An historic townhouse at the heart of North Shields’ heritage area has revealed some fascinating secrets.
Bundles of centuries-old maps and almost perfectly preserved servants’ quarters have been discovered in Grade-II listed 18 Northumberland Place.
The building, situated among the stunning row of Georgian townhouses in Northumberland Square, is now home to chartered surveyors R.A Jackson & Son.
The maps, some of which date back to the 1700s, show North Shields, North Tyneside and other parts of the North East, including Newcastle and Sunderland, at various points throughout history.
The maps were came to light following recent renovations on the building and give an overview of the history of the development of North Shields and the Fish Quay, from the early days of the shipping and coalmining industries through to the development of the town centre.
But it’s not just maps that have been discovered. Hidden behind an unused door for many years in the upper part of the building was the former servants’ quarters, which remain almost perfectly intact – adding to the intrigue of the offices.
The quarters feature two rooms, sleeping quarters for male and female servants including some small privacy closets, and a main room, possibly to use when they weren’t working. There’s even the original wallpaper and furniture stored inside.
The amazing discoveries come as the North Shields Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) project - a four-year programme of physical improvements, community and cultural activities aimed at revitalising the Northumberland Square Conservation Area – gets underway.
The High Street HAZ project, in partnership with Historic England, forms part of North Tyneside Council’s ambitious master plan to transform North Shields town centre and riverside.
Deputy Mayor, Cllr Bruce Pickard, cabinet member for Business and Economic Development, said: “North Shields is full of history and the discoveries inside 18 Northumberland Place are fascinating.
“Through the High Street HAZ project and our ambitious master plan for North Shields we will breathe new life into the historic town centre, attracting new businesses, visitors and creating somewhere people want to live.
“We have already made significant improvements with the completion of the redevelopment of the beautiful Georgian terrace in Northumberland Square into high-quality town houses and the restoration of the much-loved Wooden Dolly and there are plenty more exciting developments still to come.”
Jules Brown, Historic Places Adviser for Historic England, said: “This is a fascinating discovery and shows what treasures lay lost and forgotten right under our noses.
“There must be many more stories and artefacts hidden away in the town centre that could bring the history of the high street to life. Why not have a rummage in your attic or talk to people who’ve lived in the area for decades and see what they can tell you. Even the smallest story can spark pride in local heritage.”