Newcastle upon Tyne


City of Newcastle upon Tyne
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Status:Metropolitan borough, City (1882)
Region:North East England
Ceremonial County:Tyne and Wear
- Total
Ranked 229th
113.44 km²
Admin. HQ:Newcastle upon Tyne
ONS code:00CJ
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
Ranked 30th
2,350 / km²
Ethnicity:93.1% White
4.4% S.Asian
Arms of Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Council
Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Council
Leadership:Leader & Cabinet
Executive:Liberal Democrats
MPs:Nick Brown, David Clelland, Jim Cousins, Doug Henderson

Newcastle upon Tyne, often called just Newcastle, is a city in the county of Tyne and Wear in North East England. It is also a unitary authority with a population of around 259,000 (2001 census). However, the metropolitan boroughs of North Tyneside (population c.190,000), South Tyneside (population c. 150,000) and Gateshead (population c.200,000) are also part of Newcastle's conurbation. Newcastle is the main city in the North East of England, and around the sixth largest city in England.

Historically people from Newcastle have been known formally, especially by outsiders as Novocastrians. The word Geordie, however, is more often used these days as an informal and even affectionate term for Newcastle's inhabitants, though it is also used for Tyneside people in general. People living elsewhere in the North East do not care to be called Geordies, but outsiders tend not to differentiate, and call the entire region 'Geordieland'.


History and development of the city

Newcastle was founded by the Roman emperor Hadrian, who bestowed his own family name on it - Pons Aelius (Aelian Bridge). The Roman crossing was at the foot of the Tyne Gorge, roughly on the site of the present Swing Bridge, and the settlement lay approximately where the castle keep is now. Hadrian’s Wall runs through present-day Newcastle with stretches of wall and turrets visible along the West Road, and a temple in Benwell. The course of the wall can be traced eastwards to Wallsend (Segedunum), with the fort Arbeia down river in South Shields.

Known as Monkchester before the Norman Conquest, Newcastle lay within the powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, three of whose rulers held the title of Bretwalda - ‘Lord of Britain’ - in the seventh century, the Golden Age of Northumbria, when the area was a beacon of culture and learning in Europe. Pilgrims came to the Holy Well of Jesus' Mount, now part of Jesmond. One of Newcastle's biggest modern shopping streets, Pilgrim Street, is so-called because of the popularity of the well.

Monkchester had been destroyed by the Danes in the 9th century and was levelled again in the general devastation of the lands between the Tyne and Tweed by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, after the rebellion against the Normans in 1080. Because of its strategic position, Robert Curthose, son of the Conqueror, erected a wooden castle there in 1080 and the town was henceforth known as Novum Castellum or Newcastle.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Newcastle was England's northern fortress, the centre for mustering armies. The Border war with Scotland lasted intermittently for several centuries - possibly the longest border war ever waged. The Scots king William the Lion was imprisoned there in 1174, Edward I brought the Stone of Scone and William Wallace south through the town and Newcastle was successfully defended against the Scots three times during the 14th century. Virtually every English ruler from the Conqueror to Cromwell has been in the city, along with such figures as Harry Hotspur, the dashing hero of Shakespeare's 'Henry IV, Part One'. Shakespeare himself performed in Newcastle in 1588.

During the English Civil War, Newcastle supported the king and was stormed by Cromwell's Scots allies 'with roaring drummes' in 1644, thus ensuring London's coal supplies. The grateful king bestowed its motto FORTITER DEFENDIT TRIUMPHANS upon the town. Ironically, Charles was imprisoned in Newcastle by the Scots in 1646-7.

Newcastle's development as a major city owed much to its central role in the export of coal from the Northumberland coalfield – the phrase "carrying coals to Newcastle" proverbially denotes the act of bringing a particular commodity to a locality that has more than enough of it already. In the nineteenth century, shipbuilding and heavy engineering were central to the city's prosperity; and the city was a powerhouse of the nation's prosperity. Innovation in Newcastle and surrounding areas includes:

  • George Stephenson and/or Humphry Davy's safety lamps, which made possible the opening up of ever deeper mines to provide the coal that powered the industrial revolution.
  • Stephenson's early work in railways, prior to The Rocket, including The Blucher, a locomotive working at Killingworth colliery in 1814, leading to the railways and a step change in the economics of transportation.
  • Joseph Swan's first demonstration of his electric light bulb — like Davy's lamp, the subject of some controversy since Thomas Edison also laid claim to the invention.
  • Charles Algernon Parsons' invention and commercialisation of the steam turbine, leading to his Turbinia, a turbine-powered ship that literally ran rings around the British Fleet at a review at Spithead in 1897.
  • William Armstrong whose company was famous for the production of best-of-breed heavy armaments, used in the Crimean War, the American Civil War — by both sides — and the First World War
  • Mosley Street, in the centre of Newcastle, is claimed to be the first in the world to have electric street lighting though this is contested..

Heavy industries declined in the second half of the twentieth century; office and retail employment are now the city's staples; a short distance from the flourishing city centre there are impoverished inner-city estates, in areas whose original raison d'tre was to provide working class housing for the shipyards or other heavy industries.

