Magnesia Bank

I was not a sickly child but I suffered the various illnesses that inflict the young.  The kitchen cupboard contained the standard remedies, prescribed in varying degrees, as determined by my mother’s expert diagnosis – lucozade (only one flavour), glucose powder (by the dessert spoon), Famel Syrup, Owbridges and Milk of Magnesia.  When all of these failed, Doctor Gold would be summoned – always a home visit, Gladstone bag and stethoscope in hand.

Milk of Magnesia was the least palatable of these concoctions; I assumed it to be the milk of some exotic animal, alien to Altrincham and best kept at a safe distance.  For this reason its memory lingers but, with no great affection.  Invented by the English pharmacist, Charles Henry Phillips, a chemistry teacher would later explain, it is simply Magnesium Hydroxide in suspension.  This didn’t dispel my notion that, nothing wholesome ever emerged from a blue bottle.

Pure magnesium is a glossy grey solid which burns with a bright white intensity, sufficient to temporarily impair vision. Combine this with racing fuel and the conflagration is almost inextinguishable.  As a teenager I witnessed the impact of this lethal combination on more than one occasion.  It’s all about chemistry.

And this preamble is simply to explain why my interest was sparked when fellow Blipper, X-Photographer and Triumph Bonneville owner, Len, posted an image of the Magnesia Bank pub, North Shields.  There are some odd public house names around Newcastle but why the Magnesia Bank.

Len offered the following explanation: The Maggy Bank is so called due to its former days as a bank; it then became a social club before being converted into a pub. The pub is now a popular music venue. The name “Magnesia” derives from the Magnesia Stair, one of the crowded streets of houses that led down to the riverside, which was south of the current pub near the present day stairs.

Local historian and author of the excellent The Northumbrians, Dan Jackson, made the link with magnesium’s various uses in the local manufacture of metals, chemicals and glass but, I felt there had to be more.

Reproduced with the kind permission of LenBageDigital

Search for “Magnesia Bank” on Google and most results relate to the pub, restaurant and gig reviews but, delve into the British Newspaper Archive and much more is revealed.

R Brown writing to the Shields Daily News, 12th August 1942, is convinced that a street called Magnesia Bank derived its name from the salt and magnesia works established by Joseph Ogilvie.  This opinion is contrary to another local theory that it was named after a nearby  magnesia spring.  He continues: It was from 1810 known as Thorntree Lane, and only from the latter date known as Magnesia Bank.  Thorntrees were popularly in use as gibbets at the time, and it is not impossible that this may have been the scene of many public hangings.

Ogilvie was descended from John Lomax, the first Presbyterian in the borough who arrived from Wooler in 1662 and gathered a Noncomformist congregation at the house of Isabella Green on Thorntree Lane.  Lomax lived at the house in nearby Wooden Bridge which would later become the Seven Stars public house – as the third occupier, R Brown in the same letter, surmises that this was the oldest building in Tynemouth (demolished).  John “learned” Lomax died on May 25th 1693 and is buried at Tynemouth Priory.  In 1787, the Lomax descendant married the Rev. Andrew Ogilvie and it was their son, Joseph, who established the magnesia works from which the lane derived its new name.

Coincidentally, another candidate for the oldest house in North Shields was situated on Magnesia Bank.  The Echoes of the Week column by Vigilante in the 18th September 1922 edition of the Shields Daily News quotes historical records of old Shields: ‘It occupied the site and embodies the remains of an old chapel dedicated in honour of St David … The chapel was probably erected at the time when sailors began to come to North Shields probably in the reign of King John or, when the trade of the place had been revived under the fostering care of the Prior of Tynemouth in the time of Henry IV.  (In providing a place where seafaring men could make their vows to the Lady of the Sea, the priors would have exacted a good return in the form of fish tithes).  In the course of its transmigrations it was used as a dissenting meeting house, and later as a baker’s oven … Inside the oven were the remains of some inscriptions and cherubs’ heads.  On the end walls in the upper storey were some curious ornamental figures but so mutilated that their nature could not be made out.  The following inscription, cut in large letters in oak above the altar has been preserved – “Si Deus pro nobis quis contra nos”‘.  If God be for us, who shall be against us.  The reference to the ‘dissenting meeting house‘ suggests that this is the house owned by Isabella Green.

