They are normally blue, sometimes black and more often than not circular. They are usually affixed to the exterior of buildings and invariably celebrate people from the past. Occasionally they acknowledge the importance of the building itself or the ground on which the building now stands. They are known as commemorative plaques, memorial tablets or just plain and simple blue plaques.
When the dark days of December descend and you are eager to escape the madcap world of Christmas shopping, why not take a look at a selection of these plaques that are dotted about the streets of North Tyneside? The perfect place to start is outside Tynemouth Castle, where picturesque King Edwards Bay is dominated by the high cliffs of Pen Bal Crag and where, in the 7th century Priory, three kings are buried.
After enjoying the view head down the left hand side of Front Street past no. 57 where Harriet Martineau, the prominent, versatile and controversial 19th century writer, once lived. Then, as you enter Huntington Place, watch out for the 1760-built Tynemouth House, occupied by the King’s School and the place where Giuseppe Garibaldi stayed on his 1854 visit to brief local political and industrial leaders on his plans for a unified Italy.
Continue towards the 1882-opened Tynemouth Station where you will discover a superb example of Victorian railway architecture with vast glazed canopies following the gentle curve of the track. There is, unfortunately, no commemorative plaque to record the fact that the station accommodated the world’s first provincial railway. Just around the corner look out for the impressive door head to the Tyne Electrical Engineers Drill Hall, known as the new Clifford’s Fort Drill Hall and used by the Engineers since 1928.
Cross into Tynemouth Terrace and then, as you turn right into Northumberland Terrace, notice the well-preserved Victorian post box set into the facing stone wall. Continue along Collingwood Terrace and into Priors Terrace. At no. 10 you will see that Anne Maud Burnett, the first woman member and woman Mayor of Tynemouth Council, once lived there. Back on Tynemouth Road turn left and you will quickly reach the first Tynemouth Station, opened in 1847 and designed for the Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company by architects John and Benjamin Green.
Now head along Oxford Street where you will soon need to turn left downhill below the imposing statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood, Newcastle born and second in command to Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Once on the promenade look for the plaque attached to the railings referring to the notorious Black Middens rocks which have long been a hazard to shipping entering and leaving the River Tyne.
Follow the path to the left and at the top of the bank turn sharp left to the 1887-built Volunteer Life Brigade House, home to the country’s first volunteer life brigade. One of the principal tools of the brigade was the rocket line and breeches buoy, which was used to great effect on the 20th October 1894 when the brigade rescued all 6 crew members from the stricken brigantine ‘Fame’. This is the end of your all-too-brief Tynemouth historical walk, so head back uphill to the Castle and the mouth-watering delights of Tynemouth’s numerous restaurants and cafes. Why not tarry awhile?
by Geoff Holland © 2012
Geoff Holland is the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side The Cheviot Hills’ , is a regular contributor to ‘TGO (The Great Outdoors)’, ‘Country Walking’ and ‘The Northumbrian’ magazines and is the operator of the highly acclaimed website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His books are available online from www.trailguides.co.uk or from all good bookshops and he can be heard reading a selection of his poems on www.listenupnorth.com. He has lived in Monkseaton for almost 40 years.