Celebration of the Spanish City Centenary
On 14 May 1910, Whitley Bay saw the opening of The Spanish City, which boasted a rotunda (with it’s now iconic white dome), restaurant, roof garden and promenade. Owned by Whitley Pleasure Gardens Ltd, its idea was rooted in the local Summer Season performances of The Toreadors who performed in a set painted to resemble a Spanish City.
Fairground rides were developed at The Spanish City and in 1920 the theatre was converted into the fashionable Empress Ballroom. Closed throughout World War 2, it became a popular attraction in the 1950s when Whitley Bay was the popular destination for many Scots during Glasgow Fairs Week.
Package holidays in the 70s heralded changing fortunes and the ballroom became a bingo hall with the rotunda used as a function room then for skateboarding and laser quest. The amusement park was demolished in 2001. The grade 2 listed rotunda is now under renovation and redevelopment as part of the seafront regeneration of Whitley Bay.
In 2010, the Northern Voices Community Projects published The Spanish City: The Heart and Soul of Whitley Bay in Words & Pictures. Listenupnorth.com recorded a selection of the poetry, memories & prose from this publication to take the work & voices of the writers out to a wider audience & also to increase awareness of the centenary of this landmark.