Tyne and Wear HER(2350): South Shields, Ballast Hill - Details
South Shields, Ballast Hill
Ballast Hill, the extent of which is unclear from the 1st edition OS mapping. Many ships coming to the Tyne to load coal entered the river 'light' or 'in ballast'. This means that no cargo was being carried. In the absence of cargo, the ballast gives the vessel stability. Ships returning from London coal voyages often carried shingle or chalk as ballast. Sand and other materials were also used. Over the centuries, great hills of ballast grew along both banks of the Tyne. There were substantial ballast hills near Bill Point Walker, Willington Quay, Hebburn, Jarrow and North and South Shields. Ships were charged fees to unload their ballast. By the early 1820s this was about 20p per ton. To avoid the fee some masters resorted to the dangerous act of discharging ballast before entering harbour. One estimate suggests that some 20% of all imported ballast ended up in the river, risking the Tyne silting up.
<< HER 2350 >> 1st edition Ordnance Survey Map, c.1855, 6 inch scale, Durham, 4; Dick Keys and Ken Smith, 2005, Tall Ships on the Tyne, p 6