Here I am in this instance on Tyneside exploring the labyrinthine netherworlds.
I had cycled by on a journey from Newcastle to Amble.
I returned to take a closer look.
There are plans for restoration and renewal.
So that once again the merry bathers may bathe merrily.
There’s still a long way to go.
Passing a few familiar sights.
Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts
BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.
The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.
Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.
I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.
The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.
The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.
Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay
The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.
The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.
In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.
A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.
Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.
Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.
Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.
Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.
Ryder and Yates 1959
A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.
Before I knew it I was in Blyth.
The town edged with military installations
Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.
During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.
827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.
Uncovered this gem in the library porch.
Stopped to admire the bus station.
And found a post box marked Post Box.
Burton’s gone for a Burton.
The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.
Encountering a brand new factory.
And the remnants of the old power station.
Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.
After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.
UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.
The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.
By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.
The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.
Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.
One hundred and eleven men died there.
The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.
I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.
Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.
Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.
Beacon House Whitley Bay completed 1959.
Client: JM Liddell
Photograph: David Bilbrough
Cycling twixt Newcastle and Amble, I espied a tower block upon the horizon.
Leaving the coastal path I came upon Beacon House.
Research lead me to the work of Ryder and Yates Architecture.
Two pioneering young entrepreneurial architects who worked with Le Corbusier and Ove Arup first met in the office of Berthold Lubetkin. In 1953, they formed Ryder and Yates in Newcastle upon Tyne. That Le Corbusier, Lubetkin and, to no less extent Newcastle born Arup, had a powerful influence on the subsequent design philosophy of Gordon Ryder and Peter Yates can still be seen in any evaluation of Ryder’s work today.
Their work celebrated in this RIBA publication.
Beacon House is and elegant eleven storey tower, modest in scale yet rich in detail.
Two tiled elevations to the north and south.
Elegant balconies of a refined construction.
Plus a curious curved shell surrounding the entrance, along with a cantilevered covering.
Sadly this Peter Yates mural Procession of Shells is now lost.
We here in Stockport have our own BHS murals, happily so does Newcastle.
The work of acclaimed artists Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins, they worked on a large number of murals and exhibition designs for amongst others, Jamestown Festival, USA; Brussels Exhibition; Expo 70; Japan; Shell Centre; GPO Tower, London; Grosvenor House, London; Ind Coope Ltd; Philips Business Systems; Sainsburys; British Home Stores; Cwmbran Arts Trust; Essex County Council and IBM, London.
They never worked on the site itself, but used a regular contractor Hutton’s Builders Ltd Colchester, who cast the concrete in panels around four feet square. There are two relief panels, depicting events in the history of Newcastle. Highly stylised, the relief is moulded to a depth of 5cm and features some charming Geordie characters.
The left panel contains the following inscriptions and images Monkchester with Roman head and Newcastle coat of arms. Roman ship and golden coin. Collier Brig 1704-1880 with ship. Oceanus with anchor and seahorse with trident. The right panel contains the following inscriptions and images: Jupiter Fortuna with two figures. Engineering; Davy and Stephenson; coal mining ship building with images of same. G & R Stephenson; Armstrong Whitworth; Rocket 1829 with image of first steam engine. Armstrong 12 Pounder RA with image of gun. 1878 J.Swan Pons Aelius with bridges depicted below. Turbinia and image of ship. Various churches with names carved about including Grainger Dobson 1865; 1838 Green Stokoe; Bewick with a swan; a figure and Brigantia. Final section on far right has Geordie over two figures, then the Keel Row with a loading boat at the bottom.
Information from – PMSA
The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed last year, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
The mural illustrated the cover of the 1975 Newcastle Festival.
Everything is up in the air.
Tyneside is self evidently enamoured of elevation – they simply adore bridges, having five and another one as well. Walking driving, running trains across the mighty Tyne Valley, why they even write songs about them.
In the Swinging Sixties T Dan Smith vowed to create a Brasilia of the North, which as good as his word he did, though sadly lacking the requisite regard for the law of the land.
What remains is a complex interwoven structure of urban motorways, walkways, multi-storey car parks and tower blocks. To explore is to enter a world of the sublime, exhilarating and still yet mildly confusing.
Can you get there from here?
Further delights unfold in this most remarkable of buildings.
Firstly into the Banqueting Hall – beneath your feet Arabescato Marble, inset with a sprung dance floor and on the vaulted ceiling hand carved African walnut. The slightly sloping walls are of Clapham Stone, with the only double glazed arrow slit windows in the country.
The chandeliers are hand cut crystal from Westphalia and have the Newcastle castles on the top part of the fitting.
The seahorse carpet was recently replaced, digitally designed and woven to perfectly match the original.
The facing wall is graced by a John Piper tapestry, which represents the mineral resources of the area.