Reproduced with the kind permission of LenBageDigital

A 1933 image of Magnesia Bank reproduced in the 30th May 1942 edition of the Shields Daily News appears to match the view of the street depicted on The Magnesia Bank pub sign.  The accompanying article in the Round the Town column repeats the 1933 discovery of a tunnel which it suggests may have been the crypt of the ancient church of St David.  The entrance was ‘in the North wall of premises that were then being used as a washhouse by residents of the bank.  What I saw was an aperture, perhaps three feet wide in the stone wall about two feet from the ground.  It had the appearance of an old doorway and led into a stone-walled chamber, roughly speaking about 12 feet square, which seemed to have been partly filled up with rubbish. This debris and the want of an electric torch prevented further exploration but one of the residents assured me that when as a youth some 25 years previously, he and other lads belonging to the locality penetrated to the east end of the chamber they found an arched passage which was certainly not a culvert.  I was always hopeful that when the houses in the Magnesia Bank neighbourhood were demolished and the bankside cleared of debris the truth about the tunnel would be disclosed, but apparently no one who was engaged in the clearance operations was sufficiently interested to bother about it’.  This article does not mention the ghost which long haunted the bank – a ‘figure of a man’ who periodically appeared at the same spot – near the doorway leading to the chamber from which the old tunnel starts (Shield Daily News, 20th February 1933).

All is not entirely lost despite the 1930s slum clearance.  An article in the 5th February 1921 edition of the Shields Daily News, entitled Our Local Churches, suggests that the baptismal font (dated 1693) in the nearby Howard Street Presbyterian Church, originated from the St David’s Chapel.

There was history on Magnesia Bank but there was also life.  Search the British Newspaper Archive for “Magnesia Bank” and the majority of the news stories relate to brawling, begging, drunkenness and prostitution.  All human life was there.  In the mid 19th century, the Bank and, possibly some of its residents, were immortalised in song:

In a New Garb, By an Old Tar
The common shores ill ah be cleaned, the streets so nicely swept,
The Causeway and Magnesia Bank ill be in order kept
At the wooden bridge here’ll be pulling down some day
The dark stairs and the baccy shops ill all be cleared away

Miss Bracher

Miss Bracher lived at the bottom of our street and owned a Wolseley 150.  An ageing spinster, the Wolseley’s long face was entirely in keeping with her narrow features and thin life.  A few doors up, John Fawcett’s dad owned a Standard Vanguard.  A slightly rotund young boy with a matching father, the American inspired design, bench seats and column gear change, were custom-made for the over-size family (young John is second from the left, here).

The interior of an entirely original 1954 Standard Vanguard.

My dad’s Mk1 Ford Consul with its svelte modern lines was entirely in keeping with my view of the world and my place in it.

We lived at number 12, the duodecimal house. Years later I would come to understand the magic properties of the 1900 Series 24-bit word mainframes, supporting four 6-bit characters per word and using octal for binary short-hand, it was inherently superior to the IBM systems, which used 8-bit bytes and hex.  Not everything that is best survives. Similarly, for years I worked on X.400 based messaging systems, a significantly more elegant, reliable and efficient standard to SMTP which is used across the Internet. If I have lost you, worry not – put simply, once everything was right with the world, now I am not so sure.

That uncertainty crept in during my teenage years and never left the room.  My passion for the still image, I owe to my dad – an industrial chemist, he taught me the secrets of the dark room at a very young age.  I can still conjure him into existence with the smell of developer and fixer.  He had no real interest in cars and even less in motor sport.  When they became the centre of my existence, we effectively went our separate ways.

