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Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
June 15, 2003
Tynemouth station, first built in 1882 and Grade II-listed since the late 1970s, is the gateway to the faded grandeur of the surrounding village. Every 10 minutes, red and yellow metro trains stop below the elegant wrought iron and glass roof, held up by ornately carved beams winding up to red brick chimneys and cloudy skies. Double footbridges arch between wide platforms that house bric-a-brac and arts and crafts markets every weekend.
Outside the station, across the small car park and opposite a cluster of neat suburban gardens, King's School follows the bend of the Georgian classical Huntingdon Place round to Front Street. Look out for the blue plaque on the right hand side of the street commemorating the Italian patriot Garibaldi's visit here in 1854 to outline his plans for unification to local politicians. Lined with specialist shops, red telephone boxes, restaurants, and pubs, Front Street subtly meanders its way from the seated statue of Queen Victoria up to the 1861 clock tower in front of Tynemouth Priory and Castle, the skeletal ruins of which dominate the headland overlooking the mouth of the Tyne. Pier Road branches off to the south, running along the row of pretty coastguard cottages to the watch house and attached museum. A diagonal path cuts down the hill to the towering Collingwood Monument, eventually winding its way to the banks of the river, where a path continues along to the North Shields Fish Quay and the Tyne ferry.
North of the clock tower, East Street starts at the Rock of Gibraltar pub, split by an eye-shaped stretch of grass into Sea Banks and the stately three-storey sweep of Percy Gardens as it passes King Edward's Bay before the windswept Victorian splendour of Grand Parade takes over, all steep stone steps, high bay windows, and blustery sea views as it reaches out towards Cullercoats and the majestic spire of the Parish Church of St. George, commissioned by the Duke of Northumberland and designed by John Loughborough Pearson in 1884. The wonderful Grand Hotel, built in 1870 as the summer residence of the Duchess of Northumberland, is situated above the beach next to Tynemouth Park.
From journal The Sea, The Sea
The leaning grey and black headstones of the adjacent graveyard have been chipped and cracked until most resemble scorched bubbles of melted, colourless cheese. Some seem to be slowly falling, others are barely legible and reveal only snatched fragments of existence such as 'formerly of Berwick', 'Served his King and Country faithfully for 26 years', 'foundered at sea', 'universally respected' and 'accidentally shot whilst in the execution of his duty.' Foremost among them all is Corporal Alexander Rollo who 'held the lantern at the burial of Sir John Moore at Corona.'
Around and across the graveyard weatherbeaten walls reveal the location of the old latrine and the Prior’s Chapel, littered with broken sculptures and stone tablets. The remains of the New Hall amount to 4 ft of stone, while the outer parlour is but a ragged line of rocks in the grass. The Prior’s Hall drops sharply into the ground, the old walls clearly perceptible but the steps and ceiling victims of dissolution and decay.
The castle walls run either side of the gatehouse back by the Gift Shop. First started by the Normans in 1095, the walls protected a site sacked by the Danes in 800 and holding the remains of Oswin, King of Deria (651), Osred of Northumbria (792) and Malcolm III of Scotland (1093). From the top of the steep banks the statue of Collingwood is clearly visible in front of the river and the hazy view over to South Shields Town Hall and the vast shipyard cranes along the Tyne. Middle-aged men walk dogs in the hilly moat below the ramparts and black shapes walk two-by-two up to the distant lighthouse at the top of North Pier. As seagulls glide over the upturned boats down at Prior's Haven, the frequent clack, clack sounds of croquet bat on ball can be heard from the white-shirted players to the left of the presbytery. Beyond the allotments and church steeples a teacher barks out instructions as the boys of King's School run up and down the Rugby pitch.