Sunday, 10 April 2011

Roker & Seaburn, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear.

One of the challenging things about this blog is not just to present you with beautiful places or images that go beyond the expectations of the location, but to find material from ordinary locations from an alternative photographic angle. I attended a local conference or rather a church weekend away from the 14th - 16th January in Seaburn and this set consists of a few interior pictures that I used for a travel website and a short saturday afternoon walk.

Attractions this way .... maybe not !
The area to the north of the Sunderland and The River Wear was undeveloped during the Victorian tourist boom but later became popular for day visitors during the 1920's. Later in that decade, the decision was taken to make Seaburn a seaside resort when money became available but with further delays and problems, the only thing that was constructed by the mid 1930's was a sea front promenade and a widened coastal road.
During the 1930's, workers began to receive paid holidays and visitors started to arrive to the newly assembled funfair rides and seafront illuminations. In 1936 plans were passed to build an Art Deco building called The Seaburn Hotel and was completed in 14 weeks before opening the following year.

Not quite the Art Deco extension you are expecting to see ! (1998 £2.8million extension)
As the seaside town developed, the resort became popular with a tram line built to this terminus bringing people from the centre of Sunderland.

After some minor wartime damage repairs, there were no significant building modifications until a new wing was built that include private bathrooms in 1963 and a programme to continue that work throughout the rest of that decade.

There were many famous people who stayed here. One of the most frequent visitors was the industrial painter LS Lowry who used the hotel for long periods of time as a base for his work e.g.The River Wear at Sunderland.

Other people who used the hotel were from the entertainment, sports and music world, the most famous probably being The Beatles.

In the late 1970's another wing was added before complete refurbishment and a name change to the Swallow Hotel ten years later. During the closure and renovation of the hotel, it was discovered that there were extremely serious problems due to the original construction process and the restoration fee was doubled to £5 million with the hotel almost having to be re-built.

During the 1990's the hotel won awards before a further extension in 1998 was added and Whitbread PLC, who own the Marriott UK franchise took over the following year.

The 'fake' Marsden Rattler
Like so many UK seaside resorts, Seaburn has had to re-invent itself so try and stay competitive in recent decades. A railway ran further up the coast to assist the transportation of workers and coal from Marsden to South Shields. The only thing remaining reminder is a railway carriage called The Marsden Rattler. The railway carriage restaurant shown above was never part of this railway system but as it has stood here for so long, many people just accept that it did.... A business opportunity !!
Seaburn and Roker host The International Airshow which arguably is the biggest free event in Europe, a seafront illuminations festival and an icy annual December 26th swim into The North Sea.... err, no thank you !!

Modern funfair times
It has become difficult in recent times for various reasons that i am not going to go into here for the funfair to stay open except to say that nearby South Shields on the River Tyne has picked up on the trade. That last phrase gives me the opportunity to talk about the rivalry with Newcastle and Sunderland which can be traced throughout history for example showing allegiance to opposing sides during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and the competition between the River Tyne and River Wear with the shipbuilding industry. Today the rivalry is "officially" consigned to ... the football pitch although there is a deeper dislike of the other side which extends to the opposite regional accent and certain things about the other city, ha ha !!

The short saturday afternoon walk with my roommate and two other friends took us to the 1885 Roker pier at the north side of the River Wear.

As it was a cold January afternoon we decided to use the coffee shop to sit and talk for a short time while some considered walking or avoiding the pier...

Spotlight on the pier... to walk or not to walk

... before my roommate made a suggestion to re-trace the steps of our tourist ancestors ....

... Unfortunately, i was only other volunteer to brave the strong winter winds of the North Sea .... for photographic purposes you understand ...

... exploring the ... wind !
Hoping a fish will be blown my way !
On the Pier and during the walk back, I was reminded of the activities of Seaburn people...

Treasure Hunter
Walking the beach
Walking the dog

It was nice to get back into the hotel as the staff were preparing our saturday evening Gala dinner and the delegates rehearsed and perfected their evening entertainment routines.

Escaping Seaburn and Sunderland !!


  1. About six years ago whilst on a long distance walk I stayed at this hotel because I fancied a bit more comfort than the tent I had been living in. Nice to see it again...


  2. Beautiful seaside pics! Also a lovely hotel.

  3. While looking at the first hotel pics, I almost expected to see Chief Inspector Gently and Detective Sargent Bacchus walking up the steps to investigate a murder! That would be their territory and in the 1960s. :-)

    It's mind boggling how much money is spent on hotels and entertainment. I can't see these fragile economies keeping many of those plates spinning on poles for much longer. (But it certainly is a stunning building!)

    Walking that pier doesn't look like much fun on a windy, bleak day, but nice that you got the photos. Is it ever not windy there?

    Interesting post!

  4. So it is possible to make silk purses from sows ears. A magical will have people going there.
    Next work your magic on Middlesbrough........A real challenge!

  5. The Beatles stayed there - awesome. Very historic place that can be one of the highlights of your visit in that area. Being in the hotel is already a highlight. I find the hotel beautiful.

    I love your beach photos.

  6. Love the British seaside, mostly in warm weather I must say. But even so there is alot of character to them even on the coldest and dreariest of days.

  7. Bringing to us the winter again..
    But very atmospheric the seaside photos!
    I myself prefer the stay in the warmth of
    that beautiful hotel..

  8. Your travels have certainly taken you to many interesting places. Love the ocean and pier shots in this post. Thank you for sharing your photos and information with all of us- what a fun way to learn about other places. Mickie :)

  9. Good and interesting post and photo series, of which I like the beach ones the most.

  10. Love the first photo, and the interior of the hotel you sure know how to B&B in style ;)
    Have a good time in North Wales if thats where you end up.
    Jan and George

  11. What a post!
    I remember visiting here, a good few years ago now, but I will be returning to have a look and stay, very impressive.
    Good luck and enjoy your journey xx

  12. An amazing place, love this post!

  13. It seems Seaburn is a place where there's something for everyone on holiday or on a day out: lovely beaches, various seaside attractions, the Mariott Hotel,shops, big events such as the international Airshow etc..
    Your pictures and words make us greatly wish to visit the place.

  14. Smart photography, a beautiful place and a nice hotel!


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