Morpeth – Tuesday 13th July 2021

Morpeth is a very attractive market town and is also the county town of Northumberland (although Alnwick dispute this!).  It is surrounded by three sides of the River Wansbeck.  The town also has a bagpipe museum!  The Waterstones is found in the Sanderson Arcade, an attractive and modern open-air shopping centre.  The development, which was opened by the actress Joanna Lumley in 2009, was built on the site of an older, rundown centre.  The developers kept the 1939 façade of an earlier building at one of the entrances on Bridge Street as part of the new arcade.  After leaving Morpeth we headed up to Alnwick and then on to Lindisfarne.

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Morpeth map

Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison, whose parents were both from Morpeth, joined the Suffrage movement Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in November 1906 and was arrested on several occasions for her activism.  She frequently went on hunger strike and she was force-fed nearly 50 times.  She threw herself in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 and died a few days later from her injuries.  She was buried in Morpeth, and a statue to her was unveiled in the town’s Carlisle Park in 2018.


The photograph of Sanderson House was taken by Graham Robson and shared under the creative commons licence.  I have resized it slightly, as permitted in the terms of the licence. Photo © Graham Robson (cc-by-sa/2.0)


Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, is reached by a causeway which is only crossable twice a day, so visitors have to be careful to take note of the tide times if they don’t want to be stranded there!  Due to these tide times we didn’t have time to see the whole island, but we did manage to see a view of the priory and some of the beautiful beaches before we had to head back. 

Sunderland – Monday 12th July 2021

Sunderland used to be a big shipbuilding area.  The industry is thought to have started in the area as early as the mid-1300s, but went into decline in the 1950s, with the last shipyard closing in 1988.  These days, the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan produces cars in the area and currently have plans for a new £1bn electric car-processing plant in the area.  The Waterstones is in a modern shopping centre.  It has a mural by Chris Burke from when the shop was part of Ottakar’s book shops before they were taken over by Waterstones.

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Sunderland map

Museum and Winter Garden

Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden in Mowbray Park opened in 1879.  The Winter Garden was based on the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park but was destroyed during the Second World War.  A new, very smart, glass extension was added in 2001 as the result of National Lottery funding.  There is a wonderful Walrus statue in the park – based on The Walrus and the Carpenter by author Lewis Carroll, who was a regular visitor to the area.

The photograph of the back of the museum was taken by David Dixon and share under the creative commons licence.  I have resized it slightly, as permitted in the terms of the licence.  Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Gateshead Metro Centre – Monday 12th July 2021

Gateshead is situated on the south side of the Tyne River, and is linked to the city of Newcastle by seven bridges.  The area is known for its architecture, and notable buildings include the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and the Sage concert venue and, on the outskirts of the town, is Antony Gormley’s wonderful statue The Angel of the North.  The statue – the largest in Britain – was completed in 1998.  I took the photos below on our last visit to the area.  I had hoped to visit it on this trip, but sadly we didn’t have time. 

The Waterstones here is located in the Metro Centre, which on its opening in 1986, was the second largest shopping centre in England.

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Top row – the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, the Sage.  Bottom row – the Angel of the North

Middlesbrough – Saturday 10th July 2021

After an overnight stay in Beverley in East Yorkshire on the Saturday night to have dinner with family we headed towards Newcastle which was to be our ‘home’ for the next eight nights.  On our way we stopped at Middlesbrough.  We had been to the town a few years before in order to visit the Tees Transporter Bridge, so we didn’t spend a lot of time here today – just long enough to visit the Waterstones, which is located in Captain Cook Square in the heart of the town.

Middlesbrough map

Transporter Bridge

The photos below were taken on our previous visit.   We booked a trip to walk across the top of the Bridge after I read about it in Stuart Maconie’s book Pies and Prejudice . It was a brilliant experience and one I would definitely recommend, but unfortunately it’s closed at the moment due to health and safety concerns.   


Leicester Fosse Park – Saturday 10th July 2021

We stopped in Leicestershire overnight on our way to the North East for our holiday, so before heading off in the morning we popped to the Fosse Park Shopping Centre just outside Leicester where there is a Waterstones located inside the Next store – the first of this kind, I believe.  I like this concept and would be happy if they did more shops like this.

Leicester Fosse Park map

Although we didn’t have very long here, I did photograph a few of the Fosse Park Foxes from the sculpture trail.  The foxes are as a result of a competition for designs that show what Leicestershire means to the various artists chosen.   I particularly liked the one dedicated to Alice Hawkins, who was a leading figure in the Suffrage movement in Leicestershire.

Currently reading: Aftermath (Inspector Banks #12) by Peter Robinson

Hanley – Saturday 29th May 2021

Hanley is one of six towns that were merged in 1910 to create Stoke-on-Trent and is generally considered to be the main shopping area of Stoke.  Stoke-on-Trent was once a prolific mining town and is famously known as ‘The Potteries’ due to the many companies in the area producing ceramics from the mid-1700s until late 19th century when there was a considerable decline in the industry.  The Waterstones here is located in The Tontines – built in 1831 as a butchers’ slaughterhouse, it later became a covered market and was used for this purpose until the market’s relocation in 1987.

