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A road running off into the distance. On the right-hand side a three-storey building, with a shop front on the ground floor. Traffic lights and lamp standards are prominent. In the distance is the steeple of a church. The sky is grey.
Blyth town centre
Population 37,339 (2011)
OS grid reference NZ310814
• London 300 mi (480 km)SSE
Civil parish
  • Blyth
Unitary authority
  • Northumberland
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BLYTH
Postcode district NE24
Dialling code 01670
Police Northumbria
Fire Northumberland
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
  • Blyth Valley
List of places
NorthumberlandCoordinates: 55°07′34″N 1°30′50″W / 55.126°N 1.514°W / 55.126; -1.514

Blyth (/ˈblð/ blithe) is a town and civil parish in southeast Northumberland, England. It lies on the coast, to the south of the River Blyth and is approximately 13 miles (21 km) northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne. It has a population of about 37,339.

The port of Blyth dates from the 12th century, but the development of the modern town only began in the first quarter of the 18th century. The main industries which helped the town prosper were coal mining and shipbuilding, with the salt trade, fishing and the railways also playing an important role. These industries have largely vanished, but the port still thrives, shipping paper and pulp from Scandinavia for the newspaper industries of England and Scotland.

The town was seriously affected when its principal industries went into decline, and it has undergone much regeneration since the early 1990s. The Keel Row Shopping Centre, opened in 1991, brought major high street retailers to Blyth, and helped to revitalise the town centre. The market place has recently been re-developed, with the aim of attracting further investment to the town.

The Quayside has also seen much redevelopment and has been transformed into a peaceful open space, the centrepiece of which is a sculpture commemorating the industry which once thrived there. There were, on the opposite side of the river are the nine wind turbines of the Blyth Harbour Wind Farm, which were constructed along the East Pier in 1992. They were joined in 2000 by Blyth Offshore Wind Farm, which is composed of two turbines situated 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) out to sea. Although the original 9 turbines have now been demolished, there is currently one bigger turbine on the North Blyth side with building work taking place on a second turbine.

Blyth is also home to the non-League football club Blyth Spartans, famed for their 1978 "giant-killing" feats in the FA Cup.


The place-name 'Blyth' is first attested in 1130 as 'Blida', and takes its name from the river Blyth. The river-name comes from the Old English adjective 'blithe' meaning 'gentle' or 'merry', and still used today. Interestingly, the town of Blyth is referred to as 'Blithmuth' in 1236 and 'Blithemuth' in 1250. Had this name persisted, the town would today be referred to as 'Blythmouth', on the analogy of Tynemouth to the south.

Little is known of the early development of the Blyth area. The oldest archaeological find is an antler hammer dating from the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age period, which was found at Newsham in 1979. Human skulls, a spearhead and a sword dating from the Bronze Age were found in the river in 1890, as well as a bronze axe which was found at South Beach in 1993, and a dagger found at Newsham. Although there is no conclusive evidence of a Roman presence in the area, an earthwork shown on early mapping of the area, at the location of present-day Freehold Street, is said to have been a Roman camp, but it has also been argued that it may be of Norsemen origin or date from the Civil War. Debate also surrounds a mosaic which was found near Bath Terrace. The strongest evidence so far has been a single coin, dating from the reign of the Emperor Constans (AD337–350), which was found during excavations for a dry dock. Also four Roman coins were found when digging an air raid shelter I I back garden In Chestnut Avenue.

Between the 12th and 18th centuries, there were several small settlements and some industrial activity in the area. The principal industries during this period were coal mining, fishing and the salt trade. Shipbuilding in the area dates from 1748.

