Pictures from the Past

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THE first lighthouses in North Shields were built in 1540, and Ralph Gardner’s England’s Grievance Discovered 1653, includes a map showing High and Low Lights.

According to M H Dodds, writing in 1928, original stone buildings were replaced with wooden structures in the late 1650s to enable them to be moved with the tides.

In 1672 the building of Clifford’s Fort enclosed the Low Light within its walls, which caused some friction.

In a letter from James Craggs, Secretary of Trinity House ‘o the Governor of Tinmouth Castle’, the lighthouse keeper reported that the fort commander referred to the low leading light as a ‘little shoe built up against the King’s wall’, and he stresses the necessity of the light for the navigation of the port under patent from the Crown, granted by former Governor Colonel Villiers.

New lights built in 1727 were thought to be inadequate, so in 1805 an application was made to Parliament by shipowners from North and South Shields for purpose built lighthouses.

The high light was built first in 1807, both new lights were lit in May 1810 and the old structures were subsequently converted to almshouses, with the lantern turret being removed from the old low lighthouse to add a third storey.

Pictured is an old photograph of local people in the area.

The Net, a passionate group of local volunteers, want the Old Low Light building opened as a heritage centre and are presenting their case to an invited audience next week in a bid to bring the building back to life.

They can be followed online at

Anyone with further information can contact Local Studies on (0191) 643 5270 or e-mail