North Shields had its humble beginnings on the north side of the banks of the River Tyne near the entrance from the North Sea. It was once a thriving fishing port, the entrance to the harbour which served Newcastle upon Tyne. Its name came from the 'shielings' or fishermen's lodges, which built up along the riverbank on the orders of Prior Germanus from Tynemouth Priory on the headland. The town is now a busy shopping area with the buildings on the quayside changing usage to elegant loft-living spaces and flats overlooking the harbour with its own buzzing community of fresh fish shops and restaurants. The Fish Quay is a conservation area with its own active group of residents campaigning to preserve the fishing and maritime heritage of the region.