North Shields is a town on the north bank of the River Tyne, in the metropolitan borough of North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear in northeast England. Historically part of Northumberland, it is located eight miles (13 km) east of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Its name derives from Middle English schele meaning 'temporary sheds or huts (used by fishermen)', and still today, the area is synonymous with fishing and other trades associated with seafaring.
The town is bounded to the north by Whitley Bay and to the south by the River Tyne. The centre 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 (near North Shields) and Billy Mill. Cullercoates and the Marden Estate are considered suburbs of North Shields.
Collieries in the town were located at three of the outlying villages since incorporated into the town, at Preston, at the location of the present cemetery gates, Percy Main and New York. Following the demise of coal-mining and ship-building in the area in the last quarter of the 20th century, several business parks, industrial estates and trading estates were established providing alternative employment. In 2011 the population of the closest local area associated with North Shields was just under 49,500.
In terms of local administration, North Shields was originally a township within the ancient parish of Tynemouth, and then a civil parish in 1866. In 1908 its separate administration was wholly abolished when it became part of the civil parish and municipal borough of Tynemouth. (Source: A Vision of Britain through Time)
A nineteenth century description
The following is based on The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5:
North Shields, or sometimes just Shields, is a seaport town and a township in Tynemouth parish, and part of the municipal borough of Tynemouth, Northumberland. The town stands on the North bank of the river Tyne, and on the Newcastle and Tynemouth railway, opposite South Shields, nominally 1 mile west of Tynemouth but actually contiguous to it.
The town was founded in the time of Edward I, but was suppressed by the opposition of the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In the time of Oliver Cromwell it had regained part of its former existence. In consequence of the disturbed state of the times the parish church was removed from Tynemouth Castle to a new church built at North Shields during the Commonwealth and part of the early years of the Restoration and consecrated as Christ Church in 1668. In the early part of the 19th century the town made great strides, and from its connection with shipping became an important place. It is included in Tynemouth borough and consists of older and newer sections, or lower and upper; is a port, and a seat of petty sessions and county courts and has a head post office, a railway station, five banks, a custom house, free library, assembly-rooms, a theatre, baths, and wash-houses built in 1854. The town-hall, built in 1844, was altered and enlarged in 1894 so as to include the whole of the corporation offices.
There are four churches, Baptist, Congregational, Free Methodist, New Connexion, Primitive, and United Methodist, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic chapels, a synagogue, and other places of worship. The town has also two public cemeteries, a sailors' home, a master mariners' asylum built in 1838 at a cost of more than £5000, a dispensary, an infirmary erected in 1888, a workhouse enlarged in 1888, a borough police station, and other institutions.
The older or lower part consists of narrow streets contiguous to the river, but the newer or upper part consists of spacious and well-built streets, with some open places, and is reached from certain points of the lower town by upwards of 100 stone steps.
Christ Church is the mother church of the parish of Tynemouth. It has undergone many alterations since it was built, the last restoration was in 1868. It may be described as built in the Puritan Romanesque style. Trinity Church was built in 1836 at a cost of nearly £4000, is in the Pointed style, and consists of chancel, nave, and western tower, and had an octagonal lantern, which was taken down in 1868. St. Peter's Church was built in 1864, is in the Early English style, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, and a tower. St Augustine's was erected in 1884, is in the Early English style, and consists of chancel, nave, and aisles.
Fairs are held on the last Friday of April and the first Friday of Nov. The manufacture of marine engines, sailcloth, cordage, masts, blocks, malt liquors, salt, tobacco, earthenware, and tiles is carried on. Shipbuilding and ironfounding also are carried on. The commerce is various, but consists chiefly in the export of coal and coke, and in the import of corn, timber, and esparto grass. One lighthouse, with fixed light 77 feet high, stands close to the shore-at the Narrows; another, with a light 133 feet high, stands in Dockwray Square (these lights lead over the bar); and another, with a revolving light 154 feet high, stands on a cliff outside the river's month, in Tynemouth Castle.
Clifford Fort, built in 1672, is situated immediately below the Narrows, where is also a submarine mining station; the Spanish battery is on Freestone Point, opposite Tyne bar. The harbour is very commodious, and capable of containing' a large number of vessels. An extensive dock with two lock entrances was opened in 1884 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, and in honour of the occasion is called the Albert Edward Dock. It has an area of 27 acres and a depth of 30 feet on the sills at high water of spring tides, a quay 3000 feet in length, a large staith for loading coals, and a large warehouse for storing grain. The N.E.R. has sidings to the dock, which provide ample accommodation for the traffic. Farther west, in Chirton township, with an area of 58 acres, is a deep-water timber quay. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1895 was 280 (97,000 tons). Steamboat ferries connect North Shields with South Shields; river steamers ply plentifully to Newcastle, and sea-home steamers go regularly to London. The township comprises 36 acres of land and 70 of tidal water; population, 6046; of the ward, 6604. The ecclesiastical parishes are Christ Church, Holy Trinity, St. Peter's, Low Town, and St Augustine's. The parishes, except the mother parish of Christ Church, were constituted in 1861, 1860, and 1885. Populations, 14,000, 12,980, 3504, and 4988 respectively.