South Shields Things to Do

  • Things to Do
    by toonsarah
  • Things to Do
    by toonsarah
  • Things to Do
    by toonsarah

Most Recent Things to Do in South Shields

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    The Eye

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 27, 2015

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    Near the north end of Littlehaven is this eye-catching (pun intended!) sculpture by Stephen Broadbent. It is a popular spot for photos as people like to pose with the eye as a frame, though I preferred using it to frame the view beyond – of the beach, the sea and Tynemouth Priory across the river. Around the “iris” are the words:
    “but my eye could not see it, wherever might be it, the barque that is bearing my lover to me”
    This is taken from a traditional Northumbrian ballad, “Blow the wind southerly” – the full lyrics are:
    ”Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
    Blow the wind south for the bonny blue sea.
    Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
    Blow, bonny breeze, my lover to me.

    They told me last night there were ships in the offing,
    And I hurried down to the deep rolling sea.
    But my eye could not see it, wherever might be it,
    The barque that is bearing my lover to me.

    Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
    Blow, bonny breeze, o'er the bonny blue sea.
    Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly,
    Blow, bonny breeze, and bring him to me.

    Is it not sweet to hear the breeze singing,
    As lightly it calms o'er the deep rolling sea?
    But sweeter and dearer by far when 'tis bringing
    The barque of my true love in safely to me!”

    The same sculptor also created another piece at the southern end of Littlehaven, “The Sail”. Both pieces were installed here as part of recent improvement works to this stretch of coastline.

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    Conversation Piece

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 27, 2015

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    Some sculptures are all the better for being in just the right place - think of the Angel of the North or Statue of Liberty, for example – and in its own less dramatic way that is true of the Conversation Piece. A group of 22 figures are dotted around a paved area near the sea at the north end of South Shields’ Littlehaven Beach. They could be locals stopping briefly in their daily routine to gossip, or holiday-makers meeting for the first time perhaps. With the dunes as backdrop they make for a striking piece.

    The figures are of bronze and were created by Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz, who created similar pieces elsewhere (the “Last Conversation Piece” in Washington DC, for example). Their rounded bases mean that locals sometimes refer to them affectionately as the “Weebles” or simply “the wobbly men”. They are for obvious reasons a popular spot for photos and children in particular seem to love to pose with, or try to climb on, the figures – it took some patience for me to get these people-free images!

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    Littlehaven

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 27, 2015

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    There are two good sized beaches in South Shields, plus a string of smaller ones to the south of town. The main one is larger, busier and sandier, but on our recent walk we were on its neighbour to the north, Littlehaven. This beach is 500 metres long and sheltered by the South Pier of the Tyne, so it’s a popular spot for water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and boating. Not being as sandy as the main beach it’s maybe less of a draw for families but if sandcastles aren’t your priority it’s a good place from which to watch all the activity of ships sailing into and out of the river mouth.

    The beach was formerly used as a World War I RAF airbase. On certain days you can apparently still see faint traces of the old landing strip near Herd Groyne at the northern end. The airbase was used by sea planes, land planes and airships used to monitor coastal defences and report on enemy movements.

    Today it has a newly rebuild promenade, a leisure centre nearby and a modern hotel right at the point where the river meets the sea.

    Littlehaven beach Skimming stones
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    The Watch House

    by toonsarah Written Apr 27, 2015

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    I have long known about the Watch House in Tynemouth but only very recently learned that there is another here in South Shields, on the opposite side of the river mouth. It sits in a prominent position at the land end of the South Pier, a wood-framed building with carved eaves and an octagonal tower. It was built in 1865 as a base for the newly-founded South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, and the tower added in 1875. It is Grade 2 listed and is one of the oldest all-wooden Victorian buildings in the country.

    The Life Brigade was established to help saves lives endangered by shipwreck in the treacherous waters at the mouth of the Tyne (a similar group had been set up the previous year in Tynemouth). It is famous as the first such brigade to save a life from a shipwreck using the breeches buoy, when the Sunderland schooner Tenterden was wrecked on the South Pier on 2nd April 1866, the pier being still under construction at that time. It is one of only three such organisations to remain in existence today, out of the more than 500 that there once were (the other remaining ones are also in north east England, at Tynemouth (the first ever) to the north and Sunderland to the south).

    We didn’t go inside but it holds a collection of ships’ figureheads, name boards and other artefacts from shipwrecks, plus displays of rescue equipment, including the famous breeches buoy used in the Tenterden rescue, and old photographs. But it is also still the base for the still-active Volunteer Life Brigade, and while they are more often these days called to help with cliff rescues than shipwrecks, the latter are not unknown and the brigade are from time to time called upon to assist.

    The brigade’s motto, “Always ready”, can be seen on the crest on the wall of the Watch House (see photo two).

