Victoria Hall, South Shields, Tyne & Wear
Client: Consult North
Local Authority: South Tyneside Council
Victoria Hall was a Grade II Listed former dance hall that had been latterly subdivided into retail space. Built in 1896 in the Art Nouveau style it was constructed in red brick with ashlar dressings and originally intended as a dance and music hall, but in subsequent years had been subdivided into retail space and housed both restaurants and shops. It had been abandoned for several years due to severe fire damage. It was located on Fowler Street in South Shields, Tyne & Wear.
The proposed development sought to remove the building from the National Heritage List for England as part of a wider project to demolish and replace it with a higher quality structure. This was deemed necessary due to extensive damage to the building caused by an explosion and subsequent fire, followed by several years of exposure to the elements. Despite the quality of the original building, in its current form it was considered uneconomical to repair or re-use the structure.
De-listing is an extremely sensitive process, and it is rarely successfully undertaken due to the stringent tests put in place by Historic England. Despite its condition at the time Victoria Hall had been a prominent local building of considerable artistic merit with a striking Art Nouveau design, incorporating features such as decorative sandstone pediments, considerable surviving historic carpentry, ornate timber panelling, a mosaic floor and stained glass windows. It also had historic associations with the local Jewish community, who regularly used it for events and gatherings including a memorial service delivered by Scotland’s Chief Rabbi.
he Blue Willow Heritage team set about a point-by-point assessment of the building in its current state, completely gutted by fire and largely denuded of the features that warranted its original listing, with reference to the statutory criteria of architectural and historic interest, as well as the Historic England guide ‘Removing a Historic Building from the List’.
This exhaustive de-listing assessment demonstrated unequivocally that the building no longer met any of the criteria for listing, including its state of preservation, its rarity, its artistic merit or its historically associative merit. In addition to this, Blue Willow Heritage argued that even the original building was not considered particularly rare or distinctive locally or nationally due to its age and unsympathetic internal alterations, and that this created an even higher burden for listing that it no longer met.
Historic England agreed with the assessment carried out by Blue Willow Heritage, concluding that the building “no longer fulfils the national criteria for listing and should be removed from the list”.
The building was de-listed in February 2023 and subsequently, based on this report, the local authority granted planning permission for its demolition in April of that year.
Though regrettable that such a high quality historic building was irreparably damaged by accident, the demolition paves the way for a high quality replacement for the unsightly and dangerous shell that remained.