Memorial Hall, 1925 by the firm of Frank Caws, Steele & Caws, incorporating a First World War memorial with Second World War additions by Roger Hedley; internal alterations to the ground floor, 1926. Refurbished early C21.
Reason for Listing
The memorial hall of 1925 by the firm of Frank Caws, Steele & Caws incorporating a First World War memorial with Second World War additions is recommended for designation for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is a well-proportioned and articulated building with a strong street presence
* Interior quality: for the intact decorative scheme of the lavish ballroom and the well-detailed stair halls and staircase
* Historic interest: constructed as a memorial to the Fallen of the First World War and incorporating a fine war memorial in its main elevation, it is a poignant reminder of the impact of tragic world events upon an individual community
* Social context: the survival of a building of this quality reflects both the commitment of its shipyard patron and the working people of Wallsend in the immediate aftermath of the First World War
Wallsend developed in the C18 as a mining settlement on the banks of the River Tyne and expanded in the mid C19 as a centre for shipbuilding. The large Swan Hunter shipyard was founded in 1874 and the town developed around it. After the end of the First World War, Sir John Hunter commissioned the building of a Memorial Hall at a cost of £25,000; the building was intended as a centre for social, cultural and recreational activity and was dedicated to the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. workers who fell during the First World War. The building was designed by Frank Caws, Steel & Caws of Sunderland, and incorporates a First World War memorial designed by the firm of Roger Hedley and cast by Singers Foundary. The building was opened on 15th August 1925 by Lieutenant General Sir G H Harrington and was dedicated by Reverend A C E Jarvin, Chaplain to HM Forces.
The building contained a first-floor ballroom that could accommodate c1200 people, retiring and meeting rooms, a cinema box and a large kitchen. Proposed improvements in 1926 included the provision of two halls on the ground floor; one to be used as a badminton court and for general purposes, and the second to be equipped for recreation and rest for employees on payment of a small fee. There was a separate entrance to each of the two halls from Frank Street. The building was, and is still, known locally as 'The Mem'. The glazed roof of the ballroom was boarded over in c1941 to protect it from enemy bombing, and it is thought that the centre strobe light and other pendant light fittings date from this time. After the Second World War the names of the Fallen were added to the war memorial.
On opening, a charity was set up to run the premises for the benefit of the people of Wallsend, with the trustees drawn from local people and organisations. The original charity remains in existence today and the building continues to provide access to social, educational and cultural opportunities for the people of Wallsend. The hall has Sting (Gordon Sumner) as its Cultural Patron. The building has recently undergone a £1.4 million restoration and its facilities have been updated.
MATERIALS: brick with cast concrete to the main elevation and west gable; painted ashlar, bronze figures and plaques to the war memorial.
PLAN: rectangular with a stair hall projection to the east end, occupying a corner site with main south elevation on Frank Street and west gable on Atkinson Street. A first-floor ballroom is accessed from a stair at the east end, via the main Frank Street entrance. To the ground floor a pair of halls were accessed by separate entrances from Frank Street, and the west Frank Street entrance gives entry to a rear stair leading to the ballroom back stage area.
EXTERIOR: Main (south) elevation to Frank Street: symmetrical with two-storeys and nine bays; a parapet is slightly stepped over each end bay and there is a plain band at first-floor level. Each end bay has a tall keyed, arched entrance to the ground floor with a carved stone tympanum; the eastern, main entrance has a door case comprising Doric columns supporting an entablature, and is fitted with heavy, panelled double doors flanked by narrow rectangular lights. The first floor has a large two-part Venetian window incorporating Ionic pilasters with a large open pediment above. The seven bay central section has seven tall keyed, round-arched openings to the ground floor; these have windows with original fenestration to their upper parts and bays two and six have panelled doors.
The middle bay has a First World War memorial comprising life-sized bronze figures of a soldier and sailor with bowed heads on column pedestals; above, in the head of the arch, there is a cast-iron relief of a ship in the mouth of the River Tyne, and in the centre a cast iron relief of a worker operating a plate-punching machine, thought to be a depiction of the Swan Hunter factory; there are bands of Greek key decoration above. A round-arched panel at the centre has four plaques carrying the names of the Fallen. Iron gates in a geometric pattern and spear head railings enclose the area to the front.
The first floor has seven rectangular windows with 9/9 original sliding sash frames alternating with paired fluted Ionic pilasters. The roof, which rises above the parapet, is hipped with a tall central ventilator and domed finial.
The north gable is plain, and the south gable has three bays: each end bay has paired square upper windows, that to the left with an entrance below. The detail of the first floors are identical to that of the main elevation. With the exception of the first bay, the nine-bay rear elevation is plain red brick with rectangular windows to the first floor and round-headed window and door openings to the ground floor. The first bay, which is visible from the street, is similarly detailed to the remainder of the building.
INTERIOR: a plain entrance vestibule leads into an original large space (one of the original ground-floor halls) with painted brick walls, plain pilasters to the north wall and plain pillars at intervals; this space has been refurbished and all fixtures and fittings are recent insertions. To the left is a smaller space now occupied by a cafe, and to the right, an area (the second of the original ground-floor halls) that has recently been partitioned to provide a corridor with a series of rooms off; one of these rooms to the north of the corridor retains painted brick walls and wainscoting. A full height stair hall at the east end of the building has terrazzo flooring incorporating a wide border of mosaic Greek key design to all visible areas and has extensive original wainscoting, doors and architraves. The open well stair has a metal newel post and geometric balustrade, and a wooden handrail. The plaster ceiling of the upper hall has a Greek key border.
The ballroom is entered at the east end through three double doors, which on their inner sides have triangular and segmental pedimented door cases, alternating with fluted Ionic pilasters. The ballroom is a single large space which retains the original sprung dance floor, wainscoting and a stage at the west end; the latter has retains its plain proscenium with sloping ante-proscenium walls adorned with paired fluted Ionic pilasters. Regularly spaced fluted Ionic pilasters, alternating with window openings with ornate architraves, line each of the long walls; opposing Ionic columns set on square column pedestals support a full length entablature adorned with classical motifs forming lower side aisles. The pitched ceiling has segmental-arched ribs, which formerly alternated with glazed sections, now boarded over; a central strobe light and pendant light fittings are thought to date from the early 1940s. To the rear of the stage there are dressing rooms and other back stage facilities and a 'back stair' of simple metal stick balusters. A cinema projection room is thought to be situated at the east end of the first floor, although it is unclear how this may have functioned.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.