School of Natural and Environmental Sciences


Cullercoats; Past, Present and Futures


Cullercoats was once a well-defined fishing village and is still referred to as a village by older residents. It has a rich cultural and social heritage and is located in an extremely attractive environment – Cullercoats Bay. Regrettably however, the Cullercoats community, like so many small communities, is rapidly losing its identity, due to social mobility, building development, boundary loss and the changing perceptions and attitudes of local people. The village is in danger of being lost as an urban hinterland, somewhere between Tynemouth and Whitley Bay!

It has become evident from a pilot project, in which three classes of Year 5 and 6 students from Cullercoats Primary School have learnt about their heritage, that, although they are highly motivated, they have extremely poor knowledge of their cultural, social and environmental past. Unfortunately, most aspects of Cullercoats’ heritage are poorly-documented. For example, almost nothing is written about the once thriving fishing community and the knowledge and way of life of fishermen and their families. With the decline of the industry (there remains only a tiny remnant of it today), the deaths of older fishermen and the children of fishing families turning to other kinds of employment and/or moving out of the area, such knowledge is likely to be lost for ever. There is an urgent need to collect information about this, and other aspects, of our heritage and use it effectively so that it is available to the whole of the Cullercoats community. Who better to do this than the young people of Cullercoats?

What do we plan to do?

The aims of the project are: (i) to raise awareness of, and encourage pride in, our rich heritage; (ii) collect and collate information about Cullercoats, much of which is in danger of being lost; and (iii) encourage closer bonds within the Cullercoats village community.

The approach in the project will be for the young people of Cullercoats, working in collaboration with The Watch-House group, The RNLI and The Dove Marine Laboratory to collect information about the rich social, cultural and environmental heritage of Cullercoats. The gathered information will be disseminated to the remainder of the Cullercoats community.

We aim to produce:

Two high-quality, well-illustrated guides: one will be on Cullercoats Flora and Fauna and the other on our maritime heritage. The emphasis in both cases will be on producing information that is scientifically and historically accurate but which considers aspects through the eyes of young people.

There will be an open day/exhibition in Cullercoats Primary School’s hall. This will include displays of old photographs, drawings, documents, paintings, poetry, traditional items of clothing and artifacts from the fishing and coal mining industries, as well as information about modern Cullercoats.

Coffee mornings will be held in the Watch House with displays depicting Cullercoats in the past and today.

There will be a twice-yearly Newsletter produced by children of Cullercoats Primary School which will be distributed to the local community.

Starting in September 2009:

As a result of running a series of workshops with the school children in 2005 we realised that the young people of Cullercoats had very little knowledge about the village in which they live, especially the culture, history and natural heritage of the area.  To address this problem, from September 2009 we will be spending several terms working with the children to raise their awareness of Cullercoats' maritime history.  The lifeboats, local families, smugglers stories and daring rescues at sea are just some of the topics that they will investigate both through classroom based study, interviews with local residents and field trips.  At the end of the project they will produce their own booklet about the area's history.

Another aspect of the study is to educate the children about the natural environment of Cullercoats.  Last year we worked with over 130 pupils teaching them about the flora and fauna within the bay.  The pupils were divided into four groups, and each was given a specific topic to investigate.  These included: the hidden plants and animals of Cullercoats Bay; feeding and food webs; classification of marine animals and a study into local fishing methods.  Their work has been made into a glossy 24 page booklet of which each child has a copy.  They have also been sent to all the libraries in North Tyneside and several have been sent abroad to schools that are part of the International Comenius Project of which Cullercoats is a Primary member. 

It is hoped that the young people will now have the confidence to share their newly found knowledge with the members of their families and friends and become valuable contributors to the community.