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Tyne and Wear HER(15067): Whitley Bay, Spanish City, funfair - Details

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N Tyneside

Whitley Bay, Spanish City, funfair

Whitley Bay






Demolished Building

Spanish City was opened by Charles Elderton on 6 March 1908. The temporary premises could hold 5000 people. Elderton had been holding a summer open air variety theatre on Rockcliffe Rugby Club's ground since 1904. The name Spanish City comes from the wooden and canvas awning which protected the audience from the wind and rain - it was painted to look like an old Spanish town. On 12 April 1909 the Figure-Eight Railway opened. Whitley Amusements Ltd commissioned Cackett & Burns Dick to construct pleasure buildings at the east side of the site. In May 1909 the zigzag Social Whirl opened. The ride was 30 feet high. It was soon moved to another position on the site without being dismantled. On 15 December 1909 Whitley Pleasure Gardens Ltd takes over from Whitley Amusements Ltd. In 1910 the Water Chute opened. In January 1910 plans were passed for the present buildings at Spanish City (the dome and theatre, HER 2216). The official opening was on 14 May 1910. During World War One the army occupied the buildings. The Hall was converted into a cinema some time between 1915 and 1920. After the War the theatre became the Empress Ballroom and the restaurant became a bar. The official re-opening was on 8 October 1920. The 1920s to 1950s were Whitley Bay's heyday as a seaside resort. In 1924 five shops were built adjoining Spanish City to the north. In 1927 the Virginia Reel replaced the Water Chute. In 1937 the Winter Gardens open. The army occupied the complex again during World War Two. After the War the ballroom was refurbished. In 1959 an advert described Spanish City as 'a Mecca of Pleasure and Gaiety, with a truly Pleasure Park and Carnival Atmosphere'. In 1961 the Empress Ballroom was converted into a bingo hall. In 1963 the Picture House in the Hall closed. In March 1964 the Hall re-opened as an annexe to the bingo hall in the ballroom. In June 1964 plans were approved for removing the cupola domes from the towers. In 1965 the Hall was converted into an amusement arcade by Mr H Swaddle. In 1974 the railway was dismantled. In 1975 Spanish City and the fairground were refurbished. In March 1984 Spanish City opened Horseman's Garage on Marine Gardens as an indoor market. On 19 February 1986 Spanish City (HER 2216) is listed grade 2. In June 1989 Whitegate Leisure acquired the complex. In 1989 the theatre was sold to Fairworld. In 1992 the rotunda's ground floor arcade was refurbished and Lazer Quest was installed in the first floor nightclub. In July 1996 plans were approved to install a BMX track. In May 2001 North Tyneside Council bought the site (apart from the theatre). The amusement arcade in the Hall and shops closed in 2002. In 2003 Marine Park School was built on the site of the fairground.




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; North Tyneside Council, January 2002, Spanish City/Sea Front Regeneration Development Strategy & Brief; Lynn Pearson, 1991, The People's Palaces Britain's Seaside Pleasure Buildings, p 44;

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