Wallsend is a town in North Tyneside located just a few miles east of Newcastle. Wallsend gets its name because it lies at the eastern end of Hadrian’s wall. It is also the site of the remains of the Roman fort, Segedunum. Although the name Wallsend officially refers to the town or local authority Ward, people locally refer to the area of Wallsend more loosely, often to include the overlapping wards of Battle Hill, Howdon, or parts of Riverside and Willington Quay.
There are just over 10,000 people living in Wallsend ward and this is made up of a largely white population with 95% of local people identifying as white British and the second biggest group, although only making up for 2.5%, identifying themselves as white Other (usually white Europeans).
The area is perhaps best known for its famous shipyard and associated industries, including ropemaking etc. Notably the Swan Hunter shipyard employed between 10-12,000 people at its height and built many well-known ships, including the RMS Mauretania. From the 1980s onwards levels of employment in the shipyard and related industries dropped as shipbuilding began to cease and in 2007 construction facilities were closed. Swan Hunter still exists locally but is limited to a small workforce with a focus on design and engineering. Historically, Wallsend colliery was also a large provider of jobs. The pits closed in the 1930s but some of the local working men’s clubs still draw attention to this link in their names. The area has been heavily impacted by the loss of industry, related job losses and, since 2010, deep austerity measures, which include impacts on local authority funding.
In 2015, Wallsend was ranked within the top 20% of most deprived wards in England but by 2019 the local economy had worsened, and it is now ranked within the top 10% of most deprived wards. Much of the work that is now available locally is unskilled and low paid work found in the service sector and is often on short term and unstable contracts. The council’s regeneration ‘Masterplan’ published in 2010 set out ambitious plans for Wallsend, Willington Quay and the waterfront area. To date this regeneration has largely focused on the retail area in the town centre and has included a newly built library and renovations to The Forum shopping centre and indoor market, a new Aldi supermarket, a restoration project of the local park and the building of ‘affordable’ housing.
A sense of community is fostered by local people in Wallsend with vibrant local pubs, social and working men’s clubs providing important community spaces. The town is also home to several youth clubs, including Wallsend Boys Club, which has a football club that has produced many famous players such as Alan Shearer and Peter Beardsley. Wallsend was also the birthplace of Sting and his recent musical, ‘The Last Ship’ was set in the shipyards.
Local people have set up various important community-focused initiatives providing alternative social spaces, people’s kitchens and a broad range of activities. Places like the Wallsend Memorial Hall and People’s Centre offer lunch clubs, cultural, social and educational opportunities for local people and is run largely by volunteers. The newly renovated library and pop-up community spaces in the market and The Forum shopping centre also provide important social and learning spaces.
We have had the absolute pleasure of meeting some fabulous people in Wallsend to whom we are hugely grateful for the time and energy they have given to us.
Voices from Wallsend