Heritage Talk: Dolly, a North Shields Legend

A local historian with strong family ties to North Shields will share her research about how the wooden Dolly has become a local legend.

Susan Lynn, chair of the North Tyneside branch of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society, will give her talk on Saturday 10 September at 11am at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, North Shields. Admission is £4pp (members free) and seats can be booked online

Susan will tell the history of the Dolly, an important part of North Shields streetscape for over 200 years, starting in 1814 with the original Dolly, a ship’s figurehead from a collier brig, which was moved from the Tynemouth Front Street garden of North Shields shipbuilder and brewer, Alexander Bartleman, to the Custom House Quay, Low Street, North Shields.

Since then there have been replacements because the Dolly became a target for vandals and, also, seamen who cut chunks off her to take away to sea as good luck charms.

In 1958, a new replacement Dolly was moved away from the quayside to Northumberland Square, where she remains.

Susan said: “The Dolly is such an important part of North Shields history and it is wonderful that her Northumberland Square surroundings are now subject to major improvements.”

Susan’s talk is part of a programme of activities linked to the current exhibition at the Old Low Light, called ‘Folk who Shaped Shields’ about some of the great individuals whose different but significant contributions to the town and their legacies have far outlived their own lifetimes.

The exhibition is linked to the major improvements currently planned or taking place in North Shields. The North Shields Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) is focusing on restoring the historic charm to Howard Street, Northumberland Square and Northumberland Place through improvements to buildings, streets and spaces, alongside community and cultural activities. This is part of the wider North Tyneside Council masterplan for North Shields and the fish quay which aims to transform the town centre and riverside into an environment where people choose to live, work and spend their leisure time and so supporting businesses, retail and leisure users.

Susan who is also a Newcastle City Guide and gives a range of talks about the region’s heritage. She now lives in the Gateshead area but her parents came from North Shields where her grandfather had a wharf.

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