Tyneside covers the urban area along both sides of the River Tyne from Newcastle to the sea.
It comprises of four local authority districts – Newcastle-upon-Tyne and North Tyneside on the north side of the river, and Gateshead and South Tyneside on the south.
To break it down even further, North Tyneside includes Wallsend, North Shields, Tynemouth, and Whitley Bay, and South Tyneside includes Hebburn, Jarrow, and South Shields.
The largest and most influential of these districts is undoubtedly Newcastle which at the 2011 census had a population of 280,177. Gateshead had 120,046, North Tyneside 203,300, and South Tyneside 148,127. The total population was given as 774,891, which before you try and catch me out, I know doesn’t add up. You would think, wouldn’t you, that the census people would employ somebody who was half decent at maths.
Anyway, now that I’ve got the statistics out of the way, I can give a bit of background to the area in general.
The reason that so many people have found their way to the banks of the Tyne is largely thanks to coal which was found in large quantities around the area. There’s a saying that “It’s like taking coals to Newcastle” which basically means that the task in hand is pointless.
Coal was transported down the coast to London and became an important source of income for those involved, but it wasn’t just the shipment of coal to other places that was important. It was also a vital ingredient for the steel industry that sprang up in the Derwent Valley, a tributary of the Tyne, and steel was also a vital ingredient for shipbuilding.
From the mid-19th century onwards, British shipyards were producing many of the worlds largest ships, and Tyneside was right there in the thick of it. Its impact on the communities along the river had both benefits and drawbacks. It created employment for a while, but when the industry nosedived, it created poverty instead. In the 20th century it happened twice – once in the 1930s, and then again in the 1970s and 80s.
Since then, things have started to improve, but it’s still one of the least affluent areas of the country. On the plus side, my experience of the area shows it still has a great community spirit – and you can’t put a price on that!