Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Encyclopedia

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Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a city and county of a city, municipal, county and parliamentary borough, and port of Northumberland, England, 272 m. N. by W. of London, on the North-Eastern railway. Pop. (1891) 186,300; (1901) 215,328. It stands on the N. bank of the Tyne, which is here high and steeply inclined above the river. The mouth of the river into the North Sea is 8 m. below Newcastle and its banks are lined with docks and industrial towns, while its narrow waters. are crowded with traffic.

Though Newcastle owes its origin to a Roman station at a. bridge over the river, its modern growth has largely destroyed traces of antiquity. Of the old walls which, according to Leland, "for strength and magnificence far surpassed all the walls of the cities of England and of most of the towns of Europe," and the circuit of which was 2 m. 239 yds., there are slight remains,. although the fortifications were allowed to go into disrepair after the union of Scotland and England. The castle, from which the town takes its name, stood on a slight elevation rising abruptly from the river, and was erected by Henry II. between 1172 and 1177 on the site of an older structure built in 1080 by Robert, eldest son of the Conqueror. It was originally the strongest fortress in the north of England, and its keep is now one of the finest specimens of the Norman stronghold remaining in the country. While it was still incomplete, William the Lion was led within its walls after his capture at Alnwick; and within its great hall Baliol, on the 26th of December 1292, did homage for the crown of Scotland to Edward I. The area of the castle within its outer walls and fosse was 3 acres. Fragments of these walls, with the principal entrance or Black Gate (portions of which are, however, of later construction) and the Watergate or southern postern remain, but the inner wall surrounding the keep has been entirely removed. The massive keep, with walls 14 ft. thick, is in a state of good preservation, as is also the chapel, a beautiful specimen of late Norman style. The castle was purchased by the corporation in 1809, and is under the charge of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, which uses a portion of it as an antiquarian museum. Near the castle is St Nicholas church, forming the cathedral of the diocese of Newcastle, instituted in 1882. The diocese covers practically the whole of Northumberland, with a very small portion of Cumberland. The church, which is principally Decorated, consists of nave, aisles, chancel and transepts, the total length of the interior from east to west being 245 ft., and the width at the transepts 128 ft. The principal feature of the church is the lantern tower, a later addition and a very fine specimen of early Perpendicular. Among other interesting old churches is St Andrew's church, erected in the 11th century, and retaining Norman characteristics, with a low square tower and a peal of six bells. During the siege by the Parliamentary army in 1644 it was greatly damaged. St John's church is a building of the 14th century with an ancient front. Of the nine conventual buildings at one time existing in Newcastle or its immediate neighbourhood, a few fragments of the monastery of the Black Friars remain, and the chapel of the hospital of St Mary at Jesmond forms a picturesque ruin. There are a number of quaint Elizabethan houses in the steep street called the Side, and in the Sandhill at its foot.

Some of the modern streets of Newcastle are spacious and handsome. The most noteworthy are Grey Street, in which complete scheme of Grecian architecture is followed, and Grainger Street. This thoroughfare is named after Robert Grainger (1798-1861), a wealthy local architect who devoted himself to the beautifying of his city with remarkable energy. Of numerous modern churches may be noted that of St George, Jesmond, a landmark for a great distance and finely decorated within, and the Roman Catholic cathedral of the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. The most important public buildings are the corporation buildings, including a large public hall, and a corn exchange; the guildhall, originally a hospital called the Maison de Dieu, and afterwards used as "the stately court of merchant adventurers," re-erected in 1658; the moot-hall (1810) for the meetings of assizes and sessions and the transaction of county business; the exchange (1860); the central newsroom and art gallery (1838); the Wood memorial hall (1870), used for the meetings of the North of England Institute of Engineers; and the custom-house. The Grey monument in Grey Street, an Ionic column surmounted by a statue of Earl Grey, was erected in 1836 to commemorate the passing of the Reform Bill; the Stephenson monument near the railway station was erected in 1862; a marble statue of Queen Victoria in front of the Royal Victoria Infirmary was unveiled in 1906, and a bronze statue of the queen in 1903 in the cathedral square.

