When the Tyne still had its sandbanks

THE SHOALY TYNE ... the entrance to the river in 1850.
THE SHOALY TYNE ... the entrance to the river in 1850.

AS much as we may think we know the banks of the Tyne, we’re actually only familiar with them as they’ve been shaped by industry.

Over the centuries, outcrops have been knocked off that were a danger to shipping, sand banks have gone that were equally as hazardous, and quays and docks have been constructed.

That the river ever once had a sandy shore in places is now forgotten, although you can still see traces of one at Shields, when the tide falls and exposes it below Wapping Street.

Near enough, in fact, from where this perspective is taken.

Isn’t this interesting? It’s another of the pictures given to me by a reader from the collection of South Shields photographer James Cleet, though here the artist is, I believe I’m right in saying, his father, also James Cleet, who was born in 1840 and died in 1913.

The picture is entitled ‘Tyne, Sandend’ and is dated 1850, so although Cleet could not have painted it contemporaneously, it was possibly done from memory.

There are recognisable features: Clifford’s Fort, complete with guns, on the north side, for instance.

On the south side, the beacon at The Lawe and, below, a ship on the stocks, this still being the shipbuilding end of the town at this time.

This is before the construction of the piers, when the river was still full of shoals, and looking at that narrow channel it’s easy to understand how once upon a time, at low water, it was possible to walk between the two banks.