The north-eastern corner of South Shields forms a famous promontory known to seafarers all over the world as Shields Lawe, and commands the southern bank of the entrance to the River Tyne.
There is reason to believe that in some remote age the Tyne had one large estuary with two smaller outlets. The first and most southern channel diverging from the main stream at the creek known as the Mill Dam followed the depression to the south of St. Hildas church and seaward through Waterloo Vale, Kepple Street, Ocean Road and entering the sea between the Marine Parks. The second and present channel through the Narrows, and the third following the depression between Tynemouth and Collingwood's monument, discharging at Priors Haven. Upon this theory the ancient Lawe would have been an island, like a large version of Marsden Rock, separated from the mainland by the more southerly of the three channels. The oldest existing map of the district at the time of Henry VIII shows this channel with a triangular shaped island between it and the main stream. The eastward end of the channel seems to have gradually silted up, but in Fryers map of 1773 the tide is flowing up the gut from the Mill Dam as high as what is now known as Fowler Street. The earliest recorded name of the town, Caer Urfa, some believe translates as Town on the Rock or Island.