Grilles by Geoffrey Clarke cover the alcoves and have an orange backlight to simulate a medieval fireplace.
The room can seat up to six hundred people and is available for hire, in regular use for a wide variety of functions.
The Model Room houses a magnificent architectural replica of the city.
It is also blessed with a living, walking talking spiral staircase, cast in one single piece of steel, it moves with you as you ascend and descend.
This ante room dressed with Arne Vodder furniture, walls clad in raw silk and hand carved wood, is a place green oasis, a sea of calm.
Opened on 14th November 1968 by King Olav of Norway, opened for me by Debbie Harvey on Friday 5th May 2017, thanks ever so much.
This takes us into architect George Kenyon’s Civic Centre
Cast Aluminium portals and reveals to Ceremonial Entrance by Geoffrey Clarke.
Staff on reception were once able to notify officials of the arrival of guests and dignitaries, using this right bang up to the minute electrical intercom.
To the right is the engraved John Hutton Screen engraved glass panels depicting – the inventive genius of Tyneside’s most famous sons and daughters.
From left to right: George Stephenson the steam locomotive, Sir Charles Parson the turbine engine, Sir Joseph Swan electric light bulb, Lord Armstrong the gun.
Brigantia – Celtic Goddess of the tribe, The Three Mothers – offering fruit for fertility, Mithras – the slaying of the bull , Coventina the goddess of a well, she reclines on a water-borne leaf and below her are three intertwined figures of nymphs of streams, for in those days every self-respecting stream had its own tutelary deity. All have been found when Roman temples have been unearthed on the Roman wall.
A twenty three foot high, eleven tiered chandelier of hand cut Bavarian crystal from Westphalia, hangs above your head. This chandelier was commissioned on behalf of Newcastle City for the opening of the building in 1968. It has 119 light bulbs, the crystal on the top is in the shape of a castle on the base of the chandelier are sea horses. The walls are lined with random English oak, the floor down stairs is Portuguese Verde Viana marble.
Elegant Arne Vodder designed sofas litter the entrance, this truly is a palace of delights a temple of Municipal Socialism, take your shoes off set a spell.
Y’all come back now!
Within the exterior of architect George Kenyon’s distinguished civic drum sits the inner sanctum of the Council Chamber – my thanks to the delightful head of hospitality Debbie Harvey for providing me with the most erudite and educational tour.
Outside the division bell, set against Danish slate, was originally to be found on the HMS Newcastle.
This silver bell is of the 10,000 ton cruiser HMS Newcastle presented to the ship by the Lord Mayor and citizens of Newcastle upon Tyne to mark her commissioning in 1937. Launched by the Duchess of Northumberland on the 23rd January 1936 at the Walker Naval Yard. In 1959 HMS Newcastle was towed from Portsmouth to Newport Monmouthshire to be broken up.
The entrance padded with soft green leather the door clad in hand carved Cedar of Lebanon.
We illuminated the illuminated sign and entered – what treasures await, leather and teak furniture by acclaimed Danish designer Arne Vodder, worth thousands and thousands of pounds. Fine Swedish marble and further Cedar of Lebanon acoustic cladding, each surface of the highest quality and chosen to enhance the sound properties of the space. The councillors seated once a month on 149 leather clad seats with integral voting and microphone modules. A high grey, skylight lit domed ceiling.
This is work of the highest possible quality, a proud summation of Municipal Socialism, our friends in the North, matched with the imaginary world of the Man from Uncle.
Hope, we need a little hope, here embodied in a huge municipal undertaking.
Having survived the indignity of the Luftwaffe’s absence, Newcastle set about the task of knocking itself down. T Dan Smith’s Brasilia of the North had to be built, the self-styled former revolutionary communist, Sunday painter and jail bird had a vision – fuelled by that hopped up, post war optimism that had engulfed the land.
Newcastle Civic Centre is a local government building located in the Haymarket area of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It is the main administrative and ceremonial centre for Newcastle City Council. Designed by the city architect, George Kenyon, the building was completed in 1967 and was formally opened by HM King Olav V of Norway on 14 November 1968. It is a Grade II* listed building. The Newcastle Civic Centre is the joint eighth tallest building in the city.
It is a concrete poem clad in Portland stone ashlar, Cornish granite, Broughton Moor stone, hand made bricks, Norwegian slate, Portuguese marble, English oak, travertine hand hewn and assembled into one of the finest buildings in the land, no expense spared. Liberally dotted with the labours of John Piper, Victor Pasmore, John Robert Murray McCheyne, Charles Sansbury Geoffrey Clarke, David Dewey, John Hutton and David Wynne.
A building full of surprises, big and small that repays exploration and further exploration, in that order. Go take a look, breathe that air, that air which whistles up the River Tyne, fresh from the Continent – and glow, all aglow with civic centre pride.