Detail of a plan by William Casson where it is possible to see Jarrow Slake (blue) and the church of St Paul in Jarrow (magenta). 1803. From the report on the Tyne Dock by The Archaeological Practice Ltd.

The monastic extent of St Paul lied at the confluence of the rivers Tyne and Don, and a palaeochannel recently identified in Drewett’s Park using geophysics probably constituted its northern limit.

Up to the mid-19th century, a wide intertidal marsh and mudflat area that was known in modern times as “Jarrow Slake” extended for 1.5 km towards South Shields. It is likely that the Slake constituted a safe port on the river Tyne already during the early Middle Ages, when the monastery of St Paul was part of a trade network extended over the European continent and the Mediterranean, reaching even beyond India. Still described as a place of blossoming and “solemn quiet” between the 18th and the early 19th century, “Jarrow Slake” was profoundly transformed by the construction of the Tyne Dock from 1855 to 1859. The Dock occupied the eastern portion of the Slake and was built for the North Eastern Railway to consent the shipping of coal extracted in the North East of England and transported to the Tyne via railways. A thorough survey of the Dock was performed in 1999 by The Archaeological Practice Ltd and published by Richard Carlton and Alan Williams in 2015.

The Slake is nowadays completely lost and its site is occupied by the Port of Tyne. In any case, the industrial structures that replaced it testify of the continuous strategic importance of the area for the extraction, transport, and trade of resources from the landscape.

Skip to content