Our next stop was South Shields, on the South Bank of the River Tyne, in the historic county of Durham…
Status: South Tyneside District, Tyne & Wear (historically Durham), Town, England
Travel: Northern Rail (Carlisle – Newcastle Central), Tyne & Wear Metro (Monument – North Shields), Shields Ferry (North Shields – South Shields) Tyne & Wear Metro (South Shields – Newcastle Central)
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Beach, Jubilee Clock Tower, Pleasureland, Lakeside Railway, Lake, North Marine Park, South Marine Park, Town Hall, Shields Ferry, Tyne & Wear Metro, Arbeia Roman Fort, Museum and Art Gallery, Tyne Lifeboat, Customs House Theatre, John Simpson Kirkpatrick Statue, Queen Victoria Statue etc
We had just arrived via the Shields Ferry from the neighbouring town of North Shields, on the North bank of the River Tyne, on a boat called the “Spirit of the Tyne”. The Ferry is the quickest way to get between the two, as the Metro only runs back along either side of the River and you would have to change back in Newcastle to get between the towns.
South Shields town centre is only a short walk away from the Ferry, and is a bustling area with plenty of shops, and well known high street brands. This street is called King Street, and interestly the bridge with the Tyne & Wear Metro train you can see further up the street is actually the Metro station itself. The main building is located to the right out of shot, and the platform itself is behind the train, also out of shot. We would find ourselves up there eventually at the end of the day as we made our way back towards Newcastle, but more on that later.
Moving up King Street, we came across a small square where a few roads intersect, which had a few Listed Buildings around the outside. The first is the Barclays Bank Building, shown above, from 1909. Banks always have these stunning old buildings, mainly because at the time they were the only companies who could afford to have them built, but they really add something to the high streets of Britain.
Designed by J H Morton, who worked with a company called J H Morton & Sons based in South Shields, the building has 3 storeys and sits on a corner, meaning the left side of the building is actually sat on Fowler Street rather than King Street.
This view is looking up Fowler Street, looking past the Barclays Bank Building up to Number 27 Fowler Street. This is located just past the tall building with the small dome on the top on the left side of the street, and was built in the 1860’s out of Red Brick, one of the Victorians enduring legacies. Red Brick is a prominent feature in South Shields, and is one of my personal favourite types of architecture.
Our next stop was the South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, just a little further up King Street. The Museum has a beautiful stone lion located outside on the pavement, and the collections themselves are in the lovely Grade Listed Building at the back of the picture.
Originally the building was created as the home of the local Mechanics Institute by John Wardle in 1858. 2 years later, the building was complete, and for the next 13 years it continued to house the Institute, until 173 when it was converted into a Public Library for the town. A Museum section was then added in 1876, which expanded after the Library was moved out to another area of town. There are also plans for a brand new Library to be constructed in 2015 as part of plans to renovate the Market Place, back towards the Shields Ferry.
Today the Museum contains many interesting exhibits, some of which focus on the Local Government District called South Tyneside that covers South Shields and the others towns and villages clustered around the South bank of the Tyne. Similarly North Shields is part of North Tyneside which covers the North bank of the river.
Coal mines were an important part of the local economy 100 years ago, and I even got a small model of a local lighthouse made out of coal from the Museum shop. Other exhibits show artefacts from the area as well as paintings going back centuries. Its a great place to visit, and you can learn much about this interesting little town.
The next building, on the other side of the street, is the this beautiful red brick construction which was originally opened as the South Shields Marine School, in 1869. A later addition to the building was then made in 1909, and for a number of years it remained it’s capacity as the Marine School. At some point in the last few decades the building was converted for use as a pub called “The Kirkpatrick”.
The building was named after John Simpson Kirkpatrick (1892 – 1915), a statue of whom stands outside the building, with a donkey stood behind him. John was a hero from South Shields who served in World War I, who helped to carry wounded soldiers away from the front line of Anzac Cove, Turkey, down to the beach to be rescued, using the donkey. He was sadly killed in the cove a few weeks later during the 3rd Attack on the Cove by the Ottomans, when he was hit by enemy fire.
We kept moving, towards South Marine Park, down near the seafront and the beach. As we reached the entrance to the park, we got a great view down the A183 which runs alongside the park, towards the towns Jubilee Clock Tower. In 1897 Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and in recognition of this J H Morton designed this stunning Clock Tower, created by John F Scott and R B Farbridge.
Standing an impressive 45 ft tall, the tower stands in front of a small covered building which contains an old Lifeboat of the town called the Tyne, from 1833, which you can just see protruding from the right hand side of the tower. For over 60 years it was in service for the town, saving lives and braving the rough seas, until 1894 when it was placed here, under a canopy built the same year, a permanent memorial for the public.
We entered the park, which as I said is called South Marine Park. On the other side of the A183 lives North Marine Park, the smaller of the two parks. South Marine is a vast open public space, which runs down towards the beach at the seafront.
