NORTH SHIELDS, along with Tynemouth, has been a centre of Northumberland piping since the late 18th century. The keyed small-pipes played today were first developed in their present form, in North Shields during the first half of the 19th century, by Robert Reid and subsequently his son James. Several ducal pipers and other significant pipers have been associated with the town, and some of the most important descriptive records of early 19thC piping are the accounts of ducal pipers playing at the opening of North Shields and Tynemouth fairs. Tynemouth had its own Manorial Piper for some years in the middle of the 19thC. Key members of the late 19thC Northumberland Small-Pipes Society lived in the town. In the 20thC the town has been home to important modern pipemakers, and there is still today a tradition of piping and pipe-making in North Shields.
This website offers an account of piping and pipers, piping music and pipe-making in North Shields, based upon research into original and contemporary sources. It is a ‘work in progress’ and will be developed and updated as research reveals new elements of our history.
The terms “Northumberland small-pipes” and “Northumbrian pipes” are used interchangeably to refer to the instrument now generally known by the latter name. “Northumberland small-pipes” is the earlier form of the name and was in more common use until around the mid-19thC.
Please note: several of the subjects mentioned in this website are reliably covered in detail on other websites. Sites such as that of the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society, articles on Wikipedia, and personal sites like ‘The Blue Bell Inn‘ are extremely informative. This website is not intended to supplant such sites, but rather to complement them by focussing attention on the relationship the subjects have to North Shields, in the light of recent research into sources that have recently become available.
Although a research forum is planned, at present this site does not include the facility for discussion of the topics.