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Waggonway to Tyne’s rich industrial past

SNEAK PREVIEW ...  above and below, some of the archive and new photographs which are part of the Waggonways and Waterways exhibition at Bedes World.

SNEAK PREVIEW ... above and below, some of the archive and new photographs which are part of the Waggonways and Waterways exhibition at Bedes World.

THE shipbuilding industry was once a big employer and major economic player along the banks of the Tyne.

And a waggonway designed by famous engineer George Stephenson once transported more than one million tonnes of coal from pits to staiths along the river bank.

Running from March 17 to April 10, the Waggonways and Waterways exhibition, at Bede’s World, in Church Bank, Jarrow, will use many archive and new photographs to tell the story of the Tyne’s rich industrial past.

Before the exhibition opens, a free preview event will be held at the museum, between 6pm and 9pm on Monday.

This will allow visitors to enjoy a sneak preview of what the exhibition will contain.

There will also be the chance to hear guest speakers Les Turnbull, a local author and historian, specialising in mining and the history of the region’s waggonways, plus Derek Lunn, a member of South Shields Photographic Society, who have both contributed to the exhibition.

Monday’s event marks the next stage of Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle’s (STAN) Waggonways and Waterways scheme.

This Heritage Lottery-funded project aims to establish a set walking route, designed to highlight points of historical significance linked to mining and heavy industry along the Tyne.

The five-mile route is based around the old waggonways, which once acted as a transport network, moving coal from the collieries to the staiths along the banks of the river.

With a pathway chosen to follow the old Bowes line between the former Hawthorn Leslie shipyard, Hebburn, and the town’s Mill Lane, the walk covers both the Tyne’s shipbuilding industry and the famous industrial link designed by George Stephenson.

Over the past year, volunteers have been out in force, making practical improvements along the route.

Now South Shields Photographic Society has joined forces with Groundwork STAN to create the new exhibition, opening later this month.

Andrew Watts, executive director of Groundwork STAN, said: “Exhibition visitors will have the chance to view a range of old archive pictures supplied by the South Shields Photographic Society and to compare more modern pictures taken by the society over the past few months.

“It will be a very interesting exhibition and a great way to celebrate what has already been achieved before we move on to the next stage.”

Phase two of the project will see the launch of the heritage walks, starting on the south side of the river, on Tuesday, April 1.

Information boards will be installed along the route, informing people about the history of the line and the industry it supported.

An audio tape will also be available to download, which will recite memories shared by local people who worked in coal mining and heavy industry along the Tyne.

Entry is free for Monday’s preview event at Bede’s World.

Call the museum on 489 2106 for more details about how to get involved.

For more details about the Waggonways and Waterways project, visit www.northeast.groundwork.org.uk.

Twitter @terrykelly16

 

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