Memories of Sunderland: Seaburn Fair

Once upon a time there was no such thing as cheap package holidays to sunny places such as Spain. Commercial flights were not as readily as available, people had less cars, and as a result many spent their summers closer to home.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, this way of life heralded a golden age of Seaside resorts in Britain. While individual towns such as Blackpool boomed, in Sunderland itself the resorts of Roker and Seaburn were thriving. We have all seen those old photos of the beach being full, something we can scarcely imagine today.

As seaside resorts prospered, many funfairs were soon opened to accompany them. Before the starry eyed wonders of mega theme parks such as Disneyland strained worldwide theme, the local funfair was the best you could really get in terms of amusement and entertainment.

And Seaburn had its own. In the late 1940s the Seaburn fair, also known as “Ocean World” (with its adjacent zoo) opened up. One of its most famous early attractions included the Big Dipper rollercoaster, which similar to that of Blackpool, opened in 1955 and lasted until 1967.

There were many other rides at the fair throughout the course of its existence, such as dodgems, a Ferris wheel, ghost trains, dive bomber, a Waltzer, Ski Jump, the tunnel of love and so on. Presumably many memories were made in the park over the decades.

However, as per most things in Sunderland, economic changes taking place in the second half of the 20th century were unkind to the town. The rise of commercial travel and package holidays meant peoples interest and attention towards local fairgrounds diminished.

As our imaginations were captured by the rise of mega theme parks such as Disneyland, we began to perceive local fairgrounds as something cheap and below quality. The age of mass crowds on English beaches come to an end, and as such Seaside resorts declined.

Thus in 2007 the Seaburn fair shut its doors for the latest time and went out of business. It became an empty patch of land, which now effectively functions as a car park for the nearby stack and the still surviving amusements next door.

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