For many, the ‘dancing ladies’ who proudly pirouette atop Spanish City, bring back fond memories of gazing at the dome and taking in everything this spectacular building has to offer.
The ladies are located atop their respective towers, with one playing a tambourine and the other playing cymbals. The figures are said to portray ‘half-size terpsichorean females’ clad in animal skins, and are two metres tall. Each statue is made of copper electroforms which have been soldered with lead and painted to create the distinctive green colouring.
Whilst no one is certain who commissioned and created the dancing ladies, they are widely believed to have been dreamed up by famous architect Robert Burns Dick, as they are shown in the drawings he sketched ahead of the building of Spanish City. With most believing they were then made by Ewart & Son of St. Pancras. The same firm who in 1910, made the lantern that sits on top of the Dome. Ewart & Son were also responsible for constructing the roofs of both Buckingham Palace and the Bank of England, leaving the ladies, and this Whitley Bay building, in excellent company.
Following almost 100 years at the mercy of the elements, the fragile dancing ladies were taken to specialist metal conservators, Rupert Harris Ltd of London for essential work in 2009. Rupert Harris Conservation, established in 1982, has built a reputation as the leading conservators of metalwork and sculpture in the UK. As part of this project, the firm carried out careful repairs to the legs, arms and feet and re-coated them in a special green paint chosen to perfectly match the original 1910 colour. They were reinstated to the building in 2010.
However, it was suggested that the ladies were still not in quite the right place. Following a public backlash to the statues being taken down more than four metres and placed upon flat-topped towers in 1972, a decision was made to recreate the attractive cupolas that originally existed. Plans to construct replicas of the domed cupolas of 1910 have been completed ahead of the figures being returned to both their original height and direction.
As Spanish City prepares to open its doors once again, the project’s main contractor, Robertson, has once again carefully removed the ladies using a specialised crane. The figures were then lowered to the ground and carefully packaged up ahead of their train journey to London on 11th September 2017 for some further care. They will eventually be placed in their rightful positions, atop new cupolas, ahead of the 2018 launch where they will hopefully look down on us for another 100 years.