North Shields 'new town'
John Wood’s plan of North Shields 1826
In its early days Howard Street consisted of large shops and offices at the river end with smaller houses, often occupied by sea captains and ‘gentlemen’ at the end beside Northumberland Square.
Following their appointment in 1828, the new town commissioners for North Shields decided to commission municipal offices. The new building was designed by John Dobson and opened as the North Shields Municipal Offices in 1845. North Shields quickly grew to become the economic centre of the local area and was absorbed into the new municipal borough of Tynemouth in 1849. The new council chose to adopt the building in North Shields as its town hall. Facilities inside the building included a courtroom, a police station, and cells for five prisoners.
Hustings at the Town Hall taken during the Borough of Tynemouth by-election in 1861
John Dobson (1787 – 1865) was, during his lifetime, the most noted architect in Northern England. Born in The Pineapple public house in Chirton, he designed more than 50 churches and 100 private houses. Best known for his work with Richard Grainger designing Granger Town in Newcastle he also designed several buildings in North Shields that are still standing today. These include the buildings which are now St. Columba’s United Reform Church on Northumberland Square, the Salvation Army Citadel at 28 Howard Street and the Exchange Theatre building which was once the town hall.
On Friday, 26th November, 1915, I climbed the stairs to the war-time Recruiting Office in the Scottish Presbyterian Church Hall, Howard Street, North Shields, and joined H.M.Army, and so started, like tens of thousands of young men, a happy, adventurous, exhilarating, dirty, squalid, degrading and frightening experience.
The post-war period was a time when North Shields was a bustling town, with a thriving fishing industry and shipbuilding presence that supported a huge range of local businesses and commercial services located in and around Howard Street. Howard Street was the centre of commercial life; home to building societies, solicitors, accountants, insurance companies and Tynemouth County Borough’s civic building complex.
“When I first started at the office, (Howard Street) was a street of professional practices. There were three firms of accountants in Howard Street, there was a firm Leslie Knox and company on the western side, Tom Read at number 71 and there was another firm, French Wallace and Company who were a little bit further down the street.”
“It was an area of business… and very much centred around the local corporation, Tynemouth Corporation. The electricity Board was also in this building and there were a couple of insurance companies adjacent, the Pearl Assurance and the Refuge Assurance Companies. And of course, everyone came here to pay their rates so it was a centre for the local population using these buildings.”
Howard Street and Northumberland Square were also home to a range of other businesses and organisations, providing services that catered for all aspects of life including food and health and wellbeing.
This image dating from 1909 shows Elliot and Gladstone’s hardware shop with its staff posing outside and a few onlookers eager to get in on the act.
Howard Street and Northumberland Square have provided the setting for local communities to gather to mark moments of local and national significance, both joyful and sombre. From celebrating a local football team’s Amateur FA cup win, to marking royal funerals, the area holds great cultural importance as a place for public events.
In 1969 North Shields A.F.C won the Amateur FA cup, after beating Sutton United in the final at Wembley. They were welcomed home with an open-topped bus procession round Northumberland Square and down Howard Street as shown in this image.