Film ID:
NEFA 21486



Visitor Tabs


An amateur film made by South Shields-born filmmaker Lilian Wincote recording the final day of the Shields Ferry ‘Northumbrian’ on the 25th April 1972. The film shows the steam ferry crossing between North and South Shields collecting and transporting passengers and vehicles.

The film begins with a general view of the River Tyne and the Shields Ferry ‘Northumbrian’ slowing steaming across the water towards the ferry terminal at South Shields.   

Title: The Passing of a Tyne Ferry

The ‘Northumbrian’ begins to manoeuvre alongside the docking area.

Title: Last Day of the “Northumbrian”

The ferry continues to approach the pontoon.

Title: April 1972

The ‘Northumbrian’ comes to a stop at the landing, cargo ships and cranes lining the opposite bank of the Tyne.

The ramp walkway is lowered and a number of schoolboys rush off, followed by the other passengers. A couple of passengers board the ferry. The skipper of the 'Northumbrian'; Captain George Humble, smiles at the camera as he walks past.

From the bridge or wheelhouse, George Humble works to manoeuvre the ferry away from the dock while, on deck, passengers sit on benches enjoying the journey. An older couple stand together looking across the water as the ferry passes four tug boats moored nearby. Two men stand on the deck chatting while looking out across the water.

A man turns his camera and takes a photograph of the film-maker. Close-up of the hands of a woman as she takes out a microphone connected  to a sound recorder hanging across her shoulder.

[From this point the film uses both the sound of the man being interviewed as well as wild sound recorded both on the bridge of the ferry and the passengers on the deck].

A man with a cine camera takes a panning shot. A hand written note is held up to the camera that reads ‘South Shields Ferry “Northumbrian” April 25th 1972”. Below are the signatures of the six man crew.

Back at the South Shields terminal, a small sign resting against the vehicle collection office reads: ‘Private Car & Driver 3/6d. Extra Passenger 6d’. Two men stand chatting beside a car at the ticket office as they wait to get onto the ferry. In the distance, passengers are seen beginning to disembark from the ferry. Vehicles make their way across the drawbridge and two cars and a man on a scooter drive past. Pedestrians go by, the majority of whom walk along a path behind a metal fence. Others, including a couple pushing a pushchair, walk along the road.

The film cuts to show the ‘Class of Vehicle’ notice attached to a wall identifying the types of vehicles allowed on the ferry.

On the bridge of the ‘Northumbrian’, George Humble stands at the controls. On the outer deck, the engine order telegraph turns to indicate a change in ship’s speed. The skipper manoeuvres the vessel as it approaches the dock  at North Shields. A sign attached to the ship’s railings reads ‘Prohibited to Passengers’. On the jetty, a large crowd of foot passengers waits for the ferry to arrive.

On the deck, a deckhand in overalls is thrown a rope which he ties to a bollard. Passengers begin to get on the ferry passing those waiting to get on. With the last of the passengers off, those on the jetty begin to slowly board in an orderly queue.

A group of men standing on the deck look out towards the mouth of the Tyne. Both the High and Low Light lighthouses at North Shields can be seen in the distance.

With the last of the passengers now aboard, another member of the crew manually raises the walkway and the journey begins across the Tyne back to South Shields. Passengers look out across the river as the “Northumbrian” crosses the water.

The newly commissioned Shields Ferry  'Freda Cunningham' is moored at the South Shields jetty. The 'Northumbrian' slowly comes in to dock.

Pulling alongside the jetty, a man walks up the walkway towards camera. Below, passengers, mainly men,some with flat caps, head off to work from the ferry with satchels slung across their shoulders. General view of the now empty 'Northumbrian'.

Title: The End of an Era

The film ends with steam coming from the “Northumbrian” funnel.

Note: The ‘Northumbrian’ was built at Hawthorn Leslie and Company shipyards at Hebburn in 1930 and worked what was known as the ‘Market Place Ferry’ for 42 years making, on average, 350 journeys a week. The final decline of the service began in 1967 with the opening of the Tyne Tunnel taking away much of the ferries vehicle users. In 1972 the service was taken over by Nexus, the Tyne and Wear Passenger Executive, who commissioned a passenger only replacement for the 'Northumbrian'; the ‘Freda Cunningham’. What happened to the ‘Northumbrian’ after her final journey is unclear. For a short while, she became a floating restaurant at Friar’s Goose in Gateshead. However, the business did not succeed and she was last seen being towed out of the Tyne in the spring of 1977 on it’s way to Brussels to become, it was believed, another floating restaurant.