Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Symbol of Tyneside's Industrial Past

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

A Symbol of Tyneside's Industrial Past

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Morton Nostalgia Editor david.morton.editorial@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE distinctive shape of the staiths at Dunton were a familiar feature of Tyneside's industrial landscape for decades.

Still standing, they symbolise a time when coal and the River Tyne were key factors in the region's position as a major economic powerhouse. From tomorrow until the end of October, St Mary's Heritage centre in Gateshead is hosting an exhibition by the renowned Finnish photographer, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, called Dunston Coal Staiths.

Sirka is best-known for her 1983 book, Byker, a portrait of the terraced Newcastle community which was relocated by the Byker Wall.

This new exhibition offers a unique chance to view images of Dunston Staiths taken by the photographer in the 1970s. The old pictures here are from the archive of Gateshead Libraries, while Sirka's images are largely unseen.

The photographer told the Chronicle: "A few of these photographs have been seen by the public but not since then - the majority have never been publicly displayed."

But what of the history of the staiths - one of the most important monuments to the region's industrial past - which until recently many feared could have been lost forever? The North Eastern Railway Company began the construction of Dunston Staithes in 1890, with the first opening in 1893 and the second a decade later.

The structure - on the River Tyne - was the product of a now-vanished way of life.

The 520m (1,709ft)-long structure, believed to be the largest of its kind in Northern Europe, played a crucial role in the transportation of millions of tons of North East coal from the Tyne.

There were also staiths at Wallsend, Jarrow, Tyne Dock, Derwenthaugh, and Blyth as coal powered the North's economic boom in the early 20th century. …

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