River Tyne

The River Tyne /ˈtn/ (listen) is a river in North East England and its length (excluding tributaries) is 73 miles (118 km).[1] 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'.

River Tyne
River Tyne Quayside
CountryUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
Physical characteristics
SourceSouth Tyne
  locationAlston Moor, Cumbria, England
2nd sourceNorth Tyne
  locationDeadwater Fell, Kielder, Northumberland, England
North Shields, North Tyneside, England
55°0′37″N 1°25′8″W
Length118 km (73 mi)[1]
Basin size2,933 km2 (1,132 sq mi)[2]
  average44.6 m3/s (1,580 cu ft/s)[2]
Basin features
  leftRiver Derwent
Confluence of North (right) and South Tyne (left) near Warden

The Tyne Rivers Trust measure the whole Tyne catchment as 2,936 square kilometres (1,134 sq mi), containing around 4,399 kilometres (2,733 mi) of waterways.[3]


North Tyne

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.

South Tyne

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.[2]


Thomas John Taylor (1810–1861)[4] 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).[5] 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.[6]

The River Tyne is believed to be around 30 million years old.[7]

Conservation history

The conservation of the Tyne has been handled by various bodies over the past 500 years. Conservation bodies have included: Newcastle Trinity House,[8] and the Tyne Improvement Commission.[8] The Tyne Improvement Commission conservation lasted from 1850 until 1968.[8] The 1850–1950 era was the worst period for pollution of the river.[8] The Tyne Improvement Commission laid the foundations for what has become the modern day Port of Tyne.[9] 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.[9] Inside these 70 years, the two Tyne piers were built;[9] Northumbrian, Tyne and Albert Docks were built[9] as well as the staithes at Whitehill and Dunston.[9] This infrastructure enabled millions of tonnes of cargo to be handled by the Port by 1910.[9] 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.[8][9]

Port of Tyne

The River Tyne at Bill Quay

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.[10] 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.[11] 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,[12] as has a Brittonic derivative of Indo-European *teihx, meaning 'to be dirty' (Welsh tail, 'manure').[12]

River crossings

River Tyne

The Tyne Bridge across the River Tyne between Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead. Taken from the deck of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, looking west and upstream.
The River Tyne flowing through Newcastle upon Tyne
Name Carries Opened
Shields Ferry Pedestrians and bicycles1377[13]
Second Tyne vehicle tunnel A19 road25 Feb 2011
First Tyne vehicle tunnel A19 road19 Oct 1967
Tyne pedestrian and cyclist tunnel Walkway, bike lane24 Jul 1951
Gateshead Millennium Bridge Walkway2000
Tyne Bridge A167 road10 Oct 1928
Swing Bridge Unclassified road15 Jun 1876
High Level Bridge Durham Coast Line, East Coast Main Line, B1307 road27 Sep 1849
Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge Tyne and Wear Metro1981
King Edward VII Bridge East Coast Main Line10 Jul 1906
Redheugh Bridge A189 road18 May 1983
Scotswood Bridge A695 road1964
Scotswood Railway Bridge Tyne Valley line, piping1871
Blaydon Bridge A1 road3 Dec 1990
Newburn Bridge Unclassified road1893
Wylam Bridge Unclassified road1836
Wylam Railway Bridge Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway, National Cycle Route 726 Oct 1876
Ovingham footbridge Walkway, National Cycle Route 721974[14]
Ovingham road bridge Unclassified road20 Dec 1883[14]
Bywell Bridge B6309 road1838
Styford Bridge A68 road1979
Corbridge Bridge B6321 road1674[15]
Hexham Bridge A6079 road, National Cycle Route 721793[15]
Hexham Old Bridge Road1770[15]
Border Counties Bridge Border Counties Railway1856
Constantius Bridge A69 road1976

River North Tyne

Name Carries Opened
Chesters Bridge Military Way122
Chollerford Bridge Military Road1785
Wark Bridge Unclassified road1878
Bellingham Bridge B6320 road1834
Tarset Bridge Unclassified road1974
Greystead Bridge Footpath1862
Falstone Bridge Unclassified road1843
Kielder Viaduct Border Counties Railway, Lakeside Way1862
Butteryhaugh Bridge Unclassified road1962
Kerseycleugh Bridge Unclassified road1853

River South Tyne

Name Carries Opened
Warden Railway Bridge Tyne Valley line1904
Warden Bridge Unclassified roadNov 1903
New Haydon Bridge A686 road1970
Old Haydon Bridge Footpath1776
Haydon Bridge Viaduct A69 road25 Mar 2009
Lipwood Railway Bridge Tyne Valley line1866
Ridley Bridge Unclassified road1792
Ridley Railway Bridge Tyne Valley line1907
Millhouse Bridge Footpath1883
Haltwhistle A69 Bridge (East) A69 road1994
Alston Arches Viaduct Alston line, footpathMay 1851
Blue Bridge Pennine Cycleway, footpath1875
Bellister Bridge Footpath1967
Haltwhistle A69 Bridge (West) A69 road1997
Featherstone Bridge Unclassified road1775
Featherstone Castle Footbridge Footpath1990
Diamond Oak Bridge Unclassified road1975
Lambley Footbridge Footpath1992
Lambley Viaduct Alston line, footpath1852
Eals footbridge Footpath1961[14]
Eals Bridge Unclassified road1733
Parson Shields bridge Agricultural road1972[14]
Williamston Bridge Unclassified road
Kirkhaugh footbridge Footpath
Alston railway bridge South Tynedale Railway1852
Alston bridge A686 road1836
Garrigill Bridge Unclassified road

