Exhibition opens at Bede's World showing history of South Tyneside waggonway

South Tyneside Photographic Society recreates history of South Tyneside waggonway with Bede's World exhibition

Bowes Railway
Bowes Railway

Photographers have rallied around to produce a picture of a past when railways, coal mining and the River Tyne were the driving force behind the area’s industrial power.

South Tyneside Photographic Society weighed in to contribute to environmental organisation Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle’s project to create leisure routes along former waggonways which will draw on the history of the routes.

Together with South Tyneside local historian Norman Dunn, society members have come up with archive pictures and current images of one of the routes – a five-mile stretch along the former Bowes Railway from Mill Lane in Hebburn to the town’s mothballed Hawthorn Leslie shipyard.

It is part of the Waggonways and Waterways project, which is backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A photography exhibition based on the route and riverside has opened at Bede’s World in Jarrow.

Derek Lunn, three-times past president of the society, was one of the members who took to a boat to capture images of riverside scenes, including the remains of coal staiths and the closed and crumbling Hawthorn Leslie shipyard at Hebburn, which opened in 1853 and built 225 ships.


Derek, who has been a society member since the mid-1960s, said: “The camera has been, and is, very important in recording history.

“Pictures which are taken now will be important for future generations.

“The Waggonways and Waterways project is extremely important because many children today will not have an inkling about how their grandparents worked.

“So much of our history, for one reason or another, has been replaced or destroyed.

“We are losing a vast amount of our heritage.

“Taking pictures from the boat, I was amazed at the thousands of tonnes of steel and iron left from the past on the riverside.

“The riverside has changed dramatically, and places like Hawthorn Leslie’s shipyard are now eerie.

“The changes in the last 50 years have been phenomenal and one wonders what the riverside will be like after another 50 years.”

Groundwork project officer Yvette Martin said: “The exhibition aims to show the changes in industry across the North East and especially around the Tyne and the waggonways, which were once vital routes.

“They were a fundamental part of the industrial development of the region and were part of the lives of thousands of workers.

“It is important that this history is not lost as new roles for waggonways are created. They are now becoming transport routes for people as pathways and cycleways.”


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