Tynemouth Longsands was clearly proving to be a popular destination for daytrippers and holidaymakers this week 65 years ago.
Our striking main photograph shows the densely-packed Tyneside beach on a blazing hot Sunday in June 1957. Space is at a premium, the ‘shuggy boat’ rides are in full swing, and the outdoor pool is proving highly popular.
It was a time, 12 years after the end of World War II, when things were on the up and people were determined to enjoy themselves. Post-war austerity had run its course and there was a new era of relative prosperity and near full employment. Only a month after our photograph was captured, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan would be prompted to declare: “Most of our people have never had it so good.”
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Tynemouth Railway Station had opened in 1882, and from late Victorian times onwards, daytrippers would flock from industrial Tyneside to the coast every year during the summer months.
Tourism, such as it was, had been put on hold during the war, but by 1957, business was booming again. The Chronicle reported how on that sweltering June weekend: “The number of people travelling by train from Newcastle to Whitley Bay was 30,000; to Tynemouth was 24,762; and to Cullercoats was 17,500.”
Under the headline ‘Maddest Rush To The Coast In Years’, another local newspaper noted how Tynemouth Longsands “where the sun shone for 12 hours was black with people” and “by 11.15 am every beach chair and tent had been hired out. It was definitely a record day, and just like pre-war”.
Tynemouth’s salt-water outdoor pool was also proving popular, and packed to capacity. It had opened in the summer of 1925, one of more than 200 lidos and pools that were built across the country during the 1920s and ’30s as people began to enjoy greater leisure time.
It would host regular swimming galas and competitions, and was a magnet for thousands. Terraces were designed to hold up to 2,000 people, and visitors could hire tents to use as changing rooms – and retain their modesty.
Eventually, in the 1970s and ’80s, the pool began to fall out of favour. With the rise of foreign holidays, the opening of a nearby indoor pool, fewer outdoor bathers, and the mounting cost of cleaning and repairs, it was finally closed in the mid-1990s, becoming a controversial eyesore.
In recent years, Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool have been working to revive the run-down site. Check out their Facebook page – Tynemouth Outdoor Pool – which publicises the group’s efforts to bring the pool back to life.
Looking down on the Longsands is the notable historical location of the Grand Hotel. Built in 1872 as a summer residence for the Duchess of Northumberland, just five years later it was converted into a hotel.
By the turn of the 20th century, Tynemouth was promoting itself as a spa town and people flocked there to take the waters. The Grand advertised itself as having “28 bedrooms, bathrooms and liveries, hot and cold water and salt supplies”.
The hotel’s most famous guests were Laurel and Hardy (with the former having spent part of his early life in nearby North Shields, of course). The pair stayed there in 1932, and returned in 1947 and 1952. Other famous names to have checked into the Grand include Vera Lynn, Stanley Baker, Margaret Rutherford, Dave Allen, Mike and Bernie Winters and, more recently, Sir Bobby Robson and Bob Geldof. For more on the Grand Hotel, visit www.grandhoteltynemouth.co.uk