Although this area now represents the bustling centre of North Shields, it should not be forgotten that throughout most of its history, the town consisted only of a narrow strip of land running along the riverside, between the Fish Quay and the ‘Bullring’, near the current passenger ferry landing. It was only in the 18th century, when that part of the town became overcrowded, that buildings began to be constructed on the higher ground above.
One of the first developments was Dockwray Square, built in 1763, which provided elegant townhouses for the town’s more prosperous families. However it had poor water and drainage facilities and its wealthy occupants soon abandoned it in favour of new homes in other parts of the town. Howard Street and Northumberland Square, at its northern end, were undoubtedly the flagship developments of North Shields ‘new town’. They were laid out in the Georgian tradition, pre-dating Newcastle’s Grainger Town by over a quarter of a century. Even now, around 200 years after they were built, much of their original fabric remains intact, giving this part of the town centre its distinctive refinement and elegance. During the 18th Century, this area of land was owned by the aristocratic Howard family of Carlisle, hence the name Howard Street.