Archaeological fieldwork at North Shields Fish Quay

Katherine Watson tells us about her fieldwork in North Shields, which was facilitated by the Student Opportunities Fund.

Over April and May 2022, I completed 10 days of archaeological ethnographic fieldwork at North Shields Fish Quay to collect data for my MA Archaeology dissertation. This was generously supported by St John’s Student Opportunities Award.

North Shields Fish Quay has a long history as a flourishing fishing port. However, like many industrial hotspots across the country, it has faced insurmountable challenges in recent years. This led to the Fish Quay becoming derelict by the early 2000s and subsequent investment of over £20 million through regeneration schemes.

The emergent commercial and residential quarter draws heavily upon fishing heritage to create a distinctive identity and attract tourists and future investment. While the aesthetic appeal of the Fish Quay is heightened, North Shields remains hugely deprived, and it is questionable whether the emerging leisure and tourist economies cater to local communities. Heritage-led regeneration is a key engineer of these processes.

My dissertation employs an interdisciplinary methodology, centring on the contemporary landscape of the Fish Quay, to examine the emergence of this conception of (fishing) heritage, the ‘sustainability’ and net-positive of heritage-led regeneration. Visiting the Fish Quay in person to make observations, take photographs, interview local people, and take part in community activities is key to this research. During these 10 days, I took over 500 photographs, interviewed 15 people, attended 4 community meetings, and visited numerous local attractions such as the fishing heritage centre and took part in a heritage trail led by a volunteer. Most importantly, I feel as though I have made meaningful connections with community members and have been grateful of every opportunity I’ve had to listen to people’s stories.

I am yet to write up the findings of this research, but I am excited to gather all my research together and hopefully accurately represent some of the feelings and perceptions of the community.

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