Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth


Sanderson Arcade in the Northumberland market town of Morpeth is rather unique, in that it was completely rebuilt in 2009, but in a more vintage style (Edwardian, claim the architects) than the old 1950s arcade it replaced, the latter having become dilapidated and run-down.

Judging by the footfall on the Saturday afternoon we visited, the scheme has been a massive success. There are a number of independent businesses, including the Sanderson department store itself, but also popular High Street brands like Vodafone and M&S. Morpeth’s shopping streets looked busier than many across the UK, but the arcade also draws people in for its shelter from the elements, which was one of the original aims of the first 19th century arcades.

Joanna Lumley opened the new arcade in 2009, and there is a plaque to commemorate the day and her celebrity status. At the rear end of the arcade, there is also an enormous sculpture of a bull, showing off its assets, but above all there to mark the fact that Morpeth historically had the second largest livestock market in England. Lumley named the bull ‘Black Prince,’ in memory of a similar Aberdeen Angus that her ancestors had bred in the 19th century.

The arcade keeps itself in the news today with regular events: book signings, concerts and seasonal events for Hallowe’en, Christmas, etc.

In a sense, it is reminiscent of Hamburg’s Galleria arcade, which was also a new-build in a vintage style (Galleria’s architects chose art deco for their revamp in 2011), so while neither of these two have the ‘original features’ of many arcades in this project, it is clearly a success, and so worthy of inclusion, since this project is all about arcades surviving to tell their story, and to be used by shoppers still today.

My favourite shop today

Has to be Sandersons, the department store or emporium whose name chime with the original owner of this building back in 1939. So few independent stores like this left around the country now.

My pick of the arcade’s past

W. S. Sanderson was a prominent figure in Morpeth between the wars, serving terms as Mayor of the town and, at the time the Sanderson House was built in 1939, Deputy Mayor.  He was also a wine and spirits merchant who had a business in the arcade. His telephone number was Morpeth 753!

Sanderson House only became an arcade in 1954, and in August of that year, all the new tenants began to advertise in the local newspapers.

Proudlock’s Café advertised: “For an enjoyable meal in pleasant surroundings, visit Proudlock’s Café – rendezvous for morning coffee; afternoon tea a speciality.” Other early tenants were Hardy, the bookmakers (though he called himself a ‘Turf Accountant’) and Snow’s underwear and corsetry shop. There was also a record and gramophone shop, ‘including the Top Twenty,’ and an Army & Navy Stores, ‘the spot for bargains.’

The £32 million rebuild saw the complete demolition of the old arcade. The frontage on Bridge Street where the name Sanderson House and the year 1939 remain has been re-formed to preserve the look of the old building. But other than that, the revamp was a complete redesign, opting instead for a more tasteful early 19th century look rather than the mid-century style which aged so quickly.

The new Sanderson Arcade dates from 2009. Job well done, Morpeth.

This arcade in films or books

I’ve not found any yet, but if there are any, it’d be good to see the original 1950s arcade as well as the more modern (but vintage-look) version we have today.

Do you have any memories of the old arcade that predates the 2009 revamp?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Sanderson Arcade (old or new version) in any film or book?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

Is there a website for this arcade?

Yes, Sanderson Arcade has its own website and is very active on social media. Click here for a link to the arcade website.

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