Do you ever read our Heritage blogs and think there is something missing? Northumberland based writer and researcher Nigel McMurray did just that in 2021 when his investigations into the life of Sir Arthur Sutherland led him to the Ouseburn, and what is now the Hotel du Vin. Nigel's blog for February looks at the buildings history and the company for which it was built.

February 2022

The Hotel du Vin is a significant structure on City Road, Newcastle on the west bank of the lower reaches of the Ouseburn. Hundreds of Geordies drive past it every day and those used to gracious living will know it as a luxury boutique hotel. The former usage of the building is self-evident from the notice above its rather incongruous front entrance and the large cast-iron banner across its much wider side entrance; Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Co. Ltd. [hereafter the TTSSC].

This article addresses the background to the TTSSC and the significance of this building. A subsequent article will endeavour to unravel the Scandinavian links of the shipping industry associated with the TTSSC and the former Malmo (now Mariners Wharf luxury apartments), Norway and Gothenburg Wharves adjacent to the Ouseburn.

Front entrance in March 2001 with Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Co Ltd. just visible
Image: Mike Greatbatch

Restored front entrance, January 2022

The TTSSC was formed in 1904 by merging the Tyne Steam Shipping Co. Ltd, and the Tees Union Steamship Co. Ltd. The company had four locations on the Tyne: the Gateshead Wharf, a passenger terminal adjacent to the present Malmaison Hotel on the Quayside, and administrative headquarters – to which his captains reported immediately after docking - in the cavernous and dark King Street which now houses Sabas Italian restaurant. The fourth location was in what is now the Hotel du Vin and was the TTSSC Cargo, Administration and Storage Centre with fitting out and repair facilities for ships when moored at adjacent wharves. The present Hotel du Vin premises are now a complex with an almost identical footprint to that of the original TTSSC building which was built in 1908 by Newcastle factory architect J Watson Taylor in red brick with little architectural decoration, given that it was a warehouse. It bears no architectural comparison to the King Street premises which were built to impress. During the hotels refurbishment of the building in 2008 a new hotel bedroom and conference complex to the north of the central courtyard replaced the workshop facilities of the original structure.

The building was the engineering and crewing centre for the TTSSC fleet and was known as the Dock Office as it was concerned with the nitty gritty running of the Company, including the likes of cashiers’ departments, workshops and the multiplicity of storage units required for items to be loaded onto ships prior to their departure. Some employees lived in adjacent housing accommodation rented out from the TTSSC, which owned the tenements on adjacent Ouse Street in the first half of the 20th Century. Profit was also made with outside work from other fleets when docked in the Tyne. Ships engines would be brought in the side entrance into the main courtyard (which remains as a courtyard) for refurbishment including full rebuilds in the case of a capsize. Engines would be removed by cranes from any wharf on the Quayside and transported by low loader to the Ouseburn facility.

Rear courtyard entrance, January 2022

To the north of the courtyard - which now houses the hotel extension - were workshops, blacksmiths, carpenters, and sailmakers. The manager of the complex in the 1950s and 1960s was designated Captain with Captain Leask, a Shetlander, holding that post for most of that time. The Captain was also responsible for crewing the TTSSCs ships as they prepared to leave the Tyne. His deputy was designated Chief Engineer. Secure and regular communications were essential between King Street and the Ouseburn though the system employed may seem a little haphazard to us now in that a Mr Wilkinson walked twice a day in each direction carrying out the Document Exchange!

The TTSSC owned a subsidiary transport company, John Foreman Ltd. of Back Roseberry Crescent, Jesmond which had a large and versatile lorry and tanker fleet covering much of the North East in the 1950s and 1960s. This fleet was used for the transport of TTSSC cargo produce and the collection and delivery of spares to the Ouseburn facility. Their vehicles are recalled as being a common sight on the Quayside. When Coast Lines Ltd. took over the TTSSC in 1943 John Forman Ltd automatically became its sub-subsidiary.

Final closure of the building as a shipping concern took place in 1972/3 following failures to modernise management procedures. But it was the increasing use of containerisation (and roll-on roll-off facilities) in the UK in the 1960s that led to the terminal decline in its general cargo operations. The Quayside did not have the land space facilities of the emerging seaports and thus the TTSSC could not maintain its traditional operations.

