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Boldon Lane, South Shields

The following article by Mike Hallowell entitled Strange goings-on in ‘Spooky Valley’ was published in the Shields Gazette on 21 February 2013.

IF one travels down Boldon Lane in South Shields, just past the junction with Stanhope Road, there is a dip flanked by stout, stone walls, which support the railway bridge overhead.

Some locals know this little concave section of the road as “Spooky Valley” due to the high number of strange occurrences that have been reported there.

I’ve detailed several of these instances in this column over the years: The phantom signalman who haunts the line overhead, sometimes observable only by the eerie glow of his staff-lantern as it swings on its pole in the darkness, is one.

Another is the apparition of a supervisor from a local factory who has been seen walking around in his work clothes – despite the fact that he’s dead.

The nature of apparitions is a debate for another column, but I don’t think for one moment it actually was the spirit of the dead foreman come back to haunt Spooky Valley – maybe just something that looks like him.

Just around the corner, of course, there once stood the imposing Tyne Dock Arches, one of South Tyneside’s most memorable landmarks – until they were demolished, which in my view was a shame, but there’s no good moaning about it now.

Actually, an air of mystery surrounded the Arches themselves. I remember as a young’un walking with my pals to the coast from Jarrow, and passing underneath the arches on the way.

Never once did we do this without discussing the legendary “box” that had supposedly been secreted in one of the arches when they were built.

Another rumour was that there was a magic stone in one of the arches, and that it glowed blue if you ... well, it’s a long time ago and I honestly can’t remember what you were supposed to do to get it to glow, actually.

But, then again, others said that it didn’t glow; it was simply a marker of where the reprobate, drunkard and murderer William Jobling had been hanged.

Some speculated that the box contained 200 gold coins, while still others said it contained a secret about the end of the world.

Although I was appalled at the decision to demolish the Arches, a little bit of me was glad, as I hoped “the box” and its contents would be found and finally revealed to the world.

Oh, the demolition people did their job and the Arches came down, but there was nothing. Nada, zilch, zip. No box, no hidden secret, no body of Jobling the execrable villain.

I was doubly disappointed; both at the loss of the Arches and the failure to find, “the box”. My friends and I had really wanted it to be there.

Spooky Valley has long had a reputation for being the home of strange activity.

Back in the 1920s, one chap left a nearby pub to start his shift as a security guard at what is now the Port of Tyne Authority.

He was never seen alive again, his corpse being found with severe head injuries hours later.

Around the same time, my own grandparents stumbled across a fatally injured man further down the line at Jarrow.

He too had head injuries. His identity was never established, and no one could ever say the two deaths were connected. Strange indeed.

Times are changing. The face of South Shields is being given a makeover.

Old buildings are being demolished, new ones – horribly lacking in character, for the most part – are replacing them.

At some point, urban renewal will encroach upon Spooky Valley, that quaint little dip in the road at Tyne Dock.

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