Sunday, 19 October 2014

Interesting places in Gateshead and Newcastle : Saltwell Park

Saltwell Park is located half a mile away from Gateshead town Centre. It's located between Shipcote, Lowfell and Bensham. It has won many awards; Britain's Best Park and the Green Flag. It's one of Gateshead top visitor attractions, and one of the finest examples of a Victorian Parks in the North East. (1)

Saltwell Park was opened in 1876, and designed by Edward Kemp; Gateshead Council purchased it for £35,000 from the previous owner William Wailes. (2). The park was referred as the 'Peoples Park'(1). On the park's opening day, it was celebrated, as a public holiday as the factories were closed; allowing the working class to observe the ceremony (2)

Portrait of William Wailes , hanging in Saltwell Towers 

Originally, the park was a part of a large agricultural estate called Saltwell Estate, the land was divided up including Saltwell Cottage Estate, where the current park is located (1). The estate was purchased by William Wailes, was a prominent stained glass manufacturer. Records detail that he first designed and developed the estates' gardens before building Saltwell Towers. (4) He commissioned plans for the building in 1856, work began in 1859 , he moved in 1862, and work was completed in 1871.(5).

The Council were looking to purchase some of the local estates to use for as a public park. They first contacted Sir Walter James to purchase 14 acres of Half Mile Field. However, in his reply indicated he did not approve of the Cooperation, scheme, and the purchasing price he recommended was far higher than market prices. The Committee then wrote to Wailes, indicating their interest in to purchase the whole estate. He replied his terms and price for the land, and The committee tried continuing negations with Sir James, whilst starting negotiations with Wailes (8).

In March 1875, Sir James would not compete with Wailes price and suggested his land was more suitable for a public park. When The Parks committee reached a resolution with Wailes, they obtained a loan for £35,000 from the Local Government Board to purchase Saltwell Park. (8) Due to financial difficulties Wailes was forced to sell the property to the council, however, he continued to live in the building renting it from the council until his death in 1881 (4). Wailes and the council agreed to rent the house for £140 per a year (8). In December 1875 they requested John Handcock, a local ornithologist and landscape Gardener to design the layout of the park, but he resigned because of work pressures.

In February 1876, Edward Kemp was hired to design the park layout, and Kemp proposed a broad walk along the east side of the four fields; the main entrance should be on the North east of the park, bowling green, skating rink and croquet's ground were to be laid out, with a 3 acre lake, refreshment room and a site for a drinking fountain.(8)

The lake was constructed in 1877, it was decided to open a small zoo and an aviary, containing swans, ducks, peacock, peahen, pheasants, hens, bantam cock, and bantam hen, In later years. They had additions of monkeys, dear and a raccoon; however, these presented problems requiring their immediate removal them. The lake was first created in 1880, and the first ice skating event took place in December 1880.

Over the years, the park was extended in 1920 Saltwell when Grove Estate, next to the Park was purchased and opened to the public. In May 1922, George L. Collins offered to sell South Dene Towers; the Corporation's offer of £6,800 was rejected, eventually the estate was bought in 1938.

In 1942, the Government promoted for people to stay home and organised events for families to part take in ; bowls, tennis tournaments, concerts and children's sports, which occurred in Saltwell Park (8).

For many years, Saltwell Towers was left to decay, and the original interior has been destroyed through neglect(4). Due to neglect none of the Victorian interior features exist. Gateshead Council undertook an ambitious project to restore Saltwell Park to its former glory,which took five years to complete at cost of £10 million. They obtained £6.9 of funding from the National Heritage lottery. The restoration included; Saltwell Towers, a boating lake, a tranquil Dene, a maze, and acres of open space, trees, plants and flowers.(7).

Saltwell Towers
Saltwell Towers Entrance

Saltwell Towers front
Inside the park, Wailes built designed and built the fantastical folly Castle Saltwell Towers.With the typical Victorian combination style using Gothic architectural influences with use of decorative tower, tall chimney stacks, the entrance tower with crenelated parapets,  and Gothic archway door . Wailes took inspiration from the Elizabethan style's utilizing red brick along with contrasting yellow bricks, creating decorative friezes creating a polychromatic effect. The Tudor inspiration continues with use of large bay windows and chimney stack poking from the Victorian folly of contrasting style add to romantic feel of the Victorian folly (3,4,6).
Entrance to Saltwell Towers
I love this building I feel Wailes intentions was to create a romantic and tranquil setting for his family to escape the drudgery and pollution of the Victorian industrious North East. Every time I walk up to the building. I feel as though I've just entered into a world of Disney's interruptions of the Brother Grim's fairy tales. I feel a sense of awe and wonderment as, though I'm going to either find sleeping beauty in one of the rooms waiting to be woken up or I'm going to see Rapunzel's locked in the tower.

