Heritage centre hit by burglars

Centre director Guy Moody clearing up the mess after the break-in.
Centre director Guy Moody clearing up the mess after the break-in.

Callous thieves stole money and caused damage when they broke into a heritage centre on North Shields Fish Quay.

Staff at the Old Low Light had a shocking start when they arrived at work last Friday morning to find a broken shutter, a smashed door and donation boxes missing from the foyer of the charity.

John Sturmey, curator of Steam at Shields, with two of his exhibition  paintings.

John Sturmey, curator of Steam at Shields, with two of his exhibition paintings.

But it was soon ‘business as usual’ thanks to the support of the community, including some generous donations.

Northumbria Police inquiries are on-going and the force is asking anyone with information to get in touch with officers.

Centre director Guy Moody said: “There was more than £1,000 of damage done, but it’s business as usual.

“When people heard the bad news, they rallied round. We have really appreciated the support that we have received from the community.”

The break-in comes just as a new exhibition opens in the Heritage Gallery called Steam at Shields – a history of steam boats on the Tyne.

Regular Old Low Light volunteer John Sturmey has combined two of his great passions, the River Tyne and painting, to put this exhibition together.

His love of art started at Spring Gardens Primary School. His love of the river came from his family and his apprenticeship as a tug boat engineer.

Health problems forced him ashore to work on land transport, but his interest in the river continued.

When he retired, it was back to school to gain a degree in fine art.

John’s skills and knowledge have helped him to tell the story of steam power and an important North Shields innovator.

When local boat owner William Purdy fitted trawler gear to the paddle tug Messenger in 1887, he introduced steam trawling to the Tyne for the first time.

His fleet of steam trawlers were still fishing into the 1960s.

John hopes his exhibition, which includes many of his original paintings of the river and its steam ships, will remind people of the North East entrepreneurs who have contributed to engineering and shipbuilding across the country and perhaps encourage them to start researching.

He added: “Take it from me, it’s enthralling.”

The exhibition runs until January 30. The centre is open every day between 10am and 4pm – except during its winter break from Christmas Eve to January 5.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “At around 9.35am on Friday (December 7), police received a report of a burglary at the Old Low Light in North Shields, where a number of donation boxes were taken.

“Inquiries are on-going and officers are asking anyone with information to get in touch with officers by calling 101. Quote reference number 231 07/12/18.