North Shields Fish Quay is located approximately 1km from the mouth of the River Tyne on its northern bank.Its origins date back to 1225 when a small settlement grew up around the mouth of the river at Tynemouth monastery. This settlement housed the fishermen who supplied the monks and lived in the 'shiel' huts from which the towns of North and South Shields derive their names.

Today it is the main fishing quay on the River Tyne and the biggest prawn port in England.

North Shields Fish Quay is not one but a series of quays surrounding a central harbour known as the Gut. The neighbourhood is mainly commercial, dominated by the fish catching, processing and merchanting industry, with other traditional small and medium-sized industrial and commercial operations.

There is some residential use, particularly at the tops of the banks overlooking the river, and in new waterside apartments on Dolphin Quay. Local tourism is also prevalent, encouraged by fish-related retail outlets and hot food businesses. The area is currently regarded as being in general decline with several major building groups and plots vacant and derelict.

Within the conservation area stands Clifford's Fort, a scheduled ancient monument, built at the end of the 18th century to provide a defence for the mouth of the River Tyne. It did not see any military action and by the late 19th century was no longer required for military purposes.

It began to suffer a protracted period of neglect and several buildings linked to the food processing industry were erected within its curtilage, in unsympathetic materials, and detract from its scheduled status.

The topography is dramatic with a busy, atmospheric, yet dour character, dominated by the river and its use.Views of the river are long and stimulating with Tynemouth, South Shields and North Shields riverside industrial areas creating a wide and feature-rich horizon. Green areas up the banksides form a backdrop and create habitats for wildlife, with the foreshore and rivermouth to the east an international focus for seabirds.

The streetscape and historic buildings of the area are some of its greatest assets and should form a central part of any development proposals to both conserve and enhance the character and appearance of the area and provide a quality built framework.

The predominant materials that exist in the area are red bricks with welsh slate roofs, which in some cases have replaced the red pantile roofs that still survive in small pockets.

The journey along Clive, Bell and Liddell Streets, Union Quay and Tanners Bank opens up continually changing and framed views which is an intriguing element of the conservation area.

Some buildings are vacant and the area has suffered from under investment in the buildings which has led to erosion of their quality in terms of historic features such as windows, doors and roofs, and of the appearance of the area in general.

Fishing and its associated industries are synonymous with the area and has been a constant presence for over 700 years. The industry has shaped the physical form of the river's edge and the pattern of development.

There are no buildings of medieval origin standing and much of the built fabric is relatively recent. However much of what is standing is characterized by the needs of fishing such as distinctive warehouses and smokehouses.

Fish Quay is at a crossroads in its future - a future which may need to diversify a little to cope with the downturn in the once vibrant fishing industry which has led to some dereliction and opportunities for change.

The retention of business uses is considered vital in the harbour and Union Quay areas to retain that gritty feel to the area. Furthermore, the massing, height and design of any new buildings need to be expressive in order to relate to their contextual setting.

Approached from the west from either Borough Bank or New Quay, a canyon effect marks the journey through from Clive Street to Western Quay. The area is framed by the steep banks of vegetation or landscaped area intersected with flights of steps up Lower Bedford Street.

The steps from Clive Street lead to a platform on Yeoman Street which opens up dramatic panoramic views of the river mouth, across to South Shields, and downstream towards Royal Quays and beyond. This is tempered by the rather invasive massing of the multi storey (seven at its highest) Dolphin Quays complex, which cuts across the vista enjoyed from Yeoman Street.

The existing buildings on Clive Street mainly originate from the 1940's and 1950's and are of low architectural quality and condition. Structural changes in the economy have meant that in locational terms, the units are no longer in demand for employment purposes. Originally this was the east end of the Low Row, which stretched from Union Quay to the Smiths Dock, half a mile up the river, and at one time home to (a legendary) one hundred pubs and inns.

This was the old North Shields where all the trades were carried out side by side with cramped residences.

Heritage - Fish Quay History

Although buildings now only line one side of the street, some of this feeling remains with a variety of uses including fishmongers, a general dealers, cafés and fish and chip shops on the ground floor with flats, studios, stores and offices above. These activities are a key element in this part of the area's appeal and are exemplified by Wm. Wright Ltd's shop, which is something of a minor local institution.

The building itself has some interesting architectural features but has suffered from less sensitive modern development such as windows and canopies. This coupled with the clutter of stalls and signs on the pavement would usually be seen as a threat to picturesque conservation areas but here it is an attribute, with its colour, bustle and animation playing an important role in the character of Union Quay.

Aside from its use, its strength in design terms is in its contribution to the wider townscape. The buildings are narrow, built into the slope at the rear and have roofs parallel to the street which are punctuated at intervals by gables and some with surviving timber hoists.

Plentiful well-proportioned windows animate the facades although some of the depth and articulation of the fenestration has been lost through insensitive replacements. However, when closed, the widespread use of roller shutters on ground floor frontages has a deadening effect on the area in contrast to its feel when the premises are open.

Fish Quay Videos Videos of the North Shields Fish Quay


Find out what Fish Quay life was and is like in our video vault section. 

Fish Quay Commercial Property to Rent

The Smokehouses

Modern office and studio accommodation situated on the historic North Shields Fish Quay.

The Smokehouses