Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Tyneside is a conurbation in northern England, covering part of the area of Tyne and Wear. It includes Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Jarrow, North Shields, and South Shields - all settlements on the banks of the River Tyne.
The population of the Tyneside area are often called "Geordies" – they are proud to be different to southerners (whom they define as anyone from south of the River Tees!), and can be called "Geordies" quite openly. This name is a local diminutive of the name "George". Tynesiders may have been given this name because their miners used George Stephenson's safety lamp to prevent firedamp explosions, rather than the Davy lamp that was used elsewhere. An alternative explanation is that during the Jacobite rebellions they declared their allegience to the Hanoverian English Kings George I and George II; whereas the rest of the county of Northumberland, to the north, was aligned with the Scottish rebels.
While Newcastle-upon-Tyne had been an important local centre since Roman times, and was a major local market town from the Middle Ages, the development of Newcastle and Tyneside is owed to coal mining. Coal was first known to be dug in Tyneside from superficial seams in around 1200, but there is some evidence from Bede's writings that it may have been dug as early as 800 AD. Coal was dug from from local drift mines and bell pits, and although initially only used locally, it was exported from the port of Newcastle from the mid 1300s onward.
The valley of the River Derwent, a major tributary of the Tyne that rises in County Durham, saw the development of the steel industry from around 1600 onwards. This was led by German immigrant cutlers and sword-makers, probably from around Solingen, who fled from religious persecution at home and settled in the then village of Shotley Bridge, near Consett.
The combination of coal and steel industries in the area was the catalyst for further major industrial development in the nineteenth century, including the shipbuilding industry – at its peak, the Tyneside shipyards were the biggest and best centre of shipbuilding in the world, and built an entire navy for Japan in the first decade of the twentieth century. There is still a working shipyard in Wallsend.
Despite its rapid growth in the Industrial Revolution, Tyneside did develop one peculiar local custom, the rapper sword dance, which later spread to neighbouring areas of Northumberland and County Durham.
During the 1970s and 1980s, there was major industrial decline in the traditional British heavy industries, and Tyneside was hit hard. High unemployment rates, and an unsympathetic government led by Margaret Thatcher, led to great social unrest with strikes and occasional rioting in depressed areas.
From the mid-1990s onward, an improving national economy and local regeneration bodies helped the area to recover, and although unemployment is still a problem compared with some other areas of Britain, expansion of new industries has fuelled local development, especially in Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead.
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