High Light, Blyth
The "High Light" lighthouse, 1788

The modern town of Blyth began to develop in the first quarter of the 18th century. Up until 1716, the land around the Blyth area—the Newsham Estate—was owned by the Earls of Derwentwater, but when the third Earl, James Radclyffe, was executed for his part in the Jacobite rising of 1715, the land was forfeited to the crown. On 11 July 1723, the Lordship of Newsham was put up for sale by the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates at their office in the Inner Temple, London. The land was bought by Matthew White and his brother-in-law Richard Ridley. From the 12th century, most port activities were on the north side of the river, but under White and Ridley the first new quays and houses were built on the south side, and from here the port began to prosper. By 1730, a coaling quay, a ballast quay, a pilots' watch house and a lighthouse had all been built at Blyth harbour. In 1765 the first breakwater was constructed, and in 1788 the first staith with an elevated loading point was erected. Deep mines were sunk at Cowpen Colliery and Cowpen Square in 1796 and 1804 respectively, and by 1855, a quarter of a million tons of coal was being shipped from Blyth, rising to three million tons by 1900. The only industry not to survive during this prosperous time was the salt trade, which was heavily taxed during the 18th and early-19th centuries. During the Napoleonic Wars, the tax was increased to provide funds for the military and, even though the tax was abolished in 1825, the industry went into terminal decline. Having had fourteen salt pans at the beginning of the 18th century, exporting over 1,000 tons of salt annually, Blyth's salt industry closed in 1876, with the destruction of the last salt pan.

Blyth map c.1860
A map of Blyth, circa 1860: the old part of the town is to the right; the houses of Waterloo and Cowpen Quay are to the bottom-left and top-left respectively. Also depicted are "the Gut" (or "Slake") and the first Blyth railway station.

From the mid-19th century, several important events occurred which allowed the port of Blyth to rapidly expand. First, in 1847, a railway line was constructed, connecting Blyth to collieries at Seghill. This line combined with the existing line between Seghill and North Tyneside to form the Blyth and Tyne Railway. In 1853, the Blyth Harbour and Docks Board was formed, then in 1858 the Harbour Act was passed allowing dredging of the harbour to begin. In 1882, the formation of the Blyth Harbour Commission led to the building of new coal loading staiths, as well as the construction of the South Harbour.

As trade in Blyth continued to grow, so did the population. Development of the Cowpen Quay and Waterloo areas began in about 1810 and 1815 respectively, and between the 1850s and 1890s major house building took place in these areas. Blyth railway station, first built in 1847, was relocated in 1867 and rebuilt in 1896, to cope with the increase in goods and passenger traffic. The 1890s saw the filling in of "the Slake" (also known as "the Flanker" or "the Gut"). The Slake was a tidal inlet which stretched south from the river, across the site of today's bus station, along the route of Beaconsfield Street, and on past Crofton Mill Pit. Before it was filled in, it almost entirely separated Blyth from Cowpen—Waterloo Bridge providing the only main link. Once it was removed, the two areas could combine and allow the town to begin to take its present form. The town continued to expand in the 20th century; much large-scale house building took place in the 1920s and 1930s, and from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Industry in Blyth reached its peak in the first half of the 20th century. At this time it boasted one of the largest shipbuilding yards on the North East coast, with five dry docks and four building slipways. During the First and Second World Wars, the Blyth shipyards built many ships for the Royal Navy including the first aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal in 1914. Blyth also served as a submarine base during both wars. By 1930, the port of Blyth was exporting 5.5 million tons of coal, and by the early 1960s, reached its peak with over six million tons. Blyth A and Blyth B power stations, collectively known as Blyth Power Station, were opened in 1958 and 1962. Blyth A was the first power station in Britain to have 120 megawatt sets installed, while Blyth B was the first to be fitted with 275 megawatt sets.

During the 1960s, Blyth entered a period of steep decline. Following the Beeching report, the railway into Blyth was closed; and in 1966, economic depression resulted in the closure of the shipyards. As the demand for coal fell, due to the increasing use of oil, natural gas and nuclear power as energy sources, the following years saw the closure of many collieries in the area. By the 1980s, the only one left in the town was Bates' Pit, which closed in 1986. In January 2002, Blyth Power Station was closed and subsequently demolished in stages, until 7 December 2003, when its four chimneys were demolished.

