By Neville and Margaret Davies
This easy-walking trail, about 2 miles long, passes through the centre of Tynemouth village and visits the mouth of the River Tyne. Along the way we will mention various points of historical interest but please note that this is not intended to be a definitive history of Tynemouth. If you want detailed historical information there is plenty available from the Local History section of the excellent North Shields library as well as from all the digital sources available these days. Neither is it intended to be a guide to modern Tynemouth. There will be no descriptions of the coffee shops, bars, restaurants, artisan shops or beaches which make the village so popular with residents and visitors alike.
Holy Saviour's Church
Our trail starts and ends at Holy Saviours Church - or The Church of the Holy Saviour Tynemouth Priory to give it its formal title. This is on the northern edge of the village centre. The church was built about 1840 as a chapel to assist Christ Church North Shields in providing for the growing population of the area. For the next 20 years the church remained under the auspices of Christ Church until a vicar was appointed and Holy Saviours became in effect what it is today – Tynemouth Parish Church. It is constructed of stone in the traditional cruciform configuration. The square tower on the west end of the church was originally topped by a spire but this was removed after the 2nd World War because of war damage.
The church is older than the houses which surround it, suggesting that the church was built on what we would now call a green-field site.
So it is surprising that there is no graveyard at the church, perhaps a reflection of its original function as an annex to Christ Church.
Before setting off on our trail the inside of the church is well worth a visit. Our route takes us along Manor Road towards Tynemouth village. As soon as you cross the Metro bridge you will see the Church Hall and the Scouts and Guides Hall on your left. On the right you will pass a row of 1930s semi-detached houses, built on the land previously occupied by Tynemouth Manor – hence the name Manor Road. This was a fine residence with extensive grounds but it was not in the league of great English Houses. Downton Abbey it was not.
In a few hundred yards you will reach the Village Green, the grassy tree lined area in front of Kings Priory School. It has 3 significant structures - the memorial to those killed in the Boer Wars at the turn of the 19th/20thcenturies, the WW1/WW2 memorial and the statue of Queen Victoria
in familiar pose. One can’t help wondering what she makes of the behaviour and dress codes she observes when the pubs in Front Street close on a weekend evening.
Queen Victoria’s Statue
The Boer War Memorial WW1/WW2 Memorial
To your left Percy Park Road passes between Brannen & Partners Estate Agents on one corner and Gareth James Chocolatiers on the other. The buildings which existed between these establishments were demolished in the late 19th century to provide direct access from the village to Tynemouth Long Sands beach. Entering Front Street and keeping to the right hand side, you pass the former Tynemouth Congregational Church now the Land of Green Ginger. This eclectic shopping arcade contains artisan shops and services, including the modern fashion for micropubs. Two restaurants occupy the attached church hall. Very soon you find an archway, or arcade, leading through to Bath Terrace.
The right hand side of the arcade, now the Head of Steam, was once the Bath Hotel and, later, The Royal Sovereign pub, named after Collingwood’s ship at the fateful Battle of Trafalgar where Nelson was killed.
On the left were Bath Assembly Rooms in the basement of which were racquets courts where Tynemouth Squash Club, now located at Billy Mill, originated. The arcade is mostly open to the sky but at one time was covered over. Cast your eyes up. You can see remnants of the supporting structure.
The former Police Station Doorhead
The Salutation Inn, formerly a coaching inn dating back to about 1790 is next and then the Catholic Church.In front of the last house of the street is the doorhead of the former Tynemouth Police Station rescued when the Oxford Street building was demolished in 1950s.It displays the Coat of Arms from the days when Tynemouth was a County Borough. Note the 3 crowns in the centre. These represent 3 kings, two of Northumbria and one of Scotland, buried at the Priory. The name of Kings Priory School which you passed earlier is also a reference to these kings.
The clock Tower
Ahead is the distinctive clock tower and drinking fountain built in 1861. Tynemouth Castle and Priory occupy the headland at the end of Front Street. The Priory was founded in the 7th century and its ruins lie within the castle walls which were added later. An English Heritage site, it is well worth a visit. It now forms a spectacular location for an annual music festival.
Turning southwards down Pier Road towards the river, you see a small beach which accommodates both Tynemouth Sailing Club and Tynemouth Rowing Club. If you want a bracing diversion, you can walk to the end of the pier which is open to the public. Continuing towards the river you pass Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House.
Life Brigade Watch Tower
From this location the voluntary organisation provides land-based rescue services complementing the work of Tynemouth Lifeboat. As you reach the river you see a signpost marking the end or start of one of the coast-to-coast walking and cycling routes connecting the North Sea to the Irish Sea. After about a hundred yards along the riverside promenade take the path which forks to the right to visit Collingwood Monument in its commanding position overlooking the mouth of the Tyne.
Collingwood, born and educated in Newcastle, was second-in-command to Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar and took over command when Nelson was killed.
Four cannons from his ship Royal Sovereign are mounted beside the steps leading up to the statue. After pausing to admire the magnificent views as well as the monument, re-join the path from the riverside and follow it to Oxford Street car park.
Taking the narrow roadway out of the car park, directly away from the river, you soon reach, on the left, the original Tynemouth railway station. Look above the arched windows to see the 3 crowns again.
Original Tynemouth Station
At Tynemouth Road turn left and cross the road. Immediately after the children’s Nursery School take the path on the right which leads to the present-day Tynemouth station. This magnificent Victorian structure of wrought iron and glass was saved from near ruin by the incredible efforts and persistence of the voluntary group Friends of Tynemouth Station. The canopies are now fully restored and the station, as well as being a Metro station, is a vibrant community hub housing several businesses including a restaurant and a bar. Every Saturday and Sunday it accommodates a very popular and busy market which fills both platforms. Cross the footbridge and leave by the exit on that side of the station. If you wish to shorten the walk you can turn right and in a few hundred yards you will be back to our starting point at Holy Saviours Church.
Present Tynemouth Station
Our trail takes us to the left where, at the end of the cobbled road, you go through a gate onto a path which follows the route of an old railway. This takes us through the Butterfly and Wildflower Meadow and, after passing under a bridge, you soon find yourself on a high-level path with Northumberland Park down below you to the left.
This park was created in 1885 on land donated by the then Duke of Northumberland and a few years ago was restored to its Victorian splendour.
If you continue on your present path you will soon reach King Edwards Road where a turn to the right will take you back to Holy Saviours church in about a quarter of a mile. However the park is worth a visit and can be reached easily by taking one of several paths leading downwards into it. Among other things the park includes a small lake, a children’s play area, a Victorian band stand, a café and information centre, a sculpture trail, flower beds and trees, a herb garden, a Bowls Club and, in the north west corner, a quirky pet cemetery complete with engraved headstones. The park also includes the partially excavated remains of a medieval hospital. After exploring the park you exit onto King Edwards Road to return to the starting point.