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North Shields
North Shields Fish Quay - - 1651356.jpg
North Shields Fish Quay
North Shields is located in Tyne and Wear
North Shields
North Shields
Population 34,423 (2011 census North Tyneside wards of Chirton, Collingwood and Riverside)
OS grid reference NZ3568
Metropolitan borough
  • North Tyneside
Metropolitan county
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 Tynemouth
List of places
Tyne and Wear
55°00′35″N 1°26′41″W / 55.0097°N 1.4448°W / 55.0097; -1.4448

North Shields is a coastal town on the north bank of the River Tyne in the North Tyneside borough in Tyne and Wear, North East England. North Shields is 8 miles(13 km) north-east of Newcastle upon Tyne. The town's name derives from Middle English schele meaning "temporary sheds or huts used by fishermen". Historically North Shields was part of the Tynemouth County Borough in Northumberland until 1974, when it became part of Tyne and Wear.


Robert Salmon - The Low Lighthouse, North Shields - Google Art Project
North Shields 1828 (by Robert Salmon). From left-right: Shipping on the Tyne, New Low Light, Old Low Light, Clifford's Fort.

North Shields is first recorded in 1225, when the Prior of Tynemouth, Germanus, 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 supplied 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, 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 at 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.

Buildings on New Quay (geograph 2925322)
New Quay, part of a riverside development built by the Duke of Northumberland in 1806.

The town was originally restricted to a narrow strip of land alongside the river (around the present-day Clive Street) 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 (20 m) 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, built 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 early 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 Laurel stands in the middle to commemorate his stay there.


Lights of North Shields

Reaching out - - 555906
High and Low lights, new and old

Because of the difficulty of navigating ships into the mouth of the river past the dangerous Black Midden rocks, buildings were erected in the 16th century with permanent lights burning to be used as a guide by the mariners. High and Low lights are pictured on a 1655 map of the river Tyne: a pair of square castellated towers. Both lights were rebuilt in 1727, and these buildings still stand today (albeit the Old Low Light was remodelled in 1830 to serve as an almshouse). In 1810, the Old Lights were replaced by new High and Low Lights, placed respectively at the top and bottom of the steep bank alongside the river. All these lights were owned and operated by Trinity House of Newcastle-upon-Tyne until they ceased operation. Today, the Old High Beacon, as well as the High and Low Lights, are private residences; they remain prominent landmarks. In 2014 the black-painted Old Low Light was opened to the public following a substantial refurbishment; it contains a café, shop, museum, viewing platform and event space.

Fish Quay

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.

Clifford's Fort

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. The area is currently undergoing restoration. Part of the foundations of the 18th century Master Gunner’s House (demolished in 1973) were found below the concrete floor of a fish processing unit. Elsewhere on the site, part of the stone edging of Cable Tanks belonging to the Submarine Mining Depot (established at the fort in 1888) were uncovered.

Wooden Dolly

One of North Shields' oldest landmarks is the "Wooden Dolly" statue. 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.



In 1887, the town's businesses were listed as a marine engine, chain cable and anchor manufacturer, shipbuilding yards, roperies, salt-works, and an earthenware and stained glass manufacturer. Fishing was also a major employer.


Shipyards have been in existence in North Shields since near its founding. The smaller yards built the Northumbrian coble, a small inshore fishing vessel with a lug sail, well known in the North 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, with Smith's dock surviving until the 1990s. None of these yards remain.

Oil terminal

Esso formerly had an oil terminal on the banks of the Tyne in the Howdon area of town. In April 1994, a bomb planted by the IRA exploded tearing a 3 foot square hole in one of the tanks. A second device, which did not detonate, was later found nearby. 600 gallons of crude oil leaked from the tank, but was caught in a channel designed to prevent leakages. A second explosion occurred in June 1994, perpetrated by the same bombers.


In 1847, a rail link to Newcastle was established when a railway station was built 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.



YMCA North Tyneside was founded in 1870 and was originally known as The Borough of Tynemouth YMCA. After an inaugural meeting on 7 June 1879 weekly meetings followed in the Sons of Temperance Hall, Norfolk Street, North Shields. The YMCA grew in popularity. Within a year larger premises were needed. Meetings moved to 53 Tyne Street, North Shields and in 1879 to Camden Street, North Shields. In 1920 the YMCA moved to a building in Bedford Street (which is still owned by the YMCA and now occupied by the Citizens Advice Bureau) where it remained until 1938 when it moved to the present building and the current registered office at Church Way, North Shields.


Royal Quays Welcome
Royal Quays Retail Park, an outlet shopping centre located at North Shields

Following the Meadow Well riots, in July 1992 the Government granted £37.5 million over five years to regenerate that area of the town, as part of the City Challenge scheme.

