Prior to the 1870s there was no seafront road connecting Whitley Bay and Cullercoats; the route along the seafront between these points was simply a narrow and hazardous track, situated close to the cliff edge, with the only buildings of significance being Whitley Manor House along with a row of six houses known as Whitley Park Terrace, which were situated on what became the site of the Spanish City.
In 1893, work began to lay out the new upper promenade road between East Parade and Rockcliffe, including landscaping work to create the ‘Corkscrew Stairs’ near the Esplanade, which led to the beach on the seaward side.
When work was completed, the official opening of the Promenade took place on Saturday 27th May 1911. The ceremony was performed by the Duke of Northumberland, after which he walked several dignitaries and council members to Rockcliffe School for afternoon tea.
A few years later, work began on laying out the new Southern Lower Promenade, which runs from a point opposite the Esplanade to Table Rocks. It was opened in June 1932 and incorporated a large paddling pool.
The Northern Lower Promenade was constructed in 1914 with a northward extension from Panama Dip being added in 1926. Some features of this promenade included an interesting art deco style drinking fountain, erected in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI, and a design set into the paving stones depicting the four cardinal points of the compasses.
Substantial shelters were built and, in June 1936, 25 wooden chalets were erected and let out by the council to visitors and holidaymakers at a rent of £15 per year. They were built on circular concrete bases which enabled them to be manually rotated to engage the maximum amount of sunshine. With the onset of World War 2, access to the beach was restricted, and in 1940 the military authorities requisitioned all the chalets and paid the council £1,520 compensation.
In succeeding years, a number of proposals were brought forward to replace the chalets, which were rebuilt in 1959 with a further 25 added in 1960. They were removed in 1990 due to increasing vandalism.
In 1922, the Central Lower Promenade was constructed and stretches from a point near Watts Slope to the Corkscrew Stairs. This promenade incorporated a number of retail units which served the needs of the many beachgoers and holidaymakers, though in recent years these units fell into disuse. Structural surveys in 2010 indicated concerns for the stability of the overhead pavement and, despite many protests, a controversial demolition programme began in 2015. The area is still awaiting improvement work.
by Charlie Steel © 2016
Further reading for many of Charlie’s articles can be found in his books: ‘Monkseaton Village’ (Vol. 1 & 2), ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ (Part 1 & 2), ‘Tynemouth Remembered’ and ’Whitley Bay Remembered’ (Part 1 & 2) , all published by Summerhill Books.