Wallsend Ward Profile
Prepared by John Foster
Wallsend was classed a constituency until it was abolished in 1997. The area was been predominantly held by Labour until this time, the only Conservative members of Parliament were from 1931-1945. It is now a part of the North Tyneside constituency which has remained a labour stronghold. I haven’t Included as many voting statistics here as on the other reports as I thought the area to be too large to tell us much about what is going on in Wallsend or, indeed, Howdon.
Population- The estimated population for Wallsend was 12,773 in 2017, with a population density of 8.90 persons per hectare.
2018 Local election results
2017 general election results
Wallsend is part of the North Tyneside voting constituency which held onto its seat in these elections with a majority of 19284. See table below for an idea of the proportions (Red-Labour, Blue Conservative etc.)
Councillors for the area (Howden included)
Garry Madden- Labour
Matthew Thirlaway- Labour
North Tyneside voted to leave the European Union in the following numbers:
Interestingly, a local Conservative councillor seems to have claimed the result as a victory, claiming that people in North Tyneside ‘realised’ that the vote was a question of national sovereignty, or, being ruled by ‘unelected officials’ in Brussels (see this article-https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/local-news/north-tyneside-eu-referendum-results-11504365). This seems odd in what has remained a staunchly Labour constituency. The fact that Labour remains the only horse in town in terms of domestic elections while the Conservatives are able to claim the leave vote as a victory for national sovereignty. On first glance this would suggest that the vote blurs traditional voting lines. However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate a swing right in areas which traditionally vote left, it may well be that people who still vote Labour associate the European Union with foreign ownership and de-industrialisation etc.
MEPs for Wallsend are in the Northeast region and are available through THIS site (two labour and one independent)
The Wallsend economy seems to have revolved around the Swan Hunters shipyard and the Wallsend colliery (coalmine). The coalmine was operation from the mid-1700s and was abandoned in 1935. The Swan Hunters Shipyard was obviously a core employer in the area from around the late 1890s. The Swan Hunter company was expanding throughout the 1960s and 70s, purchasing and merging with other shipping companies in the area. It was nationalised in 1977 and then privatised in 1987 after which it went into receivership due to the loss of a large government contract to a company based in Glasgow but owned by another Norwegian firm. SWs was taken over by a Dutch millionaire who closed the shipyard in 2006 so that the company could focus on the design of ships. This, of course meant a huge downsizing of the company’s staff and, when company’s owner died in 2011, it is estimated that there were only 40 employees left. The machine equipment was sold to and Indian company during the 2006 closure.
The closure of the Coop supermarket and the degradation of the high street in recent years are also seen as major problems for the economy of Wallsend. In terms of economy, then, at first glance this is another case of a place which for many years has been fuelled by industry which has subsequently declined, leaving resident populations without sufficient means of making a living. It was certainly hoped in the case of Manchester that retail, service or public sector work would suffice to employ resident populations. However, especially with the decline in retail in Wallsend town centre, it looks like that hasn’t worked.
What stands out in Wallsend is the recent-ness of its deindustrialisation. In Manchester the factories were going through the 70s and 80s but in Wallsend the shipyard seems to have remained a core employer until quite recently. That coupled with the fact that 95% of people in Wallsend are white British suggests to me that the resentment here will be of a different kind than in Harpurhey, Gorse Hill, or Barking and Dagenham.
It may also be relevant that Wallsend is famous for the Wallsend boys club which produced famous footballers like Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer. The older site was knocked down but the club has been refurbished. This seems to be a major feature of the landscape of Wallsend and it is very close to Howdon.
I take this information from a document called ‘Vision for Wallsend’ (Visit here) which outlines a very speculative look at the ways the council proposes to regenerate the area. A £100 million project to regenerate the Swan Hunter site. There is already a business park there which is apparently doing good business with marine renewables, sustainable business solutions for marine companies etc. There are plans to build on this success by renovating areas for more business. In the document they mention an ‘e-learning village’ and an attempt to make the area a ‘centre for innovation’. There is some discussion over how much the site should focus on marine technologies and related products, the other options being more heritage (like Segedunum which is a local Roman heritage site) or leisure.
They also mention the renovation of Wallsend town-centre following its decline. They aim to do this by renovating the old Coop site, the Forum (which is a shopping centre right next to the Coop) and the Anson pub, again, just down the road from that.
The document gives the impression the plans are speculative and dependent on funding. They end by saying that restrictions on available funds may not stretch as far as the project imagines. In place they suggest developing access to existing assets such as the local Morrisons, car parking and a community library.
Homegroup is the social landlord operating in the area.
North Tyneside Council
Many of the community projects seem to be going through the council in Wallsend. They run a work club and three public garden sites in the centre.
It may be important to note that I’m having difficulty finding the same type of community organisations that there are in inner city Manchester for Wallsend. I’m finding a few old working men’s clubs (below) but there doesn’t look to be the same level of semi-funded community involvement (work clubs, community projects fitness groups) that we see in inner city Manchester. Could be worth considering why this is… My initial feeling is that this area has maintained a very strong white-working class way of being which people are still very much involved in. It may also simply be possible, then, that the community is not mobilising to collect resources to the same ends as in Manchester where I have noticed people consciously pursuing the end of community in a very conscious way.
Wallsend ex-service and working men’s club
Wallsend Eastend Working Men’s Club
The Howdon Hub (Howdon Community Centre)
They do a few different activities including volunteering, a café and a charity-style exchange.
This club has been taken over by a company called Family Gateway which works with disadvantaged families. They seem to have what are known as ‘family entrepreneurs’ which I guess are something similar to ‘community champions’ in Manchester. These people are trained volunteers that help families coordinate public life (benefits, counselling etc.) which has become so complex in recent years.
I have been told that the following pubs are among the most hospitable.