An extensive regeneration programme costing £16 million saw the revitalisation of the redundant Albert Edward docks. The Wet 'n' Wild indoor water park, an outlet shopping centre, a bowling alley, a 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. Mark di Suvero's Tyne Anew (1999), his only large-scale public artwork in the UK, can be seen at Albert Edward Dock.

The site of the former Smith's Docks was acquired by the developer Places For People in 2007. In January 2015 they sought planning permission for the construction of homes on the site.


The town is bounded to the north by Whitley Bay and to the south by the River Tyne. The village of Tynemouth is to its east and the A19 road marks the boundary between North Shields and Wallsend to the west of the town. It is part of the North Tyneside conurbation.

Over the years, North Shields has grown from a small fishing village to incorporate the nearby villages of Chirton, Preston, Billy Mill and East Howdon. Cullercoats and the Marden Estate are considered suburbs of North Shields.

Meadow Well

A large council estate, Meadow Well (alternatively spelt Meadowell or Meadowwell on local signs) to the west of the town, was constructed in the 1930s to house residents displaced by the clearance of the Dockwray Square slum. These flats were replaced with better quality homes in the 1960s and 70s. Meadow Well was formerly known as the Ridges Estate – a name occasionally used today – since it was built on the site of the Ridges farm. Its name is derived from a well situated in a meadow upon which the estate was built. On Monday, 9 September 1991, Meadow Well was featured heavily in the news across the UK as riots broke out, which continued for three 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 through demolition and rebuilding, as well as renovation.

The film 'Dream On' (1991) is set on the estate.


North Shields Metro Station - - 76943
North Shields Metro Station
Marina at the Royal Quays - - 18469
Royal Quays Marina

Rail (Tyne and Wear Metro)

The Newcastle and North Shields Railway opened in 1839. In 1847, the railway was extended to Tynemouth when a railway station was built 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 riverside tracks were removed for the creation of Hadrian's Way, part of the national cycle network, but the remaining tracks were absorbed in the Tyne and Wear Metro system in 1982. The town centre station, originally constructed for the Newcastle and North Shields Railway, was redeveloped between 1980 and 1982 for the Metro. It was subsequently refurbished in 2012. 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. The town is also served by stations in Percy Main and Meadow Well.

The Tyneside Tramways and Tramroads Company also operated an electric tramway service in the town.


Local ferry

A half-hourly ferry service connects North Shields to the town of South Shields on the opposite bank of the Tyne. The present Shields Ferry was established in 1972. Its first female skipper was appointed in 2016. Shieldsman, a former ferry retired in 2007, has since been moved to Shoreham, West Sussex, and transformed into a houseboat.

From June to October, river trips by ferry operate.

In November 2018, the local council announced plans to consider the feasibility of moving the ferry landing. In July 2021 it was announced that the planned relocation was delayed until 2023.

International ferry

From the International Ferry Terminal, based at Royal Quays, the Danish company DFDS Seaways operates a daily service to IJmuiden.

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

Port of Tyne International Passenger Terminal

The passenger terminal regularly welcomes tourists travelling on cruises that call at North Shields as an access point for Newcastle upon Tyne and the wider North East of England. In 2017, 52 ships docked, bringing 120,000 visitors to the region.


North Shields has a number of religious buildings.

Christian churches

Church of England

  • Christ Church, Preston Road - Now the parish church of North Shields but originally consecrated as Tynemouth Parish Church on Sunday 5 July 1668 (enlarged 1792).
  • St Augustin’s, Jackson Street
  • St Peter’s, Central Avenue, Balkwell
  • Holy Saviour’s, Crossway, Tynemouth
  • St John’s, St John’s Terrace, Percy Main

Roman Catholic Church

  • St Cuthbert’s, Albion Road West
  • St Joseph’s, Wallsend Road, Chirton

United Reformed Church

  • St Columba’s, 30 Northumberland Square

Methodist Church

  • North Shields Methodist Church, Hawkey’s Lane

Baptist Union of Great Britain

  • North Shields Baptist Church, Howard Street
  • Preston Grange Community Church

Salvation Army

  • North Shields Salvation Army Corps, Howard Street

Other churches

  • North Shields Fishermen’s Mission, 42-47 Fish Quay
  • The Cedarwood Trust, Avon Avenue
  • North Shields Spiritualist Church, 42 Stanley Street West.



The town is home to the non-League football club, North Shields F.C.. Founded in 1896, the team competes in Northern Football League and plays home games at Daren Persson Stadium (formerly Ralph Gardner Park). The team has twice played at Wembley Stadium and winning 2-1 on both occasions - against Sutton United on 12 April 1969 at the old Wembley to win the FA Amateur Cup and against Glossop North End at the new stadium on 9 May 2015 to win the FA Vase, the Amateur Cup's successor.


