Left: Late Victorian gables above shops in Whitley Road, Whitley Bay

Right: Victoria Terrace, Whitley Bay [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]

Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, which is about 8 miles from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, provides a good example of an interesting Victorian phenomenon — the seaside town created by Victorian railways as a holiday resort. It used to be a popular holiday spot for people from Scotland and the North East, and it still has a lively entertainment scene. Street names like Victoria Terrace, Victoria Avenue and Victoria Road proclaim its origins, as do the gables above the modern shop fronts of its main shopping area, and the refurbished guesthouses and restaurants along its esplanade.

The history of Whitley Bay is typical of such holiday resorts. There had been a lighthouse at Whitley since medieval times, and in 1861 it was a coastal village with a mere 300 inhabitants. In the following year, however, when the railway station arrived it allowed easy access from Newcastle and further north, and the population began to explode. By 1901, it had reached around 6,800, a number swelled considerably during the summer holidays. By the turn of the century, to avoid confusion with another booming east-coast resort, the fishing port of Whitby in North Yorkshire, it had become known by its present name of Whitley Bay.

Although the period when the Scottish factories closed in the summer became known as "Scots Week," not all the people who flocked to Whitley Bay for days out or summer holidays in boarding-houses would have been workers. The better establishments, such as those along the esplanade, served people from other walks of life as well.

According to recent research at the Sheffield Hallam University, Whitley Bay now has about 37,500 inhabitants, and is the twenty-fifth most populous seaside town in England.

Sources

Beatty, Christina and Stephen Fothergill. "The Seaside Economy," 2003, www.shu.ac.uk (enter Whitley Bay in the top righthand search box )

"Whitley Bay" at http:/www.tynetown.co.uk/whitleybay/

See also Stephen Hall Clark's "Technology and Leisure in Britain after 1850" (VW)


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Last modified 30 July 2006