Tynemouth Low Light

Has been described as a Possible Artillery Fort

There are no visible remains

NameTynemouth Low Light
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorth Tyneside
1974 AuthorityTyne and Wear
Civil ParishTynemouth

High and Low lights can be traced back with certainty to the year 1536. The early history of the lights is connected with two ancient Newcastle establishments, the Trinity House and the Black Friars monastery. In 1536 the Gild of Holy trinity in Newcastle obtained a charter from the King and by the terms of this charter had licence to build and embattle two towers, the one at the entrance to the haven of Tyne, and the other on the hill adjoining, in each of which a light was to be maintained every night, for the support of which they were empowered to receive fourpence for every foreign ship and two pence for every English ship arriving at the port of Tyne. The monastery of the Black Friars in Newcastle was surrendered to the King and dissolved on 10 June 1539. King Henry VIII granted the fabric of the church to the Trinity House, and the stones were converted into the lights at Shields. In 1540 the building of the lights at Shields was begun. The low light was built first on the left bank of the Pow Burn, at its mouth. The place was called the Narrows because the Tyne is only about 120 yards across here, and the lighthouse tower was to serve as a defence as well as a guide. The high light was built at the top of the bank on the other side of the burn. The keeper of the lights was paid 20s a year to keep a single tallow candle burning in each tower from quarter and half- quarter flood to half ebb. The lightage payment from ships was raised in 1600 to 4d from English and 1s from foreign vessels, and in 1613 to 6d and 1s 4d respectively. The lighthouse had been heightened and now burned two candles each. In 1658-9 rather a remarkable step was taken. The stone houses were pulled down and rebuilt in timber. The reason for this was that the shoals in the river altered frequently, and as the lights were used as sea-marks, it was desirable to have light structures which could be moved from place to place

On the building of Clifford's Fort in 1672 the low light was included within its circuit, which sometimes led to friction between the lighthouse keeper and the commander of the fort. In 1686 the two lighthouses had become ruinous and in order to rebuild them the Trinity House of Newcastle petitioned for an increase of lightage. Other buildings, which are still standing though not in use, were erected in 1727 and burnt three candles instead of two. They were given copper reflectors in 1736, and oil lamps were substituted for candles in 1773. Lightage dues were levied according to the tonage of the vessel in 1801 and finally abolished in 1862. On 2nd March 1805 at a general meeting of the shipowners of North and South Shields it was unanimously resolved that the leading lights at North Shields stood too far and formed too great an angle with the channel, and that application should be made to Parliament for an Act for the purpose of building two lighthouses. The Act was obtained and new lights were built in 1805-8, the high light first in 1807. Both the lighthouses of 1727 were subsequently converted into almshouses. The high light still stands little changed. The lantern turret of the low light was removed to make way for an additional storey and the building has now no resemblance to a lighthouse. (Tyne and Wear HER)

Gatehouse Comments

One of vanished pair of towers guarding the river mouth, licensed 1536. They also carried lights. Northern tower to be built "on the north side of "le Shelys" at the entry of the port". Although licenced to be fortified the fortification may have been simply that needed to ensure security of the light rather than artillery to protect the port.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ362684
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Calculate Print


  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 355
  • Craster, H.H.E. (ed), 1907, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 8 p. 274-5 online copy


  • Hague, D.B., 1976, 'The Lights of the North-east Coast' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 133 p. 214

Primary Sources

  • Gairdner, J. (ed), 1888, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII Vol. 11 p. 376 No. 943.4 online copy