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23 years on – not a lot has changed

with 6 comments

Is South Shields conservative with a small C?

Yesterday Mrs. Curly and I celebrated our 23rd. wedding anniversary and a brief look back over those years reveals a time of relative contentment and steady, rather than radical, change in most things in life here in South Shields.

We were married in St. Mark and St. Cuthberts church in Quarry Lane a ten minute walk from Mrs. Curly’s parent’s house on JimmyForeman’s favourite estate, that estate has now been demolished and replaced with a pleasant mix of private and social housing, the in-laws now live only a five minute walk from the church where only the incumbent has changed, the gardens in Cleadon Park still look just as lovely in summer! The function room where we enjoyed our reception at The Nook is still there although under different ownership, the taxi firm who provided the wedding cars still operates out of South Shields town centre and we still live in our first home, although we started adding the first of two lovely children in 1997. I have since taken early retirement from the employer that I was with in 1988 after serving them for 23 years, they still operate from the same location in the town centre where I was fortunate enough to find a job in 1985 having been made redundant at a builder’s merchant a month previously. My father and brother still live in the same locations although sadly my mother has passed away, we have watched our children grow into young people attending the same schools that they started at, although one has been upgraded during the Building Schools for the Future project. Today I will go out and photograph the Great North Run just as I did 23 years ago, it has sort of grown in size like me!

In the past 23 years the approach to South Shields along the Western Approach dual carriageway has altered little at all until this last year, the Eureka is no longer there and a small house building scheme is under way, the old Plessey factory has at last disappeared and land has become available of redevelopment along the river frontage of Rekendyke. We still enjoy the facilities of Temple Park Centre, even though they are long past their “best before” date, and for other leisure pursuits the West Park and the two Marine Parks are still there, the South Marine Park looking rather better after its restoration. The rest of the sea front in South Shields will not be radically different until the swimming pool is erected and in use.

Things may have been different of course if certain schemes had been pushed through against some local opposition, if circumstances had allowed faster redevelopment of other projects, if recession had not provided a stumbling block, but I am perhaps becoming more mellow in my older years realising that although we have had a Labour council throughout that period many times their hands have been tied by outside influences and the Chancellors who have held the purse strings. However, until this year, they did manage to raise our council taxes every single year! To be fair  most of the visible changes in South Shields have occurred during the period of the current leadership of South Tyneside’s Labour council after many years of holding the ship as steady as possible.

Compare South Tyneside to any of our neighbours over the last 23 years and you just lose track of how swiftly Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, and Sunderland have change in appearance over that same period, we have put a small housing development and two larger buildings on the riverside beside our Market Place and both buildings ran into major opposition! I often wonder if part of the problem with the canny folks o’ Shields is that they don’t embrace change, at least not major change!

Are we inherently conservative with a small C in South Shields?

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Written by curly

September 18, 2011 at 9:38 am

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Curly

    Changes in South Shields may seem small compared to other areas on Tyneside but I wonder, is that because you’re living with them all the time and don’t notice them? I left South Shields, my hometown, in the late 60s but I do return two or three times a year and am always surprised at how much the place has changed and is changing.

    The church I attended as a boy is no longer there nor is the church where I was confirmed. The primary school I attended has, I understand, been knocked down and rebuilt and the Boys’ High School now seems to be twice its original size and is, of course, no longer a boys’ school. The street where I lived my formative years, Wakefield Avenue on the Sutton Estate seems much pleasanter than the rather bleak street I remember from over fifty years ago.

    Gone are the gasworks, the shipyards and the layout of the town has changed. No one would have called Tyne Dock arches beautiful but they were certainly unique and distinctive. The western entrance to the town is now so much cleaner and better laid out if perhaps rather bland and looking like 101 other towns in the UK. Waterloo Vale (is it still called that?) bears hardly any resemblance to the rather run-down area I remember. And how about the Mill Dam area where a minor miracle seems to have taken place? Is that the same place where I saw rats scurrying across the pavement in the late 50s?

    I think the place has probably changed more than those who are living there appreciate. Most of the change is good and some parts of the town further change seems to be on the cards.

    Finally, I must remember that these days I’m an occasional visitor and not venture an opinion about the Market Place but I shall be interested to see just what happens!


    September 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    • You make a fair point about perhaps taking for granted what is going on around your home town when you live within that changing process, but I do feel that the pace of change has only accelerated in recent years.
      Yet still The Shields Gazette is still bombarded by moaners!


      September 21, 2011 at 9:33 am

  2. Can’t let you get away with this one Curly. How about comparing like with like? Pop across for a look at Whitley Bay. I defy you to say that the improvements in Shields are not a light year ahead of what has happened (or rather not happened) there. As for Gateshead – yes the development along the Quayside is terrific – but have you walked down Gateshead High St or West St or Jackson street lately? Not changed much in 25 years has it? After that you are comparing Shields ( a small seaside town) with Newcastle, a City which is the regional centre and Sunderland, a City with a massively greater population than Shields with all the advantages that brings as far as big High St names are concerned.
    As for your small c point I don’t believe most of the folks o’ Shields are resistant to change as long as they can see improvement. What we do have is a small number of people (let’s call them Whingers) who will argue vociferously and, often in the pages of the Gazette it has to be said, against improvements for their own ends such as protecting the value of their houses in the case of the new hotel at Gypsies Green. Ask yourself who spread rumours about building houses on North Marine Park? Who led the campaign against the Gypsies Green Hotel? Who wanted to turn the whole of our Sea front into a Village Green?
    It’s the same people who are going on about the Bt building. I’ll bet you anything you like that in,say, 5 years time,when that stretch of riverside is properly developed we’ll look back and say “What was all the fuss about?”
    And so we come to the Market Place. Unbelievably there are still people who think we should leave Wouldhave House alone. I’m sure the same Whingers will adopt the same negative apporoach to that development as well. What is needed are positive ideas and a forum (I’m dropping a hint here) for such ideas to be to be debated.


    September 18, 2011 at 11:53 pm

  3. Perhaps Janis Blower of the “Gazette” would consider a “then” and “now” photographic feature, coupled with a comparative survey of a variety of social and economic indicators within ST between 1990 and 20. Two interesting and informative contributions.


    September 20, 2011 at 8:59 am

  4. Sorry 2011..


    September 20, 2011 at 8:59 am

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