Exploring in Blyth and North Shields

Last weekend was the Association of Lighthouse Keepers AGM in Hull and it was, of course, essential that we make the most of the journey down by visiting a few lights I still needed to stop off at.

The first of two stops for the day was Blyth. I’d not been back to Blyth since day 8 of my original lighthouse tour back in May 2012 when I’d seen the old high lighthouse and the light on the end of the pier. I’ve actually just found this page, which shows some old images with yet another lighthouse marking the entrance to Blyth harbour, which no longer exists. What I hadn’t realised on my previous trip was that there was in fact a third light in Blyth and that was the reason for this visit. The little white tower can be seen from the opposite side of the harbour on Quayside, which is where we originally saw it from. In fact, I’d not informed Bob of the situation in Blyth and there was me gazing at a tiny white tower while he spotted the lighthouse on the end of the pier and thought I was going mad looking at completely the wrong thing! Bob suggested driving around to the other side of the harbour to see if we could walk along to the lighthouse. It’s looked like there was an industrial area fenced off so I wasn’t sure if there would be access. There was only one way to find out.

Blyth Lower Snook distance
Blyth Lower Snook from a distance

It wasn’t exactly a quick drive to get there as we needed to head back inland, drive north to East Sleekburn and then around. When we got there we still weren’t sure as the fencing was quite high, but it did appear that people had been walking around the outside of the fence. Off we set following that track and it was clear fairly quickly that the area was not out of bounds and we were soon approaching the little light. It’s not the most fantastic of lighthouses, but it does have one thing that makes it stand out a bit (and finally won Bob over) was that it has a fixed blue light shining out of it. There is a tall framework glorified post a little way back from it, which also features a fixed blue light, hence why this little one is called the “Lower” Snook light. It’s a nice little one and I’m pleased we took the time to get to it. Funnily enough, as we walked back to the car, we realised there was a gate in the fence that you could walk through so certainly no restrictions on access by foot.

Blyth Lower Snook
Blyth Lower Snook with the rear range light visible in the background

Our second location for the day was North Shields. I’d been rather lazy with the two white towers here before and only seen them from South Shields. I’d also been informed a number of months ago by a good friend that there are actually four lighthouses in North Shields, which somehow had initially escaped my attention. None of the four are operational now so they all have rather confusing names. So there’s the Old High Light, which is now a private residence on the corner of Beacon Street! There is a plaque on the tower that says: “Since 1536 Trinity House, Newcastle has built several leading lights in North Shields. This one was constructed in 1727. Following changes in the river channel it was replaced in 1807 by the New High Light.” It must be a wonderful place to live with views across the harbour and then on to South Shields.

Old High Light
North Shields Old High Light

The people living nearby obviously have a great affection for lighthouses, being able to see so many of them from their location (Tyne Entrance North and South, Herd Groyne and the three other North Shields lights). They have model lighthouses in their gardens and lighthouses on the glass panes in their front doors.

Lots of lights
The many lights of North and South Shields and the entrance to the Tyne

Just along the road from this one is the New High Light. This one is also privately owned now and really well looked after as far as I could see. It has 1808 on the front wall of the tower and a beautiful plaque that explains that it was rebuilt in 1860. Another one with commanding views across the river and out to sea.

New High Light
North Shields New High Light

Down in the harbour area is the New Low Light, a twin of the New High Light. This one bears a plaque saying: “The new Lighthouse and Keeper’s house were erected in 1808-10 by the Master and Brethren of Trinity House, Newcastle, to replace the Old Low Light. It still serves as an important navigational aid to vessels entering the river.” That’s not entirely true anymore as it no longer bears a light, but still nice to know the history.

New Low Light
North Shields New Low Light with the Herd Groyne light in the background

Just around the corner from this one is the Old Low Light, which looks the least like a lighthouse of all of them. The plaque on this one says: “Built inside Clifford’s Fort 1727-33 and extended 1775. It’s white gable was painted black and its light window blocked to obscure it as a navigational landmark when converted to Almshouses in 1806-8.” This building is now still known as the Old Low Light and houses a heritage museum and community centre. Unfortunately we were too late to go inside this time.

Old Low Light
North Shields Old Low Light

North Shields (and South Shields for that matter) are really interesting places in terms of lighthouses. Plenty to see there. Before we continued our journey to Hull, we had an amazing dinner at The Staith House close to the Old Low Light, which features plenty of interesting decor including pictures of the nearby lighthouses and nautical maps of the area on the walls. It had been a great day and really interesting to explore a couple of areas I’d previous visited in haste in a bit more detail. 🙂

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