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Published: August 28th 2019
Fiddler's Green Statue
I walked down to the Manors Metro Station and purchased by all day ticket. I was headed for "the coast". The tannoy announcements on the Metro don't say "trains for North Sheilds, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay". Its is simply "the coast". A local kept asking me she was on the right platform, but given she couldn't understand my accent the response went away with the clouds. The train proceeded along the north bank of the Tyne. The Byker Wall block of flats could be seen in glimpses. We passed Wallsend, home of the eastern end of Hadrians Wall. Signs on the platform directed visitors to Segedunum, the remains of the Roman fortifications at the very extremity of their empire. The fort was abandoned circa 400 AD and having been swallowed by terraced houses now demolished, has been aprtially reconstructed to bring in the visitors. The riverside was once teeming with shipyard activity, but is fairly quiet today. I passed through North Shields and alighted at Tynemouth.
Tynemouth is upmarket. A desirable place to live and visit and easily accessible for commuters into the big city with the Metro trains. We often like to think transport systems are revolutionary, but in
the case of Tynemouth all we have done is reinvent the wheel. Tynemouth was the scene of the world's first provinicial electric railway system in 1904. The railway station opened in 1882 and seems oversized for modern day requirements. It was designed to cope with daytrippers from Newcastle and the transportation of fish from nearby North Shields Fish Quay. The glass canopies apparently stretch for over 200 metres, supported by over 100 ornate white cast iron pillars. There were few passnegers about today and the businesses that occupy the old railway buildings were largely without custom. The first building outside the entrance is the Kings School.The name stems from the 3 ancient kings buried in the nearby Priory. It was originally a fee paying independent school, but is now one of these new academies. The transformation has also seen a change in name to Kings Priory School. The roots of the school were originally in Jarrow, but it has been roughly in the current location on the north side of the Tyne since the mid 1860s. A plaque on the wall on the Huntingdon Place side marks the fact that Guiseppe Garibaldi - he of Italian unity fame - stayed
in the building after arriving in the River Tyne in 1854 to lay out his visions for local industrial and political leaders.
Queen Victoria sits at the end of Huntingdon Place on the junction with Front Street. It was unveiled in 1902 and she stares forth towards the main street in town. Front Street was a hive of activity. The businesses are largely given over to entertainment these days. The terraces of the cafe bars were buzzing with people enjoying the sunshine.I walked under the arch on to Bath Terrace. The former grand houses facing over Priors Park are mostly flats today, but still never the less a good residential address. I walked towards the sea and the focal point of town. The Priory has been around since the 7th century. the religious buildings were subsequently surrounded by fortifications and thus it is now known as Tynemouth Priory & Castle. Kings are buried here and Kings have taken refuge here. Henry VIII made sure Tynemouth suffered the same fate as others in his reformation. I walked on towards the headland, which provides a panoramic view over the mouth of the river. Whitley Bay has the Sapnish City.
Tynemouth has the Spanish Battery, as this area is known. A sailing club nestles in the sandy cove below. The Lifeboat Watch Station keeps an eye on proceedings. The other person gazing out to sea is Admiral Lord Collingwood. Collingwood was a local, who was second-in-command at the Battle of Trafalgar. We hail Nelson, but it was Collingwood who completed the victory after Nelson was killed. The monument dates from 1845. The monument was designed by John Dobson and the statue itself scuplted by John Lough. The actual figure is only 7 metres tall, but it stands aloft a huge base with stairs leading up. I waited patiently for the few interested visitors to depart the seene, so I could get an uninterupted set of photographs. I was surprised on such a nice day, how few folk bothered to venture over to look. The base of the monument is flanked by 4 cannons from Collingwood's ship at the Battle of Trafalgar - the Royal Sovereign.
After the almost village like feel to Tynemouth, the walk to North Shields passes a rather brutalist wake up call to the otherside of Tyneside housing. The James Knox Housing Trust flats
tower above you on the cliff. The flats were completed in 1938 and with the possible storm clouds gathering over Europe, the sea views put the inhabitants at risk on potential bombing raids seeking to destroy the industry on the banks of the river. Rivers were an easy target and often the coastline was the trigger to deposit any of the payload that the bombers had failed to dispatch towards a ship yard of factory. It is easy to just dismiss them as an ugly block, but they contained two special features that showed pre-war Britain was thinking not just hoping. Fire resistant materials throughout, which was pretty unusual for those days and the huge cellars had been designed as air raid shelters. The other big striking feature visible from just about everywhere is the hug clock centrepiece in the middle of the building. At 12 foot 6 inches in diameter, it was said to be the biggest clock in the North East and visible across the river in South Shields. I walked on towards another newer iconic structure. The statue on Fiddler's Green is similar to other giiant artworks that have sprung up across the North East - the
most famous of which are the Angel of the North and "Tommy" at Seaham, which is a giant portayal of a First World War soldier shown in my blog Black Cats & Red Stars
Fiddler's Green sits overlooking the River Tyne on North Shields Fish Quay, staring out towards the open sea and the mouth of the river. He could even see the James Knox Flats from the corner of his eye and keep a note of time. He is a memorial to North Shields fishermen lost at sea. The sculpture was created by local artist Ray Lonsdale. There is a plaque on the base which reads as follows:
“To the fishermen lost in the cold North Sea, and the ones who will be so, I’ll be seeing you all on Fiddler’s Green, be steady as you go. “For Fiddler’s Green is a place I’ve heard tell, though no one really knows, where the fishermen go if they don’t go to hell, and no Arctic wind will blow.”
