Workers in South Shields, England

Here’s another occupational carte-de-visite from England.  It looks like an early one, maybe early 1870s.

South Shields workers 2

At the mouth of the River Tyne on the North Sea, South Shields was a major shipbuilding center from the 1850s onward.  The photo was taken in an industrial setting, possibly a shipyard, by a photographer from the studio of Ainsley & Runciman on Ocean Road.

South Shields workers 3

The women in this first close-up are wearing interesting outfits:

South Shields workers 4

The man standing to the right of them has had one leg amputated:

South Shields workers 5


To see the entire image in high resolution, click on either thumbnail below, then select “View full size” in the lower right of your screen.  Please comment on anything that catches your eye:




10 thoughts on “Workers in South Shields, England

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  1. As to the women in your latest post, they seem to be have costumes very similar to those worn by female fish gutters. There are photographs showing them at work, processing the fish caught by their menfolk. That might tie in with the scene in general as they would work very near where the boats came to shore.Frank Sutcliffe who was working in Whitby, 1870s-1890s approx, took many evocative photos of the working people of the town, again in the north of England. I wonder how the man lost his leg! It’s all most fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the insightful comment! I had assumed all the people in the photo worked together, but they may have simply worked near each other, in various trades near the docks. Maybe the photographer asked them to assemble for the portrait. Photos of working people are always interesting, and this one seems unusually early. I’ll look up Frank Sutcliffe. Thanks for the tip!


  2. i see that at least one of the men (standing just above the amputee) is holding some of his tools–so typical of the occupational photo. But I’m particularly curious about the design on the large thing they are all standing in front of. Any guesses as to what it might depict?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, I’d love to know what that thing is!! I may try to find someone in South Shields to ask. Someone is bound to know. The tools are neat. Wish we could see them better. The details are elusive, even under magnification.


  3. I think they (or at least some of them) are shipbuilders. The chap in the back row, 4th from right, I’m pretty sure that what he’s holding is a pneumatic rivet gun. (I worked for Tyne and Wear Museums many years ago and we had a few in the collection.) I don’t know when they were invented, but they were around in the early 20th century.
    I also think that what they are standing in front of is not a design, but a structure, probably part of a ship, but that is only a guess based on that fact that it’s metal and my knowledge of the historic context.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha, a rivet gun! An excellent observation! Regarding the structure, my father, who is a retired engineer, thinks it might be a large boiler of some kind, but he isn’t sure. Ships and shipbuilding technologies were so different in the 19th century.


      1. You know, funnily enough, “boiler” was exactly what I was thinking! I couldn’t give a precise reason, though, just the general impression of the thing. And I’m in no way an expert on ships or engineering.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The area’s called Tyneside, and they are almost certainly all shipbuilders working for just one shipbuilding company (there would have been a huge number of workers). Probably standing in front of a part of a ship. The amputee probably lost his leg in an industrial accident I’d think.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well from my humble opinion, I think they are fishing boat builders as I think one of them is carrying a “Adze” which is used by shipwrights for shaping timbers. Also I think one of them maybe carrying “Caulking tools” a caulking hammer and a dolly tool.

    Liked by 1 person

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