Seaburn: A Victorian Seaside Resort
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Seaburn: A Victorian Seaside Resort

Seaburn is a suburb of Sunderland in the North East of England. By the 1930s Seaburn had developed into a popular holiday resort, providing much-needed leisure facilities for the town’s hardworking population. Day-trippers and holidaymakers alike were attracted by the lure of scenic beaches, newly-built visitor attractions and the promise of respite from the mines and shipyards in which they laboured during the working week. Seaburn’s heyday as a popular holiday resort came in the years leading up to the Second World War and again in the 1950s. However, the provision of hotels, promenades and parks was the culmination of a long process of development that began in the mid-nineteenth century.

Seaburn is a suburb of Sunderland in the North East of England.  By the 1930s Seaburn had developed into a popular holiday resort, providing much-needed leisure facilities for the town’s hardworking population.  Day-trippers and holidaymakers alike were attracted by the lure of scenic beaches, newly-built visitor attractions and the promise of respite from the mines and shipyards in which they laboured during the working week.  Seaburn’s heyday as a popular holiday resort came in the years leading up to the Second World War and again in the 1950s. However, the provision of hotels, promenades and parks was the culmination of a long process of development that began in the mid-nineteenth century.

Stretching along the seafront on the northern side of town, Seaburn was the prime site in Sunderland, but it had actually been slow to develop.  This was partly because the land was owned by Sir Hedworth Williamson, who was occupied with commercial developments elsewhere and had little time to devote to Seaburn.  Another problem was that the route back to the town centre passed through industrial areas and required visitors to cross a toll bridge over the Wear.  So while other towns rushed to exploit the healthy air and scenic potential of the seaside, Sunderland did not develop until later. 

The first attempt was made in 1840 when a hotel, public baths and a terrace of holiday homes were built at Roker.[i]  These were designed by the celebrated Newcastle architect John Dobson, who had undertaken much work for Williamson in the past.  The centerpiece was the Roker Hotel, which still survives. 

Roker Hotel.

Expansion to the north was restricted by Roker Dene, but Williamson solved this problem by offering the Dene to Sunderland Corporation for use as a public park on condition that they built a bridge over the ravine.[ii]  This was achieved when local architects Joseph Potts and Son designed a utilitarian bridge in 1880.  Roker Park opened in the same year.[iii]  The park was designed by James Lindsay, Alderman and Chair of the Parks Committee, in conjunction with the Council’s Head Gardener, Mr Johnson.  One of the main attractions was a lake for the growing number of model yacht enthusiasts in the town.[iv] 

 

Joseph Potts and Son’s bridge over Roker Ravine.


[i] Sunderland Herald, 10 April 1840, p1 + 18 June 1841, p3.

[ii] Sunderland Times, 10 + 14 August 1869, p5 + 2.

[iii] Sunderland Daily Echo, 23 June 1880, pp2-3.

[iv] Sunderland Daily Echo, 23 + 24 June 1880, p2 + 3.

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Comments (8)

Another great feature on Sunderland Michael.

Ranked #1 in Art & Art History

Cheers, Ron!

Interesting stuff, Michael!  I miss reading your articles!

Ranked #1 in Art & Art History

Thanks, James.  I haven't been able to focus on writing for a while, but things are getting better.

Your history lesson and detail to art in this well presented article make it a truly enjoyable read. Thank you.

Nice to see you back, dear Michael. How are you?

Brilliant article, as always. Thank you.

It has been a while since your last article, good to see you writing again.

Great to see here again, buddy. We lost some substantial experts here in Knoji recently.

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