Notable people


Blyth is at 55°07′34″N 1°30′50″W / 55.12611°N 1.51389°W / 55.12611; -1.51389 (55.1261, −1.5138), on the coast of North East England, to the south of the River Blyth and is approximately 21 kilometres (13 mi) northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne and 26 kilometres (16 mi) north of Sunderland. It is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) east of Bedlington, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northeast of Cramlington, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) south-southeast of Ashington and 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) south of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. On the north side of the river are the villages of East Sleekburn, Cambois and North Blyth and to the south of the town are the villages of New Hartley, Seaton Delaval and Seaton Sluice. Some of Blyth's suburbs have origins which can be traced back much further than the town itself; Newsham, Bebside and Cowpen are all believed to have had habitation sites dating from the Romano-British, Saxon and Medieval periods, although most of the housing in these areas dates from the 19th and 20th centuries. Also occupying the suburbs are several large housing estates; the Newsham Farm, South Beach and Solingen estates, and the Avenues were all developed during the 20th century. In January 2005, the land in Blyth was made up of 61.87% green space, 11.95% domestic gardens, 8.23% road, 4.85% domestic buildings, 2.03% non-domestic buildings and 11.07% other uses.

The geology of the area is made up of a carboniferous bedrock of sandstone, mudstone and coal, which is covered mainly by boulder clay and till.


The climate in Northumberland is generally cool and dry. Compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, the weather there is relatively stable, and extreme conditions, such as floods, droughts or heatwaves, are rare. Below are the average maximum and minimum temperatures, and average rainfall recorded between 1971 and 2000 at the Met Office weather station in Boulmer, which is around 33 kilometres (21 mi) north of Blyth.

Climate data for Boulmer
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.7
Average low °C (°F) 1.3
Rainfall mm (inches) 59.0
Source: Met Office

The average maximum temperatures between April and October are around 1–2½ °C lower than the national average and the average minimum temperatures between May and August are around ½ °C below the national average; both the average maximum and minimum temperatures for the remainder of the year are about the same as the national average. The average rainfall in Northumberland is well below the national average; 651 millimetres (26 in) was recorded at Boulmer, compared to 838 millimetres (33 in) for the whole of England.

Transport links

The main approach road to Blyth is the A189 'Spine Road' which is accessible from the A1 via the A19. The A193 is the main road through Blyth and leads to Bedlington to the west and North Tyneside to the south. The other main route into Blyth is the A1061. Blyth bus station is located in Post Office Square in the town centre. Buses in Blyth are operated by Arriva North East and there are regular services to Newcastle as well as the other main towns in the south of Northumberland and the surrounding areas of Blyth. A one service is operated by Go North East.

Blyth currently has no passenger rail links – the nearest station is Cramlington (5 mi or 8 km). Blyth railway station was closed on 2 November 1964 following the Beeching Report. There were also two small stations on the outskirts of the town, at Bebside and Newsham; they were closed to passenger services in 1956 and 1964 respectively.

It is possible that the Tyne and Wear Metro may be extended from Northumberland Park and terminate at Blyth, but this will not be considered before 2019. An alternative, proposed (2009) by the Association of Train Operating Companies, is reopening the existing freight line between Newcastle and Ashington, including reopening Newsham station to serve Blyth.

Port of Blyth

Wind Power Old and New - - 545791
Replica of HMS Bounty, as used in the film Mutiny on the Bounty entering Blyth Harbour, 4 September 2007
Battleship Wharf - - 1425151
A container ship unloads at the former Battleship Wharf in June 2009, named when it was previously used for scrapping Royal Navy ships post-WW2

The Port of Blyth was first recorded from 1138, when monks at Newminster Abbey exported salt, having created it from pans on the north side of the river and evaporated using the copious supplies of local coal. Coal exports started from the 14th century, with local mines recorded from the 16th century. In 1609 21,571 tons of coal were shipped from Blyth. The first large quay - Bishop's Quay, which still exists today - was developed by 1682. But the port was not dredged at this time, necessitating the use of Northumbrian keel boats to transfer the loads to ships moored offshore. By 1730 specific coaling and ballast quays existed, and by 1765 the ports facilities included a pilot house and lighthouse, to facilitate the newly built first breakwater, North Dyke. The High Lighthouse came into operation soon afterwards, operating until July 1984.

