Spanish City and Dome saved from dereliction in Whitley Bay by Heritage Lottery Fund

By Sarah Jackson | 02 December 2013

A seaside resort immortalised by Dire Straits will be reopened to the public thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant aimed at regenerating Whitley Bay

Two men wearing high-visibility jackets stand underneath a large dome.
The Dome of Spanish City was the second-largest in the UK when it was built in 1910© Courtesy of Heritage Lottery Fund
Whitley Bay’s beloved Grade II-listed Spanish City and Dome will be restored and reopened to the public thanks to a grant of £3.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Now owned by North Tyneside Council, the Spanish City and Whitley Bay Pleasure Gardens once attracted tens of thousands of visitors from across the UK, even being immortalised in Dire Straits’ 1980 hit single, Tunnel of Love. But after a period of decline during the 1980s and 90s, the building was closed to the public permanently.

As well as being a classic example of an Edwardian seaside resort, its Dome was the largest freestanding dome in the UK, after St Paul’s Cathedral, when it was built in 1910.

North Tyneside Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn said she was “absolutely over the moon” with the grant.

“The Spanish City is an incredibly special place, held dearly in people’s affections," she explained.

"This has been clearly demonstrated by the overwhelming support we have received from local people, with hundreds of all ages streaming through the doors when we held open events at the Dome.”

This latest investment is the result of years of hard work by the local council and community to secure the building’s future. Until now, the building’s poor state of repair was a barrier to any regeneration project. The building will now undergo major refurbishment to ready the structure for leisure, retail and business enterprise use.

“Securing the future of Spanish City has been a real community effort which confirmed my view that people are really passionate about it," reflected Redfearn.

"They see it as part of our heritage, our identity and, like me, they want to end years of neglect and stagnation and breathe life back into this wonderful historic building.”

The grant has been awarded through HLF’s new Heritage Enterprise programme, launched in April 2013. The aim of the programme is to address "market failure" – buildings with a cost of repair rendering them commercially unviable, deterring investment and commercial use.
A more detailed two bid process will begin in the New Year.

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Black and white photograph of Spanish City and Dome, Whitley Bay.
© Courtesy of Heritage Lottery Fund

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Such fond memories as a child, always looked forward to a day out in Whitley bay and especially a visit to Spanish City in the 70s. So sad to see it now.....
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