Designed by the Victorians, whose passion for grandeur made it what it is today, the park has its origins with Matthew Hall, the designer who came up with the overall layout around 1886. John Peebles was immediately given the job of head gardener and started laying out the park, as the area it stands on was once covered by ballast and wastle. The work was completed by 1890 and the park opened to the joy of the residents of South Shields.
Some of the features of the park include this rather interesting sculpture which is based on a range of animals all designed by some school children from the area. Together they were incorporated into a new mythical animals, which appears to have the tail of a large serpent, the body of a dog or horse, with hooves and the head of a carnivore. Either way its an innovative design created by Richard Broderick for South Tyneside Council who originally commissioned the piece. The best design feature is the plinth it sits on, which was specifically designed to mirror the Victorian history of the park, and to make it fit in with the recently restored Victorian surroundings, railings and benchings.
On the 2nd picture, behind the trees to the right you can just see the form of the parks Bandstand. This was added as part of the restoration, and mirrors the 1st Bandstand which was installed in 1904, and built by a company called Macfarlane’s from Glasgow up in Scotland, although I am unsure what eventually happened to it.
At the bottom of the park, nearing the seafront, you will find the Marine Lake, where you can hire pedal boats to go for a relaxing ride across the water, or equally you could take a trip on the miniature railway which circles the lake, which a charming steam engine at the front. The park is a great place to explore and on such a nice day it was the perfect place to be.
Between the park and the beach lies the A183, on the other side of the which the golden sands stretch down towards the water. If you turned left and continued up the road you would also reach Ocean Beach Pleasure Park, a large fairground with various rides and attractions.
Its been a long time since we have seen such a sandy beach, as in my home town of Southport the beach is slowly being overtaken by foliage, and the sea wall has also limited the length of the beach itself. Being out here in Tyneside reminded us of somewhere abroad, with a vast beach and stunning seaside views.
From the beach we could see two notable landmarks, the first being the South Pier, which extends into the sea to act as a breakwater for the entrance to the Tyne for ships arriving and departing the river. The Pier was completed in the 1890’s, as the same time as its counterpart in Tynemouth, near North Shields, called the North Pier.
They both have Lighthouses as the end, added when the Piers were built, and we could see the South Shields Lighthouse from here. It’s an impressive site, and an engineering marvel as it took 54 years to complete the two piers, due to rough seas and the difficult location.
The other landmark we could see was the ruins of Tynemouth Castle, which despite looking reasonably close is actually on the other side of the river in the town of Tynemouth, near the North Pier. It sits on area of rock called Pen Bal Crag, and the ruins take in not just the Castle but also the associated Priory.
The Priory predates the Castle, when it was built in the 7th Century. The Priory is known for being the location of the graves of 3 Kings, the 1st being Oswin, king of Deira in 651. Deira was an area which takes in present day Northern England and the South-East of Scotland, around Berwickshire and Northumberland. The next King to be buried here was King Osred in 792. He was followed by the Scottish King Malcolm III who died in 1093 during the Battle of Alnwick, between the Scots and the English. The English eventually went on to win the battle.
By 1296 the Castle was begun, mainly as defences for the Priory itself, and consisted of tall stone walls, as well as a Gatehouse and Barbican. A lot of this still survives, along with ruins of the main building of the Priory, destroyed in 1538 by the Reformation under King Henry VIII. The Castle itself however was in a defensive position along the coast, and was retained with new artillery postings being located here, eventually becoming a barracks, and retaining its defensive importance during World War II. After the war it passed into the care of English Heritage, and it is open to the public for visits.
It’s an incredible site, the sheer scale of the area, and its position overlooking the sea.
That was the end of our exploration of South Shields, so we wandered back towards the Metro Station. The Metro was originally a number of local trains, which were eventually incorporated into one service together.
From the platform, which is elevated above the town, you get a great view of the local skyline. We also spotted the Clock Tower of South Shields Town Hall, which really stands out above the other buildings. It’s not often we get to this elevation, especially not outside, usually we would be looking through a glass window so it was nice to get this kind of view in a general setting.
The Town Hall dates back to 1910, and more recently in 2010 its celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was designed by Mr Ernest E Fetch from London in 1902, and work commenced in 1905. The Tower was topped out in 1908 and the rest of the building in 1910. As a memorial a statue of Queen Victoria was erected outside the building 3 years later, although it was later moved to an area called Chichester near the town, only to be returned finally in 1981.
The train arrived and we were soon our way back round towards Newcastle Central Station where the metro intersects with the mainline station, albeit on low level platforms. From there we caught the train back to Carlisle, and reflected on a very enjoyable day.
South Shields has regular metro services towards Newcastle, running through all local areas on route. The Shields Ferry also runs over the Tyne to North Shields where the Metro can be joined to travel round to Newcastle Airport as well as Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. The East Coast Mainline runs through Newcastle allowing passengers to get direct trains down through Durham, Darlington, York and Peterborough to London heading South, and North to Glasgow/Edinburgh via Berwick-upon-Tweed.
South Shields is a fascinating little town in a great location by the sea, with views to match. It’s an enjoyable place to visit, and we had a great time during out day out.