You are Here: Home / North Shields, Old Low Light (medieval)
North Shields, Old Low Light (medieval)
The early history of the High and Low lights is connected with two ancient Newcastle establishments, the Trinity House (HER ref. 4876) and the Black Friars monastery. In 1536 the Guild of Holy trinity in Newcastle obtained a charter from the King and by the terms of this charter had licence to build and embattle two towers, one at the entrance to the haven of Tyne, and the other on the hill adjoining, in each of which a light was to be maintained every night, for the support of which they were empowered to receive fourpence for every foreign ship and two pence for every English ship arriving at the port of Tyne. The monastery of the Black Friars in Newcastle was surrendered to the King and dissolved on 10 June 1539. King Henry VIII granted the fabric of the church to the Trinity House, and the stones were converted into the lights at Shields. In 1540 the building of the lights at Shields was begun. The low light (HER ref. 4557) was built first on the left bank of the Pow Burn, at its mouth. The place was called the Narrows because the Tyne is only about 120 yards across here, and the lighthouse tower was to serve as a defence as well as a guide. The high light was built at the top of the bank on the other side of the burn. The keeper of the lights was paid 20s a year to keep a single tallow candle burning in each tower from quarter and half-quarter flood to half ebb. The lightage payment from ships was raised in 1600 to 4d from English and 1s from foreign vessels, and in 1613 to 6d and 1s 4d respectively. The lighthouse had been heightened and now burned two candles each. In 1658-9 the stone houses were pulled down and rebuilt in timber. The reason for this was that the shoals in the river altered frequently, and as the lights were used as sea-marks, it was desirable to have light structures which could be moved from place to place. On the building of Clifford's Fort in 1672 the low light was included within its circuit, which sometimes led to friction between the lighthouse keeper and the commander of the fort. In 1686 the two lighthouses had become ruinous and in order to rebuild them the Trinity House of Newcastle petitioned for an increase of lightage.
<< HER 4557 >> M. Hope Dodds, 1928, The North Shields Lighthouses D.C. Kear, 1986, Clifford's fort and the Defence of the Tyne, Archaeologia Aeliana. 1996, p 100; N. Pevsner and I. Richmond (second edition revised by J. Grundy, G. McCombie, P. Ryder, H. Welfare), 1992, The Buildings of England - Northumberland, page 531