About our painting
The Tyne runs in NE England. It separates Newcastle from Gateshead and runs East of both towns into the North Sea, just after flowing between South Shields and Tynemouth. Because of the proximity of important coalfield the river was used for exporting coal, giving it an industrial nature with piers and docks, shipyards and factories.
Newcastle projected its power over the river, in fact against the other harbour towns and mercantile communities, every Ascension Day by holding a river parade, called Barge Day; it was a strong statement, impressive for its own inhabitants, but arrogant for the others.
With the creation in 1850 of the Tyne Commission things were to change for the better with a shared North Country effort. From 1857 the Tyne Commission’s river parade between Newcastle Quayside and Shields would be held every seven years on July 15th.
On the blue flag in the lower left corner of our painting one can clearly read “River Tyne Commission”. A label attached to the backside of the painting mentions it represents the first, 1857, barge day. It also identifies the location: Bullock Spouts in South Shields.
The seaside resort of South Shields is downstream from Newcastle. The place boomed during the Victorian age. Ships transporting the coal to London, so-called colliers, waited here to load their precious cargo. Shallow, oval-shaped keels would bring the coal to the colliers. One such keel, skulled by a single oar, can be seen at right above the raft; the coal aboard is clearly visible (on the last of our 8 photographs).