Tyne and Wear HER(11874): St. Mary's Island Conservation Area - Details
St. Mary's Island Conservation Area
St. Mary's Island
Designated on 1st November 1974. The Conservation Area incorporates not only the island but the surrounding rocky landscape and the mainland area around it. Anecdotally it is believed that the Romans had a beacon on the island but there is no substantive evidence for this. In the medieval period the monks of Tynemouth Priory had a chapel to St. Helen on the island (HER 773) with a light and bell to warn ships. St. Mary's Island is sometimes known as The Bates, Bates Island, Bateshill, Hartley Bates or Baits Island. Thomas Bates was a previous owner and a surveyor of Northumberland under Elizabeth I. The promontory on the mainland adjoining the causeway is called Curry's Point (HER 7695). On September 4th 1739 Michael Curry, a glass worker from Seaton Sluice, was hanged for murdering Robert Shevill, the landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn at Hartley. Afterwards his body was suspended from a gibbet near St. Mary's Island within sight of his crime. In 1855 Georage Ewan built the cottages on the island, with the help of Lord Hastings of Delaval (HER 1796). The roofs were thatched with 'bents' (grass gathered from the headlands). In 1862 he converted the cottages into an inn called the Square and Compass. In 1894 an argument started when Joseph Patterson of Hartley East Farm let a field on the mainland to the army for use as a rifle range (HER 1054). Visitors to the island and inn were now in danger from bullets. Ewan was evicted by Lord Hastings in 1895. Work started on St. Mary's Lighthouse (HER 1037) in 1896 after several large ships were wrecked on the rocks, including the 'Gothenburg City'. The 126 feet lighthouse was finished in 1898 and painted in September 1900. The Keepers' Houses (HER 9428) were finished in February 1899. When the lighthouse was being built, human remains (HER 774) were found indicating that the medieval chapel had an associated burial ground. There was no man-made causeway to the island until 1929. The present concrete causeway was built in 1965/6. The concrete pillar (HER 1987) off the east coast of the island was built in 1914 as a rangefinder for coastal defence guns at Tynemouth Priory. On the western side of the island there is a pillbox (HER 1791). The bird hide beside the lighthouse was originally a degaussing station built in 1959. The station demagnetised ships to protect them from mines laid during the war. The small yet important nature reserve, established in 1997 to the south of the main carpark, comprises rockpools, a beach, freshwater ponds and clifftop grassland and provides habitats for a rich variety of marine life, seabirds and waders. The CA contains the Tynemouth to Seaton Sluice SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) which provides one of the best exposures of Coal Measures strata in Great Britain. It also contains the Northumberland Coast SSSI, designated for its role as an internationally important habitat for shoreline species, such as Little Tern, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper. St. Mary's Island and the surrounding shoreline are designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) which provides a variety of habitats for wildlife.
North Tyneside Council, Environment, Regeneration & Housing Directorate, 2005, St. Mary's Island Draft Conservation Area Character Statement; North Tyneside Council, 2010, St. Mary's Island Conservation Area Character Appraisal