New book looks at village life in Marsden and Cleadon

BEACH FUN: Marsden in the 1950s.
BEACH FUN: Marsden in the 1950s.
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A SNAPSHOT of village life over the decades is the focus of a new book.

The lost community of Marsden, as well as nearby Cleadon, are both featured in South Shields Through The Ages by historian and librarian Caroline Barnsley.

BEACH FUN: Carter's Tents at Velvet Beds on Marsden beach - which offered deckchairs and tents for hire.

BEACH FUN: Carter's Tents at Velvet Beds on Marsden beach - which offered deckchairs and tents for hire.

“The area has a rich, and fascinating, history and my book uses vintage and modern photographs to chart buildings, monuments, pubs, shops and street scenes,” she said.

Cleadon Park Mansion - a former farmhouse which was converted into a mansion by John Dobson in 1845 - is among the many long-gone buildings to be featured.

Snaps of the picturesque lodge cottage, as well the mansion’s magnificent glass palm houses, are shown too - alongside a shot of the modern estate which now stands there.

“Cleadon Park Mansion became a sanatorium in 1922, treating people with TB. Only the driveway survives, leading up to the estate known as Parkshiel,” said Caroline.

ON TRACK: The Marsden Rattler.

ON TRACK: The Marsden Rattler.

Several old images of the Victorian-built mining community of Marsden - which once flourished on the windswept cliff tops near Whitburn - are also featured in the book.

A beach scene dating to the 1950s shows Marsden beach packed to bursting point, while Velvet Beds - a deckchair hire firm - is doing a roaring trade in another photo.

“The tidal island off the north end of Marsden Bay was known as the Velvet Beds - so called because fine, springy grass used to flourish there,” said Caroline.

“Carter’s tent and deckchair hire used the name, and offered not only tents and chairs, but also provided tea trays for the beach, confectionary, cigarettes and ices.”

LANDMARK: Souter Lighthouse.

LANDMARK: Souter Lighthouse.

Other photos in the book include Marsden Rock, the old Marsden Inn on Lizard Lane and the Marsden Rattler train hurtling past Marsden Cottage Station.

“The train earned its name as the “Rattler” as it used to rattle along the rails at high speed - passing over the rickety old bridge over Redwell Bank,” said Caroline.

But, while Marsden’s lime kilns and Cleadon’s White Horse also get brief mentions, it is a “marvel of its age” which earns two whole pages - Souter Lighthouse.

Designed by Sir James Douglas for Trinity House, in London, it opened in 1871 and was the first lighthouse in the world designed and built to be powered by electricity.

LONG GONE: The old  Marsden Inn.

LONG GONE: The old Marsden Inn.

“It stands prominently on the coastline between the River Tyne and the River Wear, is Grade II-listed and remains an iconic beacon and special place,” said Caroline.

“North East heroine Grace Darling’s nephew, Robert, was a lighthouse keeper at Souter from 1873-1897 - living there with his wife Isabella and their four children.

“At 75ft high, the tower has square window openings to allow a light to be seen from the entrance to the River Wear. The views are amazing and well worth the ascent.”

l South Shields Through The Ages, by Caroline Barnsley, is published by Amberley Books and is available at a price of £14.99.