Last week we had another outing, this time to look at some sites in Newcastle and Gateshead. First we visited Exhibition Park, the site of the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929. Bill Pickering of University of Newcastle who has been researching the archaeology of the Exhibition very kindly showed us round and gave us a potted history of the Exhibition. It’s a fascinating site, with one of the original buildings still standing. This was the Palace of Arts, which housed art treasures borrowed from private collections from throughout the North East, and is now the Wylam Brewery (Fig. 1). It’s great to meet up with someone else working on inter-war archaeology in the North-East and we look forward to seeing how Bill’s research progresses.
We then went on to visit the Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead. This is another of our case-study sites. It was a government loan financed venture intended to bring light industry to the North East to create jobs and ease the reliance of the region on heavy industries. Work began on the estate in 1936, and by 1938 factories were in operation. While much has changed on the site since the 1930s there is a surprising amount of 1930s architecture still there, and enough to give an impression of the scale and visual impact the estate must have had in its heyday.
The centrepiece is the Central Administrative Building, now St. George’s House. This housed the offices of North Eastern Trading Estates which managed the Estate, as well as services like banks, solicitors, accountants and transport companies which supported the businesses of the Estate’s tenants. It is a modernist structure and deliberately impressive (Fig. 2). Documents show that the estate company was careful to control the lettering that the companies within it put on their windows to create a simple and sophisticated look. The staff of the Homes & Communities Agency who work in the building kindly showed us around and we were impressed by the survival of many of the Art Deco fittings. We are also grateful to the staff of the Acorn Deli which occupies the former Martins Bank who showed us the door of the bank vault which is still in situ.
While many factories have been demolished or altered over the years a number of the original factories survive. Alan Carr Design and Print kindly showed us around their factory which is one of the small units built speculatively so that the Estate would have factories ready for immediate occupation by tenants (Fig. 3). A few currently empty units also appear to be 1930s factories and some retain apparently original signs and fittings (Figs. 4 and 5).
As at Hamsterley, there’s plenty to think about. Visiting the site gave a real impression of the scale of the original estate, impressive in its planned layout and modernist detail, but not overwhelmingly large; and with an almost domestic appearance in some factories. There is lots surviving for us to record when we get the fieldwork underway.
We’d like to thank Bill Pickering for sharing his work and Alan Carr Design and Print, the Acorn Deli and the Homes and Communities Agency, for letting us look at their properties.