Famed Geordie netty is museum attraction

First published in News

A FAMOUS North-East toilet is to become an exhibit at Beamish Museum.

The Westoe Netty, a late 19th Century row of urinals from Westoe, in South Shields, South Tyneside, was built in about 1890.

It inspired a well-known painting of the same name by South Shields artist Robert Olley.

The netty has become a notable, cultural symbol of the North-East's working class and achieved iconic status.

Many thousands of prints of the original painting have been sold to North-Easterners and visitors to the region alike.

It shows a line of men using the row of urinals and a cheeky boy weeing into a man's boot.

Originally, the Westoe Netty were toilets on the Harton Coal Company railway line to Westoe Colliery, adjacent to the abutment carrying the railway bridge through the village of Westoe.

It was salvaged by an enthusiastic group of Mr Olley's friends, in advance of demolition during regeneration work in Westoe in 1996.

The toilet has been stored in a shipyard in Hebburn, in South Tyneside, until recently, when it was donated to the Beamish Museum, near Stanley, by South Tyneside Council.

Councillor Jim Sewell, the council's lead member for culture and well-being, said: "This humble public toilet gave inspiration to Bob Olley for his world-famous painting, which vividly illustrates the days when men always wore dark clothing, cloth caps and mufflers, and frequented the many public houses and workingmen's clubs in the town.

"I am delighted the old Westoe Netty will be given a good location at Beamish and will remain on the list of tourist attractions."

The building is not complete, but all of the original materials are there and easily replaceable.

When the netty was taken down, about 200 of the bricks from the building were "adopted" by locals for safe-keeping until it was likely to be rebuilt.

Museum bosses are now asking anyone who has one of the original bricks to get in touch.

Beamish plans to locate the rebuilt Netty close to its 1913 Railway Station. It will be open to visitors, though as an exhibit rather than serving its original purpose.

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