South Shields Local History Group

Under Construction


General Giuseppe Garibaldi was one of the giants of the nineteenth century; a radical revolutionary freedom fighter and one of the principal architects of Italian unification and independence; the Nelson Mandela of the nineteenth century!  I would argue he was probably the most important historical figure to ever visit South Shields!

Garibaldi Galop (British Museum)

Garibaldi was born in 1807 in Nice.  In 1832 he became a merchant navy captain and then became involved in revolutionary politics an action which resulted in a Genoese court sentencing him to death in his absence. 

Engraving (Wikipedia)

He fled to South America and led revolutionary movements there.  Between 1850 and 1853 he was working as a ship’s captain mainly based around North America.  In November 1853 he was hired to take a large ship called the Commonwealth from Baltimore to London he then went to collect “Coals from Newcastle” (Groan!).

Garibaldi in South Shields
Word of Garibaldi’s forthcoming visit to Tyneside spread through the country’s newspapers. 

This prompted a rather reserved Garibaldi to say:  “I beg that there might be no public demonstration of any nature whatever on my account.”

Garibaldi spent most of his time on Tyneside staying with Joseph Cowen, the radical owner of the Newcastle Chronicle at his home at Tynemouth House (on the “Dark Side”), where a blue plaque now commemorates his stay.

Blue plaque (A. Bracci, Wikipedia)

The Friends of European Freedom held a meeting in Newcastle on March the 28th.  Penny subscriptions were requested from working people and enough money was raised to buy him a sword and telescope as gifts from the people of Tyneside. 

Garibaldi 1861 (Library of Congress, Wikipedia)

My guess is that Garibaldi was seen as both a soldier and a sailor and these gifts were perfect symbols of this.  They were engraved with the message:

“Presented to General Garibaldi by the People of Tyneside, friends of European Freedom. Newcastle-on-Tyne, April, 1854.”

A farewell ceremony was organised by Joseph Cowen for April 11th 1854 on board his ship the Commonwealth at the Pontop and Stanhope Drops in South Shields.

Garibaldi gave a short speech:

“Gentlemen,—I am very weak in the English language…This handsome sword shall never be drawn by me except in the cause of liberty.”

Garibaldi later wrote:

“Should England at any time in a just cause need my arm, I am ready to unsheathe in her defence the noble and splendid sword received at your hands.”

Garibaldi London 1864 (Illustrated London News)

Garibaldi left for Genoa on the 12th April 1854.

Commonwealth leaving the Tyne (Fine-Art-Emporium)

He proceeded to play a significant part towards the unification of Italy in 1871. 

Garibaldi 1866 (Wikipedia)

He died on the 2nd June 1882 of bronchitis at the age of 74.

30 Years after his visit to South Shields and about two years after his death, Garibaldi Terrace on Ocean Road was named after him in 1884.

Garibaldi Terrace, Ocean Road, Terry Ford 2022

Two Tyne Tugs bore the name Garibaldi and one of the Tyne ferries was named Garibaldi in his honour.

The Garibaldi Band lasted 50 years from 1865 till 1915 when the First World War ended their long running musical career.

Garibaldi Band 1890, (STH0018618, South Tyneside Libraries)

Anthony Wright: Garibaldi and the Tyneside Radicals (
British Newspaper Archives
David Bell: Ships, Strikes and Garibaldi in Shields
Terry Ford

British Museum
Terry Ford

error: This content is protected.