Roman camp at Segedunum
The more recent history of North Tyneside (created in 1974) is largely the story of shipping and coal mining, but written history goes back to the time when the Roman invaders fixed the Tyne as the northern most frontier of their might empire.
At Wallsend they built a camp called Segedunum, and from this point Emperor Hadrian's Wall stretched westward across the country to the Solway. Segedunum was an important military station, covering a four acre site close to where the Swan Hunters Shipyard now stands.
It was here the Romans landed grain and other supplies for troops along the Wall. An area of the fort has been exposed and shares the site with an award winning museum and interpretation centre. It also enjoys World Heritage site status.
Remains of a more recent, yet still most ancient, fortification stand at Tynemouth on the headland which overlooks the entrance to the Tyne.
Here is the massive 14th century gatehouse to the Castle through which the ruin of Tynemouth Priory is approached. There is thought to have been a church on the Priory Site since the 7th century.
The original monastery, destroyed by the Danes in 865, was finally abandoned in 1008. It was refounded by the Benedictines of Durham in the latter part of that century. The body of Malcolm Canmore King of Scotland was buried at Tynemouth after he fell at Alnwick in 1093.
Seventeen years later St. Oswin was also buried there.
Lord Collingwood and the Battle of Trafalgar
Close by the Priory, above Priors Haven, stand the Collingwood Monument and the Volunteer Life Brigades Watch House. The statue of Lord Collingwood gazes out across the mouth of the river and beyond, flanked by four guns taken from the old Royal Sovereign, the flagship in which he led the British Fleet into battle at Trafalgar.
The coast and fishing industry
The Watch House, HQ of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, houses several relics of ships which have come to grief on the treacherous Black Midden rocks. Founded in 1864, the Tynemouth Brigade was the first to founded in Britain.
Heading northwards along the coast from Tynemouth one might be excused for imagining the four mile stretch of coastline had anything more industrious than a crowd of holidaymakers splashing in the waves.
The long sweeping curve of Tynemouth Long Sands leads to a sheltered bay of Cullercoats snuggling beneath its tall cliffs. Then onto Whitley Bay with a tremendous spread of sandy beach leading upto St Mary's Island and Lighthouse.
Coal was certainly being extracted from seams at Whitley Bay and Cullercoats in the 17th century, and wooden wagon ways were being used to haul it down to the pier at Cullercoats. Some of the coal was used to stoke the slat pans, which provided Cullercoats with a second important string to its industrial bow, before the fishing industry started to grow.
The fishing industry also saw the growth of the Fish Quay area of North Shields, which subsequently stimulated Georgian development further northwards where the current town centre now stands.
Coal and the industrial revolution
During the years of the industrial revolution, North Tyneside gave the world a clear lead in several fields, but two of these deserve special mention. They are the locomotion and steam turbine.
The men whose names are forever linked with these developments are George Stephenson and Sir Charles Parsons. Stephenson was an Engineer at the old Killingworth Colliery and developed his first locomotives here for hauling coal down to the staithes at Wallsend for shipment.
Stephenson's Cottage still stands on Great Lime Road in Forest Hall and the Sun Dial carved from stone by George and his equally famous son Robert, still counts the hours above the front door.
Killingworth Village is close at hand and is one of twelve conservation areas designated by the Borough so that they remain as part of the North Tyneside heritage for future generations.