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Statue of the week.

Byline: By Tony Henderson

The arrival of cruise ships in the Tyne and the impending Tall Ships' visit are an echo of how the river was once alive with shipping.

Tomorrow a restored signboard of the Tyne Tees Steamship Company, showing the destinations to which it ran services, will be unveiled outside its former offices on Newcastle Quayside, now Sabatini's restaurant.

Across the city, on the Great North Road facing the Town Moor, are memorials to two of the men behind the shipping venture. Both memorials are drinking fountains ( a reminder of the days when the provision of water in public places was an important service.

The memorial to W D Stephens, who died in 1901, was unveiled in 1908.

William Stephens, originally of Alston, served as Mayor and Sheriff of Newcastle, and was vice chairman of the shipping company. A Wesleyan Methodist, he undertook charity work for the Ragged School, the Sailors' Society, The Aged Female Society and the Northern Counties Orphanage for Boys and Girls.

The memorial describes him as a "citizen of lofty ideals and strenuous endeavour" and a man of "open-hearted charity, ceaseless activity and unfailing geniality" who distinguished himself in maritime commerce, temperance and the betterment of the needy.

The other fountain, erected in 1895, is to William Laing who was also involved in the Tyne Steam Shipping Company and founded the Town Moor temperance festival which evolved into the Hoppings. The first chairman of the Tyne Steam Shipping Company was Tyneside shipbuilder and industrialist Charles Mark Palmer, whose statue featured last week.

The company employed 400 workers and operated 10 steamers, including its pride and joy the Wallsend-built Tynesider.

This 1,330-ton ship carried 75 first-class and 90 second-class passengers and could accomplish the Newcastle-London sailing in less than 24 hours.

An account of the time says: "The bringing of this attractive, interesting trip within a comparatively short space of time and the accomplishment of it under circumstances so generally favourable to the comfort and enjoyment of passengers has proved a veritable trump card in the hands of the company. The company's wharves in Newcastle are on the Quay, within one mile of the Central Station, cab fare thence being a shilling."

Much is made of the fact that the Tynesider's dining saloon is apart from the sleeping berths, that the vessel has electric light throughout, that the saloon on deck boasts an American organ and a piano and there are spacious decks for promenading.

The company's sister ship to the Tynesider, in the days when sailing was a common-place way to visit London, was the Royal Dane.

She took two hours longer to make the trip "but is none the less a desirable ship".
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2005
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