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Easting: 580800  Northing: 431400  Latitude:N55:07:14   Longitude: W1:30:33  Show Location Map
Blyth, Harbour and Coal Staithes

Blyth is situated on the north east coast of England within the county of Northumberland. It lies approximately 20 kilometres [13 miles] north east of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Until 1715 Blyth and the surrounding lands were the property of the Radcliffe family, The Earls of Derwentwater. The third and final Earl was one of the peers executed after the 1715 Jacobite rising, and his property and that of his family were confiscated. In 1723 Matthew White and his brother-in-law Richard Ridley bought the lands. Both men had accumulated fortunes in town-based trades and now looked to acquire county estates. By 1730 Matthew White extended his landed possessions by purchasing Blagdon, which still remains the seat of his descendants.

Although the port of Blyth dates from the 12th century the modern town of Blyth did not start to develop until the 18th century when a quay was erected for the shipment of coal. At this time there were also fourteen saltpans producing more than one thousand tons of salt each year. The making of salt in the 18th century was dogged by taxation. This taxation increased further during the Napoleonic wars to provide funds for the military. In 1825 the taxation of salt was abolished, but by this time the salt industry was in marked decline. The last saltpan was destroyed in 1876 and the industry ceased.

The port continued to prosper and in 1853 the Blyth Harbour and Dock Company was formed. The subsequent Harbour Act of 1858 permitted dredging of the harbour to commence. This dredging allowed larger ships to enter the port and so increased dramatically the amount of coal shipped out. In 1855 250,000 tons of coal were exported. By 1900 this had increased to 3 million tons.

The first report of shipbuilding appears in 1748 but it was not until the early part of the 20th century that Shipbuilding rose to a formidable level. The Blyth Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company had five dry docks and four building slipways and was one of the largest shipbuilding yards on the North East coast. During the First and Second World Wars, the Blyth shipyards built numerous ships for the Admiralty including the first aircraft carrier, H.M.S. Ark Royal in 1914. Shipbuilding continued in Blyth after the Second World War until 1967 when the shipyard was closed down.

In addition to coal exports and shipbuilding, the fishing industry played a great part in Blyth's development. The allied trades also developed rapidly to support the fishing fleet. In addition many persons were engaged in the salmon and herring industries in the months of August and September.

The population of Blyth increased rapidly from the early 19th century as a result of the development of these industries. In 1831 there were 246 inhabited houses combined with a total population of 1,769. One hundred years later in 1931 there were 7,218 inhabited houses and the total population had risen to 31,680.

Blyth, like other parts of the North East, has been seriously effected by the closure and running down of its once staple industries, coalmining and shipbuilding. Efforts have been made to fill the economic vacuum and provide a more varied pattern of employment. The development of a trading estate in the 1970's and the subsequent move to the service industries have provided some success, and the building of many new houses has made Blyth into an important residential area. The port of Blyth still remains a major industry in the area. The shipment of paper and pulp from Scandinavia flows through the port supplying the newspaper industries of England and Scotland.