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Slums

Ron Wright describes the living conditions of North Shields Low Town

If you go along there now [The Fish Quay], and if you can image what you can see on the left-hand side would have been replicated on the right-hand side. You tend to go along from the Ferry Landing to the Fish Quay, and there is very little left on the right-hand side. There was as much housing on the right-hand side, which was the riverside and the eastside.

All the way up the banks were tenement housing. It was pretty rough. The police wouldn’t go into it in many areas. They would only go in if there was threes. [Three policemen] All away along there was stairs, and they were all named different stairs, the Greenman Stairs, Nater Stairs. Off there went lots of pubs; slaughter houses; people living cheek to jowl; really, really pretty rough in modern day times. And as I say, it was pretty lawless. Five toilets for the whole area, including all them houses, and a standpipe somewhere to get some water. A lot of lodging houses where thieves and vagabonds used to live; almost like Fagan 2 times. That was there up until probably about the time that Westall 1 started writing; there was a lot of it still there. When they pulled them slums down, because they were seriously slums, the majority of people actually moved up on to what was then known as the Ridges Estate, which is now called the Meadow Well and that has its history all of its own.

1 Robert Westall, who wrote children’s books based in North Tyneside. These include, The Machine-gunners, Blitz, Break of Day and Kingdom by the Sea.

2 Fagan is a character in Oliver Twist, written by Charles Dickens. He runs a band of thieves, consisting of young children.

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© Copyright Ron Wright 2007-8