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Coordinates: 55°00′35″N 1°26′41″W / 55.0097°N 1.4448°W / 55.0097; -1.4448

North Shields
North Shields is located in Tyne and Wear
North Shields

 North Shields shown within Tyne and Wear
Population 39,052 
OS grid reference NZ3568
Metropolitan borough North Tyneside
Metropolitan county Tyne and Wear
Region North East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district NE29, NE30
Dialling code 0191
Police Northumbria
Fire Tyne and Wear
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament North Tyneside
List of places: UK • England • Tyne and Wear

North Shields (or locally just Shields) is a town on the north bank of the River Tyne, in the metropolitan borough of North Tyneside, in North East England. It is located eight miles (13 km) east of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Its name derives from Middle English schele meaning 'temporary sheds or huts (used by fishermen)',[1] and still today, the area is synonymous with fishing and other trades associated with seafaring.



Collieries in the town were located at three of the outlying villages now incorporated within the town, namely, Preston coillery, which was located where the present cemetery gates are, at Percy Main and New York. Following the demise of fishing, coal-mining and ship-building in the area, several business parks, industrial estates and trading estates were established providing alternative employment. The biggest and most notable of these are The Silverlink and Cobalt. Atmel (previously Siemens) has a plant located at the former, and the latter is home to an Orange call centre. The town's association with the early days of the railways is recognised at the Stephenson Railway Museum near The Silverlink.


The history of North Shields starts in 1225 when the Prior of Tynemouth decided to create a fishing port to provide fish for the Priory which was situated on the headland at the mouth of the River Tyne. He also wished to victual ships anchored near the priory. A number of rudimentary houses or 'shiels' were erected at the mouth of the Pow Burn where the stream enters the Tyne, as well as wooden quays which were used to unload the fishing boats. The quays were also used to ship coal from local collieries owned by the Priory. Soon the population of the new township numbered 1000. The burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne were determined to preserve the custom rights that they had enjoyed up till then, and which covered the whole length of the river. They successfully petitioned the king in 1290 and managed to suspend trade from the new settlement. It was forbidden to victual ships or to load and unload cargoes at North Shields. The opposition of the Newcastle burgesses remained for a considerable time but despite this, North Shields continued to develop as a centre for fishing and exporting salt, produced from local saltpans. For a considerable period the Newcastle burgesses, known as the Hostmen, who controlled the export of coal from the Tyne, resisted the export of this commodity from North Shields.[2]

The town was originally restricted to a narrow strip of land alongside the river because of the steep bank which hemmed it in. Eventually the town became too overcrowded and in the 18th century buildings began to be erected on the plateau 60 feet above the old, overcrowded, insanitary dwellings alongside the river. The prosperous businessmen and shipowners occupied the new town whereas the working people remained in the lower part of town. The low, riverside part of the town was linked to the newer, higher part of the town by a series of stairs. These stairs were initially populated by slum dwellings. Although these dwellings have long since been cleared away, the sets of stairs still exist. One of the first developments of the new town was Dockwray Square, in 1763, a set of elegant town houses that became populated by wealthy families. However due to the poor provision of water and drainage facilities, the wealthy families soon moved to the more central part of the new town, especially the new Northumberland Square. Dockwray Square eventually deteriorated into slums. In the Twentieth Century Stan Laurel lived at a house in Dockwray Square for a few years, before he became famous. The square has since been re-developed and a statue of Stan Laurel stands in the middle to commemorate his stay there.[2]

In 1847 a rail link to Newcastle was established when a railway station was established in Oxford Street, off Tynemouth Road. Eventually, it was replaced by a new station further away from the river after new rail lines were developed. The parish church of North Shields, Christ Church, was originally built in 1658 and was re-built in sandstone in 1792. At the time the church was surrounded by countryside as the spreading town had not yet reached that far. The church can still be seen today.[2]

Because of the difficulty of navigating ships into the mouth of the river past the dangerous Black Midden rocks, buildings were erected with permanent lights burning to be used as a guide by the mariners. The first of these was the Old High Beacon, built in 1727. In 1802 this was replaced by the High and Low Lights, placed respectively at the top and bottom of the steep bank alongside the river. The Old High Beacon, as well as the High and Low Lights, still exist today as private residences. In 1806 a market place was opened on New Quay. In 1870 work began on constructing a fish quay to provide shelter for the docked fishing boats. This quay is still in use today.[2]

Clifford's Fort, located on the Fish Quay, was built in the 17th century as a coastal defence against the Dutch. The Fort also played a role during the Napoleonic Wars. The site of the fort was used to build new fish processing facilities and very little now remains of the original fort.[2]

From an early period there were shipyards in North Shields. The smaller yards built the 'Northumbrian Coble', a small inshore fishing vessel with a lug sail, well known in the Nort East. Larger yards built wooden sailing collier brigs, used to transport local coal to London. Eventually these small yards were replaced by larger yards such as the Tyne Dock and Engineering Company and the Smith's Dock Company. These yards produced iron vessels for various uses, including fishing and the coal trade. In later years the North Shields yards were used for ship repair work, but eventually the last of the yards closed and there are none now in North Shields.[2]

