Hunter’s Donkeys, Whitley Sands

Donkeys at Whitley Bay in years gone by.
Donkeys at Whitley Bay in years gone by.

Does anyone remember there being donkeys on Whitley Bay’s sands?

Like many aspects of the tourist industry at the coast, few records were kept. Donkeys were, perhaps, so much part of the beach scene that they were taken for granted.

Discover at North Shields has a few pictures of them, but only this one has names of people attached – Reuben Hyde, Jessie Swan, Ben Hunter, Susannah Burness Harrow, Thomas Burness Harrow and Cuthbert Burdon Hunter.

Cuthbert was born in Walker, Newcastle, in 1882 to parents Thomas Hunter and Mary Jane Leighton. One of eight children, he married Cecilia Swan in 1907 in Newcastle. At the time of the 1911 census, they were living in Countess Street, Whitley Bay, and had four children. No information about him has been found for the years before this photo was taken, between 1902 and 1909.

The children on the donkeys are all relatives of Cuthbert. Mary Harrow, nee Hunter, ran a coal business, and in 1905, she had a house built called Studley Mount at the bottom of Marine Avenue, Whitley Bay. Stables were built behind the house for the horses that drew the coal carts. Cuthbert’s occupation, according to the 1901 census was a cartman so he might have worked for Mary.

Mary never lived in Studley Mount as she was offered a good price and sold it and bought premises at the bottom of Cambridge Avenue. She also had shuggy boats at Watts Slope. Studley Mount is now a rehabilitation centre.

If anyone has further information, call Discover on 0191 643 5270 or email