Hanley map

Arnold Bennett

One of the most famous residents of Hanley is the author, Arnold Bennett – I’ve read and enjoyed a few of his books.  Born into a family of modest means, he worked as a journalist until 1900 when he became a full-time author.  His most famous works feature the fictionalised Five Towns, and are based on this area (he missed out Fenton, the sixth town that was merged into Stoke).  Bennett died aged 63 from Typhoid after drinking tap water in France, and is buried in Burslem, just two miles from where he was born.  The statue below was unveiled in 2017 on what would have been Arnold Bennett’s 150th birthday.

Telford – Saturday 29th May 2021

Telford is a ‘planned’ town in Shropshire which was created in the 1960s and 70s and was built on commercial and agricultural land, with four small, local towns being merged into it.  It was built around a large shopping centre. In 2014 the town was further developed to provide extra night-time entertainment which was previously lacking.  The development, called Southwater includes restaurants, hotels, a bowling alley and a library.  There is also a large, fantastic award-winning park on the other side of the development. Telford Waterstones is located in the shopping centre.

Telford map

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Peter had booked us a trip to Blists Hill Victorian Town for my birthday.  The museum is located on a former industrial site, and the trades which included a brick works and coal and clay mines are still in evidence.  It also contains buildings that have either been relocated or recreated and include a pharmacy, post office, sweet shop and a school house and the staff wear Victorian costumes.  It was a very interesting visit, but due to Covid restrictions there was some waiting around before we could enter some of the buildings, and so we didn’t see everything, but it was definitely worth a visit.


Telford, and specifically the Southwater development, was a great place to stay to explore this area and we had a great time away.

Stafford – Friday 28th May 2021

Stafford is a market town and, as the name suggests, the county town of Staffordshire.  Its most famous industry was shoe-making, starting out as a cottage industry and expanding in the late 1700s, primarily by William Horton.  By the 1830s there were some 53 manufacturers in the town.  Lotus were the last company here, but closed their operation in 1998 and moved to Northamptonshire.  The Waterstones is situated in Greengate Street, one of the main shopping streets in the town.


Stafford map

In the same road as Waterstones, the Ancient High House is the largest Elizabethan timber-framed building in England.  It was built in 1595 as a private town house for the Dorrington family.  The building is currently a museum, but sadly it was closed on the day of our visit. 


Before leaving Stafford we had a quick drink in the Post House Bar and Grill. This attractive building was originally built by MP Viscount Chetwynd (and was called Chetwynd House).  It was sold to William Horton (mentioned above) and the playwright and MP Richard Sheridan stayed there frequently.  As the current name suggests, its last role was a post office from 1914 until it closed in 2007.

Birmingham – Friday 28th May 2021

Birmingham is the second- largest city in England and the UK after London.  In some quarters Birmingham has a bit of a poor reputation but we have visited a few times and have always found it to be a lively, fun and safe-feeling city.  Although Venice has a greater number of canals, Birmingham has more miles and the areas by the ones in the heart of the city have undergone regeneration and include lots of places to grab some food and drink.  There are plenty of interesting buildings in the city, a blend of the historic and the ultra-modern.  The Waterstones here is located in a large Art Deco building close to the Bullring Shopping Centre – the building was completed in 1938 and was formerly a branch of the Times Furnishing Company.

Birmingham map

I can’t write about Birmingham without mentioning the library!  It opened in 2013, replacing the old Central Library and is currently the largest library in the UK.   Some dislike the modern design but I think it’s fab (but then I also liked the old library, which was Brutalist in style and definitely not to everyone’s taste!) – nicknames include the hat box and the wedding cake.   It houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room, which was originally built to house Birmingham’s Shakespeare collection – the room was dismantled from its previous location and reassembled at the top of the library.


Wolverhampton – Thursday 27th May 2021

After our visit to the Red House Glass Cone museum, we popped to Wolverhampton for a late lunch.  Wolverhampton is a large market town in the West Midlands, which grew during the Industrial Revolution due to the wealth of minerals in the area and there is some interesting architecture if you look up.  The Waterstones is located in a modern building set over two floors. 


Wolverhampton map

Unfortunately we didn’t have long to spend at Wolverhampton – I would have loved to have visited the town’s art gallery, but sadly we ran out of time as we had to head to our hotel.  

After dinner we had a nice walk along part of the Wednesbury Old Canal known as the Balls Hill Branch Canal.  It was very pretty and we discovered that there was a tram station nearby which we would be able to use for our trip into Birmingham the following day.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery


Balls Hill Branch Canal

Currently reading: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin and A Snowfall of Silver by Laura Wood