four different levels and in the early days about 100 tenants provided employment for nearly 1,000 persons.
William Milburn was born in Ashington in 1826. The son of a ship owner, he married into another ship owning family when he wed Mary Davison of Blyth. Milburn possessed some of the finest and fastest sailing ships of the day - one vessel holding the record of 68 days for the run to New Zealand. Later he was one of the first to adopt steam in the freight trade. The business of Wm. Milburn & Co. became international, including the China tea trade, and at one time was ranked among the top five in the world tonnage league. Eventually, it was to be coal from Ashington Colliery, the largest and one of the most prosperous collieries in Britain, and its export from the port of Blyth that was to give even greater impetus to his business.
William Milburn's son, John Davison Milburn (1851-1907) was born at Blyth, educated at Dr. Bruce's Academy in Newcastle and at Brampton, before becoming a partner in the business. He later became a director/chairman of several North East companies, a JP for Northumberland and the High Sheriff for the county in 1905, in which year he was created a baronet.