The Wet'n'Wild indoor water park was constructed in 1992 and opened in summer 1993 as part of the Royal Quays development. It was originally designed with rides: six speed slides, five conventional flumes and one "lazy river" ride. The "Twister", a speed slide, was 85 metres long, and started from a height of 12.5 metres.

The town's main library is in Northumberland Square. It originally included a lecture hall, which was expected to be used for musical performances too. Construction began in 1973, and the building is mounted on rubber springs to minimize noise and vibration from the Metro tunnel underneath. It was the first building to use PTFE to reduce weight drag on horizontal restraints. The library was refurbished in 2013.


In film

Dream On (1991) was produced by Amber Films and filmed on location in Meadow Well. Its original release was around the time of the Meadow Well riots.

In songs

Sweden's foremost troubadour of the 20th century, Evert Taube, wrote the song Mary Strand which is set in North Shields in 1909. Mary Strand is the proprietress of the cigar shop Tiger Brand on Dock Street and hides a young sailor from the police. The song is based on Taube's own experience, when he ran away from the steamship Australic in Newcastle upon Tyne.



Town Centre

A significant part of the town centre is pedestrianised and it is dominated by the Beacon, a partly-covered shopping mall which was constructed in the late 1970s and originally named The Bedford Centre.

As with many British high streets, a number of large chains have closed their branches in the town in recent years, including Littlewoods, Woolworths and McDonald's. As of 2019, Wilko has a large store in the Beacon, alongside high street regulars such as Specsavers, Superdrug and Boots. A number of discount retailers including B & M, Home Bargains, Peacocks and Heron Foods have branches in the town centre, as well as numerous charity stores.

Greggs, Cooplands, and Costa Coffee have outlets. YMCA North Tyneside and Age UK both have independent coffee shops. A local independent bakery, Canatrice, has two branches and there are numerous independent butchers and greengrocers within the town centre, as well as throughout the town.

Asda acquired a former Netto store in the town centre in 2011. The Co-op has a number of branches in the town, including convenience stores in Tynemouth and Preston. Morrisons also has a large store in Preston.

Other shopping centres

There are three further shopping centres in the town, as well as parades of shops in Balkwell, Preston and Chirton.

The Royal Quays Outlet Centre is home to a number of discount stores including outlets for Next, Clarks and Mountain Warehouse, as well as independent retailers such as a photographic studio and pet shop. The closures of a Marks & Spencer Outlet and, in late 2019, the Nike store have somewhat diminished the centre. In January 2020, Thorntons posted notices announcing the closure of their shop and coffee shop. Costa Coffee, The Body Shop, Cotton Traders, Dreams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Moss, Tog 24, Trespass and Poundland also had branches in early 2020.

The Coast Road Retail Park is adjacent to a large Tesco supermarket and, as of 2020, home to Dunelm, B & M, Pets at Home, Carpetright and The Food Warehouse stores.

The Silverlink Shopping Park, as of 2020, includes branches of Boots, Next, H&M, Halfords, Marks and Spencer and River Island. In September 2016, a large expansion of the retail park opened. Odeon also has a multi-screen cinema at the park, alongside restaurants including McDonald's, Frankie and Benny's, Nando's and Pizza Hut.


Over 100 businesses in the town are members of The North Shields Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

The Mercantile Building Society, established in the town and formerly headquartered at the Silverlink Business Park, merged with the Leeds Building Society in 2006.


The town's schools are part of a three-tiered system:

Nursery schools

  • Sir James Knott Nursery School

Primary schools

  • Christ Church Church of England Primary School
  • Collingwood Primary School
  • King Edward Primary School
  • Kings Priory School
  • Monkhouse Primary School
  • Percy Main Primary School
  • Preston Grange Primary School
  • Riverside Primary School
  • Spring Gardens Primary School
  • St Cuthberts Roman Catholic Primary School
  • St Josephs Roman Catholic Primary School
  • Waterville Primary School
  • Whitehouse Primary School

Secondary schools

  • John Spence Community High School, Preston
  • Kings Priory School, Tynemouth
  • Marden High School, Cullercoats
  • Norham High School, Chirton
  • St Thomas More RC Academy, Billy Mill

Notable people

Prominent locals include Ralph Gardner, who opposed Newcastle when it attempted to prevent the docking of coal ships in North Shields. Gardner was imprisoned in 1653 for refusing to close his brewery which supplied provisions to the ships. In 1655, he petitioned Parliament against what he claimed were the unfair demands of Newcastle. Gardner, regarded as a local hero, had a High School named in his honour in 1933 near the former site of his cottage. The school, nicknamed 'Ralphies' /ˈræfz/ by its students closed in 1994 and was redeveloped into the Gardner Park housing estate. A monument to Gardner was erected near the school.

