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North Shields, Northumberland Square Conservation Area
Designated in 1975. The Conservation Area is part of North Shields, immediately east of the modern town centre. It is a mixed commercial and residential quarter, including around 55 businesses and 170 dwellings. The CA boundary is based on the best surviving elements of the Georgian 'new town'. John Rook's map of 1789 is instructive in that it is drawn half-way through the new town's development. The Earl of Carlisle owned much of the land. He sold his plots to John Wright in 1796, who planned an ambitious townscape that included a grand processional way (which would be named Howard Street, after the Earl's family name) terminating in an elegant Georgian square (Northumberland Square). The rest of the development around the square was governed by other land owners and became a grid of fairly small units. The new town was developed with rows of two storey brick terraced housing with stone doorways of Tuscan pilasters. Northumberland Place was grander, built in polished ashlar with quoins. Public buildings and banks were added into the residential area. North Shields 'new town' is similar in age to Newcastle's Grainger Town, and although its buildings pre-date Grainger Town by over 50 years, the overall development is not as grand, dramatic or imaginative. North Shields quickly grew larger and more important than Tynemouth. North Shields became the economic centre and from 1849 the council of the new Borough of Tynemouth met at John Dobson's town hall (HER 4854) of 1844 on the corner of Howard Street. By 1865 the new town was almost finished. There were several important buildings by prominent local architects on Howard Street and Northumberland Square was complete. The west and south sides remained unfinished until the late twentieth century due to the insertion of the railway tunnel (HER 1186) in the early 1840s. A new public library has been inserted into the south-west corner of Northumberland Square in the 1960s, damaging the formal integrity. Otherwise, the streets and much of their original fabric have remained generally intact. Northumberland Square is one of only a very small number of Georgian squares on Tyneside (cf. Dockwray Square, North Shields, Eldon Square and Charlotte Square, Newcastle and Sunniside Gardens, Sunderland) and is now the most intact. It is the closest thing on Tyneside to the iconic Georgian squares of Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Bath. Landmark buildings in the central part of the CA include the Subscription Library or Stagline Building, Salvation Army Chapel, Baptist Church on Howard Street, the Church of St. Columba, the town hall and mechanics institute on Saville Street. Nos. 1-15 Norfolk Street are modest two bay houses and Tyneside flats. Northumberland Square's central gardens (HER 11363) are pivotal to the late Georgian development pattern, designed as a private communal area of ornamental walks, and shown on Rook's 1827 plan. There is also a square outside the Stag Line Building designed in the late C20 as a pedestrian space paved with granite blocks, bounded by replica metal railings, with four flag poles, a salvaged anchor and a shipping bollard.
North Tyneside Council, Development Directorate, September 2006, Northumberland Square Conservation Area, Character Appraisal