Bulldozers set to move in at landmark South Shields building

Laygate reading rooms
Laygate reading rooms

A derelict former South Tyneside community hub – constructed to honour a Victorian mine safety pioneer – is set to be razed to the ground after falling into ruin.

Laygate Reading Rooms, a landmark building in South Shields supported on concrete stilts between two blocks of council flats, is to be pulled down and the site landscaped.

Council chiefs describe the building, located prominently at the Laygate roundabout in South Shields, as being in a “poor state of disrepair”.

An inspection by engineers revealed its concrete frame has expanded to cause structural damage to the adjoining council-owned residential properties.

They say the building must be demolished so that essential structural repairs can be undertaken.

The rooms, at the junction of Laygate and Western Approach, replaced even older, similar facilities.

Once part of a neighbouring police station, they were built as a memorial to James Mather, who pioneered the safety of mine ventilation in the 19th century.

Mather, who has a street named after him in South Shields town centre, took part in the rescue work that followed an explosion at St Hilda pit which killed 50 people in February 1839.

He later became a member of the South Shields Committee for the Prevention of Accidents in Mines and prepared a landmark report on the problem of fire-damp in mines and ways of dealing with it.

Although it is not known when the current rooms were built, South Tyneside Council, which submitted and approved the demolition planning application, says they have been unused for several years.

In a report, planners said: “Submitted details state that the proposed demolition works would be completed by using both hand and mechanical tools including an excavator.

“The site would be restored at ground level to match the existing grassed and paved hard standing areas.

“The existing elevations on the residential properties will be replaced with bricks in a sequence of strips to match the existing as closely as possible.

“The proposed method of demolition would be appropriate given the scale of the building.

“The proposed method of site restoration would also be acceptable, leaving the site in a tidy condition.”