Originally known as Whitley or Whitley-by-the-Sea, it is widely held that Whitley Bay derived its present name from local indignation at the confusion between the place names Whitley and Whitby, just over a hundred years ago.
In this short overview, the origins of Whitley can be traced back to its establishment in 1116 when it was a tiny hamlet owned by the Prior of Tynemouth. The name of the village can also be attributed to the deWhitley family, local landowners who held a manor house in the area up to 1538.
John Speede’s map of 1610 shows the spelling as ‘Whitlathe’, the area of which extended from what is now the corner of the present Station Road to the corner of Marden Road.
By 1674, following the dissolution of the monasteries, the Priory lands and estate were enclosed and divided up, except for Whitley Links which to this day remains as open land.
In 1760, Whitley Hall was built by Henry Hudson, a local landowner, and occupied the area of land now enclosed by Marden Road, Whitley Road (Front Street), Clifton Terrace and Jesmond Terrace.
St. Pauls Church was built in 1864 and the Prudhoe Convalescent Homes in 1866, followed by the Northumberland Village Homes which were opened in 1880.
By the 1870s, land was being built up in small sections between Front Street and Rockcliffe, with many shops, large houses and hotels being constructed on the seafront. Two prominent builders of the time were Richard Heckels Nesbitt and Alfred Styan, who were responsible for laying out many of the streets and much of the housing towards the south side of Whitley.
In 1882 the North Eastern Railway opened its new coastal line, and this led to the rapid growth of Whitley as both a seaside resort and a commuter town.
Between 1860 and 1898, North Parade, South Parade, The Esplanade and Station Road had been laid out, while by 1918 many of the residential streets in the town centre had also been built and there was a mixture of both pride and regret at the speed of the town’s growth.
Over the years that followed, the boundary of the town soon extended north towards Brier Dene, south to Cullercoats, and west to encompass Monkseaton Village.
Since its early beginnings, Whitley Bay has developed to become a residential town, a seaside resort, a centre for nightlife, and a place to go shopping.
by Charlie Steel © 2011
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, local historian Charlie Steel has lived almost all of his life in Monkseaton. His books “Monkseaton and Hillheads” and “Inns and Taverns of North Shields” are published by Tempus and are available in all good book shops.
All Charlie’s articles which are featured in Roundabout Monkseaton can also be found on his website www.monkseaton.info. Charlie also writes articles for Roundabout Tynemouth.
If you have any old pictures or photographs of Monkseaton that you would like to share then please e-mail Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org.