South Pier, South Shields


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
South Pier, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE33 2JX


Ordnance survey map of South Pier, South Shields
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Statutory Address:
South Pier, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE33 2JX

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Tyneside (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Pier and lighthouse, 1854-1895. James Walker and later John F Ure for the Tyne Improvement Commissioners. Resident engineer: PJ Messent, Contractor: Benjamin Lawton.

Reasons for Designation

South Pier, constructed between 1854 and 1895, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Design interest: at 5,218 feet (1,590m) in length, it represents an impressive feat of engineering which also has aesthetic and architectural qualities; * Engineers: the original design was by the distinguished engineer James Walker, then modified and completed by JF Ure and PJ Messant who have two other listed infrastructure buildings on the River Tyne; * Intactness: most harbour structures of this date have undergone alterations but this is a largely complete mid to later C19 example; * Group value: it forms part of an important group of listed maritime structures at the mouth of the River Tyne, most notably with North Pier, which together formed a Harbour of Refuge.


By the mid C19 the rapid growth in trade and industry led to a growing need for improvements to the poorly maintained River Tyne. On 15 July 1850 the Tyne Improvement Act received Royal Assent and stewardship of the river passed to the newly created Tyne Improvement Commission. In 1854 the commissioners began a programme of development and improvement to the navigation of the river that continued into the C20; this included dredging and deepening the channel and constructing new infrastructure including docks, coal and shipping staithes and a pair of piers (North and South Piers) to protect the mouth of the River at Tynemouth and South Shields. The Tyne subsequently became one of the principal ports of the United Kingdom and enabled the development of the great shipbuilding and ship repairing industries for which the river is world famous. On 31 July 1968 the Tyne Improvement Commission was dissolved, and replaced with the Port of Tyne Authority.

The foundation stone for the South Pier was laid on 15 June 1854. Stone for its construction was transported by rail from nearby Trow Quarry, Marsden. The second edition 1:10,560 Ordnance Survey map of 1898 depicts the pier along with the associated railway. The plans and specifications for the pier were drawn up by James Walker (1781-1862) who was also charged with executing the work, although John F Ure took over from Walker at the death of the latter in 1862. As Walker's entry in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography makes clear, he was one of the most distinguished engineers of the C19 who is best known for harbours, docks and lighthouses having been appointed consulting engineer to Trinity House. A number of his buildings and structures have been listed. The pier was constructed by Benjamin Lawton, and PJ Messent was appointed resident engineer. This was a lengthy and difficult project beset by natural difficulties; for example a storm in 1862 damaged the new N face of the pier, which had to be re-built with deeper foundations and wave breaks of heavy concrete blocks. The Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House (Grade II) located at the S end of the pier was added in 1867.The pier was equipped with various cranes including a Mammoth erected in 1885 but washed away in 1893 and a Titan installed in 1899 and dismantled in 1987. The south pier lighthouse was added in 1895, which completed the project at a cost of £568,000.


Pier and lighthouse, 1854-1895. James Walker and later John F Ure for the Tyne Improvement Commissioners. Resident engineer: PJ Messent, Contractor: Benjamin Lawton.

MATERIALS: local rock-faced sandstone and concrete blocks

PLAN: the pier is oriented SW to NE and is 1,570m long with a distinctive curve to the NE end, where there is a lighthouse.

DESCRIPTION: a stone pier, the S one of a pair protecting the mouth of the River Tyne. Constructed of large rock-faced blocks laid in regular courses with battered faces. The outer pier wall facing the sea to the S has a low shelter wall of stone and concrete blocks with double-chamfered coping stones and the partial remains of a cast-iron linear mounting for a travelling crane. The inner pier wall facing the river to the N has a replacement metal railing and several flights of stone steps including opposing stairs at the NE end; a stub of a structure extending out into the river is considered to be the remains of a landing stage depicted on the second edition Ordnance Survey map of 1898. This side also has ashlar coping to its NE end and there are wave breaks in the form of large concrete blocks at its foot. For much of its length the surface is of concrete but towards the NE end it comprises stone sets, and retains the partial remains of a narrow railway track. The S lighthouse is constructed of concrete blocks with a recessed entrance to the N and window above. The stone gallery has metal railings and supports a bronze fog bell and a cast-iron and glazed lantern.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that all modern street furniture including benches, litter bins, life buoys, and signs are not of special interest and are not included in the listing.


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983), 422
A Short History of The Port of Tyne, accessed 11 July 2016 from
ODNB: James Walker (1781-1862) by Denis Smith, accessed 11 July 2016 from
The River Tyne: its History and Resources by James Guthrie, 1880 , accessed 11 July 2016 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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