South Shields Daily Photo

A collection of images from South Shields and the North of England

Equinus Cliffus

with 6 comments

The white horse, Marsden, South Shields

The White Horse

This White Horse was painted on the cliff face in Marsden Craggs, South Shields in the early 1800’s, it is visible on Google Earth. There is an entry in Wikipedia about it, but there is so much myth related to the tale that perhaps we are unsure of it’s authenticity.

Peter Allan
Peter Allan bought the Marsden Grotto with money left to him by his father, also Peter Allan. His father was the game keeper of Sir Headworth Williamson. When Williamson’s wife was swept out to sea on her horse on Marsden Bay, he gave all his horses to his ostler, who painted the White Horse on Cleadon Hills, and all of his money to Allen, his gameskeeper.

Peter extended the caves to include a ballroom and kitchen, turning Jack’s house into an inn.

In 1848 John Clay, who later became the first mayor of the County Borough of South Shields, bought The Leas and claimed that the land gave him rights to The Grotto. Allan battled with Clay in court and was forced to pay £50 costs and £10 annual rent for 20 years. Allan sunk into depression and died in 1849 leaving his wife and eight children.

After Allan’s death his family continued to run The Grotto for an additional 35 years. In this time many improvements were made, along with further excavations implemented by Allan’s children. A catastrophic cliff fall in 1865 almost destroyed the inn. Large retaining walls were built to protect the internal structure.



Written by curly

April 25, 2007 at 12:01 am

6 Responses

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  1. Very interesting stuff. I like the story and the photograph.

    Abraham Lincoln

    Abraham Lincoln

    April 25, 2007 at 1:29 pm

  2. Very interesting, thank you, Curly!


    April 25, 2007 at 5:17 pm

  3. Hello again, Your “White Horse” on Cleadon Hills was another trip down memory lane. When much, much younger, mam took a photo of me and my sister and two cousins sitting in the ledge in the middle of the horse. I later went to Redwell School that was built in front of it. (NO longer there). Thanks again.
    Sue Nicholls

    Sue Nicholls

    May 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

  4. […] readers in South Shields will know all about Marsden Grotto, but many may not know about the grotto in Coulthard Park, Cleadon Village (indeed, some may not […]

  5. me and my friends used to drink cider there when we were only young,it was a nice view we could see the police from a long way

    ian tyrie

    June 18, 2008 at 9:45 pm

  6. i remember my first knee trembeler up against the white horse she was a pig and canny fat but them were the days respect

    david ferguson

    June 20, 2008 at 8:00 pm

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