South Shields Town Hall reaches its century

A CENTURY ago this week, Mayoress Mrs W Gladstone Wylie clocked on in style to carry out her civic duties.

South Shields Town Hall, 1937

A CENTURY ago this week, Mayoress Mrs W Gladstone Wylie clocked on in style to carry out her civic duties.

At noon on October 21, 1910, she severed a cord and released a pendulum to start the chimes of the clock on the new South Shields Town Hall.

The building had been officially opened two days earlier, and tomorrow will see a day of celebrations to mark the centenary of the listed building.

After many years of delay and debate about the best site for a new Town Hall it was decided in 1900 to hold a design competition.

In 1902 plans submitted by London architect Ernest Fetch were accepted, with the Town Hall eventually costing £78,000.

The foundation stone was laid on September 27, 1905, followed by the top stone of the tower on April 28, 1908.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “South Shields Town Hall is a magnificent and prestigious building that has won many accolades over the years for its fine architecture and imposing style. It is a great source of local pride in South Tyneside and an integral part of our heritage.

“The building belongs to our residents and we support and encourage visitors to share in the history and grandeur.

“Some may say that if you work in a building for a while, you stop noticing your environment.

“But the Town Hall really does not allow us to ignore or disregard it. Its sheer scale, prominent location, grand chiming clock and interior beauty remind us every day that we have been entrusted with something very special.”

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Tom Pigott, said: “This ornate building in the heart of South Shields has a truly beautiful interior with an oak-panelled council chamber, magnificent sweeping staircase, carved ceilings, marble floors and elegant reception rooms.

“These fine features will already be familiar to some, having provided the backdrop for many television dramas and films.”

Tomorrow night from 7pm-8pm there will be a programme of entertainment outside the Town Hall featuring live music from acts including Four Worried Men, Jade Thirlwall and the 101 Pipe Band, leading up to a spectacular sound and light display.

Earlier, the Centenary Day celebrations will be broadcast on a screen at the front of the Town Hall showing historical images of the building.

Historic landmarks include the installation of the statue of Queen Victoria in front of the building in 1913. In 1949 she was moved from the Town Hall to Chichester and six naked lady lamp standards – three representing “Night” and three representing “Day” – were removed to South Marine Park.

In 1981 Queen Victoria was evicted from Chichester to make way for the Metro station and returned to her original position at the front of the Town Hall. She was joined by two of the naked lady figures.

The clock tower of the Town Hall houses a Westminster chiming turret clock comprising five bells.

Just above the clock dials there is a carved stone statue inset at each corner representing the four seasons. Above the clock and belfry on top of the tower is an Elizabethan Galleon weather vane.

 
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