Author Topic: South Tyneside - February Meeting Report  (Read 1308 times)

Offline Annf

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South Tyneside - February Meeting Report
« on: March 01, 2018, 04:35:17 PM »
Members of the NDFHS attended the meeting held on 21st February in South Shields which was a presentation by Tony Stephenson entitled “Dunston:  Staiths, Steamers and Teemers”.

Tony started his talk by giving a comprehensive run-down of Dunston itself and how it was first mentioned in the 1300’s, originally known as ‘Whickham Lowland’.  The main industries at that time were farming and mining, followed by the building of wagon wheels.  Good quality coal could be found in the area, particularly on the higher grounds such as Whickham and Marley Hill and by the 1700’s, some 2-3 hundred thousand tons of coal were being exported.  In 1723 the nearby Tanfield Wagon Way and Causey Arch were built.

The Cross Keys public house, which has recently been demolished because of fire damage, opened in 1828 and over the years became, among other things, a fighting cock pit and a brothel.  When trams arrived in Dunston, the terminus could be found next to the Cross Keys.  Other hostelries, which still stand today, include the Tudor Rose, The Royal and the Excelsior Club which during WW2 was a place for the Home Guard to practice.  What is now the Dunston Community Centre was originally the Seamen’s Mission.

Not helped by the many industries which arrived in the area such as Dunstop Pit, the Flour Mill built by CWS in the 1820’s, Dunston Power Station in 1910, Soap Factory in 1909, Taylor Pallister ship repairers and Clayton & Davie ship breakers, engine works and glass works, Dunston suffered from heavy pollution.  So much so that the River Team (known locally as ‘The Gut’) at one time became the most polluted river in England.  All of these industries have now disappeared.

As to The Staiths themselves, they are reputedly the largest wooden structure in Europe.  Work was completed in 1893 and they were built in order that coal from the local mines could be loaded directly on to ships for exportation.  Workers on the staiths were either ‘Teamers’ or ‘Trimmers’.  Whilst ‘Trimmers’ worked on the boats themselves, the ‘Teamers’ job was to free the frozen coal in the wagons in order that it could be sent down the shute direct to the ships.  Both jobs were extremely hazardous and dirty occupations.

With the decline of the coal fields, the Staiths fell into disrepair.  In 1990 The National Garden Festival came to this part of Gateshead, and restoration work was done on the Staiths.  Work by volunteers continues on the preservation of the Staiths, which are now a listed building.

This was a thoroughly informative and enjoyable talk and to someone like me who lived in Dunston for many years, it was a 'real trip down memory lane'.