    View from Littlehaven
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    The Tyne lifeboat

    by toonsarah Written Apr 27, 2015

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    The world’s first purpose built lifeboat was built here in South Shields in 1789 to help rescue seamen from ships in danger off the treacherous coast or swept onto the rocks at the mouth of the river Tyne, known as the Black Middens. This boat was called the “Original” and built by Henry Greathead.

    The lifeboat Tyne now on display in the town was built to a very similar design in 1833 by local ship-builder J.Oliver, and is now Britain's second-oldest preserved lifeboat (the oldest is the Zetland, on display in Redcar just down the coast). The cost was £170. The boat was crewed by 13 men and was stationed initially at Coble Landing before being moved to the South Beach boathouse. Her first rescue mission was in 1833 when twenty people were saved from the steamer Lady of the Lake. She was South Shields’ main lifeboat until 1882 and then served as reserve boat until 1884 when she was handed over to South Shields Corporation by the Trustees of the Tyne Lifeboat Institution and placed on public display to serve as a permanent reminder of the skill and bravery of the men of the Tyne Lifeboat Institution. Both the boat and the decorative cast iron canopy that protects it have recently been restored.

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    The Jubilee lifeboat memorial

    by toonsarah Written Apr 27, 2015

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    This prominent memorial stands next to the restored Tyne lifeboat and commemorates the inventor of the world’s first purpose-built lifeboat. Or rather inventors – not because it was a joint effort but because two men lay claim to that honour. William Wouldhave and Henry Greathead (what fabulous names!) both entered a competition as launched to reward any inventor who could provide a craft for the purpose of saving lives from a shipwreck, prompted by the tragic loss of life from the Adventure, a Newcastle ship that went aground near the coast at the mouth of the Tyne in 1789. Woodhave was a parish clerk in the town, having been born in neighbouring North Shields, and Greathead was a boat builder, born in Yorkshire but having grown up in South Shields.

    In the event neither of their designs was chosen as the winner but both influenced the final design which was drawn up by the committee running the contest. Wouldhave’s proposal of a copper boat clad in cork to prevent it sinking was considered too radical, while Greathead’s oblong wooden boat was completely unsuited to these waters and the model turned upside down when tested! Despite this he was given the job of building the boat and it was he that suggested the keel be curved to keep it part out of the water. Meanwhile Wouldhave’s “radical” proposal to use copper and cork was actually employed!

    A third man, Lionel Lukin of Essex, is also considered by many to have invented the lifeboat but as he was not a resident of South Shields he is unsurprisingly not mentioned on the memorial!

    And as if it weren’t enough that this memorial celebrates not one but two local luminaries, it was actually constructed primarily to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. When the decision was taken to mark that event with a memorial, a planning committee decided that “nothing commended itself more than a memorial to the founder of the lifeboat, their noble townsman William Wouldhave”. However they agreed that, “in consequence of the diversity of opinion as to who was actually the inventor of the lifeboat, the monument should be called the ‘Wouldhave and Greathead memorial of the Lifeboat’”. (quotes taken from a plaque at the site).

    Whatever the truth about the inventor, the memorial to the lifeboat’s origins is a striking one. It consists of four tiers. The lowest one originally had drinking fountains on two sides (north and south) and also contains a small door diving access to the clock and lighting mechanisms. Above this each face is carved – on the west side a portrait of Wouldhave (photo three), on the east one of Greathead, and on the remaining two sides reliefs showing a shipwreck (my second photo) and the return of the lifeboat. Above on the third tier is a clock with a dial on all four sides, and above this a dome with a weather vane, seen in my main photo.

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    So Shields

    by toonsarah Written Apr 27, 2015

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    These large billboards are part of the output of a team of artists who in the summers of 2011 and 2012 spent time down on the sea front in South Shields meeting local people and visitors to the resort. The project was known as “So Shields”, with “So here being both a word used for emphasis and also an abbreviation of “South”. The artistic team comprised poet Jake Campbell, photographer Damien Wootten and artists Alison Unsworth, Stuart Mugridge and Jo Ray, and the works they created reflected their personal impressions of the town and its people.

    There are nine billboards altogether. The three in my photos are:
    Photo one: ”The coast will wait behind you”, part of a poem by Jake Campbell which incorporates different moments in the town’s history (the Roman fort, a shipwreck) with his own memories of a day trip here.
    Photo two: ”The Visitors” by Damien Wootten, depicting the mix of visitors to the resort during the course of one summer – students from New Delhi, Zimbabwean ladies on a day trip from Byker in nearby Newcastle, and students from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.
    Photo three: ”Semaforks” by Jo Ray which captures the small wooden forks traditionally provided with fish and chips, here with the addition of local dialect phrases – on one side with their definitions and on the reverse with their equivalent in semaphore. The forks themselves were distributed by fast-food places on the seafront in the summer of 2011.

    Other billboards Jo Ray’s ”A Common Treasury” which combines typical plants of the dunes with fairground-style signage, and ”The Sandpiper”, a mock local newspaper created by Stuart Mugridge with stories ranging from Turner’s visit to South Shields to elephant rides on the beach.