The family of Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood (1748–1810), a notable naval commander, and Edward Collingwood (1734–1806), a barrister who ordered the construction of Dissington Hall, had their seat at Chirton Hall in Chirton, now a western suburb of North Shields. The Collingwood Arms, a public house, was later built on part of that land before being demolished in early 2005 to make way for a retirement home.


  • Stanley R Dennison – economist and academic administrator
  • Thomas Haswell – writer, musician, teacher and philanthropist
  • Alan Johnson – political theorist
  • James Egan Moulton – headmaster and Methodist minister
  • Michael Thomas – linguist


  • John Dobson – architect
  • J. Louis Salmond – architect


  • Sam Ainsley – artist and teacher
  • George Balmer – artist
  • John Chambers – artist
  • John Charlton – artist
  • Ken Currie – artist
  • Henry Hetherington Emmerson – painter and illustrator
  • Myles Birket Foster – artist
  • Robert Jobling – artist
  • T G Purvis – marine artist
  • Victor Noble Rainbird – watercolour artist
  • Lyddell Sawyer – photographer
  • James Shotton – artist


  • Maurice Joel – brewer
  • George Wall – merchant and coffee planter
  • Wesley S. B. Woolhouse – actuary

Cinema, television, and theatre

  • Lena Ashwell – actress and theatre manager (born in the town, but raised in Canada)
  • Katy Cavanagh – actor
  • Andrew Dunn – actor (born in Leeds and raised in North Shields)
  • Chloe Ferry – reality TV star
  • Tom Hadaway – writer
  • Dennis Kirkland – television producer and director
  • Stan Laurel – film comedian
  • Shaun Prendergast – actor
  • Michael Rodd – television presenter and businessman
  • Christian Rodska – actor
  • Ian Whyte – actor (born in Bangor, Wales but lives in North Shields)
  • Alan Young – actor


  • Lucy Ratcliffe – model


  • William Harbutt – inventor of plasticine
  • George and Robert Stephenson (father and son) – pioneering engineers
  • William Wouldhave – inventor of the lifeboat



  • Tony Bianchi – novelist, poet, short-story writer and critic
  • Henry Treece – poet, novelist and teacher
  • Ian Watson – science fiction author
  • Ross Welford – author
  • Robert Westall – children's author


  • Byrom Bramwell – brain surgeon and pathologist
  • Edwin Bramwell – neurologist
  • Edward Headlam Greenhow – physician
  • George Grey Turner – surgeon
  • Birger Tvedt – Norwegian sports medical and physiotherapist


  • Carol Malia – broadcaster and journalist



  • John Anthony – record producer
  • Rod Clements – guitarist and member of Lindisfarne
  • Sam Fender – musician
  • J. W. Fenwick – compiler of Northumbrian pipe music
  • Young William Lamshaw – proponent of the Northumbrian smallpipes
  • David Ross Lietch – poet and songwriter
  • Jim Mageean – folk musician
  • Ryan Molloy – singer, songwriter and actor
  • Robert Reid – proponent of the Northumbrian smallpipes
  • Neil Tennant – musician, main vocalist for Pet Shop Boys
  • Andy Taylor – musician
  • Hilton Valentine – musician
  • Hazel Wilde – musician in Lanterns on the Lake


  • Séamus Cunningham – Catholic priest (ministered in the town)
  • Thomas Walter Manson – minister and Biblical scholar
  • Paul Mason – Roman Catholic minister


  • David Boyle – footballer
  • Michael Bridges – footballer
  • Adam Campbell – footballer
  • Paul Cannell – former Newcastle United footballer and philanthropist
  • Phil Cavener – footballer
  • Colin Cook – footballer
  • Richard Coughtrie – cricketer
  • Percy Dawson – footballer
  • Paul Dickenson – hammer thrower
  • David Dixon – footballer
  • Dan Fawcus – footballer
  • William Fawcus – rower
  • Wayne Falla – cricketer
  • Dave Ferguson – boxer
  • Ron Gray – footballer
  • Bill Hart – footballer
  • Bill Harvey – footballer (born in Netley but died in the town)
  • Matty Longstaff – footballer
  • Sean Longstaff – footballer
  • Shaun Lowther – Canadian soccer player
  • James Miller – cricketer
  • Ross Murray – runner
  • Ernie Phillips – footballer
  • Iain Purdy – cricketer
  • Thomas Ridley – cricketer
  • Greg Rutherford – footballer
  • Jock Rutherford – footballer
  • Jimmy Scarth – footballer
  • Anthony Shandran – footballer
  • Martin Spendiff – footballer
  • Craig Stanley – cricketer
  • Clement Starmer – cricketer (born in Cosby but died in the town)
  • Barry Stewart – cricketer
  • Allan Taylor – footballer
  • Les Taylor – footballer
  • Joe Walton – footballer
  • Steve Watson – footballer
  • Peter Weatherson – footballer

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