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Whitley Bay is a town in North Tyneside, in Tyne and Wear, England. It is on the North Seamarker coast and boasts a fine stretch of beach of golden sand forming a bay stretching from St. Mary's Islandmarker in the north to Cullercoatsmarker in the south. The town, which has a population of 36,544, became a holiday destination for the people of North East England and Scotlandmarker and remained popular in this regard until the 1980s. The town is now widely seen as a dormitory town for Newcastle upon Tynemarker.

Districts of Whitley Bay

St. Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay


The area is rich in history. Whitley was first mentioned about the year 1100 when King Henry I conferred it with other possessions on the Priory of Tynemouth being referred to in ancient documents and maps before that date as Witelei, Wyteley, Hwyteleg, Witelithe, Wheteley, Wytheleye, Whitlaw, Whitlathe and Whitlag. Whitley is also referred to in the charters of King Henry II, King Richard I and King John, confirming to the priors their possessions and liberties.

Whitley was connected with the Crusades when Pope Nicholas IV granted to Edward I the first-fruits and tenths of all ecclesiastical possessions for six years to defray the expenses of an expedition to the Holy Land. A valuation was made of the spiritual and temporal goods of the Priory on 26 March 1292, when the yearly rents from Whitley were returned as 20 shillings, and the tithes as 9 marks.

About the beginning of the 14th century, the manor of Whitley was held from the Prior of Tynemouth by a singular feudal service called the Conveyes which seems to have originated from John de Whitley. Richard de Emeldon, eighteen times Mayor of Newcastle and seven times its representative in Parliament, was the Lord of the Manor of Whitley in 1333.

On 9 April 1345, Edward III granted to Gilbert de Whitley a licence to crenellate his manor house at Whitley.

To crenallate a house was to place battlements upon it. Before this could be done, the sanction of the Crown was often sought. Although the battlements were largely symbolic, this practice is an indication of the degree of insecurity felt even this far south during the Edwardian wars with Scotlandmarker. The licence and crenellations were a display of status. Only 2% of the small tower houses of the sort Gilbert built had licences. The 'sanction' of the crown was a sought-after bonus, but not a requirement. (Davis, 2006)

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Whitley was held under the Crown for a time. By a grant of Edward VI dated 8 December 1551, it came into the hands of Dudley, Earl of Warwick who was created Duke of Northumberland. It remained in the Percy family until 1632 after which time the area appeared to be let at a yearly rental to various holders until it came into the possession of the Duke of Somerset on his marriage in 1682 with Elizabeth, the heiress of Joscelyn, the 11th Earl of Northumberland. Whitley subsequently passed by inheritance to her granddaughter Elizabeth Seymour who had married Sir Hugh Smithson, a Yorkshiremarker baronet, afterwards created Duke of Northumberland. Whitley has since been retained by descendants and the present Duke of Northumberland is the Lord of the Manor and principal landowner.

Monkseatonmarker, which forms the greater part of the north west of the district is also very old and its industries were common with those of Whitley being chiefly coalmining and limestone quarrying.

1873 saw an event of importance in the town's history by the establishment of the Whitley and Monkseaton Local Board. The district of the Local Board became the Urban District of Whitley and Monkseaton.

From the late 19th century and into the 20th century the adverse effects of the decline of local coalmining and dependent industries in the area were ameliorated by the emergence of Whitley as a seaside holiday resort. Its popularity with holidaymakers was helped by the opening of the North Tyne Loop railway line in 1882, connecting the coastal villages to Newcastle. The line followed the route of the present Metro line, and necessitated the building of a new railway station in the centre of the town, as well as another at Monkseaton. Both stations are still in use as Metro stations.

The town was known as Whitley until the 1890s, by which time the confusion of the name with Whitbymarker, in Yorkshiremarker, was often causing mail to be misdirected. The final straw came when an ex-resident died in Edinburghmarker and his body was to be buried in St Paul's churchyard, Whitley. Unfortunately, the body was transported to Whitby by mistake causing the funeral to be delayed. The council asked residents for suggestions for a new name, and the most popular choice was Whitley Bay. It has since been known as Whitley Bay, but many residents still refer to the town as 'Whitley'.