Saltwell Towers are now been fully restored, downstairs it's now a cafe for visitors to sit and enjoy refreshments with a lovely piece of cake. Upstairs  is a functions room for different events, and also, displays local artist's work, which are for sale. I feel it is a shame that the interior has been lost through pure neglect, it would have been amazing to see its original state. Despite this it's fantastic to see the building restored and being open to all members of the community.
Cafe inside 

The refreshments I brought 
Photographs of the Victorian gardens from inside of the cafe;

Charlton Memorial Drinking Fountain

This Gothic style drinking fountain commiserates, George Charlton a butcher who was involved in the temperance practice of no alcohol consumption, and heavily involved in 'Newcastle Teetotal Society'. In later years, he was voted twice Mayor of Gateshead. There was a public mourning's of his death across Gateshed.

The fountain was installed not long after his in 1885, the Gothic style drinking fountain that commiserates his death, which, resembles a miniature Gothic revival steeple contains gables, pinnacles and crockets, which is appropriate for remembrance of someone's death. The drinking sink made from granite and weather pink marble columns, decoratively supports arches and gable ends, The spire rises from the steeple incorporating design of lilies, roses, ferns, and sunflowers As you first see the monument there is a white marble carved with his face .(9).

The Dene

This one of my favorite part of the park,  and I love walking down here, especially, in the summer as it has a very ethereal feel. I feel as though I have been transported into a  fairy world. In every turn, I feel as though there are maybe fairies to be seen. Also it's just a beautifully tranquil area to walk about in .


Saltwell Dene is an overgrown wooded area of the park, as it is cascaded with a small stream with various bridges following down the small valley and at the end is a small lily pond. William Wailes appreciated it's beauty, and it's been suggested that the Dene was designed to imitate a Sottish Glen. In 1876, Kemp changed the design to give it more of an Italian style introducing waterfalls and pool's cascading with a small stream with various bridges following down the small valley and at the end is a small lily pond . It was painted during the 19th century by Thomas Miles Richardson. (5,10).

During the restoration this was the final area that was completed in 2005 The renovations including rerouting the stream, which requiring re-installing a pumping system allowing for the water to recirculate. This meant restoring original Victorian path, and rebuilding the bridges(5,10).


1.Gatehead Go (2014). Saltwell Park. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014.

2. Carlton, Ian (1974). "A Short History of Gateshead". Gateshead Corporation. Retrieved 19th October 2012. at p.26, p67

3National Heritage. (2014). Entry List . Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014

4.National Heritage. (2014). List entry. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014.

5.Wikipedia . (2014). Saltwell park. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014.

6. Jacqueline Banerjee. (2014). Saltwell Towers, Gateshead, home of William Wailes. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014

7.Geordie Life. (2006). Saltwell Park. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014.

8.Gatehead Library . (2011). Gateshead Places Saltwell Park. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014.

9.Public Monuments and Sculpture Association. (2014). George Charlton Memorial Drinking Fountain. Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014

10.Curtis, Andrew. (2009). Bridge over The Dene, Saltwell Park.Available: Last accessed 19/10/2014.


  1. That Gothic drinking fountain is incredible! I'm Australian, but I lived in London for a while in the early nineties. I saw a bit of southern England, but I so regret not having travelled up north now.

  2. That very interesting to know that. Despite,England being so small there is a lot to see. The Gothic drink fountain it's a fantastic public monument, and I can't believe it's found in my local park. Can I also say, thanks for your comment.

  3. What an interesting read. My paternal great grandmothers brother lived at Saltwell Towers. Great to hear him mentioned here. Thank you


Life Update.

Hi, it's been a very long hiatus, not to say the least. Since my last post, a lot happened in October. I had a death in the family ...