Northumberland Square was designed to be the centrepiece of North Shields ‘new town’ as it spreads its wings from the confines of the older riverside area in the first half of the 19th century.
This wide, open space, ringed by elegant Georgian town houses, was described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his 1957 book ‘The Building of England Northumberland’, as being ‘a square almost too spacious for the two-storied buildings that surround it’ but such a stark contrast to the overcrowded and ramshackled buildings which then made up the lower part of the time is exactly what attracted some of the towns more prosperous citizens to come and live here.
Located in the square and facing down Howard Street toward the river is a life size sculpture of a fisher woman carrying a basket and wearing a traditional shawl and full skirts. This dates from 1958 but represents a much older North Shields tradition, the ‘Wooden Dolly’
There have been Dollies at various locations around the town for at least 200 years. The first was down near the Quayside having started life as a figurehead of a collier brig which had been attacked off the coast by a privateer in 1781. It became a good luck charm to mariners who would cut pieces to keep whilst at sea. The one now standing in Northumberland Square in oak by Robert Thompson Ltd, the company known for its trademark carved mice which adorn all its products. It replaced an earlier version, erected in 1902, and stands as a tribute to the part that women have played in the economic life of North Tyneside.
There are a number of carved mice concealed in the sculpture.