Statue of the week

Serious trouble had been brewing between Newcastle and North Shields for centuries.

Serious trouble had been brewing between Newcastle and North Shields for centuries. At stake was who had the right to run lucrative operations such as markets, brewing and baking on the Tyne.

Ralph Gardner fought for North Shields against the long-running bid by Newcastle to keep its trade monopoly.

He and his valiant efforts are commemorated with a monument near the spot where his cottage - demolished in 1948 - stood at Chirton in North Shields.

As North Shields established itself as a settlement, Newcastle reacted strongly to preserve its hold over riverside trade. The waterfront and its shipping was where the money was to be made.

Newcastle had developed money-making to a fine art and even charged tolls on ships when they discharged their ballast on the Tyne banks.

The struggle between Newcastle and North Shields began in the 13th Century when the Prior of Tynemouth was taken to task for allowing traders to operate on his patch.

In 1401 Newcastle merchants forced a commission into trade in North Shields. Brewing - always a potential money-spinner - was a sore point and Newcastle prosecuted Humphrey Johnson for running a brewhouse in North Shields.

Enter Ralph Gardner, who was born in Ponteland in 1625 and who became a brewer in North Shields at the age of 23. He was outraged by Newcastle's tactics aimed at holding on to its trade monopoly.

True to form, Newcastle brought an action against Gardner and he was heavily fined and imprisoned when he refused to close his brewery

Gardner escaped from jail and was sitting in his cottage when he found himself surrounded by men with swords drawn and pistols cocked. North Shields seamen came to his rescue and forced the arresting party back to Newcastle.

But Gardner was jailed again and in 1655 he published a work called England's Grievance Discovered as part of his free trade battle against Newcastle. His attempts were wrecked when Cromwell dissolved the Long Parliament.

It is thought that Gardner joined the Horse Guards, but then he disappears from history.

But the memory of his exploits lived on and his name was given to the Ralph Gardner High School which opened in 1933.

It is also carried on by the new Gardner Park housing development and North Shields FC's Gardner Park ground.

His monument was unveiled in 1882 at Chirton and carries Tennyson's words: "who suffered countless ills, who battled for the true and just."

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