Shedding light on ‘ancient’ Groyne

OIL WATCH...the Groyne with the old Esso oil terminal in the background.
OIL WATCH...the Groyne with the old Esso oil terminal in the background.

IT’S one of the most iconic landmarks associated with the lower reaches of the Tyne and Shields.

I’m talking about the Herd Groyne, which stands sentinel at the entrance to the river.

Its appeal is multifold, from its distinctive red-painted lighthouse, to the disconcerting sensation it affords you – or at least I find – of being further out to sea than you actually are.

Also, stand under the light itself and there is that queer, slightly creepy ‘dead area’ effect that you used to get walking under the old crane on the South Pier.

But what brings this up? Well in looking at a new book the other day, Rivers of Britain, I was slightly thrown by the description of the Groyne as an “ancient sector light.”

It was the “ancient” bit that was most questionable. But the description is otherwise correct.

I’m obliged to an online reader, who says: “This type of marker is known as a sector light.

“For example, when viewed from the sea the top part of the light is white while the bottom part is split into a red and green section.

With the lights correctly lined up for entering the port, the ship will see a white light with a green light below, indicating they are on course for the deep water channel.

However, if they see a white light with a red one below they are too far south.

“When coming down river, the Groyne also has a fixed white light.

“The Groyne was constructed in 1882 so it’s ‘old’ rather than ancient.”

Thanks Magoonigal.

The accompanying picture of the Groyne – original address once upon a time, if you were to have written to it, “off Pilot Street” – is an appealing one taken from the sea, in the days when its nearest neighbour was the old Esso terminal, later Velva Liquids.

You can find it and other pictures of the river at Norman Dunn’s website,