That separation means I struggle to connect with his ghost but there are plenty of photographs and, occasionally, words.  This from a blog post in 2013It is from a small photograph album made up of 3 x 2 inch contact prints which he put together as a young boy – they are individually captioned in a manner consistent with a 10-12 year old; this one – Mummy Daddy and Baby:

Mummy Daddy and Baby

Earlier this week I got the opportunity to sit in an Austin Ruby, a slightly later model of this car.  A wonderful machine, beautifully preserved, it would be a fictional pretence to suggest I was aware of my dad’s presence.  However, it did reinforce something I had always felt – we were born to an entirely different age.  Dad would have been 100 in 2020 – anything we shared together, is all so long ago:

Austin Ruby – the interior

Austin Ruby – the front end

Austin Ruby – engine bay

Austin Ruby – rear end


Ballad of a Thin Man …

… You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you will say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Top House 2 – North Shields

Pete Beat.

Lauren Stones

Jackie and Helen

Arrid Foo on percussion

Jaktrax & Arrid Foo



Top House 2.

Live streaming

The night wears on.

Ouseburn, Acros and …

… other things.

Like Seaton Sluice, Ouseburn doesn’t sound too attractive, something underfoot which should be avoided.  It turns out that names can be deceptive, Ouseburn is quite pleasant despite its mucky industrial past and living in the shadows of three viaducts which span the valley.

A brief period of snow after Christmas has been followed by leaden skies and persistent rain, not the best start to the year.  Après la neige, le déluge.  Nevertheless, on Wednesday afternoon we got lucky and a walk from the Side in Newcastle to the Ouseburn Valley was lit by a bright winter sun, splintered by the Tyne Bridge.

In the dull days before this Newcastle outing, I had spent many happy hours fiddling with the settings on the Fuji X100F. I am mostly a RAW man but I remain addicted to the jpeg film simulations available on Fuji X cameras and so shoot both.  When it comes to colour, I am mostly convinced by the argument that RAW records all of the data from the sensor and allows you to decide exactly how the final image should look.  However, when it comes to black and white I am not at all sure I can get anywhere near the simulations that Fuji provide in camera.  This is particularly true of ACROS as explained at

Other manufacturers are also implementing the idea of creating “graininess” to enhance image texture. FUJIFILM is not the only brand doing this. You can find “Grain” filter in readily available photo processing software, and many monochrome photographers add “grain” to achieve the monochrome film like effect.

Most of them try to achieve this by adding “grain-like element” to the original image. They simply add another layer of “dotted graininess” on top without changing the original photo composition. So something becomes unnatural in the process.  “ACROS” is different.

We developed it from the core of the image file to achieve a very complex and natural like grain expression. Optimal and different grain expressions are added to highlight and low light areas. You would not find unnatural dotted graininess in the highlight areas just like how the monochrome film behaves. In the low light area, you would see the graininess just as it would appear with monochrome film. There is undulating grain within the picture. And it adds depth like no other.

ACROS also changes the output of graininess depending on the sensitivity setting. As the sensitivity gets higher, stronger grain effect becomes visible, just like film.

We also think that it is very unlikely that any RAW conversion software would achieve what “ACROS” achieves. We all know that there are excellent RAW conversion software in the market, but we also believe that the magic of X-Processor Pro is not so easily solved.

These are the results with only minor tweaks in Photoshop – simulation is ACROS with a yellow filter, noise reduction at -1, highlight tone at -2 and sharpness at +2:

Newcastle Quayside from Lombard Street

The Newcastle Arms, directly beneath the Tyne Bridge

Newcastle Quayside – Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Co. Ltd. All that remains is the DFDS ferry to Amsterdam.

The Toffee Factory and the Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Company – Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle.

Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Company – Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle.

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do – Mother Teresa.

Boats at the mouth of the Ouseburn.

Mustang ‘S’ally, American Diner, Ouseburn.

The Ship Inn, Ouseburn.

Of course, I see what I want to see and I am not sure the subtleties of ACROS grain are particularly evident in these images.  So, to finish off, here is a portrait of my middle son, Matt, being subjected to the ACROS treatment.

Happy New Year, one and all.

Matt being given the Fujifilm ACROS treatment.