Shipyards
Morag Robertson

Member Article

From Hadrian to Higgs - A Wallsend Legacy

For some months Wallsend Memorial Hall & People’s Centre (the MEM) has been hidden behind scaffolding and hoardings as the transformation of this much loved community building was taking shape. Steeped in history and seeking to play a central role in the community for the next 100 years, the MEM is an important sign of regeneration and investment in the Town, a fact that is not lost on the staff and trustees at the heart of this ambitious project.

Situated on the corner of Frank Street and Station Road, the scaffolding has now disappeared revealing some of the external work that has been going on ‘under-wraps’. Excitingly, the butterfly shape of the new entrance can be easily picked out, as the red metal support structure awaits the installation of its new glass roof. Of course, inside the building the changes are considerable, with the old Café Hall and Small Hall being reconfigured entirely to accommodate a brand new catering kitchen and five new versatile spaces on Level 1 that will adapt to meet the varying needs of a wide range of customers – both old and new. The theme of ‘old and new’ is reflected in the building itself which now incorporates 21st century materials and building techniques integrated with the original features and styles dating back to the late 1800’s. So when it came to naming the new spaces it was important to remember the past influences that allow us to build a strong and sustainable future.

A Proud History

Sir G B Hunter funded the construction of the first part of our building in the 1880′s and as such our very existence is owed to this initial philanthropic donation. In respect of this and at the same time recognizing the importance of the shipbuilding industry, customers will be able to hold their training events, seminars and meetings in the Sir G B Hunter Boardroom which can accommodate up to 12 people seated at the original twelve foot long Swan Hunter board table – perfect for small meetings and private dining. Staying for now with industry, The Rising Sun Suite which can accommodate up to 65 people theatre style, is situated in the north east corner of the building with an outlook towards the site of the former colliery which was operational from 1908-1969 and provided employment for hundreds of local men and boys over this time. Ideal for small conferences, presentations and workshops, this space is one of several in the new building that will be licenced to hold Civil Wedding Ceremonies. Various industries have come and gone over time, but the common denominator to them all is the river.

Early settlements arose due to the rivers existence and even now, the river plays a significant part in attracting new, high-tech industry and investment to the area. So, facing down the bank towards the river is The Tyne Suite – also licenced for weddings, this slightly smaller room benefits from windows on two sides and is a delightful space for both formal and informal events. We couldn’t name our rooms without acknowledging the World renowned Roman influence that derives our very name. The Hadrian Suite, suitable for small meetings, workshops, interviews and as a conference break out space, is a tribute to the Roman Emperor who commissioned the building of Hadrian’s Wall – a World Heritage Site. Next to The Hadrian Suite is The Higgs Suite in recognition of Wallsend-born scientist Professor Peter Ware Higgs who has been honoured for his outstanding achievements in the area of particle physics and has a theoretical particle named after him.

Of course our pièce de résistance remains The Grand Ballroom, an exquisite space, benefitting from a large sprung dance floor, stage complete with a 1920’s ‘Beckstein’ Grand Piano and serviced by two large bars, this is arguably North Tyneside’s best kept secret and we are excited to launch it as a new conference and banqueting venue, supported by the other lovely spaces on the same level.

Additional Floors

And this is not all that the MEM has to offer. On the ground floor you can find The Olive Branch Cafe, an IT suite, printing service and a further two meeting rooms that are currently used for a range of community events including Tai Chi, The Diamond Club, Wallsend Intact Craft events as well as for classroom style training events. Right at the top of the building, in the attic, there are a further three small meeting rooms and two larger spaces that we envisage being dedicated to providing much needed facilities for young people.

If you are interested in taking a tour of the new facilities, please contact Business & Marketing Manager, Morag Robertson on (0191) 2635029. Tours take place on Thursday’s at 12:00noon and advance booking is required.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Morag Robertson .

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