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On a wet day in July Sophie and I went to the outdoor market held once a month on Dunston Staiths.


The History Bit 

The Staiths are believed to be the largest timber structure in Europe, maybe the world, but who knows?  It is also a Grade II listed scheduled monument and is owned by registered charity Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (TWBPT).  The structure is made of North American pitch pine timber, no longer available, from the once unlimited forest. Most of the timber used was 20 metres long, 14 inches deep and 14 inches wide. The total weight of timber is 3,200 tons. The Staithes are 526 metres long with 4 railway tracks, 6 loading berths (3 on each side), with two chutes to each berth.

The North East Railway Company opened the Staiths in 1893, and it’s purpose was to facilitate the loading of large quantities of coal from the Durham coal fields onto the waiting coal ships, (known as colliers) which then transported the coal to London and abroad.  At it’s peak, the coal industry  moved 5.5 million tons of coal each year from the staiths. Waggonways were used to transport the coal from the North Durham coal-fields, of which there were quite a few. The coal waggons were pushed by steam engines up the gradient, to the Staithes. It was a very skilled job to shunt the wagons onto the Staithes, as the driver worked “blind” from behind, and had to make sure they were on the right track. The men had their own signals, maybe a touch of a cap, or some other gesture, but there was nothing written down, so the driver had to depend on them. If he didn’t gauge the end of the track just right, the trucks could fall over the edge.

Once on the Staithes, and at the berths, the “teamers” and “trimmers” were waiting in the colliers to level the coal, as it came down the chutes, to keep the ship level. The empty wagons rolled back to the Railway siding by gravity. It was not a pleasant place to work, as it was noisy, oily and very, very, dirty. There were occasionally some very serious accidents, because of the poor lighting. They worked by candlelight until electricity arrived in 1930. Some of the men lost their limbs, some were crushed between the ship and the Staithes, however,  it was still considered a privilege to work there. Trimmer’s and teamer’s jobs were nearly always handed down from father to son, or some-one in the family. They were the “elite” of the Staithes, very well paid, as in 1930 they earned around £8 to £10 per week, I don’t think anyone knew how much they really earned, (not even the Tax Man).

Interesting factoid:- In 1912, a dug-out canoe was found at the West Dunston Staiths, it dated back to Neolithic times, (New Stone Age circa 5000 BC). Not sure where that ended up.

The coal industry declined at the end of the 19th century, and so too did the staiths, no longer needed, it fell into disrepair. In 1990 though, the Newcastle Garden Festival was held and extensive restoration work carried out, with the Staiths taking a leading role as a key installation with performance space and an art gallery.  But then a fire broke out in 2003 damaging the Staiths extensively, and it was put on English Heritages ‘at risk’ list. It has been subject to a few arson attacks too sadly.  Somehow the TWBPT raised the funds to recommence the restoration, which is still ongoing, and the Staiths is once more a visitor attracton, with a Saturday Market open once a month on a Saturday, which is when we visited.

So on with the show!

Firstly, on the menu..

who doesn’t love a Carpathian sausage?? 🙂

Not the biggest market really

Wine tasting always welcome!

Father and son disunion

The structure is quite amazing

We went topside to see what the view was like. Looking back towards Newcastle the fire damage was evident and that part was cordoned off.

Fire in the hole

Looking the other way, a sea fret was rolling up the river

It passed over, we got wet and then we got a better view.

It was a good spot for people watching


Mrs Smile + 1

and it was a perfect day for umbrellas

Leopard print and bubble style

Spotty dotty

3 + hoody

We didn’t stay very long as the weather just kept getting worse, but did go and visit St James Cemetary nearby in the afternoon, which has some interesting gravestones. So stay tooned for that 🙂

all pictures by moi and you can embiggen them with a click.

Some more fascinating images of it  HERE   🙂


38 comments on “Dunston Staiths – July 2019

  1. Wonderful as usual, I think the black & white captures it perfectly!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow what a cool structure!pity about the fires…they do that here too…set fire to nice stuff for no reason. Your photos are superb, always love your portraits. The umbrella patterns clashing with coat patterns…excellent!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. beetleypete says:

    £8-£10 a week was a LOT of money in 1930. I got £10 a week in my first job, in 1969. 🙂
    I now want a Carpathian sausage for breakfast, but the hot dog+fries seems a bit steep at £7.50.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The squeaky cheese kebab looked good too! Cheers Pete 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sue says:

    Oh, what an interesting place, Fraggle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes and so photogenic, cheers Sue.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue says:

        Yes, I would love to see it….but 7hour train journey….I don’t think so!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha OK you’d need a week up here to warrant that!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I like the detail in these images, and I think the black & white capture mood of the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. -N- says:

    What a wonderful bit of history. Hard to believe that lumber came in 20m lengths in some ways, but in others, not at all. We have some spruce beams in our house, about 20 feet or so, and they are big enough. Can you imagine building with such things? Anyway, one of your best sets of B&W yet. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheers Naomi, it was a very grey day, seemed appropriate.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. richlakin says:

    Great images. Love the shot of father and son. I recognise these boards from a scene in Get Carter where Michael Caine chases down Eric……I think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah no they used Blyth Staiths in that movie, sadly chopped down now. They looked very similar though. Thanks for visiting!


      1. richlakin says:

        Ah ok. Yes they look v similar. Your photography is great……thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. April Munday says:

    The black and white definitely sets the mood.

    ‘Fret’ isn’t a word I was aware of until a couple of weeks, when it was the answer in a crossword. At least I know what it means now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We get a lot of sea frets here, the North Sea is harsh!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Denzil says:

    Your captions are as entertaining as your photos Frag!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Why thank you Denzil! 😊


  11. I love all of your posts through & through! From the photography, history & your captions! #lovelovelove You rock, Waffles!❤😍📷🎆💐

    Liked by 1 person

  12. steviegill says:

    Nice history bit and love the monochrome tones of these shots. Arson attacks, wow! Well, the same thing did happen to the derelict West Pier in Brighton (some interesting conspiracy theories behind that!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember that, somewhere I’ve got old film shots of it, i’ll have to dig them out and put them on my film blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Fraggle's Other Place and commented:

    Found out today that yesterday mrning, Dunston Staiths was vandalised yet again and set on fire. There were ongoing repairs being made to it from the last fire in 2019, with lots of money being raised towards it. It is sad that this piece of local history is yet again vandalised, it is one of a kind, and an important reminder of the industrial heritage of the North East. But I am not sure if it is worth it to keep spending out on repairs if they can’t safeguard it, this isn’t the first, second or even the third arson attack, it feels like they are just chucking money up the chimney.


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