Wednesday, 24 June 2015

St. Mary's Island

St. Mary's Island is just off the Tyneside coast near to Whitley Bay. It is connected to the shore by a causeway, accessible at low tide. The lighthouse was constructed in 1898 and continued to operate until 1984; it is now a visitor centre.

The island was originally called Bates Island after its owners. A medieval chapel dedicated to St. Helen once stood here and a graveyard alongside was the burial ground of monks. In the 19th century George Ewen ran an inn, the Square and Compass. Complaints about trespass and rowdy behaviour led the then landlord to evict the publican.
During the 1930' and 40's there was a cafe and shop for the visitors. The owners lived on the island as did the two lighthouse keepers. Facilities were very basic. Lighting was by oil lamps and water came either from a well or was collected from the rooftops.

Visiting the island is free of charge but be aware of the tides. You may have a three or four hour wait if you are stranded. There is small admissin fee for the visitor centre

Watercolour painting by David Easton

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