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Tyne and Wear's German communities

Reference C.SU68, C.SS28 and C.NC64

For many centuries the North East has been linked with countries all over the world through industry and commerce. German merchants have connected to ports along the eastern coast of England, including Newcastle since the 12th century.

A recorded history of German communities in Tyne and Wear dates from the 1860s, through preserved records of the Protestant Churches and Seamens Missions in Sunderland, South Shields and Newcastle.

The Sunderland German Congregation and Seamen's Mission was established in 1863 to care for German immigrants and sailors arriving into the Port of Sunderland. It was only the second to be set up in this country after the mission established in Hull during 1848. This was soon followed by the German Seamen's Mission Committee set up in South Shields in 1880. The Shields Seamen's Home was built in 1906 for £5,000 and inaugurated in 1909. The facilities included a Reading Room where entertainment and concerts were held for resident sailors and seamen, particularly during the harsh winter months. The atmosphere of the mission was described as a home away from home in the 34th Annual Report of the German Sailors Mission from the Tyne District, 1913.

Interior of South Shields Seamen Mission

The interior of the Seamen's Mission in South Shields



On the brink on the First World War, a Subscription Dinner was held to raise funds for the Mission in Tilley's Rooms in Newcastle on 13th January 1914. Things soon changed dramatically when German missions around the country were closed and some even sold during wartime. This was the fate of the Sunderland mission, though the South Shields home survived and reopened during the 1920's.

German seamen at Tyne Dock, September 1929

German seamen photographed at Tyne Dock, September 1929



During World War II, staff of the seamen's mission and members of the local community were either interned or deported to Germany and the mission was only able to recommence once again in 1952.

The Newcastle Congregation branched off from the established German congregation in Sunderland. It held its first sermons in Brunswick Methodist Church before moving to Lovaine Place in 1906. During Newcastle City Centres major re-development in the 1960s, the German Church moved to its present site at Clarence Street, Shieldfield. With the support of Newcastle City Council the German congregation raised funds independently, for the building of the new church.