Peggy’s Hole is named after a naval vessel, The Peggy which moored near the entrance to the ‘Gut’, where the fishing boats land their catch. During the French Wars at the end of the 18th century, North and South Shields were regular victims of Press Gang raids, which were once a common occurrence on the North East coast. Tyneside suffered badly from the Press Gangs because of its large community of seamen and its reputation for skilled boatmen, like the keelmen of Newcastle.North Shields was particularly prone to Press Gang raids and in 1796, 250 mechanics and seamen were pressed into service here during a single raid in which the town was cordoned off by troops.
Fishing boats have been sailing from North Shields since 1225, when the Prior of Tynemouth granted local people the right to build seven shiels (simple dwellings) and a quay, between the Pow Burn and the Sikket, to improve the fish supplies and increase the wealth of the Priory. By 1528, boats from Noth Shields were fishing off the Shetlands, and the north coast of Scotland and participating in the Icelandic fleet. Ling and Cod were the principle catches, being salted and sold in Newcastle.
The biggest fleet singularly owned out of North Shields was created by Richard Irvin in the late 19th century. Recognising the potential of tug master William Purdy’s idea of converting paddle steam tugs for trawling, he quickly developed business interests in every east coast port from Peterhead to Great Yarmouth and created a dynasty with involvement in trawling, drifting, whaling and boat building. During the 1800s, North Shields was sending a whaling fleet to Greenland and the Davis Straits. Each vessel was provisioned for a three-year voyage. When the Whalers were going to sea, the whole town would turn out to cheer the sailors and listen to the shanty man singing to the crew. The Cabbage Patch was the North Shields equivalent of a shabine, an unlawful drinking den and served an important purpose on the Fish Quay. It was located on William Wight’s grocers which was formerly a legal drinking establishment, the Highland Hotel.