THIS is the last of the little selection of paintings by James Cleet which South Shields Museum has been kind enough to let me reproduce from its collection.
This one is entitled just ‘Shields street scene,’ so we are left to guess the location.
I’d suggest this is somewhere along the riverside, where the old original town was, and which was a popular subject for both Cleet the father, and Cleet the son, for their respective paintings and photographs.
It conveys the narrow, cramped character of the area, which was probably treacherous in winter and stifling – and odorous – in summer.
You get some of the flavour of that from a correspondence which took up swathes of the Gazette in the 1860s, when people living in streets away from the present town centre – King Street, the Market Place etc – complained that while they paid the same rates as central residents, they didn’t receive the same level of street maintenance.
This included regular visits from dustmen and their carts, street scavengers, with their shovels and brooms (what were they shovelling, you rather sickly wonder? Horse manure?), and also the watering carts which, in dry weather, would dampen down the main streets, to keep down the dust.