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The second half of the 18th century saw the expansion of the ship building trade, which led to the development of land above the bank. In 1763, the first houses were built in Dockwray Square, for the shipowners. More shipyards continued to open and gave employment to carpenters and shipwrights, and by the 19th century, Shields was a thriving community, with its own fish market. In 1832 Union Quay was built linking the Low Light with Low street, North Shields' first commercial street. 1846, saw the end of the long struggle with Newcastle with the creation of the Port of Tyne, and then in 1848, the Tyne Improvement Commission.

By the 1800s, North Shields was sending a whaling fleet of five ships to Greenland and the Davis Straits. Each vessel was equipped and provisioned for a three-year voyage. When the whalers were going to sea the whole town would turn out to cheer the sailors and listen to the shanty-man singing to the crew. The harbour at Shields was filled with vessels of many nationalities and the cosmopolitan voices of sailors speaking in Dutch, French, German, and Spanish etc., could be heard throughout the town.

In 1870, the first wooden wharf was built along side Union Quay to provide facilities for fishing vessels. In 1877, tug-0wner, William Purdy was credited with introducing steam trawling to the Tyne. During the herring season, steam trawlers and liners were converted into drifters. Each boat could carry between forty and seventy nets. The nets were about fifty yards long and made of cotton. As many as two hundred fishing boats have been known to land their catch in one day. In 1846, John Woodger claimed to have invented kippers.

North Shields with its coal staithes and Low Light.


The herring fleet