An interesting part of the history of North Shields is that of the “Wooden Dollies”. In 1814 the female figurehead of a collier brig was placed at the entrance to Custom House Quay, on Liddell Street, and stood there until 1850, when it was vandalised. A second figurehead was placed on the same spot. The “Wooden Dolly”, as the figurehead was known, was used by seafarers as a source of good-luck charms, by cutting pieces of wood from her to be taken with them on voyages. Eventually the figurehead was defaced beyond repair and after 14 years was replaced by Wooden Dolly No. 3. This remained until 1901 when it was replaced with Wooden Dolly No. 4 in the shape of a fishwife. A fifth Wooden Dolly, also a fishwife, was placed in Northumberland Square in 1958 and still remains there. In 1992 a sixth Wooden Dolly, was placed where the first four had been, at the entrance to Custom House Quay, and can still be seen there, next to the Prince of Wales public house.[3]

Over the years, North Shields has grown from a small fishing village to incorporate the nearby villages of Chirton, Preston and Billy Mill, amongst others. A large council estate, Meadow Well (alternately spelt Meadowell or Meadowwell on local signs) to the west of the town, was constructed to house residents displaced by the clearance of the Dockwray Square slum. Meadow Well was formerly known as the Ridges Estate - a name occasionally used today - and its name derives from a Well situated in a meadow upon which the estate was built. On Monday 9 September 1991, Meadowell was featured heavily in the news across the UK as riots broke out, which continued for 3 days. Many properties were damaged, cars burned out and the local community centre burned down. As a result of the riots, the local housing was gradually improved by the council over the next three years via demolition & rebuilding, as well as renovation.

Locals who have played a large part in the town's history include Ralph Gardner, who opposed Newcastle when it tried to stop ships from docking in North Shields to deliver and receive coal. Gardner was imprisoned in 1653 for refusing to close his brewery which was used to provision ships. In 1655 he petitioned Parliament against, what he claimed were, the unfair demands of Newcastle. Gardner was regarded as a local hero and had a High School named in his honour near the former site of his cottage, the school being nick-named 'Ralphies' (pronounced /ˈræfiːz/[citation needed]) by its students. The school closed in 1994 and houses have been built on the site, now called Gardner Park. He also had a monument put up near the school.[4]

Admiral Lord Collingwood had a large mansion built in North Shields. The house became a public house called The Collingwood Arms, which has since been demolished in early 2005 to make way for a retirement home. Collingwood was originally from Newcastle and fought with Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. Without Collingwood, Nelson could not have won that battle, and a large monument in his honour overlooks the River Tyne at Tynemouth. However, he never spent one night in the house he had built in North Shields, so consequently the house was not considered a listed building.

The town has recently undergone an extensive regeneration programme which has seen the revitalisation of the redundant Albert Edward docks. The Wet 'n' Wild indoor water park, an outlet shopping centre, a new Bowling alley, a JJB Soccer Dome and a marina form the centrepiece to the Royal Quays development to the west of the town. Similarly, major regeneration of the Fish Quay to the south-east of the town centre has included the construction of luxury apartments and the conversion of existing buildings into restaurants and bars. The Fish Quay plays host to an annual festival to celebrate the fishing industry's importance to the town's history. Mark di Suvero's Tyne Anew, his only large-scale public artwork in the UK, can be seen at Albert Edward Dock.


The Tyne and Wear Metro links North Shields to Newcastle city centre, and to other destinations in Tyne and Wear including Whitley Bay, Newcastle Airport, and Sunderland. A half-hourly ferry service connects the North Shields Fish Quay to the town of South Shields on the opposite bank of the Tyne.

An international ferry terminal, the only one in the region, is based at Royal Quays and provides connections to Norway, and The Netherlands.

The ferry service to Gothenburg, Sweden (run by the Danish company DFDS Seaways), ceased operation at the end of October 2006.[5] DFDS Seaways' sister company, DFDS Tor Line, will continue to run scheduled freight ships between Gothenburg and several English ports, including Newcastle, and these have limited capacity for passengers, but not private vehicles.

Notable residents past and present


  1. ^ Mills, A.D. (1991). Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names, The. Oxford: Parragon. "Shields, 'temporary sheds or huts (used by fisherman)', ME schele: Shields, North Tyne & Wear. Chelis 1268. Shields, South Tyne & Wear. Scheles 1235" 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Simpson, Richard (1988). North Shields and Tynemouth. Phillimore. ISBN 0850336678. 
  3. ^ Wright, Ron (2002). Beyond The Piers. The People’s History Ltd. ISBN 1902527984. 
  4. ^ - retrieved 2006-12-10
  5. ^ "DFDS scraps Newcastle-Gothenburg line", The Local, 7 September 2006: "Danish shipping company DFDS Seaways is to scrap the only passenger ferry route between Sweden and Britain, with the axing of the Gothenburg-Newcastle route at the end of October."

See also

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NORTH SHIELDS, a seaport of Northumberland, England, within the municipal and parliamentary borough of Tynemouth (q.v. for history, &c.). The town of that name adjoins it on the E.

It lies on the N. bank of the Tyne, immediately above its mouth, and opposite to South Shields in Durham, 72 m. E. of Newcastle by a branch of the North Eastern railway. It is a town of modern growth, and contains the municipal offices of the borough, a custom-house and various benevolent institutions for seamen. The harbour is enclosed by north and south piers, and there is a depth of 29 ft. at spring-tides besides the quays. Coal and coke are largely exported, and corn, timber and esparto grass are imported. There is an extensive fish quay, and about 14,000 tons of fish are landed annually. There are engineering, iron, salt and earthenware works, and some shipbuilding is carried on.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Proper noun

North Shields


North Shields

  1. A town in the Northeast of England on the north bank of the Tyne.

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