The River Tyne // (listen) is a river in North East England and its length (excluding tributaries) is 73 miles (118 km). It is formed by the confluence of two rivers: the North Tyne and the South Tyne. These two rivers converge at Warden Rock near Hexham in Northumberland at a place dubbed 'The Meeting of the Waters'.
The North Tyne rises on the Scottish border, north of Kielder Water. It flows through Kielder Forest, and in and out of the border. It then passes through the village of Bellingham before reaching Hexham.
The South Tyne rises on Alston Moor, Cumbria and flows through the towns of Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge, in a valley often called the Tyne Gap. Hadrian's Wall lies to the north of the Tyne Gap. Coincidentally, the source of the South Tyne is very close to those of the Tees and the Wear. The South Tyne Valley falls within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – the second largest of the 40 AONBs in England and Wales.
From the confluence of the North and South Tyne at Warden Rock just to the north west of Hexham the river is simply called the Tyne. It enters the county of Tyne and Wear between Clara Vale (in the Borough of Gateshead on the south bank) and Tyne Riverside Country Park (in Newcastle upon Tyne on the north bank) and continues to divide Newcastle and Gateshead for 13 miles (21 km), in the course of which it flows under 10 bridges. To the east of Gateshead and Newcastle, the Tyne divides Hebburn and Jarrow on the south bank from Walker and Wallsend on the north bank. The Tyne Tunnel runs under the river to link Jarrow and Wallsend. Finally the river flows between South Shields and Tynemouth into the North Sea.
Thomas John Taylor (1810–1861) theorised that the main course of the river anciently flowed through what is now Team Valley, its outlet into the tidal river being by a waterfall at Bill Point (in the area of Bill Quay). His theory was not far from the truth, as there is evidence that prior to the last Ice Age, the River Wear once followed the current route of the lower River Team and merged with the Tyne at Dunston. Ice diverted the course of the Wear to its current location, flowing east the course of the Tyne) and joining the North Sea at Sunderland.
The River Tyne is believed to be around 30 million years old.
The conservation of the Tyne has been handled by various bodies over the past 500 years. Conservation bodies have included: Newcastle Trinity House, and the Tyne Improvement Commission. The Tyne Improvement Commission conservation lasted from 1850 until 1968. The 1850–1950 era was the worst period for pollution of the river. The Tyne Improvement Commission laid the foundations for what has become the modern day Port of Tyne. Under the management of the Tyne Improvement Commissioners, over a period of the first 70 years the Tyne was deepened from 1.83 to 9.14 meters and had 150 million tonnes dredged from it. Inside these 70 years, the two Tyne piers were built; Northumbrian, Tyne and Albert Docks were built as well as the staithes at Whitehill and Dunston. This infrastructure enabled millions of tonnes of cargo to be handled by the Port by 1910. As of 2021 the tidal river is now managed by the Port of Tyne Authority, and has been managed by the Port of Tyne Authority since 1968.
Port of Tyne
With its proximity to surrounding coalfields, the Tyne was a major route for the export of coal from the 13th century until the decline of the coal mining industry in North East England in the second half of the 20th century. The largest coal staithes were located at Dunston in Gateshead, Hebburn and Tyne Dock, South Shields. The dramatic wooden staithes (a structure for loading coal onto ships) at Dunston, built in 1890, have been preserved, although they were partially destroyed by fire in 2006 and then a further fire in May 2020 means that the Staithes is becoming more vulnerable to vandalism and would need extensive financing to preserve it and make it secure. In 2016, Tyne Dock, South Shields was still involved with coal, importing 2 million tonnes of shipments a year. The lower reaches of the Tyne were, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the world's most important centres of shipbuilding, and there are still shipyards in South Shields and Hebburn to the south of the river. To support the shipbuilding and export industries of Tyneside, the lower reaches of the river were extensively remodelled during the second half of the 19th century, with islands (including Kings Meadow, the largest) removed and meanders in the river straightened.