On the 1 January 1944 the Whitley and Monkseaton Urban District became the Whitley Bay Urban District and on 5 March 1954 it was granted its Royal Charter of Incorporation as the Borough of Whitley Bay. The charter was presented by HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony in the town held on 14 April 1954.

The Whitley Bay Parish Church is St. Paul's Churchmarker. The church was provided by the Duke of Northumberland when the old parish of Tynemouth was divided in 1860. It was consecrated in 1864.

The Local Government Act 1972 abolished the borough, with Hartleymarker in the north of the borough going to Blyth Valleymarker district in Northumberlandmarker, and the main part including Whitley and Monkseaton forming part of the Metropolitan Borough of North Tyneside in the Tyne and Wear area. The town is in the constituency of Tynemouthmarker and as of June 2008 its MP is Alan Campbell for the Labour Party. Councillors of the Whitley Bay ward of North Tyneside Council are Alison Austin, Michael McIntyre and Margaret Marshall. The other wards which cover the town are Cullercoats, Monkseaton North, Monkseaton South and St. Mary's.

There are two high schools in the town, Whitley Bay High Schoolmarker and Monkseaton High Schoolmarker.


Whitley Bay was famous for its permanent seaside fairground The Spanish City, which has now been demolished. A fairground returns to the town on bank holiday weekends, the Easter and summer holidays, but is now located on 'the Links', an expansive seafront park to the north of the original Spanish City site. The Spanish City Dome, which is a Grade II Listed building, is to become the centrepiece of a multimillion pound "regeneration" of the seafront complex, which will include hotel and leisure developments. Also in the town is St. Mary's Lighthousemarker.The Spanish City is the subject of the Dire Straits song Tunnel of Love, along with Whitley Bay and the nearby town Cullercoatsmarker.

The ice rinkmarker was also the region's premier concert venue until the Newcastle Arenamarker (now Metro Radio Arena) opened in 1995. The venue played host to the top names in the music industry throughout the 1980s and 1990s, such as The Jam in 1982, The Cure in 1985, Oasis in 1994 and the Stone Roses in 1995, as well as a one-off night to the World Wrestling Federation.

The Park View Shopping Centre opened in 2004 after many years of deliberation, linking the many fine niche retailers on Park View with the High Street retailers in the town centre and with its rooftop car park also adding 173 much needed car parking spaces. Shops with premises on this site include Iceland, Superdrug and Boots. However, the centre was badly hit by the news that Marks & Spencer would be closing its food outlet there after cutting back on numerous stores in the height of the recession. The store has now closed. The Town was further impacted by the closure of its large Woolworths store and the long standing T J Allens store - adjacent to each other in the very centre of the town.

Whitley Bay is around 9 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne and is connected to the Tyne and Wear Metro, with stations at Whitley Baymarker, Monkseatonmarker, West Monkseatonmarker and Cullercoatsmarker. It is about a 25 minute journey from Newcastle city centre on the Metro.

The local newspaper, The News Guardian - owned by Johnston Press - is published once a week from its offices in the town. It is printed on the presses of the Sunderland Echo in nearby Sunderlandmarker. The alternative free weekly paper is the Chronicle Extra, formerly known as the Herald and Post. For those who want a more satirical slant on their local news, the town's very own spoof newspaper the Whitley Bay Citizen started in 2000. It has since been discontinued although the articles have been archived at, new content is also planned.


Whitley Bay is known widely throughout the UK as a destination for 'stag' and 'hen' parties, especially on bank holiday weekends. This is the source of some consternation to local residents, many of whom believe that the town's nightlife brings with it an unsavoury reputation as well as disruption and anti-social behaviour. Others see the boisterous nightlife of the town as a valuable source of revenue and as a source of excitement and interest for the now largely derelict seafront.

The principal nightlife location is South Parade, a street lined with bars, hotels, guesthouses and restaurants that curves down from the town centre to the seafront. Whitley Bay's two nightclubs are to be found on the seafront along with a number of hotels and restaurants.

Park View

Park View is a shopping street that runs roughly north to south parallel to the seafront. It is a continuation of Whitley Road, the town's principal thoroughfare, but is particularly well known locally for being the location of numerous independent shops, rather than chains or franchises, that cater for a wide variety of consumer demand.


