Major renovations are being carried out to bring the iconic seafront landmark in Whitley Bay back into use as part of North Tyneside Council’s £36m Seafront Master Plan.
The first milestone reached in the project saw the removal of the first-floor ceiling, which was installed shortly after the Dome first opened in 1910 – opening up double height space from the bottom to the top of the building.
However, the view from the ground level to the top of the dome itself had been obscured by scaffolding, which remained in place while other works were carried out.
But now the scaffolding has been completely removed and the full extent of the dramatic transformation inside the rotunda can finally be seen.
Elected Mayor of North Tyneside Norma Redfearn was one of the first people in more than 100 years to witness the new-look interior and was amazed by the difference.
She said: “The way it looks now tells us that when it is finished it is going to be truly, truly magnificent. It’s more spacious and not as claustrophobic as it was – even now it’s breathtaking when you come in. Fantastic!
“Not only will the residents be happy but we’re going to attract lots and lots of visitors. We’ve waited a long time for this to happen but we’re well on our way now.”
The Mayor was joined by North Tyneside Council’s Chief Executive Patrick Melia on her visit to the Dome. He added: “It’s fantastic. You walk in now and see a big open space whereas before you had that roof in, you can feel the difference. I’m just looking forward to the future with families coming in – I think they’ll love the whole experience.
“Just last week we heard we have the private sector investing in South Parade and bringing forward a new hotel – this is on the back of the council investment in the town which is enticing them here and this can only be a good thing for Whitley Bay and the whole of North Tyneside.”
The original blueprints for the Dome were drawn up in the early 20th Century by Newcastle-based architects Cackett and Burns Dick, which later became Cackett, Burns Dick & Mackellar.
Local resident and architect Neil Barker was formerly a company director at Mackellar and has released historic images taken by Cackett and Burns Dick in around 1910 showing the rotunda in its original form before the first-floor ceiling was put in.
Mr Barker, of emBarkArchitecture, said: “It really is wonderful to see the rotunda returned to its original format, just as it was in the historic photos. This was how the original architects intended the inside of the Dome to look and the difference now is truly remarkable.
“Having lived a short distance away from the Dome for over 40 years I am thrilled to see that years of neglect are being corrected. The refurbishment and reinvention of the building will bring a new vitality to that part of the sea front.”
Since purchasing the building in 2001, the council has carried out £3m of essential structural repairs to the exterior to make it wind and water-tight.
The sympathetic restoration project designed by ADP Architecture is being delivered by Robertson Construction and involves recreating many original features which have previously been lost and adding new modern extensions at either end as well as a new rear entrance.
As well as the removal of the first-floor ceiling, the structure on the west wing of the building has been demolished, although all original features to the front facade have been retained. Enabling works are now ongoing on either side of the Dome ready for further ground works.
New construction jobs and apprenticeships will be opened up during the work as well as up to 100 employment opportunities which will be created for local people when the Dome reopens. This has been made possible by the welcome financial support of the Heritage Lottery’s Heritage Enterprise Fund.
Commercial operator Kymel Trading Ltd will run the attraction as a food emporium featuring a champagne and oyster bar, as well as a function and wedding venue.
The Spanish City restoration comes after North Tyneside Council successfully secured £3.47m of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The council has invested £4m and also secured a Coastal Communities Fund grant of more than £2.5m.
For more information about the Seafront Master Plan, and to watch an aerial film showcasing the regeneration, visit http://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/category/642/coastal-regeneration