“Spanish City’s restoration has reignited the fire of Whitley Bay as a coastal resort. North Tyneside Council has steadfastly committed to this vision over two decades, weathering changes in the policy agenda and priorities. It sets a quality benchmark for other local areas in need of regeneration – restoring the landmark listed building, encouraging public access and walking journeys through new landscaping, and launching a range of successful commercial tenants.” - Lucy Gara, Great Town Deputy Assessor
Spanish City is a Grade II-listed former Edwardian concert hall, restaurant, roof garden and tearoom which sits at the heart of the coastal resort of Whitley Bay on North Tyneside.
Built in 1908, this pioneering building hosted what was at the time the largest freestanding dome in Britain outside St Paul’s Cathedral, staring out to the North Sea. It initially served the crowds arriving for the “Figure 8” rollercoaster, telegraph-wire cyclists and ballroom dancers during Whitley Bay’s heyday as a seaside resort. Despite the fond memories, following stints as a military hospital and bingo hall, the building fell into disrepair as trends including holidays abroad took the shine off the town, like so many others, in the mid-20th century. The derelict building became a prominent eyesore dominating the town’s seafront, as Whitley Bay in the 1990s became better known for its boisterous night clubs, stag and hen parties. It was bought by the Council in 2003 with regeneration being announced in 2011, which started the long journey to its final reopening in 2018 as a leisure venue and event space with a reputation for cracking fish and chips.
Driven and substantially funded by North Tyneside Council, it was also supported by a significant pot of Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF). Today, the building is a key piece in a wider image of Whitley Bay, seeming to buck the trend of declining English coastal resorts and helping to discover a new lease of life for the town, boosted by its strong public transport connectivity across Tyneside.
This nomination relates to the Spanish City project and the wider regeneration initiative including the public realm enhancements to the promenade.