Abandoned Amusement Arcade on the Whitley Bay seafront, which has since been demolished.
£60 million was earmarked by the government for a regeneration scheme in Whitley Bay. At the heart of the scheme is the redevelopment of the Spanish City site with its iconic dome, which was completed in 1912. For many years it was home to a theme park with rides and attractions for holiday makers until falling into decay following the closure of the theme park in the 1990s.

On 20 February 2007, North Tyneside Council announced plans to regenerate the Spanish City and Whitley Bay. The proposed £60 million scheme envisaged the full refurbishment of the Whitley Bay Playhouse and the creation of a cultural hub within the iconic Dome on the seafront although an alternative plan for regeneration [45274]has been proposed by a group called The Culture Quarter. A new skatepark opened in the Panama Dip in 2008, following the creation of a new children's play park on Whitley Park the previous year. The swimming pool re-opened after a major refurbishment in March 2009 and the refurbished Playhouse re-opened in September 2009.

Plans for a new library and joint service centre on the site of Whitley Park have proved more controversial and are currently (March 2009) mired in the planning process. Plans for new housing on the site of the former Marine Park and Coquet Park schools, together with a site on the seafront presently occupied by two car parks, have fallen victim to the downturn in housing market and remain on hold.



Whitley Bay F.C.marker play at the town's Hillheads Park, which is adjacent to the ice rink. The Hillheads Stadium is in the west of the town and holds approximately 4,500 spectators with 250 seats in the main stand. Now playing in the Northern League Division One, the club hit the national sports headlines in 2002 after winning the FA Vase (amateur FA Cup), beating Tiptree United at Villa Parkmarker, Birminghammarker. The club had previously hit the headlines in 1990 after beating Preston North End on the way to reaching the 3rd round proper of the FA Cup. This feat was repeated in May 2009, when Whitley Bay beat Glossop North End 2 - 0 at Wembley to claim the Vase once again. This feat was recognised by a special hoarding on the face of the former T & G Allan's store in the town centre.

The club started the 2009/2010 season in excellent form, winning 11 of their first 12 matches and drawing one. They topped the table with 34 points, 2 points clear of nearest rivals Spennymoor FC and with a game in hand - and 6 points further clear of third placed Penrith FC.

Many of the town's residents are supporters of Newcastle United Football Club , who play in the Coca Cola Championship.

Ice hockey

Whitley Bay Ice Rinkmarker is home of Whitley Warriors Ice Hockey Club. The team enjoyed great success together with local rivals Durham Wasps at a national level during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Rugby Union

Whitley Bay Rockcliff RFC play at the Lovaine Avenue ground in Hillheads. Founded in 1887 as Rockcliff RFC, and still generally known as "Rockcliff", they were originally based on the seafront in the Rockcliff area of the town, prior to moving along the seafront to the site later occupied by the Spanish City. In 1907 they moved to the present site in Lovaine Avenue. The years immediately after formation and up to the First World War were the most successful in the club's history, when they were one of the strongest sides in England, beating the world famous Barbarian F.C. in 1892, and producing a number of international players including E.W "Little Billy" Taylor, who captained England in the 1890s. The introduction of the league structures in the late 1980s saw the club climb into the north east leagues in the early 1990s, and the best known player of this era is Paul van Zandvliet who went on to play for the premiership winning Newcastle Falcons. The club now plays in Durham and Northumberland Division 2. Rockcliff also hosts an annual end of season 10 a-side rugby competition (the Super 10s), attracting touring sides from around the UK as well as from the local area.


The Rockcliff ground was the home of the short-lived Dirt Track or Speedway venture in the spring of 1929. The first venue on Tyneside, it was not as popular as the sister track at Gosforth Stadium which opened early summer and the Whitley Bay track was closed. About 12 meetings were staged.

Field Hockey

Whitley Bay Ladies' Hockey Club was formed in 1950 and consisted of a 1st XI - played at Hillheads Grammar School (now Marden Bridge Middle School and the present base). Founder members included Joan Walker - Secretary, Marjorie Sutcliffe, Jean Stockdale and Beryl Privett ( who is still President of the club). Club's colours at that time were white teeshirt, navy shorts and the famous red and yellow hooped socks, all topped off with a red blazer.