'Sir Arthur Sutherland as Knight Commander with Star of the Order of St. Olaf of Norway’. Howard Somerville, 1931

From 1921 until 1943 the Chairman of the Directors of the TTSSC was Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland (1867-1953), possibly Newcastle’s greatest philanthropist. Many Geordies will have been in the City’s Mansion House in Jesmond, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, which was his townhouse. Sutherland was Lord Mayor in 1919. His favourite portrait of himself, of which there is one in the Mansion House and one in the Royal Grammar School, is by Howard Somerville and is entitled “Knight Commander with Star of the Order of St Olaf of Norway”. Throughout his business life, Sutherland had shipping interests with Scandinavia which involved his vessels mooring at the Malmo, Norway and Gothenburg Wharves at the mouth of the Ouseburn. Sir Arthur was Chairman of the Board of Directors of three mercantile fleets (TTSSC, BJ Sutherland & Co. Ltd. and the Free Trade Wharf Co. Ltd.) that traded throughout the British Empire and northern Europe. Profits from those fleets underpinned many of his personal philanthropic enterprises. The TTSSC Board was composed of six Directors including Sir Arthur as Chairman and, as Chairman, he guided policy and had a remarkable awareness as to what was going on but would not be involved in the nitty-gritty day to day running of the company. With each of the three companies, the Directors were collectively responsible to the companies’ shareholders. Sir Arthur was the figurehead, but corporate responsibility and decisions relating to the fleets ultimately rested with the Boards.
The TTSSC fleet was composed, in his lifetime, of seventy ships both cargo and passenger. Its bulk colliers sent coal to London and significant imports were iron ore (from Scandinavia) and grain, butter and silver sand (from Holland and Germany). The TTSSC was a major user of the Malmo and Norway Wharves.
However, it was BJ Sutherland & Co Ltd. which was always Sir Arthur’s primary shipping concern with its deep-sea tramp steamers with a worldwide coverage. Though its headquarters were next to what is now Bessie Surtees House, only fifty metres from the TTSSC headquarters on King Street, the two companies remained independent of each other. His third shipping company, the Free Trade Wharf, had its headquarters in Limehouse on the Thames.
Sir Arthur was Chairman of the Tyne Improvement Commission from 1935-1945 a period of vast change on the Tyne, some of those changes impacting on the Malmo and Norway Wharves.

Following the demise of the TTSSC the Dock Office was for a time owned by a firm of shopfitters, building contractors and joinery manufacturers D H Allan when it was known as Allan House.

Allan House, c.2007

During the conversion to the hotel in 2007 a large fire destroyed the upper floors and roof. The building opened as the Hotel du Vin in 2008. The current manager (2022) has acquired some artefacts which are on display at reception including accounts sheets and a silver punch bowl. The tiny TTSSC logo on the silver punch bowl is a mini replica of one of the house flags that flew from Sir Arthur’s ships. It features a stylised Scots saltire, a throwback to Sir Arthur’s Scots ancestry. An original flag hangs on the ground floor of the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

TTSSC logo on a silver punch bowl

The company had a second house flag, featuring the Newcastle Keep which can still be seen on an original TTSSC noticeboard in King Street.

Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Co. sign on the King Street building circa 1970s.

It is not easy to ascertain details of the original interior of the building as new floors have been inserted and the luxury bedrooms bear no relation to the former offices, though some fireplaces have been retained and much of the original brickwork remains exposed and protected. Photographs relating to shipping on the Tyne feature in nearly every corridor and bedroom, and a function room has a spectacular Gary Myatt mural, with a typical and provocative trompe l’oeil effect of the old and new under the Tyne Bridge.

Tyneside Evening mural, 2008 © Gary Myatt, 2008. Oil


  • John DOBSON. Former Merchant Navy Chief Engineer.
  • W Kirby ROBINSON. Former Chief Accountant of the Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Company Ltd.
  • Andrew SHIEL-REDFERN. General Manager of the Hotel du Vin, Newcastle.
  • Gary MYATT


  • BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE. Various articles.
  • McMURRAY, Nigel. “Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland. The Legend of Newcastle.”
    Amazon. 2020.
  • OLD ORDNANCE SURVEY MAPS. Tyneside Sheets 12 (1913), 18 (1894) and 19 (1895 and 1913). Alan Godfrey Maps. [2019.]
  • ROBINS, Nick. “The Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Company and its associates.” Bernard McCall [Publisher]. 2014.
  • SUTHERLAND, Arthur Munro, Sir. “Tynesider.” Northumberland Press Ltd. 1947.