We visited Chelmsford in July 2018 – you can read about it here. In September of the same year, Waterstones acquired the Foyles chain of bookshops, so we had to revisit! As we were heading to West Sussex, we didn’t have time to stop for long, but were able to visit the Foyles. It is located in a modern building in a new shopping development and opened in 2016.
Colchester is a large market town in Essex. During Roman times it was an important settlement known as Camulodunum, and today Colchester claims to be the oldest town in Britain. The town is home to a Norman castle, the keep of which is the largest example of this type in Europe. It was used as a prison to house those accused of witchcraft by the infamous Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. In June 2019 a memorial to the women wrongly-accused was placed in the rose garden in front of the castle. The Waterstones is housed in a beautiful building which was formerly the site of the National Provincial Bank.
Colchester Town Hall
The Town Hall building opened in 1902. At the top of the building stands St Helena who is the patron saint of Colchester. This beautiful building is open to the public, but sadly we did not have time to visit.
Yarm is another market town that we had not visited before, and possibly wouldn’t have if it wasn’t part of this quest. It’s a really pretty town with some cobbled streets, set on a meander of the River Tees. Parts of the town are dominated by a 43 arch rail viaduct, opened in 1852 and now Grade II listed. The old Town Hall building stands in the centre of the town and was built in 1710 to replace an old Tollhouse. Over the years it has been used as a court, a market and even a public toilet! The Waterstones in Yarm is in a red brick building located in a former bank.
Yarm Town Hall
Darlington is a market town in County Durham famous as the location of the first steam power-driven locomotive railway when the Stockton & Darlington Railway was established there in 1825 in order to connect local coal mines to the River Tees. Although not the first railway, the Stockton & Darlington was the first to use steam locomotives and to transport passengers as well as goods. The Waterstones is located on the outside of a modern shopping centre.
Clockwise from top left – Darlington Market Hall and Clock Tower, completed in 1864, Joseph Pease, who contributed to the establishment of the Stockton & Darlington Railway and was sometimes referred to as The Father of the Railways, Darlington town centre, Darlington railway station.
To celebrate the railway heritage of the area, a statue was funded by various organisations including the National Lottery, the supermarket chain Morrisons and Northern Arts in 1997. Entitled Brick Train, it was created by sculptor David Mach out of 185,000 bricks and was constructed to include some special bricks to encourage bats to inhabit the sculpture. In addition, several local schools made up time capsules which have been placed inside the statue.
The photo of Darlington town centre (no attribution link available, but freely shared – see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darlo_town_centre.JPG) and the one of the station (JThomas / Darlington Railway Station / CC BY-SA 2.0) are used under the creative commons licence and were taken from Wikipedia.
We were going to see my cousin and her husband just outside Carlisle, as they were opening their garden to the public for charity as part of the National Garden Scheme, so on our way over we stopped at Hexham, which is a market town in Northumberland, and is possibly best-known for its Abbey. The Waterstones is located in a pedestrian street in the heart of the shopping area.
The Abbey was originally constructed in around AD 674 from Roman ruins found locally in the surrounding areas and the building has been added to over the years. Whilst we were there, the Abbey had an art installation ‘On Angel Wings’, which is in tribute to the many people who have died of Covid-19 and consists of around 4500 origami angels suspended 45ft high in the Abbey’s Chancel and lit from the sides. It is a stunning display.
Below, clockwise from top left – The Moot Hall (originally a meeting place and the town’s courthouse), Hexham Old Gaol (England’s oldest gaol), the Shambles Covered Market.
My cousin’s garden!
We spent eight nights in Newcastle upon Tyne exploring the area, using the excellent public transport links where possible. This was our second visit to this wonderful city, which we both love and feel at home in. I think part of the reason is that we live close to Bristol, which is another great city, and the two places have a lot in common. The Waterstones is located in an absolutely stunning building designed by Benjamin Simpson from architects Simpson, Lawson and Rayne in 1903 and was used by the company as offices, as well as housing shops and a restaurant. It’s Art Nouveau building, on the outside, but sadly none of the inside features exist any longer.
As I said in my Gateshead blog, the two places are linked by seven bridges across the River Wear. These are Tyne Bridge, Gateshead Millennium Bridge, High Level Bridge, King Edward VII Bridge, Swing Bridge, Redheugh Bridge and the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge. Of these, my favourites are the iconic Tyne Bridge, the Millennium Bridge and the High Level Bridge, all of which we have walked over.
Millennium Bridge – the first picture shows the bridge when it has been tilted to allow a boat to pass under it.
Bridge and High Level Bridge
Grey’s Monument, Central Arcade and Grey Street – all in the area called Grainger Town
Newcastle University, Chinatown, View from the Castle – St Nicholas Cathedral on the left, Newcastle castle
Durham is very hilly and, at the highest point, are the cathedral and castle which overlook the city, and the second Waterstones is also on Sadler Street, at the top of the hill that goes up to these beautiful buildings. The castle wasn’t open but we went into the cathedral to stop for coffee. They had an immersive art exhibition in the Galilee Chapel called LIGHT by light artist Chris Levine, featuring lasers that pass through a crucifix, bathing the cathedral in a beautiful blue light. The Cathedral and Castle at Durham were made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Durham Cathedral and Castle area
LIGHT by Chris Levine
We have visited Durham before and think it’s a great little city, so we headed there for the day by train from Newcastle. Durham is surrounded on three sides by the River Wear, over which cross three stone-arch bridges – Framwellgate, Elvet and Prebends. Scottish poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott wrote a poem called “Harold the Dauntless” which mentions Durham several times, and five lines taken from this poem are inscribed on a stone set into Prebends Bridge. Durham has two branches of Waterstones – this one is set over two floors, and at one point it was a confectioners’ called Earle Brothers.
Clockwise from top left – Prebends Bridge, Sir Walter Scott’s poem, River Wear, Silver Street, The Market Place, Framwellgate Bridge, River Wear
Our friends had been to visit the week before, so set us a challenge of finding the locations they’d taken selfies at, and replicating them! My phone, which is an android, takes selfies backwards, whereas our friend’s phone doesn’t, but I think they have come out well!
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.
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 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.
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)