Artworks and sculpture


River God Tyne by David Wynne at Newcastle Civic Centre

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.[16]

Salmon Trail

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[17] 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.

Conversation Piece

Created by acclaimed Spanish sculptor, Juan Muñoz in 1999. Celebrating the Tyne Salmon;[17] here with the 2008 River Tyne Bluetooth Salmon Trail Cubes,[18] are the 22 bronze life size figures that command and celebrate a superb view of South Shields Harbour and the Tyne Piers.

Bamboo Bridge

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.[19]

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
  • BuskerHome Newcastle
  • Elvis CostelloOliver's Army
  • Elton JohnMerry Christmas Maggie Thatcher (Billy Elliot musical)
  • Mark KnopflerSailing to Philadelphia, Why Aye Man, Fare Thee Well Northumberland, 5.15 A.M.
  • Lindisfarne – Fog on the Tyne
  • MadnessDriving in My Car
  • Jimmy Nail – Big River
  • Gretchen Peters – England Blues
  • Hilton Valentine – River Tyne
  • Kate Rusby – Bring Me a Boat
  • StingAll This Time, I Was Brought To My Senses
  • Dire StraitsSouthbound Again, Down to the Waterline
  • GazzaFog on the Tyne
  • Traditional, covered by Sting – Waters of Tyne
  • RenaissanceBack 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

See also

  • 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.


  1. Owen, Susan; et al. (2005). Rivers and the British Landscape. Carnegie. ISBN 978-1-85936-120-7.
  2. "Environment Agency – River Tyne Salmon Action Plan Review" (PDF). Environment Agency – APEM REF EA 410230. July 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  3. "Facts & Figures". tyneriverstrust.org. 2 June 2013. Archived from the original on 22 June 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013. The Tyne Catchment covers 2,936 km2 (1,134 sq mi) and contains around 4,399 km (2,733 mi) of waterways. In the language of the Water Framework Directive (which currently drives so much of what is done on rivers) the Tyne Catchment contains 116 river water bodies and 19 lake water bodies.
  4. "Thomas John Taylor". Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  5. James Guthrie (1880). The river Tyne: its history and resources. Andrew Reid and Company Limited. p. 2.
  6. Land Use Consultants (2003). "Urban Landscape Study of the Tyne Gorge" (PDF). Gateshead Council. Retrieved 15 May 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. Tyne river trust staff. "The Tyne's origins". Archived from the original on 26 March 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  8. Henderson, Tony (16 January 2015), "River Tyne's story revealed in study by environmental historian", The Journal, North East England
  9. Port of Tyne staff (30 July 2017). "Tyne Improvement Commission". portoftyne.co.uk. Port of Tyne. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  10. "Coal heritage goes up in flames". BBC. 20 November 2003. Retrieved 25 August 2008. "The staithes is a lot more than just a lump of wood in the Tyne, it is a magnificent structure and very important to the area's industrial heritage.
  11. Watson, W J (1926). The History of the Celtic Placenames of Scotland. Chippenham: Irish Academic Press. p. 51.
  12. "The Brittonic Language in the Old North" (PDF). Scottish Place Name Society.
  13. https://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/ferry-gets-first-woman-boss-in-700-years-1-1295528
  14. Bridges On The Tyne, 2006, Wikidata Q105064675
  15. Frank Graham (1992). Hexham and Corbridge: A Short History and Guide. Thropton: Butler Publishing. ISBN 0-946928-19-3. Wikidata Q105036820.
  16. Usherwood, Beach & Morris (2000). Public Sculpture of North-East England. Liverpool University Press.
  17. "Tyne Salmon Trail". 2008. Archived from the original on 7 August 2008. Retrieved 22 August 2008. Ten cubes inspired by the textures, changing colours, movement and journey of the salmon will migrate along the River Tyne, following the amazing journey of the salmon.
  18. Strug, Leah (21 July 2008). "Attraction's sending art lovers fishy messages". South Shields Gazette.
  19. "Tyne Rivers Trust". Charity. Tynerivertrust.org. 2008. Retrieved 25 August 2008. The Tyne Rivers Trust is an independent charity established to assist in management and improvement of the environment in the Tyne Catchment. The Trust aims to achieve this through Actions to: Improve Habitat; Get Better Information and Promote Better Understanding; Grow the Reputation of the Tyne Catchment and the Tyne Rivers Trust nationally and internationally


  • 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.
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