In the latter part of the 19th century Tynemouth was growing in popularity as a commuter village following the opening of the railway link to Newcastle. Seizing the opportunity the then Duke of Northumberland laid out plans for a substantial residential housing development on his land on the north and east edge of the village. The sweeping crescent of Percy Gardens with its grand houses, private gated road, railed communal gardens commanding magnificent views of King Edward's Bay (formerly known as Percy Bay) and Tynemouth Priory and Castle was one of the exclusive showpieces of the development. Plots were leased to individuals who employed their own architects and built their own houses in ones, twos and sometimes in fours in a restrained Victorian style achieving a pleasing degree of architectural harmony. Most were built in the 1870s.
In August 1884 the Gardens received a royal visitor. After opening the Albert Edward Dock North Shields, HRH Albert - Prince of Wales disembarked from his ship on the north pier and was driven down a much decorated and beflagged Percy Gardens on his way to Tynemouth railway station. The public were not admitted and a ‘limited number of tickets were issued to owners for distribution amongst personal friends’.
Post War Britain saw the demise of the type of lifestyle which had given rise to Percy Gardens. The Duke granted freehold to the owners and most of the houses were converted to flats in the 1950s and 60s – virtually trebling the number of dwellings. Priory Court Flats were built on the large plot (sites 7-13) at the southern end of the gardens which contrary to popular belief was not the result of bombing but had for some reason remained unbuilt on from the start of the original development.
The first owners were men of considerable distinction - shipowners, mining engineers, merchants, coal exporters, lawyers, medical officers and other professionals and included some well known north east names like the Fenwicks and Swans. Many played prominent roles in local affairs and included one Mayor of the Borough 1874-75, Henry Adamson (No 16) and the Harbour Master W W C Frith 1940 (No 37). All households employed an accommodated a number of servants. Most houses remained in the same family for many generations some for over 70 years.
During the Second World War one of the houses was used as a nursing home, two Anderson shelters were built in the Gardens which are still in existence and the railings surrounding the gardens were sacrificed to the war effort never to be replaced.