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Tyne and Wear HER(2216): Whitley Bay, Spanish City and Empress Ballroom - Details

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Spanish City, Whitley Bay


N Tyneside

Whitley Bay, Spanish City and Empress Ballroom

Whitley Bay



Music Speech and Dance Venue




Extant Building

This building is an early example of the use of ferro-concrete in a leisure building. It was designed by Cackett & Burns Dick the dome being built for Whitley Pleasure Gardens Ltd in 1908-10. It is 50ft in diameter and made of reinforced concrete 6" thick {1}. Theatre and amusement arcade. 1908-10 by Cackett and Burns Dick for Whitley Pleasure Gardens Ltd; L.G. Mouchel engineer. Patent Hennebique ferro-concrete; bronze statues. Free Baroque style. 2-storey 3-bay main block flanked by 3-storey towers and one-storey 4-bay wings. Central dome has colonnaded lantern and iron finial; drum has 12 round windows in projecting panels. Towers crowned by bronze statues of cymbal players {2}. Spanish City is a collection of seaside pleasure buildings and grounds comprising a theatre, shops, leisure and amusement rooms and the large rotunda hall with dome. The funfair has now gone. The dome was listed in 1986. Previous alterations subdivided the Rotunda, lost detail of the East Range main elevation (includes the towers, shops and restaurant) and the removal of the roof terrace loggias. The East Range fronts onto the Promenade and includes 10 ground floor shops. Those that are in the wings either side of the main entrance each have a roof terrace, but the original loggias have been removed. The East Range also includes a first floor restaurant above the main entrance, a hall behind the north wing, converted to a cinema, later an amusement arcade, ancillary accomodation behind the south wing and two stair towers. The Rotunda is the circular element beneath the dome linking the East Range, theatre and grounds together. It was designed as a two storey space but a first floor has been inserted to create a ground floor amusement arcade, first floor nightclub, second floor roof promenade around the dome. There is a later single-storey extension to the west. The theatre or Empress Ballroom adjoins the rotunda to the south. It has a first floor gallery, a foyer to the rear of the theatre, built as single-storey but now two, a 1920s extension, a single-storey east extension and two-storey west extension. The East Raonge was originally flanked to the north west by a concrete wall with panelled piers, enclosing the grounds. This was replaced in 1924 with a row of 5 shops. These survive but are altered. The name Spanish City came from its beginnings as an open air variety theatre on the Rockcliff Rugby Football Club's playing field in Whitley Park. In 1904 Charles Elderton of the Theatre Royal, Hebburn, brought his Toreadors concert party to perform there. They performed on a wooden platform and the audience, sitting on wooden benches, were protected from the rain by a wood and canvas awning painted to look like an old Spanish town. On 6th June 1908 Elderton erected temporary premises in Whitley Park which could accommodate 5000 people and he named it Spanish City. By August 1908 the site had been purchased by Whitley Amusements Ltd and plans for the present building were approved on 4th January 1910.




<< HER 2216 >> I.M. Ayris, & S.M. Linsley, 1994, The Industrial Archaeology of Tyne and Wear, p.81; L.G. Mouchal &Partners Ltd, 1921, Hennebique Ferro-Concrete; Dept. of National Heritage, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, 1022/5/182; Paul Usherwood, Jeremy Beach and Catherine Morris, 2000, Public Sculpture of North-East England, p 218; North East Civic Trust, October 2004, Spanish City, Whitley Bay - Conservation Plan; Jonathan Makepeace, 1992, The Spanish City: a Pleasure Palace by the Sea, unpublished BA Combined Studies History of Architecture dissertation, University of Newcastle; Colin Mitchell-Rose, Consultant on Traditional Paints, 2009, Spanish City, Whitley Bay - Initial Report on the Exterior of the Dome; JC Moffatt, no date, Dance Hall Days; Tyne and Wear Museums, 2008, The Spanish City, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside - Historic Building Recording

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