For hundreds of years, the mouth of the river Tyne was a treacherous path for ships and sailors, and in 1854, the first stones of the Tyne Piers were laid. Designed to keep sailors safe as they entered the mouth of the river, the piers weren’t completed until 1909.
Before they could be finished, however, there was still more tragedy to come.
In 1864 the schooner “Friendship”, seeking shelter, was driven ashore on the Black Middens Rocks at Tynemouth. Through the night, multiple attempts were made to rescue her crew, in dangerous conditions. With hundreds of spectators watching from the shore but powerless to help, 32 people lost their lives.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade was founded, and just a year later, the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade followed. The two organisations have kept watch over the Tyne ever since, poised and ready to rescue those in need.
On 2nd April 1866, the schooner “Tenterden” of Sunderland was shipwrecked against the unfinished South Pier. The newly formed South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade came to the aid of the sailors aboard, rescuing seven people, including a woman and child – the first of many lives saved.
Inspired by the SSVLB and artefacts from the Parliamentary Archives, the children of the Tyne & The Tide Project South ask big questions in their performance: in the spirit of those who founded the SSVLB over 150 years ago, how would you improve the lives of those who find themselves in South Shields today? What would you build, and what would you save?