CHANGE has done some of its worst to parts of Shields over the years. And yet, you know, if our great-grandparents were to see it, they’d find much that was familiar – just different.
Today, being a Bank Holiday and if the weather is benign, visitors will descend on the seafront.
Granted these old boys won’t still be there: pleasure boats are no longer hired out on the front. But folk still fish from the pier that these huts used to face.
And while the Ghost Train here may look like the backdrop to a Ray Bradbury novel – scuffed, out-of-season – the fair is still there, packing colour and vibrancy.
Which is what South Shields Through the Ages nicely manages to achieve, while still referencing the monochrome past.
This is a follow-up to librarian Caroline Barnsley’s South Shields: The Postcard Collection.
To a certain extent it’s a then-and-now collection. A coaly black picture of Harton Staithes gives way to the crisp blue and green hues of the new riverside park. Another of the Heugh Street (River Drive) bridge under construction in the 1930s cleverly ‘looks down’ on a scene of the new housing that stands below the bridge today.
But more than that, there’s a feel of almost being on a walk from one decade, even one century, into another.
A picture of Mitchelson’s old boatyard in Wapping Street, for instance, segues into colourful illustrations of the work of the North East Maritime Trust which occupies the premises today. You even get taken inside places. A section on the old mansion at Cleadon Park, that later became the sanatorium, features a lovely picture of the interior of the glass palm houses.
Caroline is a good guide and the colour pictures make the present as captivating as the past.
In a way, it’s comforting to see how much has actually remained constant about the town. As I say, not a case of vanished, just different.
n South Shields Through The Ages, by Caroline Barnsley, is published in paperback, price £14.99, by Amberley (www.amberley-books.com)