The port expanded greatly in the 19th century, with the purchase of a steam tug in 1819, and the rebuilding of the breakwater in 1822. By this point, three ship building yards had also been established. The construction of the Blyth and Tyne Railway from 1849 allowed coal shipments to quickly expand, reaching 200,000 tons per annum. The Blyth Harbour and Dock Company was created in 1854, but with need for further expansion, it was replaced by a bill of parliament given Royal Assent on 19 June 1882, which constituted the current Blyth Harbour Commission. This allowed additional financing to be raised, for construction of the South Harbour.

By the 20th century, through connection via the London and North Eastern Railway which had leased large amounts of land throughout the port, Blyth had started the growth to become the Europe's largest coal export port, exporting 5.5M tonnes per year by the late 1930s. This was also supplemented by ship building, including the opening of a facility by Hughes, Bolckow and Co of Middlesbrough. Large scale shipbuilding had begun in 1811, and after passing through various hands, in 1880 the first two iron ships were built at Blyth for the Russian Government. This led to the foundation of the Blyth Shipbuilding Company on 2 March 1883, building cargo liners, tramp steamers and colliers. With a cargo ship under construction, in 1914 she was purchased by the Admiralty and converted into the Navy's first seaplane carrier Ark Royal. The company returned to commercial ship building, but collapsed in 1925. It was then revived from 1926, but after merger with other local yards and in light of the Wall Street Crash and resultant global recession, collapsed again in 1930. Reopened under its original name in 1937, it built various ships in preparation for and during WW2, including the former German cargo ship Hannover which was converted into the escort carrier Audacity. Owned by Mollers (Hong Kong) Ltd post-WW2, it then built cargo-liners for Moller's subsidiary the Lancashire Shipping Company. The construction yard closed in 1967, with only repair work and ship dismantling sustaining business until the yards were demolished in the late 1980s to make room for a paper and timber storage area.

After World War 2, whilst most ports began to quickly contract, Blyth was still a major facility through the 1960s, when coal exports reached over 6 M tonnes per year. However, with the closure Blyth's last ship builder in 1966, the port began a significant period of contraction. The employment slack was in part taken up by the construction of the coal-fired Blyth Power Station, located on the northern bank. of the river. The A Station with 480 megawatts (MW) of capacity first generated electricity in 1958, a year after the creation of the Central Electricity Generating Board, and the B Station with a capacity of 1,250 MW four years later. The power stations' four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years; the A Station's two chimneys each stood at 140 metres (460 ft); the B Station's two chimneys were taller, at 170 metres (560 ft) each. They were operated by the successors of the CEGB, including National Power, following the privatisation of the UK's power industry. After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations' chimneys on 7 December 2003. The establishment of an Alcan aluminium smelting facility in the 1970s 5 mi (8 km) north along the river slowed this decline, as did the import of paper from Finland.

Today, the Port of Blyth handles up to 1.5 million tonnes of cargo, mainly containers and RoRo, and some limited volumes of bulk cargos. Blyth Harbour Wind Farm, developed by AMEC Wind and owned by the port commissioners, was commissioned in January 1993 consists of nine 0.3MW WindMaster turbines, giving a total capacity of 2.7 MW. In January 2008 consent was granted to replace the existing nine turbines with seven new ones, six generating 2.5 MW each, and a seventh at 163 m (535 ft) would produce 7.5 MW.

Seafarers' charity Apostleship of the Sea has a chaplain at the port to support visiting seafarers welfare and faith needs.