Among educational establishments the chief are the colleges of medicine and of physical science of the university of Durham; the first granting degrees in medicine and surgery; the second, with which the school of art is incorporated, degrees in science and literature. The college of science, or Armstrong College as it is called in commemoration of the first Lord Armstrong, was founded in 1871; the north-east wing was opened in 1888; further parts of the building in 1894, and the west wing by King Edward in 1906. The royal free grammar school, founded in 1525, occupies modern buildings in Jesmond. There should be mentioned also Allan's endowed schools, founded in 1705, and reorganized by the charity commissioners in 1877; and Rutherford College and the Commercial Institute, providing technical and commercial education. The Laing Art Gallery was erected and presented to the city by Alexander Laing, and opened in 1904. Among clubs and similar institutions are the Literary and Philosophical Society, founded in 1793, the Society of Antiquaries, founded in 1813, with a museum in the castle; the Natural History Society and museum; the Tyneside Geographical Society; the Tyneside Naturalists' Club, established in 1846; the Mechanics' Institution, 1824; the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers, 1852; the Fine Arts Society; the Farmers' Club; the Northern Counties' Club; the Union Club; and the University Club. Several clubs for working men form a noteworthy social feature. There is a public library and newsroom. The Royal Victoria Infirmary on the Castle Leazes is a memorial of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and was opened in 1906. The benevolent institutions also include the dispensary (1777), fever house (1803), lying-in hospital (1760), eye infirmary (1822), children's hospital, Trinity almshouses (1492), hospital of the Holy Jesus (1682), hospital (1701) for keelmen, i.e. coal-bargemen; and institutions for the blind, dumb and orphans.

Newcastle is well supplied with public parks and recreation grounds. To the N. of the city is the Castle Leazes ornamental park of 35 acres, and beyond this the Town Moor and racecourse, an extensive common, the survival of the pasture land of the township. Eastward from Town Moor is Brandling Park, and westward Nun's Moor. The picturesque grounds of Armstrong Park N.E. of the city extend to about 50 acres, the larger half of which was presented by Sir W. G. Armstrong, who also presented the beautifully wooded grounds of Jesmond Dene. Elswick Park in the south-west of the city, extending to 84 acres, includes Elswick Hall. There are several others. Jesmond, N.E. of the city, is the chief residential suburb. It takes name from "Jesus Mount," and was formerly a place of pilgrimage, possessing a hospital dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.

Both the Northumberland and Durham banks of the river are lined with manufacturing towns or suburbs. Of these the most important is Gateshead immediately opposite Newcastle; while those adjacent to Newcastle on the same bank are Benwell and Fenham (pop. in 1901, 18,316) on the west, and Walker (13,336) on the east. The last-named two (formerly urban districts), together with part of Kenton, were incorporated with Newcastle in 1904. Newcastle is connected with the south bank of the Tyne by four bridges - two high-level bridges, an hydraulic swing bridge and a suspension bridge. The old highlevel bridge carries the North-Eastern railway, with a road and footway beneath it. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1849. The new high-level bridge, carrying the railway only, was opened by King Edward VII. in 1906; it consists of four steel spans on granite piers. The hydraulic swing bridge, on the low-level, was built to replace a stone structure erected in 1781 on the site of a bridge dating from 1250, and destroyed by a flood in 1771. The Roman bridge, the Pons Aelii, is said to have spanned the river at the same point. The hydraulic bridge (1876) consists of one large centre pier, two midstream piers and two abutments; and its foundations are iron cylinders resting on the solid rock, 60 ft. below the bed of the river. Two spans, which open simultaneously by machines impelled by steam, allow 103 ft. of waterway for vessels going up and down the river. About half a mile farther up the stream is the Redheugh bridge (1871). The central station of the North-Eastern railway is an extensive and handsome structure built on a sharp curve. An underground line connects it with the Blyth and Tyne station. The suburban line of the North-Eastern company from the central station to Jesmond, Gosforth and Benton was the first standard line to carry passengers by electric traction (1904).