    The coast will wait behind you The Visitors Semaforks
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    Converse

    by cherrybug Written May 9, 2008

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    These 22 bronze life size sculptures were created in 1999 by the Spanish sculptor, Juan Munoz.

    The figures are located next to the Littlehaven hotel and represent his work titled 'Conversation piece' intended to greet visitors from land and sea.

    They converse with each other, with those that come to meet them and in turn become the subject of conversation. Each figure weighs approximately a quarter of a tonne and stands 1.5 metres high.

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    Helter Skelter

    by cherrybug Updated Mar 22, 2007

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    South shields has a fairground which opens on Good Friday every year until the end of the summer. Providing your traditional candyfloss and fish and chips fayre it's the place to hang about if you're under the age of 16 or have kids that need entertaining.

    The rickety old roller coaster can hardly be called a white knuckle ride and the ghost train just aint scary (unless you're frightened of 1 min in the dark) but it's good fun all the same. If you enjoy hooking rubber ducks to win oversized stuffed animals and stuffing your face with stodge laden with, well... more stodge (check out the divine doughnuts) it's definitely worth a look.

    Set next to the lovely sand dunes of the beach, next to a few beachfront pubs, a fun day out can be had by all.

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    ART GALLERY - Find out something to do?

    by jhorsfield30 Written Aug 1, 2006

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    Recently re-opened after a £1.4m refurbishment. Major collections in Social History & Art which are represented in two brand new galleries. FREE entry.

    South Shields Museum has been transformed following a £1million refurbishment. The Museum now includes:

    The new 'Tales of South Tyneside' gallery, exploring local history during the life and times of Catherine Cookson.
    Art Adventure - a fresh look at painting. This art gallery with a difference features many of the museum's paintings with exciting hands-on displays which enable visitors to find out more about the paintings and their artists.
    A new, larger exhibition area and a refurbished activities room.
    Improved facilities including a new lift.

    Nice to see with kids and a cheap visit..

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    DAY DOWN THE FAIR AT SOUTH BEACK

    by jhorsfield30 Written Aug 1, 2006

    Situated next to Sandhaven Beach, Ocean Beach Pleasure Park is a large amusement park incorporating rides, amusements and games providing you with the best family entertainment. The Park regularly changes attractions and rides to provide visitors with new exciting experiences year on year.

    Amusement arcade open all year round, rides open peak season from Easter to September 10.00am to 10.00pm

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    New Town Hall

    by steventilly Updated Oct 11, 2005

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    South Shields town hall is enormous. The tower from it can be seen all around town, like some sort of civic beacon. It dates from 1910, the time when South Shields was at the peak of its prosperity and in some ways looks a bit out of place now. Inside it is fitted out with lavish oak panelling and marble flooring. It is regarded as being one of the finest civic buildings in the North east, and it's hard to argue with that sentiment.

    South Shields Town Hall South Shields Town Hall South Shields Town Hall

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    South Tyneside Museum

    by steventilly Written Oct 6, 2005

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    The South Tyneside Museum is a very interesting place - much more so than I imagined it would be. We went in, expecting to spend 10 to 15 minutes in there and came out almost an hour and a half later. The reason for that is that we didn't realise just how much history was associated with South Shields, from the list of famous and infamous people who were born here, to its role in the industrial past of the region. It's all covered inside including:
    The tale of John Simpson Kirkpatrick.
    Aspects of Catherine Coockson's life.
    Clothes from the smallest baby ever born.
    South Shields' (& Sith Tyneside's) industrial heritage, including the Jarrow March.
    Recreations of period rooms.

    South Tyneside Museum, South Shields Interior, South Tyneside Museum, South Shields Interior, South Tyneside Museum, South Shields

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    The Man With The Donkey

    by steventilly Written Oct 6, 2005

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    John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in South Shields in 1892 but emigrated to Australia. He served with the ANZACs in the ill fated Gallipoli campaign, where he operated as a stretcher bearer. He took wounded men from no-man's land to safety on the back of a donkey and is reconed to have single handedly saved hundreds of men. He worked seemingly without fear of being shot, but this was the fate that awaited him. He was killed in action, whilst taking yet another wounded man to safety, less than a month after he arrived in Gallipoli. His actions saw him recommended for a Victoria Cross, but this was never awarded. Campaings for him to be recognised in this way continue to this day, and he is one of Australia's national heroes.
    The staue of Kirkpatrick and his donkey stands on Ocean Road, outside a pub named after him and opposite the South Tyneside museum.

    John Simpson Kirkpatrick

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    Ocean Road

    by steventilly Updated Oct 6, 2005

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    Ocean Road is South Shields' main street, running right through the town centre down to the ocean - hence its name. It is famous for having the greatest density of Indian restauants anywhere in the world - including India itself. The whole of one side of the street is filled with such restaurants (with the odd Italian place thrown in for good measure) while the other side is filled with B&B guesthouses.

    Ocean Road, South Shields

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