After a few seasons, the club moved its base to Churchill Playing Fields in Whitley Bay and stayed there until the mid-1980s until astro-turf took over and then the club was forced to move with the times and left the coast to play at Wallsendmarker Sports Centre. During that time, the club set up a second XI and played in the Northumberland League and various county tournaments with great success. The junior section trained bright and early on a Sunday morning at Valley Gardens and through this development saw the rise of some of our present senior players such as Sophie Berry, Katrina Barber, Angela Millen to name but a few.

Through the 1980s and '90s, Whitley Bay continued to develop as a club and from the 1st XI winning the County League, they got promoted to the North Feeder League, then to North Division 2, Division 1 and in the 2005–2006 season to the National League Division 2. A first for any women's hockey club in Northumberland. Another notable success in the club's history occurred in April 2000, when the 1st XI won their way through to the EHA Knockout Cup Final down in Milton Keynesmarker and played Birmingham Universitymarker.

The club has continued to grow and has had to move home base again and for the last 6 years have gone a full circle and ended back up at the Hillheads site which is now Marden Bridge. They now run 3 senior teams and an under-19 team which competes in the Harper League at Westgate College.

The club is keen to develop and expand further and plans are in place to merge with Tynemouth Men's Hockey Club - which currently boasts 5 teams and a junior section, to become the largest and most successful hockey club in the North East. This merger is planned to happen at the end of this 2006/2007 season and should be the start of another chapter in the club's long history.

Famous residents - past and present

In Fiction

  • In the BBC children's television series Byker Grove, Dave Richmond, the leader of the rival youth club at Denwell Burn, was a local drug dealer from Whitley Bay. His trademark act of violence was the "Whitley Smile".

  • In the movie Purely Belter, Gerry's drug-addicted-sister Gemma is hiding out from her family at The Spanish City funfair in one of the waltzer cars on the Whitley Bay seafront.

  • In the BBC series Our Friends in the North, several scenes take place on or around the Whitley Bay seafront (such as the Rendezvous Cafe), it is also name checked several times

  • Several episodes of the 1980s ITV television programme Supergran were filmed in Whitley Bay.

  • In comedy series 'The Fast Show', Paul Whitehouse can be seen in one sketch, walking through the Spanish City and along the seafront.

  • Spanish City is the title of a novel by the Tyneside-born author Sarah May. Although the novel is set in the fictional seaside town of Setton, this setting bears a number of striking resemblances to Whitley Bay, not least of which is the idea of a leisure complex named "Spanish City" that, after a period of relative prosperity in the mid-20th century, has fallen into disrepair. The novel begins when an elderly teacher is kidnapped by disgruntled ex-pupils. The rest of the novel is narrated mainly in flashback.

  • The song Chop That Child In Half by post-punk band The Mekons includes a reference to "the memory of a beach-hut in Whitley Bay".

  • The music video for First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by duo Journey South was filmed along the beach and seafront in Whitley Bay.

  • The music video for Pray by Tina Cousins was filmed in Whitley Bay with scenes filmed at St. Mary's Lighthouse, along the seafront and Spanish City including the dome.

  • In the BBC sitcom, One Foot in the Grave, Victor's oddball friends Ronnie and Mildred are said to live in Whitley Bay. "Bugger off back to Whitley Bay the pair of you!"

  • In the Geordie comic Viz, Whitley Bay was occasionally namechecked, for example by Sid the Sexist: "Less gann oorsel' doon Whitley Bay and see if wi canna pull oorsel' some forry hoops!"

See also


  1. Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Urban Areas : Table KS01 : Usual Resident Population Retrieved 2009-08-26
  2. Most of the above is an extract from material compiled and edited for the Borough of Whitley Bay by the Charter Town Clerk, Arthur S. Ruddock M.B.E. and published in the official Charter Publication.
  3. Heritage Snippets: important bitesize bits of Newcastle's heritage
  5. Graham Laws' home town (example): website. Retrieved on March 28, 2008.
  6. durham21 | Features | Home Towns #10: Whitley Bay
Davis, Philip, 2006, 'English Licences to Crenellate 1199-1567' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 20 pp. 226-245

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