Name and etymology
Nothing definite is known of the origin of the designation Tyne, nor is the river known by that name until the Saxon period: Tynemouth is recorded in Anglo-Saxon as Tinanmuðe (probably dative case). The Vedra on the Roman map of Britain may be the Tyne, or may be the River Wear. Ptolemy's Tína could be a "misplaced reference" to either this river or the Tyne in East Lothian. There is a theory that *tīn was a word that meant "river" in the local Celtic language or in a language spoken in England before the Celts came: compare Tardebigge.
A supposed pre-Celtic root *tei, meaning 'to melt, to flow' has also been proposed as an etymological explanation of the Tyne and similarly-named rivers, as has a Brittonic derivative of Indo-European *teihx, meaning 'to be dirty' (Welsh tail, 'manure').
River North Tyne
River South Tyne
Artworks and sculpture
The river is represented, and personified, in a sculpture unveiled in 1968 as part of the new Civic Centre (seat of Newcastle City Council). Sculpted by David Wynne, the massive bronze figure incorporates flowing water into its design.
The Environment Agency is currently working with architects and cultural consultancy xsite, in collaboration with Commissions North, to create a travelling sculpture trail along the River Tyne.
The Tyne Salmon Trail will serve as a celebration of the river, its heritage and its increasingly diverse ecosystem. Historically a major symbol in the regional identity of the North East of England, the river plays host to a plethora of different species, the number of which is growing year on year in line with the rivers improving health.
The Tyne Salmon Trail looks to capture the imagination of residents and tourists visiting the area – providing them with the ultimate 'fact finding' design experience, which celebrates the salmon's migratory journey in the Northeast of England.
FINS, REFLECTION and JOURNEY were the first 3 cubes to be launched in December 2007 from a family of 10. Each cube is inspired by the textures, changing colours, movement and journey of the salmon. With each offering a 'modern day keepsake' to take away, in the form of a designed Bluetooth message.
The other cubes will be moving along the River Tyne over 1 year visiting different locations from Kielder to the Mouth of the Tyne in the summer 2008 before starting their long journey back to their birthplace.
For three days, between 18–20 July 2008, a temporary bamboo artwork was installed over the Tyne close to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The Bambuco Bridge was created as part of that year's 'SummerTyne' festival.
The River Tyne has a charity dedicated to protecting and enhancing its waters and surrounding areas. The Tyne Rivers Trust, established in 2004, is a community-based organisation that works to improve habitat, promote better understanding of the Tyne catchment area and build the reputation of the Tyne catchment as a place of environmental excellence.
Songs featuring the Tyne
- Asonance – Kopce u pramenů řeky Tyne / Hills on Tyne's source (a Czech adaptation of the folk song The Rolling Hills of the Borders, which does not mention the Tyne)
- Blur – This Is a Low
- Busker – Home Newcastle
- Elvis Costello – Oliver's Army
- Elton John – Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher (Billy Elliot musical)
- Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia, Why Aye Man, Fare Thee Well Northumberland, 5.15 A.M.
- Lindisfarne – Fog on the Tyne
- Madness – Driving in My Car
- Jimmy Nail – Big River
- Gretchen Peters – England Blues
- Hilton Valentine – River Tyne
- Kate Rusby – Bring Me a Boat
- Sting – All This Time, I Was Brought To My Senses
- Dire Straits – Southbound Again, Down to the Waterline
- Gazza – Fog on the Tyne
- Traditional, covered by Sting – Waters of Tyne
- Renaissance – Back Home Once Again (The Paper Lads' TV Theme)
- Roger Whittaker – Durham Town (The Leavin') (even though Durham is actually on the River Wear and not the Tyne)
- Eric Burdon and the Animals – The Immigrant Lad
- The Nice – Five Bridges Suite
- Genesis - Blood on the Rooftops
- Big Big Train – Swan Hunter
- The Libertines – Hooray for the 21st Century
- The Dreadnoughts - Roll, Northumbria
- Association of Rivers Trusts
- Rivers of the United Kingdom
- Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island
- Tuxedo Princess
- Northeast England
- Tyne, the name of one of the sea areas of the British Shipping Forecast.
- Leona J. Skelton. Tyne after Tyne: An Environmental History of a River's Battle for Protection, 1529–2015. Winwick White Horse Press, 2017.ISBN 978-1-874267-95-9.