JAMES EVANS (1715-1839)

JAMES EVANS (1715-1839)


25 JUNE 2020


For some time, I have been planning to write up my research into my Evans ancestry which I commenced approximately forty years ago. There were three James Evans in my direct line, my 5th, 4th and 3rd great grandfathers, spanning 124 years, the first of them settling in South Shields in about 1770 with residency for approximately 80yrs with some of their descendants such as myself, still living in South Tyneside.

Willington Waggonway

It was the fascinating talk by Ian Whitehead on The Willington Waggonway, on Monday, November 18th, to South Shields Local History Group that made me consider putting pen to paper. Ian talked about the 2013 discovery and excavation of the Willington Waggonway of 1785 and the importance of ship breaking and recycling of the timber by early South Shields shipbuilders Robert Wallis and James Evans.


I have always been grateful to Amy Flagg for her impeccable research in providing the potential ink between that of my 2nd great grandmother, Ann Evans (1812-1880) with that of the Evans Shipbuilders. I well recall my excitement in discovering the book 'Notes on the History of Shipbuilding in South Shields 1746-1946' written in 1979 by Miss Flagg with the support of South Shields Libraries. Her research is impressive; it is so easy to forget that she did have to visit regional archives to accumulate the information. There was no access to the internet during her lifetime. She wrote several pages relating to her findings on James Evans (1715-1800) and James Evans (1750-1839). The excellent contribution made by David Whale in the December edition of the Newsletter in which he transcribed the references in her book to James Evans and Robert Wallis is a further source of inspiration.


My plan is to write about the lives of the three James Evans in chronological order. There is achievement, intrigue and tragedy to relate. Over a span of forty years I have accumulated files of research together with some fascinating documents which I will include in my articles.

James Evans 1715-1800

On a bright day in January viewing from the panoramic windows of The Word (South Shields futuristic new Library), I can visualize the area of the riverside where James Evans, my 5th great grandfather had his first shipyard in South Shields, The Market Dock. St Hilda’s Church still retains a prominent place in the Market Place where James Evans worshipped and the open spaces next to the church, the burial ground where James Evans, his sons and daughters and their descendants were interred. His granddaughter Mary Ann Kelly, died at 2 Market Place on the 6th February 1829 at the home of her half-brother Richard Mewburne Kelly (1805-1870), the premier bookseller and printer in the town.

In his will of 1799 (purchased from Palace Green, prior to the on-line research option), reference is made to the properties he owned in close proximity to the Market Place. One of his two docks, the Market Place Dock was most probably close to The Alum House (public house). There was an inn which he rented to Morland Snaith (1763-1804) and undefined properties rented to Matthew Thompson, Mr Heslop and Mr Armstrong.

James Evans appears fairly regularly in the old Cess Books (in St Hilda’s Church Muniments) paying sums varying from �‚£5.3.0. in 1787 to �‚£ 1793 for his properties (Amy Flagg p.68).


Evans Lane, which is still in existence located close to the Waterloo Vale retail development was presumably called after him or his son James Evans Jnr.