Blyth is the largest town in Northumberland; at the 2001 UK census it had a population of 35,818. There were 15,358 households and, for every 1000 females, there were 950 males. The age distribution was 6.0% 0–4 years, 14.6% 5–15 years, 5.2% 16–19 years, 33.1% 20–44 years, 25.8% 45–64 years and 15.4% 65 years and over. The average age of the population was 38.64 years. The ethnicity of the town was 99.0% white, 0.5% Asian, 0.3% mixed race, 0.1% Chinese and <0.1% black; other ethnic groups made up the remaining 0.1%. The place of birth of residents was 98.5% United Kingdom, 0.1% Republic of Ireland, 0.5% other European countries, 0.1% Africa, 0.5% Asia, 0.1% the Americas and 0.1% Oceania. Religion was recorded as 79.2% Christian, 0.3% Muslim, 0.2% Sikh, 0.07% Buddhist, <0.1% Hindu and <0.1% Jewish. "Other religions" was stated by 0.2%, "no religion" was stated by 13%, and 7.0% did not state a religion.

Blyth Compared
2001 UK census Blyth Blyth Valley England
Total population 35,818 81,265 49,138,831
Foreign born 1.5% 1.8% 9.2%
White 99% 99% 91%
Asian 0.5% 0.4% 4.6%
Christian 79.2% 79.6% 72%
Muslim 0.2% 0.3% 3.1%
No religion 13% 13.2% 15%
Over 65 years old 15.4% 14.4% 16%
Unemployed 5.4% 4.4% 3.3%
Census data for Blyth, 1801–1991
Name Year Homes Male Female Total
South Blyth and Newsham Township 1801 519 651 1170
1811 718 804 1522
1821 809 996 1805
1831 246 792 977 1769
1841 287 791 983 1774
1851 265 1085 975 2060
1861 327 971 982 1953
1871 535 1419 1499 2918
1881 533 2831
1891 634 1884 1844 3728
South Blyth and Newsham Civil Parish 1901 926 2710 2762 5472
Blyth Urban District 1911 1440 3649 3336 6985
Blyth Urban District and Civil Parish 1921 6473 16048 15774 31822
Blyth Municipal Borough and Civil Parish 1931 7218 16008 15672 31680
1951 10091 17227 17520 34747
Blyth Municipal Borough 1961 11193 17819 18102 35921
1971 12080 16916 17737 34653
Blyth 1981 36466
Blyth Wards 1991 14271 16972 18355 35327

Landmarks and places of interest

Blyth High Light
Blyth Lighthouse - - 702770.jpg
Blyth High Light
Coordinates 55°07′32″N 1°30′00″W / 55.125496°N 1.500053°W / 55.125496; -1.500053
Year first constructed 1788
Deactivated 1985
Construction stone (later additions in brick)
Tower shape cylindrical tower and no lantern
Height 18.74 m (61 ft 6 in)

The "Spirit of the Staithes" sculpture on Blyth's Quayside was unveiled by Princess Anne on 28 May 2003. As part of the overall regeneration of the Quayside, it was commissioned by Blyth Valley Council in conjunction with Northern Arts and created by the artist Simon Packard. Standing 15 metres (50 ft) high and 7 metres (22 ft) wide, it represents the heritage of coal distribution in Europe, an industry in which Blyth was the largest exporter.

The "High Light" lighthouse is one of Blyth's oldest structures. It stands to the rear of Bath Terrace and is 18.74 m (61 ft 6 in) tall. Built in three stages, the first section was constructed in 1788 to a height of 10.66 m (35 ft 0 in); a further 4.26 m (14 ft 0 in) was added in 1888, and the final 3.82 m (12 ft 6 in) was added in 1900. The original oil-fired lamp had a range of 10 nautical miles (19 km); it was upgraded to gas in 1857 and electricity in 1932. Prior to land reclamation in the late 19th century, the lighthouse had been much closer to the quayside. At some stage it became the rear of a pair of leading lights, and known as the 'High Light'; the corresponding 'low light' has long since been demolished. Blyth High Light was deactivated in 1985 and listed Grade II on 15 July 1987.

Before their demolition, the four chimneys of Blyth Power Station dominated the landscape along the coast. Two were 167 m (548 ft) high, the other two were 137 m (449 ft) high, and they were visible for many miles.

On the north side of the River Blyth are the remains of the railway coal staithes which featured in the chase scene at the end of the 1971 film Get Carter, starring Michael Caine.

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