Newcastle owes its prosperity to its convenient situation on a tidal river, and to the immense stores of coal in the neighbourhood, which, besides being largely exported, stimulate a great variety of industries which are dependent on their use. It began to export coal about the end of the 13th century, but the trade received a severe check by the act of Edward I. which made the burning of coal in London a capital offence. In the reign of Edward III. licence was granted to the inhabitants "to dig coals and stones in the common soil of the town without the walls thereof in the place called .the Castle Field and the Forth." The quay in front of the town, extending from the hydraulic bridge to the Ouseburn, forms a fine thoroughfare of about a mile in length; and by means of dredging a depth of water has been obtained at the shore permitting vessels of large tonnage to approach, although the berths of the ocean steamers are a little farther down the river. The quay is supplied with the most improved mechanical appliances, and has direct communication with the North-Eastern railway. There is a large grain warehouse at the E. end of the quay. Exports include coal, chemicals, pigiron, iron-work, steel, iron bars, plates and castings, machinery, fire-clay goods and copper. The chief imports are fruits, wheat, maize, oats, barley, iron and steel, petroleum, sulphur ore, timber and wood hoops, iron ore and potatoes. Steamers carrying passengers serve the principal English ports, Cardiff, Leith, &c.; also Baltic ports and New York; while Newcastle is one of the chief ports for the extensive Norwegian tourist traffic, the ships of the combined Bergenske and Nordenfjeldske companies regularly serving Stavanger, Bergen, Trondhjem and intermediate ports. To the industries of Newcastle indicated by the exports may be added glass, lead and shot, brick and tile, earthenware, tool, rope and ships'-fitting manufactures, and most important of all, shipbuilding. The celebrated Elswick works, founded by Messrs Armstrong in 1847, and amalgamated with those of Mitchell & Co., are among the most important in the world. The construction of ships of all sorts, including the largest ironclads with all their armour and guns, is carried on. Elswick is the name of the western part of the borough of Newcastle. The borough returns two members to parliament. It is the largest undivided parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom. The city is governed by a lord mayor (the title was conferred in 1906), 19 aldermen and 57 councillors. Area, 8453 acres.


Newcastle owes its origin to its position on the great Roman wall and on the estuary of the river Tyne. Its Roman occupation is proved by existing remains, most important among which are the foundations of a bridge, attributed to the emperor Hadrian. Before the Conquest little is known of the town except that it was called Monkchester, and that it was destroyed in the 9th century by the Danes. After the defeat of Edgar IEtheling and Earl Waltheof on Gateshead Fell, it was again destroyed by William the Conqueror, but Robert of Normandy is said to have raised a castle there in 1080 on his return from an expedition against Malcolm, king of Scotland, and from that time the town was called Newcastle. Shortly afterwards it was fortified by Robert de Mowbray in his rebellion against William Rufus, but it was taken by the king in 1095. In the reign of Stephen it was seized by David, king of Scotland, and after its restoration to the English in 1157 Henry II. rebuilt the castle and established a mint. The walls surrounding the town are attributed to Edward I. During the 14th century Newcastle was three times defended successfully against the Scots, but in 1640 it was occupied for a year by the Scottish Covenanters under Leslie. It was then garrisoned by royalists, but again surrendered to the Scots in 1644 after a siege of about six weeks, and Charles I. was taken there in 1646 when he had yielded himself to the Scottish army. The burgesses are said to have held the borough at a fee-farm rent under a grant from William Rufus. The title of mayor was conferred by Henry III., while Henry IV. in 1400 made the town a county of itself with a sheriff, and granted the burgesses power to elect 6 aldermen. Queen Elizabeth incorporated the town in 1589 under the title of mayor and burgesses, and Philip and Mary in 1556 granted 4 additional aldermen, while the charter of James I. in 1604. appointed 24 common councilmen. Newcastle has been represented in parliament by two members since 1295. The coal. trade, to which the town owes its prosperity, began in the 13th. century, but, partly owing to the act of parliament passed in the reign of Edward I. forbidding the use of coal in London, did not become important until the 17th century. Glassmaking was a considerable trade in the 17th century, and in 1823 George Stephenson established iron works at Newcastle, where the first engines used on the Stockton and Darlington, and Manchester and Liverl30ol lines were made.

See Victoria County History, Northumberland; John Brand, The. History and Antiquities of the Town and County of the Town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1789); Chirographia, or a Survey of Newcastleupon-Tyne (1818).

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