impressive large pier like structure is the Dunston Coal Staiths which
is reputedly the largest wooden structure in Europe and was the last working
wooden staith on the Tyne.
was constructed in 1890 by the North Eastern Railway Company in two stages;
the first staith with three berths was opened in 1983. A second similar
staith was opened in 1903 immediately to the south and a basin was dug
out of the riverbank to service it. This set was taken down to the piles
tops in 1970s and further dismantled in the 1980s. However the majority
of the structure survives intact and has been restored.
staiths are constructed of 13" x 13" pitch pine, jointed with
bolts and straps. The structure is in 3 parts, a substructure of piles
driven into the riverbed on which are superimposed trestles braced in
both directions creating 98 frames at about 5.3mtr centres. Above this
is a run of double thickness longitudinal timbers supporting the deck
and track beams. The deck slopes down toward the landward end at 1 in
the purpose of loading north Durham coal into ships, the staiths protrude
into the River Tyne for 1709 feet and run parallel to the river bank forming
a large tidal basin in which ships once moored. Several railway lines
ran along the top of the coal staiths from the river bank and rose at
a gradient of 1 in 96 from the western to the eastern end of the staiths.
This enabled locomotives to shunt coal wagon's to an appropriate height
for loading ships anchored alongside the staithes.
wagon's fitted with trapdoors were shunted along the staiths and lined
up with hoppers in the staiths floor. Gangs of men called Teemers would
then release these trapdoors and "teem" the coal into the hoppers.
This was not an easy task as often the coal would jam or freeze in the
wagon or hopper so that men would have to jump in to free the coal and
run the risk of falling through. Sometimes accidents of this nature would
happen and the men could sustain serious injuries.
hoppers in the staiths were linked to coal chutes called spouts and the
teemers had the task of adjusting these spouts according to the height
of the ships they were loading. The spouts were adjusted by means of a
hand windlass and can still be seen on the staiths along with conveyor
belts added at a later date, which were used on occasions when the ships
were too high for the spouts to reach. Once coal or coke had been loaded
from the chute into the holds of the ships, gangs of men called Trimmers
were set to work to level out the coal in the ships for stability.
the peak of its career in the 1920s Dunston Staiths were shipping an average
of 140,000 tons of coal per week on vessels bound for both London and
the continent but by the 1970s this figure had fallen to 3000. In 1980
the staiths were finally closed. They remain today as a listed building
and as the most important monument to the once busy days of the Coaly
1990 the staiths formed part of the Gateshead Garden Festival site, but today
the area behind the staiths is being developed for housing and will once
again be accessible to the public - NCN 14 is planned to run along the
new river frontage here
November 20th 2003, the staithes suffered a major fire, believed to
maliciously started, requiring over 70 firemen before it was
brought under control.
A substantial portion of the middle section collapsed
and more may have
to be demolished in order to make the remaining structure
Supply of the Jahhara wood used for the river piles to build the staithes
is now unobtainable.
Its export is banned by Australia, leaving in doubt if the staithes can be restored.