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Tyne and Wear HER(7584): Shipcote, Saltwell View, Little Theatre - Details

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Shipcote, Saltwell View, Little Theatre




Music Speech and Dance Venue




Extant Building

This building is fascinating in many ways – in its origins, the time and process of building, as well as its distinguished architecture, by an equally if not more distinguished architect, Scottish-born Herbert Lewis Honeyman. The form of the building remains true to the original, and incorporates the adjacent 3 and 4 Saltwell View as well as the theatre building itself. It was financed by the well-known Dodds sisters, of Home House, Low Fell, who were founder members of the Progressive Players for whom it provided a home. The company lamented the lack of a theatre in Gateshead wherein they might perform, and sought to amend the omission. The building is extremely unusual in being built during World War II, some of the fittings having been purchased in advance, but the materials for the structure being obtained piecemeal as they became available. Thus, when the new venue opened in 1943, having suffered the set-back of bomb damage before it was even completed, it was not fully fitted out and makeshift provision was made for dressing rooms and stage access. The main theatre building was designed with the architectural emphasis squarely on Saltwell View, introducing (for the time) very contemporary proportions and detailing, but having regard to the storey heights of the adjacent terrace. The design has a strong horizontal emphasis engendered by a flat roof, a storey-dividing string course and extensive horizontal glazing. The effect was initially augmented by different treatments to each storey (a ground floor of bare brick with roughcast above) and by many horizontal glazing bars. The simple device of a curved staircase, for which a graceful, deeply curved bow window was provided, supplied additional aesthetic interest. The original timber doors, gently curving beneath their canopy, remain in place and are of particular importance, both architecturally and historically. Unfortunately the ground floor is now also rendered and the lost metal windows have been succeeded by plastic replacements with different glazing bar patterns and lacking the delicacy of the former. Signage is now also of relatively poor quality, and should an opportunity arise for this to be improved, or for lost features to be re-instated, it would be welcomed. The premises also boast interior interest, especially in the adapted terraced properties, which still proudly display their skirtings, cornices, ceiling roses and, most special, full depth timber bays with panelling to the base and sides. Other features include decorative corbels, etched/engraved glass and furniture contemporary with the theatre. It is most encouraging to note that the picture rails are now being utilised for their original purpose: to hold exhibitions of the work of local amateur artists and photographers. MATERIALS Brick, white cement roughcast, timber ARCHITECT Herbert L Honeyman (6 Eldon Square, Newcastle) DATES 1943 (opened) ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The architect was the son of John Honeyman, whose practice Honeyman and Keppie later took Charles Rennie Mackintosh into partnership. After coming to Newcastle, part of his work was as the surveyor to the Diocese of Newcastle, responsible for the vicarages as well as the churches. His commissions included work to St Andrew’s Church, Ponteland vicarage, Dunstan Hill and the drill hall at Tynemouth. He was keenly interested in conservation and deeply involved with the Society of Antiquaries and other related organisations, it being reasonable to suppose that these activities brought him into contact with Hope Dodds, engendering this commission. He even corrected and added to Nikolaus Pevsner’s Northumberland volume of the Buildings of England series. LOCAL LIST




Gateshead Council Local List X20/LL/215; Dictionary of Scottish Architects 1840-1940 (; TWAS CB.GA/BC/PLAN/1939/289

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