What comes to mind when you think of North Shields? Fishing and beautiful beaches? Then you’re right on track. This beautiful city of about 207,000 people is located on the north side of the Tyne, near the mouth of the river and just a little upstream from Tynemouth.
This is a place famous for its fish quay and its many homes from Georgian times. The city’s name “Shields” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, “Sheels” that meant shelter. This name comes from the three fishermen’s huts that once stood near the quay. But North Shields’ history dates even farther back to the Roman era.
North Shields is an older place and one that’s filled with plenty to do! If you have some time and would like suggestions on things to see in or near North Shields, then read on! We’ve come up with a list of places and things to see and do. These are only the highlights—there’s much more to see and do in this area!
1). Fort Arbeia
In Roman times, Fort Arbeia was built to guard sea route to Hadrian’s Wall. The fort included a garrison and acted as a supply base for other forts along the Wall. At the time, about 600 Roman troops lived in the fort. Today, the Arbeia has been reconstructed and now acts as a museum and gallery.
You can enjoy an immersive experience from the Roma era inside the reconstructed fort. Step inside and explore the full-scale reconstructed Roman buildings, which include the Commanding Officer’s house, the West Gate, and a soldier’s barrack. You’ll also be able to view some of the finest Roman artefacts from Roman Britain.
In addition to the museum and gallery, the fort is also home to a wide variety of events and displays. You can enjoy gladiator battles, falconry displays, Roman re-enactments, and much more!
2). South Shields Museum
South Shields Museum is situated in the heart of the city. It’s a museum where you can enjoy viewing the history of the era and the people who have lived there. Even the museum building has an interesting history.
The building was built in 1860 and was home for the South Shields Literary, Mechanical and Scientific Institutions. Then in 1873, the building became home for the city’s first free Public Library and Reading rooms. Then it became a museum in 1876.
The museum consists of two floors that share the area’s history from 4,000 years ago to the present. You’ll find a wide range of displays and exhibits reflecting the areas social, industrial and maritime history. You’ll also find the Creature Corner, which is home to reptiles and insects, the museum shop, and a small café, where you can get refreshments.
3). Stephenson Steam Railway
While North Shields is often connected with fishing, the town also has a connection with railways! You can take in this history at the Stephenson Steam Railway museum. The museum is named after the Victorian “Father of Railways,” George Stephenson. He and his son, Robert, helped to spread railways and locomotives around the world. In fact, George Stephenson created a rail gauge which was called the “Stephenson Gauge.” This was 4 ft 8.5” (1.43 m) and was used as the standard gauge by most railways across the globe.
You’ll find a range of locomotives in display, including George Stephenson’s “Bill,” which was the forerunner of the world-famous Rocket locomotive. The museum also features animated films, displays, and more. And on certain days, you can take a ride on a 1950s passenger train pulled by a team or heritage diesel locomotive.
In addition to “Billy,” the museum is home to:
- Steam and diesel locomotives used in Tyneside from as early as the 1880s
- Electrically powered parcels van from 1904
- An electric locomotive built in 1909
- Passenger coaches from the 1950s
4). Fort Segedunum
Back when Emperor Hadrian reigned in about 122AD, he ordered that a frontier system of forts be built across Britain. The purpose was to keep Britain and Rome safe from the “barbarians” of the North. The system involved creating Hadrian’s Wall, which also meant forts were built to defend the wall.
Fort Segedunum means “Strong Fort,” was built to guard the eastern end of the Wall. The fort was home to 600 Roman soldiers and stood for about 300 years.
Today, the site of the fort is a museum where you can see the surviving foundations of many buildings and even part of the Wall. The interactive museum includes a full-scale reconstruction of a bathhouse and a section of the Wall. There’s also a 35m tall viewing tower, where you can enjoy views across this beautiful World Heritage site.
Take some time to travel back in history and enjoy this lovely museum in North Shields!
5). The Laing
Here you’ll find a wonderful art gallery—the Laing Art Gallery, which was funded by Alexander Laing. He was a businessman from Newcastle who had made money in his wine & spirit shop, and in bottling beer. The gallery was founded in 1901.
As the patron, Laing didn’t leave any art works to the gallery. Instead he believed that the people of Newcastle would supply the gallery with pictures and more.
The gallery today is home for a collection of art that focuses on British oil painters, watercolours, ceramics, silver, and glassware.
In addition, the Laing also has changing exhibitions of historic, modern, and contemporary art. You’ll also find a small shop, café, a learning space, and a fun under fives’ area.
If you love art, then this is a great place to visit in North Shields!
As you can see, North Shields has a wide range of fascinating places to visit. Before going for a visit, it’s always a good idea to check ahead and make sure the venue is open. We’re sure you’ll have a great time no matter what you plan to visit!