Saturday, 31 March 2012


Leafing through my copy of Narrow Boats at Work, this strip of tickets which had been used as a bookmark fell out. They are issued by the North Sunderland Harbour Commissioners and for the cost of 17p entitle a passenger to travel on... what? A ferry, maybe? And how long ago was 17p a substantial enough sum to buy you a ticket on anything? Most intriguing. I love finding things like this in old books. Can anyone shed any light on it?

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  1. my boyfriends from North Sunderland ! haha. He doesn't know what it could be though, but the marina is classed as North Sunderland, so maybe its something on the River Wear?

  2. It looks like a ferry ticket doesn't it. 1970s? Maybe Starcross Jim will be able to shed some light.

  3. The North Sunderland Harbour Commissioners still exist - why not phone the Harbourmaster and ask him?

    "The harbour master, Philip Brabban, can be contacted for matters relating to using the harbour such as boat launching and moorings.

    Telephone: 01665 720033"

    1. Oh wow! That's fascinating. I can't shed MUCH light on it, but this is from my neck of the woods.

      North Sunderland is a village in Northumberland. There were originally two villages - N S. and Seahouses, but over the years the two have grown together, and now N. S. is usually thought of as an area of Seahouses, even though it was once a separate village. The Seahouses harbour and the North Sunderland harbour are one and the same. It's a large-ish working harbour, the largest on that stretch of the North Northumberland coast at any rate. It's still used both as a fishing port and as a tourist harbour.

      I suspect that it might be the latter that explains your tickets. Just off the coast of Seahouses are the Farne Islands, an uninhabited (apart from a National Trust warden!) set of small islands with two lighthouses, and some amazing wildlife. It's one of the biggest puffin sanctuaries in the country, and there are also arctic terns and grey seals, among other things. The tourist boats take people for tours to and round the islands to this day, so it could well be that.

      Seahouses is also very close to Holy Island, otherwise known as Lindisfarne. This is a tidal island (connected to the mainland at low tide, when you can drive across a causeway over the sand, cut off completely at high tide) with an important role in the history of Christianity in Britain. It has a castle and the remains of a priory. Monks lived here for centuries, and are responsible for the Lindisfarne Gospels. Nowadays most people wait for the tides to be right and drive over, but it's also possible to sail into the harbour, and I believe that this was the most common way to visit the island in the past. Seahouses is one of the sensible harbours for boats to Lindisfarne to have left from, so that's another possibility for the tickets.

      Finally there's the slight possibility that these aren't for boats but trains, but that very much depends on the date, and isn't as likely. For years there was a railway station and a short railway line connecting to North Sunderland. I am not sure about the date that this was in use, but iirc there's a wikipedia entry on the railway so you might be able to find out. It's possible that tickets for the train wouldn't have been printed with the name of the harbour commission on though, so I'm not sure whether this is a real possibility.

      Hope that helps! Get in touch if you want to know anything else about North Sunderland/the harbour. When I was growing up we had a caravan at Bamburgh, the next village north up the coast from Seahouses/North Sunderland, and now we have a flat in Beadnell, the next village south down the coast from Seahouses, so it's an area I know really well.

      Love to you both, it's been a while since I caught up with either of you...

      Fiona/Feef xxx

  4. I think I have the wrong Sunderland haha!

  5. A quick look at the history of Almex Control Systems Ltd. suggests that the ticket is from the early 80's:

    "Control Systems Ltd (as based at the Island at Uxbridge) was sold off by the Yard Group to the Incentive Group (Swedish Group) in the early 1980's. The Incentive Group already owned an established transport ticketing business called Almex, amongst other businesses, and they decided to create a ticketing based business by putting Almex and Control Systems together, creating Almex Control Systems Ltd, which focused on bus ticketing and car park ticketing.

  6. If the harbour is used for trips to the Farne Islands these tickets could have been for boarding fees -i.e. the use of the harbour by boat passengers. Such fees are usually fairly low so 17p might not be from so long ago, although as there are at least four in the strip in the photo the fee could have been 68p with tickets being issued in multiple to use up old stock - this was common in times of high inflation, such as the 1970s
    Jim (Starcross)

  7. Hi my name is Andy Bayley - fellow narrowboat owner (NB Brindley) but not liveaboard. We spend summers ont he boat and winters hibernating in our house in Loughborough. May have the answer to your tickets. I worked for Rolls Royce for many years and spent 5 years at the Sunderland Plant during the late eighties and early nineties. I remember doing a boat trip which took you around the harbour and out to the end of the breakwaters. I suspect the tickets may be from this.The trips I beleive finished many years ago and the area, once an industrial wasteland has now been redeveloped and includes a new University Campus and lots of expensive flats and a marina.