Take a tour of South Shields Town Hall's stunning architectural features

From its galleon weather vane, so big it can actually fit two people inside, to its Italian marble flooring, South Shields Town Hall is top to toe with stunning architectural features.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 11:26 am

It’s a landmark building that thousands pass daily, but unless you’re attending a wedding or a heritage tour or sat in the gallery for a council meeting, much of its architectural finery hasn’t been seen by the public.

We take a tour inside the old block of the Town Hall to reveal its splendour.

"It’s an incredible building and very much a source of civic pride,” said Mark Judd, assistant facilities manager at South Shields Town Hall.

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South Shields Town Hall boasts some stunning architectural features

"Pre-covid, for heritage tours, we’d have six coach loads of people outside. People want to see as much of the old part of the building as they can.

"When school tours come along the kids just stand there in awe and they love sitting in the mayor’s chair, many of them have never seen a building like this before.”

Opened by the then mayor, Cllr G T Grey, on October 19 1910, the Town Hall has been standing guard over South Shields for more than a century.

Built at a cost of just over £78,000, it’s seen many changes in the borough over the years, but through the decades the Grade II-listed building has remained remarkably unchanged and still boasts its original marble walls and flooring, mahogany panelling, beautifully-intricate hand-painted coving and stunning green Edwardian tiles.

The mayor's seat in the council chamber

Many of the features, such as stained glass windows depicting a galleon on the high seas, honour South Shield’s rich seafaring history and bear the town’s crest and motto “Always Ready”.

The building’s architectural significance has long been recognised and it’s had a long line of caretakers who’ve acted as custodians of the site.

"We very much see our role as preserving the building and its history for the next generation. We feel very lucky to work here,” explained Mark.

To preserve the features, no holes can be drilled in walls or any changes made without very good reason and any new additions, such as heating covers, are specially commissioned to recreate the original look

The intricate coving is all hand painted

But it’s not just the caretaking staff who walk the building out of hours – it’s also said to have some spectral inhabitants.

Although Mark hasn’t witnessed anything spooky first hand, other staff have reported having their ears whispered into in empty rooms and porters have seen heavy lights swinging for no reason.

Much of the activity has reported to have happened after a photo of the laying of the foundation stone by Mayor Alderman John Robert Lawson in 1905 was moved from the mayor’s parlour into the anti-room.

Although the original part of the building is rich in Edwardian features – and possibly Edwardian ghosts - it’s been added to over the years to house more purpose-built office space for council staff.

Inside the Mayor's parlour

In 1960 the Beach Road extension was added at a cost of £105,450 to create a North Wing and, on July 7 1988 the new civic offices extension was opened by the Queen Mother, which completed the now familiar Town Hall quadrangle.

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The council chamber where civic matters are decided upon
Above the clock and belfry is a weather vane shaped like an Elizabethan Galleon. It's 7ft high and when it's taken down for cleaning can fit two men standing.
South Shields' seafaring past is depicted in much of the features
The press box in the council chamber
The main staircase
An anti-room to the Mayor's parlour
South Shields Town Hall boasts some stunning architectural features
Some of the corridors are lined in beautiful Edwardian tiling
South Shields Town Hall. The Queen Victoria Memorial statue was erected in 1913, before being moved to Chichester. She was later returned to her original site in 1981.
The Town Hall is a popular wedding venue
Even the toilets are beautifully decorated