THE NORTH SHIELDS DISCOVERY WALK
The painted façade of the `new` Low Light
1. The walk starts from the car park adjoining the gentle sweep of the Fish Quay sands looking out towards the piers on both sides of the River Tyne. Make sure to pick out the monumental statue of Newcastle-born Admiral Lord Collingwood, Nelson`s second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar, standing high on the north bank of the river. Now with your back to the piers, head towards the end of the promenade, following the signs directing cyclists along Cycle Routes 1, 10 & 72 past the renovated smoke houses on your left. Once outside the New Dolphin public house you will see the intriguing artwork, the `Dolphin Mooring Post`, created in 1993 by Freeform Artists. Based on mooring staithes, traditionally used on the River Tyne, the work includes a cormorant sitting on top drying its wings. The cormorant, known affectionately as `Colin`, was sculpted by artist Richard Broderick and was added some time after the main structure was installed.
3. Retrace your steps back to Union Quay and, turning left, continue towards the harbour and the covered fish market. Peep inside. The small harbour is no longer squeezed to bursting with a colourful array of fishing boats but the essence of the `old` Fish Quay remains. Look up to your left and see the impressive white painted façade of the `new` Low Light building. When aligned with the `new` High Light, to your right high on the top of the adjacent bank, this marked an entirely new channel for shipping to take when navigating the mouth of the river. As you continue along Union Quay keep a sharp eye out for the various decorative public artworks along this part of the river frontage. These include seating, bollards and street lights, all designed by Richard Broderick, together with metal grilles in sections of the market area retaining wall depicting herring girls at work, created by artist Maureen Black.
Wooden Dolly Northumberland Square
Famous people. Famous town!
Did you know that the inventor of plasticine, William Harbutt, was born in the town in February 1844. He was an Associate of the Royal College of Art and obtained a trade mark for his invention in 1899. The artist and illustrator Myles Birket Foster was born here in February 1825, moving to London as a child. He became one of the most successful English watercolorists of his generation and a large commemorative plaque is attached to his birthplace, 2 Rosella Place. In 1942, Hastings Banda moved to North Shields where he worked as a Medical Practitioner in a small private practice and at Preston Hospital as a medical and public health officer. He left the town for London in 1945 and in 1963 he became the first Prime Minister of Malawi, formerly Nyasaland.
5. As you continue along Liddell Street, it is difficult to believe that the embankments to your right were once heavily built up and housed, until the early 1930`s, the majority of the population of North Shields. The new and somewhat grand Union Square development has now repopulated part of the area, breathing new life into this old section of the town. Where Liddell Street merges into Clive Street, the steep incline of Bedford Street rises to your right, following the course of an old stream. The bottom section of the street was once known as Wooden Bridge Bank. To your left is the old graving dock, known locally as the `Haddock Shop Dock`, used for many years to carry out repairs to lightships and other small vessels. Continue along Clive Street until you reach the Grade II Listed red brick Porthole public house, formerly known as the Golden Fleece. Built in 1897, and replacing an earlier public house on the site, the building was designed by Sunderland architects W & T.R. Milburn who designed a number of ornate theatres, including the Sunderland Empire Theatre.
The old Free Library
7. Over the bridge and again on terra firma continue along Yeoman Street, passing on the corner of Lower Rudyerd Street, the old Town Mission, and then on into Little Bedford Street. Ignore both flights of stairs to your right, the second of which are named after the Tiger Inn which once stood at the bottom, and continue as far as Saville Street. Head right to the junction with Howard Street and then turn left in the direction of Northumberland Square. Keeping to the left hand side of Howard Street, first the John Dobson designed 1811 built Scotch Church, now home to the Salvation Army, is passed and then, a little further up, the Baptist Church of 1846, also by John Dobson. The top of the street slips effortlessly into the Georgian Northumberland Square, described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his 1957 book `The Buildings of England: Northumberland`, as being “ a square almost too spacious for the two-storeyed houses that surround it”. Facing down the street, towards the river, is the 1958 life size sculpting of a fisherwoman carrying a basket and wearing traditional shawl and full skirts; the town`s best known `Wooden Dolly`. To your left is the 1960`s library. Walk clockwise around the square and admire the many fine buildings and, immediately before arriving back at the top of Howard Street, take a look at another of John Dobson`s buildings, St. Columba`s Presbyterian Church. The church`s foundation stone was laid on the 20th October 1856 by the then Independent Member of Parliament, William Shaw Lindsay and is designed in the Italian-style.
Another Three Famous Sons
Born in Chirton, North Shields in 1787, John Dobson became the most noted architect in the North East of England. His partnership with the entrepreneur Richard Grainger helped change the face of Newcastle upon Tyne and gave the city some of the finest streets in England. His influence on his town of birth can be clearly seen along the route of this walk and many of his other churches, country houses and neo-classical villas still grace the region. Born in North Shields in 1929, Robert Westall found fame as the author of books such as The Machine Gunners, Fathom Five, The Promise, Kingdom by the Sea and Falling into Glory. References to many of the places visited in this walk can be found in his books. In 1874 Thomas Burt became the first `working man` to be elected a Member of Parliament. Born in North Shields in 1837 he started working in the coal mines at the age of 10, eventually rising to the position of Secretary of the Northumberland Miners Association. He became Father of the House of Commons in 1910.
The Baptist Church by John Dobson
Inside the Saville Exchange - The Thomas Brown window
9. With Maritime Chambers behind you keep to the pavement which hugs the bank top along Tyne Street. Soon you will reach the modern buildings of Dockwray Square built around a formal park area in the centre of which sits Robert Olley`s wonderful life size sculpture of Stan Laurel. Born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston in 1890, Stan moved to North Shields in 1897 when his father came to manage the Theatre Royal in Prudhoe Street. He continued to live in the now demolished 8 Dockwray Square until 1901 when he moved to Bishop Auckland. The original Dockwray Square dates back to 1763 when it was laid out by Thomas Dockwray, vicar of Stamfordham. Whilst none of the original buildings remain, the rebuilt square reflects some of the style of the original houses.
11. Before descending the stairs adjacent to the public house take note of the detail on the hand railings alongside the stairs. As with the seating, bollards and street lights seen earlier in the walk, this detail reflects the town`s inseparable links with the fishing industry. Once at the bottom of Union Quay Stairs, turn left and you will see, once again, the New Dolphin public house and your route back to the car park via the fish processing units passed at the beginning of the walk. As you start your journey home perhaps these lines from the 1970 poem `Fish Quay` will help to capture a little of the spirit of your own personal North Shields Walk of Discovery; `The tackle of boys baiting/halibut whiting catfish/lines limp from quay/caught between town and river./The cry and call of sea birds/herring boats breaking water/haul and catch/squeezed into wet holds/the swish and slap of water/load and unload`.
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