King Street is now the main shopping street in South Shields and has undergone many changes throughout it history.
According to the Universal Magazine for 1748: South Shields is a large village in which are 200 pans for boiling sea-water into salt. The river before this village is full of ships, either to load salt or coals, which are brought from the steathes or loading-places in barges or lighters or keels, as they are called by the inhabitants on this coast, all of which greatly contribute to the trade and improvement of Shields, which on this account is well inhabited by the manufacturers of salt, several substantial captains or masters of ships, and such tradesmen and artificers as are necessary and depend upon the said works and the sea service.' Wellington Street was then the aristocratic quarter of the town, in which the shipowners and other wealthy inhabitants had their residences. What is now the business centre of the town—the Market-Place and King Street—was open fields, sometimes in grass, sometimes in corn. These fields formed part of the original donation of King Oswin to the religious house of St. Hilda.
In 1760's the Dean and Chapter of Durham acquired eight acres of the glebe land belonging to St Hilda's. The Market Place and the Town Hall were built. Building leases were distributed for the remainder and through these the town acquired East Street, Thrift Street, Dean Street, Church Row, West Street and West King Street. East King Street was a later addition. The corner of Waterloo Vale was occupied for a number of years in the early 19 century by Paddy Gaffiney's wholesale bacon factory.
At the beginning of the 18th century there were picturesque low roofed houses with garden and the site was mainly residential. From the middle of the 19th century King Street was largely rebuilt with larger commercial buildings - banks, theatre and shops. After the bombing in 1941 the junction with the market place was redrawn and several old buildings were demolished.
Notable shops on King Street
Binns - Binns came to South Shields in 1927 and expanded to absorb adjacent properties westwards along the thoroughfare, including Woods the Tailors. The shop was noted for its high class shopping, furs, gowns and restaurants. A number of shops now occupy the site including New Look, Clintons cards, Vodafone and JD Sports.
Barbour's - Barbour's was founded in 19th century when John Barbour took over an old established tailoring firm in the Market. It is well known for it weatherproof clothing and during the second world war supplied essential clothing to the Admiralty and the board pf trade. It closed its shop in the Market place and has a manufacturing factory in Simonside,