North Shields was originally just the narrow strip of land, extending from where the statue sits along the current Quayside. The 2 dominant features are the Low Light and High Light,
Wooden Dolly in Northumberland Square
the latter obviously higher on the cliff side to guide shipping. The Low Light has been converted into a visitor centre with exhibition space. The High Light is a private residence. It was approaching lunctime when I arrived. I had only had a light breakfast, because I a plan that involved haddock and chips. The Fish Quay buildings that once housed merchants are largely given over to restaurants and bars, though not all now specialise in fish. It was a lovely day, so I decided a takeaway would be in order and joined the queue outside Waterfront which is our preferred venue. Haddock was cooked to order, so I waited whilst others bizarrely ordered such as things as cheese burgers. Why would you visit North Shields and order a burger? I retreated across to Cliffords Fort, the remaining part of the once much larger military establishment that occupied one end of the lower town. In truth, I was a bit disappointed with my fish and chips. I have had better - both here and elsewhere - but they are still in a different class compared to what is on offer further down the country. I walked on towards the actual
harbour. The boats were largely at sea taking advantage of the good weather, so all was quiet. The good folk of the North East were also taking advanatage and busy basking in the sun outside the various establishments. I came across one of the town's symbols - a "Wooden Dolly". The original dated from the early 1800s and was the figurehead of off an a collier brig. Sailors have traditionally taken good luck charms by cutting oices of wood and thus there have been various incarnations. The current Dolly arrived in 1992 and is outside the Prince of Wales pub on the entrance to the Customs House Quay. The road continues here towards the New Quay area, where the Duke of Northumberland built some fine buildings in the eraly 1800s as this part of town opened up. The Shields Ferry operates from here, crossing the Tyne to link it with South Shields.
I climbed into town. The overcrowded lower town with poor housing led to the expansion on to the higher ground. The prosperous members of the community built fine residences and in certain areas, the quality still shines through today. Northumberland Square is a classic. A central
Fiddler's Green Statue
park area is surrounded by Georgian houses, most of which are undergoing or have gone restoration. It is described as the most complete Georgian Square in the North East. You could easily imagine for a few moments you were somewhere like Edinburgh, not in North Shields.The park in the middle has it's own Woden Dolly - a 1958 fishwife. One of the residents of this upper town for a short while was Stan Laurel. His father was in theatres, so moved around a lot in his early life as witnessed by my other Stan Laurel statue discoveries in Bishop Auckland Well, Here's Another Fine Mess You've Got Me Into
and Blyth Blyth Spartans & The North Korean Question
North Shields not to be outdone has a statue and Stan Laurel Park on the site of the former Dockswray Street. The old houses are all gone - replaced by modern executive homes overlooking the Tyne. I walked back down the hill and took the ferry to South Shields for no other reason than my Metro ticket allowed me to do so. The Man in the Middle had missed out - he likes a boat trip.
My final football forray of the trip was into the Meadowell estate to
Queen Victoria Statue
the west of town. North Shields FC have been around a long time and achieved success in one of the last of the old FA Amateur Cup Finals in 1969. Alas, finacial troubles forced them to sell their Appleby Park ground for housing - once quoted as the 4th best ground in the North East after St James Park, Roker Park,and Ayresome Park - and after a nomadic existence in Wallsend and Percy Main, they re-established themselves in the Ralph Gardner Park. The new ground is named after the local undertaker. The atmosphere at the "Morgue" was noted as being quite enthusiastic, but the self-titled North Shields "Ultras" didn't seem particularly vocal. They expressed displeasure at my camera too, so joined FK Sarajevo on the list to be treated with caution. The sponsor of the Main Stand was a "Quality Butcher". In a town full of fish, I expected the commodity to be higher up the sponsor list. The game itself was the old cliche - a game of 2 halves. Dull 1st half. North Shields mounted a cavalry charge in the pouring rain, after Shildon had taken a deserved lead. The star man was making his home debut. The
young Paul Van Zandvliet was certainly giving the PA announcer something to think about when ran out and doubly so, when he scored. He has played for Sheffield United youth teams and looked like he will go on to bigger things. I believe his late Dad was a Newcastle Falcons rugby star, so he has pedigree.
I caught the Metro back to Newcastle, where strangely despite the heavy downpours in Shields it had not rained.
Appendix 1 EBAC Northern League 1
North Shileds FC 3 Shildon AFC 1 Date
: Wednesday 21 August 2019 @ 1930 Hours Venue
: Daren Persson Stadium, Ralph Gardner Park, North Shields. NE29 OLH Attendance
: 302 Scorers
: 0-1 Anderson 53 Mins (Shildon) 1-1 Campbell 61 Mins (North Shields), 2-1 Van Zandvliet 68 Mins (North Shields), 3-1 Bainbridge 89 Mins (North Shields) North Shields FC:
Purvis, Cassidy, McDonald, Forster, New, Ormston,Van Zandvliet, Carr, Campbell, Robinson, Patton Subs: Cunningham, Bainbridge, Mcarthy, Christensen Shildon AFC:
Bancroft, Robson, Liddle, Lavery, Curl, Heywood,Trotter, Steel, Mulligan, Atkinson, Craggs Subs: Naylor, Duell, Palmer, Reay, Young
Tot: 2.459s; Tpl: 0.088s; cc: 14; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0618s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb