South Shields, 1848
SHIELDS, SOUTH, a sea-port, newly-enfranchised borough, and township, and the head of a union, in the parish of Jarrow, E. division of Chester ward, N. division of Durham, 20 miles (N.N.E.) from Durham, and 278 (N.N.W.) from London; the township containing 9,082 inhabitants. This place, the importance of which is comparatively of modern date, lays claim notwithstanding to an origin of remote antiquity, and has strong indications of having been a Roman station. At the western extremity of the town is an elevated pavement, near the mouth of the Tyne, corresponding with a similar work near the end of the wall of Severus on the opposite bank of the river. It was evidently constructed by the Romans, for the safe landing of their forces at the ebbing and flowing of the tide; and at a place called the Lawe, between the town and the river, a hypocaust, some altars, coins, and numerous other vestiges of Roman occupation, have been found. In the opinion of some antiquaries, the place seems almost identified with the ancient Segedunum, the first station on the wall of Severus. A military road branching from the Watling-street, passing over Durham and Harbrass moors, and by Lumley Castle, terminates here; it is called the Wreken Dyke by Hutchinson, who derives that name from its probable restoration by the Danes, for the more easy access to the Tyne. The trade of South Shields was greatly promoted by the establishment about the year 1499 of the manufacture of salt, which, in the reigns of Elizabeth. James, and Charles I., attracted many strangers, who settled in the town. During the parliamentary war, a guard-house with a battery of four guns was erected on the Lawe, which was taken by the Scottish general Leslie in 1644, and which at the close of the late war was dismantled.
The town is situated on the southern bank of the Tyne, at its influx into the North Sea, and nearly opposite to the port of North Shields on the other side of the river. The older portion of it consists of long and inconveniently narrow streets, extending for more than a mile and a half along the shore of the river; the more modern portion contains many handsome ranges of buildings, among which are Winchester, Saville, and Frederick streets. Ogle and Albion terraces, and numerous pleasant villas on the east side of the town. The streets are lighted with gas by a company who have erected works for that purpose at an expense of £4,000; and the inhabitants are supplied with water conveyed by pipes from springs in the neighbourhood, by a company established under an act of parliament obtained in 1788. A subscription library was established in 1803, and a literary, scientific, and mechanics' institution in 1825; the latter contains a library, and the requisite apparatus for experiments. There is a public newsroom in the town-hall; and at Bank Top is a theatre, erected in 1791.
The chief trade of the port is the shipping of coal from the various mines in the surrounding districts. Two collieries in the immediate vicinity of the town are in active operation, and connected with them are staiths for vessels, which were also used by the late Stanhope and Tyne, or Pontop and South Shields Railway Company. This company was established in 1833, and in the course of two years completed a railway from the town of Stanhope, in the western part of the county, to South Shields, a distance of thirty-four miles, at a cost of about £250,000. The staiths here are constructed on the most scientific and improved principles, and are capable of loading a vessel of 700 tons' burthen from each of the eight drops of the railway, in a period of six hours; 100,939 tons of coal were shipped at these staiths from the company's mines, in 1836, and about 166,500 tons are annually shipped from other collieries. Large cargoes are also brought down the river in keels, to be shipped in the colliers here. Considerable quantities of superior lime are carried by the railway, and distributed through a very extensive agricultural district; a portion of it is shipped from the staiths for Scotland. The Brandling Junction railway connects Shields with MonkWearmouth on the south, and Gateshead on the west; with the Newcastle and Carlisle railway, by the inclined plane from Gateshead to Redheugh; and with the York and Newcastle railway. The Pontop and the Brandling railways now belong to the York and Newcastle company. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port is about 350, of the aggregate burthen of 77,000 tons. By far the greater number are employed in the coal-trade; a few are engaged in the American, Baltic, and Indian trades. The insurance of vessels is conducted by mutual assurance societies, of which one of the largest in the kingdom is established at this place, with a capital of more than a million sterling.
The port is capacious, the river here expanding into a wide bay capable of affording secure shelter to more than 2,000 sail of merchant vessels; but the entrance is extremely dangerous. On the north of the channel are clusters of rugged and elevated rocks, and on the south a treacherous sand-bank with a great bar, which in easterly, north-easterly, and south-easterly winds, raises breakers to a tremendous height; so that vessels attempting to enter the harbour in a gale, are often by a single sea precipitated on the rocks or driven on the sands. In 1789, the "Adventure" of Newcastle was wrecked on the sands, and the whole of the crew perished in the sight of thousands of spectators, who could afford no assistance. Upon this, a number of gentlemen formed themselves into a committee to devise some means, if possible, for the prevention of the loss of life from these melancholy catastrophes, and in the same year, with the aid of Mr. Henry Greathead, constructed the life-boat, which, on the 30th of January 1790, rescued from destruction a crew which no other means could have saved. This important discovery was duly appreciated by government; parliament voted a present of £1200 to Mr. Greathead, the Royal Humane Society presented him with their gold medal, and the Empress of Russia with a diamond ring. In commemoration of the event, the device of a life-boat has been adopted in the public seal of the borough. In 1826, James Mather, Esq., of this place, invented the life-boat for ships, which is at present generally used for packet-vessels and steamers.
Ship-building was formerly carried on here to a vast extent, and during the late war not less than 30 ships were annually launched, but the number is now much reduced, and the trade almost confined to the repairing of vessels, for which there are two patent-slips. The manufacture of salt, to the introduction of which the town owed its earlier increase, was also extensive; and in 1696 there were 200 salt-pans, affording employment to many hundred persons: it is now conducted on a very reduced scale, not more than five tons of salt being produced weekly. The principal articles of manufacture at present are, plate, flint, and crown glass; bottles; alkali, salts, soda, soap, and oil of vitriol; anchors and chain-cables, and boilers for steam-engines. The plate-glass works were established in 1827; the glass is polished at Newcastle, and chiefly sent to London. Altogether there are nine glass-houses in constant operation, with mills for glass-grinding; and previously to the reduction of the duty, the amount for glass manufactured here exceeded £120,000 per annum. The Jarrow alkali-works, established in 1823, by Messrs. Cookson and Co., are situated on the margin of the river, near the entrance to the town. They are unrivalled for the production of alkalis, soda, alum, Epsom-salts, oil of vitriol, bleachingpowders, sulphates of copper, and other chemical substances, for which they are supplied with common salt from works at East Howden, in Northumberland: from 700 to 800 persons are employed. Here are also, a paint manufactory, worked by steam; five roperies, in some of which patent cordage is made; six breweries, and various other establishments. The market is on Wednesday; a customary market is held on Saturday; and there are fairs, granted by charter of Bishop Trevor in 1770, annually on the 24th of June and the 1st of September. The markets are held in a large area in the centre of the town.
The municipal, affairs are managed by commissioners under a local act of the reign of George IV. The docks, manufactories, and other important works, are exempt from one-half of the rates charged on other property. Petty-sessions for this part of the Eastern division of Chester ward are held here every Wednesday; and courts leet and baron for making presentments, and for the recovery of small debts, are held in the town-hall, under the Dean and Chapter of Durham, as lords of the manor. The powers of the county debtcourt of South Shields, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of South Shields. The townhall, situated in the market-place, was erected in 1768, by the Dean and Chapter, and is a neat and commodious structure, supported on a colonnade, within the area of which the market for butter, eggs, and poultry is held. It is used by the merchants for the purpose of an exchange. The borough returns one member to parliament; the franchise is vested in the £10 householders of the townships of South Shields and Westoe, together comprising a population of 23,072, and the returning officer is appointed by the sheriff. A large portion of the land within the borough belongs to the Dean and Chapter, under whom it is held on building leases of 21 years, renewable every seven years on payment of a fine; and the old tenants are acknowledged to hold a beneficial interest in their leases (which are objects of sale, mortgage, or settlement) as freeholders. The township of South Shields comprises an area of 89a. 2r. 20p.
The ancient chapel of St. Hilda, with the exception of the tower, was rebuilt in 1810 at an expense of £5000, and retains but little of its original character, though it still contains some fine monuments; the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £330; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter. A church was erected in 1818, in that part of the town which is in the township of Westoe. Another dedicated to the Holy Trinity was erected in the Western Commercial-road, in 1834, at a cost of £3350, chiefly defrayed by the Dean and Chapter; it is a handsome structure with a square embattled tower, containing 1200 sittings, of which 800 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £350; patrons, the Dean and Chapter. There is an oratory at Harton, which is a curacy in the patronage of the Incumbent of South Shields; and an additional church has been erected at the east end of the town, within the chapelry of St. Hilda, at a cost of about £2,000: it was consecrated in October 1846, and is dedicated to St. Stephen. The design is of the early English style, with a tower surmounted by a spire, and the building contains 800 sittings, including 500 free. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter, with a net income of £200. There are three places of worship belonging to the Wesleyans; two each to the Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists of the New Connexion; and one each to the Independents, Primitive Methodists, and members of the United Secession Church. A school was founded in 1769, by bequests from Christopher Maughan in 1749, and Ann Aubone in 1760, which, augmented by subsequent benefactions from Ralph Redhead and others, produce an income of £82 per annum. The poor-law union of South Shields comprises six parishes or places, containing a population of 28,907. In the chapelry is a saline spring, the water of which was found on analysis to contain in one gill, of muriate of lime 2 grains, muriate of magnesia 1.6, muriate of soda 3.9, carbonate of lime and magnesia 10, and of sulphate of lime 3: this water, which contains neither any particle of iron nor of free acids, is used by some poor families instead of yeast, in making their bread. Near Marsden Rock, on the coast, is found elastic limestone, which does not occur elsewhere in England; it is perfectly flexible to the touch, and is regarded as a singular curiosity.— See Harton and Westoe.
Extract from: A Topographical Dictionary of England comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate and market towns, parishes, and townships..... 7th Edition, by Samuel Lewis, London, 1848.