Several urban sanitary districts were formed in the parish in the late 19th century : Willington Quay, Howdon and Wallsend itself. The first two joined to form the Willington Quay urban district under the Local Government Act 1894, with the portion of the parish outside any urban sanitary district forming the parish of Willington in Tynemouth Rural District. Wallsend became incorporated as a municipal borough in 1901, and in 1910 took over Willington Quay and Willington, and also part of the parish of Longbenton.
Wallsend has a history of shipbuilding and was the home of the Wigham Richardson shipyard, which later amalgamated to form Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, probably best known for building the RMS Mauretania. This express liner held the Blue Riband, for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, for 22 years.
Other famous ships included the RMS Carpathia which rescued the survivors from the Titanic in 1912, and the icebreaker Krasin (launched as Sviatogor) which rescued the Umberto Nobile expedition on Spitsbergen in 1928, when Roald Amundsen perished. The story is retold in the movie The Red Tent, starring Sean Connery and Peter Finch.
Charles Parsons launched his revolutionary Turbinia here in 1884, thus not only revolutionising the navies of the world, but also, through the large-scale production of affordable electricity, making a significant contribution to the modern age. He features in a BBC film called The Inventor of the Twentieth Century.
The shipyard closed in 2007.
Between 1767 and 1925 there were 11 major incidents recorded at the colliery resulting in over 209 deaths. On 18th June 1835 a gas explosion in one of the tunnels killed 102 miners. The youngest was 8 years old.
The town has expanded greatly in terms of housing since the end of World War II, and also since the 1960s. Wallsend town centre - including the main shopping area - is in fact to the west of the land covered by the town. To the north of this area lies the older estate of High Farm and the new estate of Hadrian Lodge. The town centre of Wallsend is separated from the eastern areas of the town by Wallsend Burn, a stream that has cut a small valley running north-west to south-east until it flows into the River Tyne. To the east of the Burn is the old area of Holy Cross (that contains the ruins of a medieval church), the pre-war estate of Rosehill and the (mainly) post-war estate of Howdon. To the south of Howdon lies Willington Quay which, as it name suggests, once served shipping but which is now dominated by industry and housing. East Howdon forms a small enclave between Willington Quay and North Shields.
The town's principal thoroughfare and shopping street is the High Street. To the north of this street is Wallsend Green, the town's most picturesque area, consisting of large houses surrounding a green square. Behind the Green, the Burn runs through the parkland of the Hall Grounds, to Wallsend Park, a traditional British municipal park, whose restoration has frequently been demanded by local residents.
The town is home to Wallsend Boys Club, an association football club, which has produced many famous players such as Alan Shearer, Lee Clark, Peter Beardsley and Michael Carrick. It is also hometown and birthplace to internationally successful musician, Sting.
Wallsend Metro station serves the town and, in honour of the Roman fort, has Latin and English signs.