Tragedy, eyesore or potential new Primark? Mixed reaction after demolition dates set for South Shields gasometer

News that one of South Tyneside’s oldest industrial landmarks is set to disappear from the skyline has been met with a mixed reaction – though most seem sad to be seeing it go.

Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 3:09 pm

Northern Gas Networks is set to start demolition work on the Victorian-era gasometer, or gas holder, in South Shields town centre within days.

The Gazette first reported on plans to demolish the structure in 2015, with Northern Gas Networks stating at the time demolition work could begin in 2018 – but was on a “fluid timeline”.

However, a traffic order was issued in April 2022 to close Oyston Street to allow for demolition work, which was expected to be needed for around 165 days from the start of May.

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Gasometer, South Shields

Built by G&W Walker Ltd, the gas holder has been a feature of the South Shields skyline since 1886.

The Tyne and Wear Historic Environment Record (HER) states it could store “almost 1.5 million cubic feet of gas – enough to supply 1,800 homes for a full day, or 42,000 homes for an hour”.

However, big changes in the gas industry since the discovery of North Sea gas in the 1960s has seen gasometers becoming obsolete.

News that the South Shields gasometer is finally set to go has sparked an outpouring of sadness from Gazette readers.

Under the shadow of the gasometer - Waterloo Vale with, on the left, Nelson Street.

Some, including local history author and retired art lecturer Jean Stokes, have previously suggested the gas holder be redeveloped into a public space or for other new uses, similar to those in London.

There one of the historic structures has been turned into a park, with others forming the outer framing of apartment blocks.

A number of Gazette readers agreed this would be a good idea as they took to social media to voice their reaction to the demolition dates being set.

Judith Burford said: “Historic London’s Gasometer was reborn as a beautiful public open space. What do we do in South Shields? Demolish it.

The gas holder in past times.

"Why would we want to preserve our history for the future or think imaginatively about ways in which to preserve and reuse?”

Gary Dunmore said: “This structure could have easily been preserved and made into an attraction like that seen at Gas Holder Park in Kings Cross.”

Michelle Wall said: “Noooooo… but why. That gasometer is what makes South Shields.”

Former Shields Gazette heritage writer and local history expert Janis Blower was among those lamenting the demolition plans.

Redeveloped gas holders in London. Picture by Jean Stokes.

"I know not everyone is a fan like me, but it will be a - literally - huge miss on the South Shields skyline,” she said on Twitter.

Some, however, said they would not mourn the gas holder.

Connor Ferguson commented on Facebook: “Why are people sad reacting? It’s an eyesore."

Gary Dunmore added: “Only came on for the inevitable ‘part of our history comments’. It’s an eyesore. How many people go and visit it and take photos?

Others had suggestions on other new uses for the gas holder – including the inevitable wry suggestion it could house a Primark.

Shoppers have long called for the discount clothing retailer to open a branch in South Shields, and the issue has also become a running joke among social media commenters.

Redeveloped gas holders in London. Picture by Jean Stokes.

Vince Olsen added: “Can it not be made into some kind of techno club?”