Architecture and urban development

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Looking through Newcastle's bridges
The city has an extensive neoclassical centre, largely developed in the 1830s by Richard Grainger and John Dobson, and recently extensively restored. Grey Street, which curves down from a monument to the parliamentary reformer Earl Grey towards the valley of the River Tyne, has a claim to be one of England's most beautiful urban streets. A large portion of Grainger Town was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Eldon Square shopping centre.

Immediately to the northwest of the city centre is Leazes Park, a park established in 1873 after a petition by 3,000 working men of the city for "ready access to some open ground for the purpose of health and recreation", and in one corner of which is St James' Park, the stadium home of Newcastle United F.C. which dominates the view of the city from the south.

Another green space in Newcastle is the vast Town Moor, lying immediately north of the city centre. The hereditary freemen of the city have held the right to graze cattle on the Town Moor since the Middle Ages — a reward for defending the town against the marauding Scots!

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Jesmond Dene ca. 1900.

The wooded gorge of the Ouseburn in the east of the city is known as Jesmond Dene and forms another popular recreation area.

The development of the city in the 1960s and 1970s was marred by a corruption scandal involving, especially, T. Dan Smith, a local politician and John Poulson, a property developer. Echoes of the scandal were revisited in the late 1990s in the BBC TV mini-series, Our Friends in the North.

The tilting Gateshead Millennium Bridge from the Baltic Art Gallery
The tilting Gateshead Millennium Bridge from the Baltic Art Gallery
The Tyne itself passes through a gorge between Newcastle (on the North Bank) and Gateshead (the administratively separate Borough and urban area south of the river), which is famous for a series of dramatic and notable bridges such as the Tyne Bridge and High Level Bridge shared by Newcastle and Gateshead. Large scale regeneration of the Tyne Gorge has replaced former shipping industries with imposing new office developments; an innovative tilting bridge, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge was commissioned by Gateshead and has integrated the older Newcastle quayside more closely with major cultural developments in Gateshead, including the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Norman Foster designed The Sage Gateshead music centre. As a tourist promotion, Newcastle and Gateshead have linked together under the banner NewcastleGateshead but both remain separate for other purposes.


Newcastle has an international airport near Ponteland, some 15 minutes from the centre by car or Metro. Its railway station has a fine classical frontage and is a principal stop on the East Coast Main Line, providing a half-hourly service of trains to London (with a journey time of around three hours) operated by GNER as well as trains to Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Carlisle plus local services.

Major roads in the area include the A1(M), A19, A69, and A1058.

Newcastle also has access to an international Ferry Terminal, located at nearby North Shields, offering services to destinations including: Amsterdam, Kristiansand, Stavanger, and Bergen.

The North Eastern Railway built an electric suburban railway serving both banks of the Tyne, and the northern suburbs. This system has been transformed into the Tyne and Wear Metro which extends as far as Newcastle Airport, Tynemouth and South Hylton in Sunderland. The system is one of only three underground systems in the United Kingdom.

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Grey's Monument, above the Tyne and Wear Metro Monument station

The City

Newcastle is part of an area called Tyneside, whose people are commonly known as Geordies, and are known for their distinctive accent and sense of humour.

Newcastle has a reputation of being a fun-loving city with many bars, restaurants and night clubs. In the 1960s the internationally successful rock group The Animals emerged from the Club-A-Go-Go and other Newcastle music spots. More recently, Newcastle has become popular as a destination for Stag and Hen parties.

The City has a strong sporting tradition, with the City being home to Premiership football Newcastle United, and Zurich Premiership rugby union side Newcastle Falcons, for whom England's "(Rugby Union) World Cup winning hero" Jonny Wilkinson features. The city's Metro Radio Arena is home to Newcastle Vipers ice hockey team, and Newcastle Eagles basketball team. The City's Speedway team Newcastle Diamonds are based at Brough Park in Byker, a venue that is also home to Greyhound Racing. Newcastle Racecourse at High Gosforth Park holds regular meets, including the prestigious race for the Northumberland Plate, which takes place in June each year.

The city also hosts the start of the annual Bupa Great North Run, the world's largest half Marathon in which participants famously race over the Tyne Bridge into Gateshead and then towards the finish line 21 km away on the coast at neighbouring South Shields.

A growth in the Theatre Culture has taken place in recent years, centred on the impressive Theatre Royal on Grey Street, which for over 25 years has hosted a season of performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Other Theatres in the City include the Tyne Opera House, the Newcastle Playhouse, the Live Theatre, the Peoples Theatre and the Gulbenkian Studio. There are several other venues in and around Newcastle, such as: Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle Arena and The Sage Gateshead.

The city has two universities, the University of Newcastle and Northumbria University, and two cathedrals, the anglican St. Nicholas and the catholic St. Mary's.

The Hoppings, reputedly the largest travelling fair in Europe takes place on Newcastle Town Moor every June. The event had its origins in the Temperance movement during the early 1880s and coincides with the annual race week at High Gosforth Park.

The UK's first Biotechnology Village, the "Centre for Life" is located in the City Centre.

Jewish Community in the City

No records exist of Jews resident in Newcastle before 1830 although there is a tradition that the community dates from 1775. It is thought, however, that over 500 years prior to this Jews resided in Silver Street (formerly known as Jew Gate).

On October 8 1832, the congregation was formally established. The cathedral bells were rung when the first synagogue, in Temple Street, was officially opened on July 13 1838. The Newcastle Courant published a headline in Hebrew.

By 1845 the congregation had grown to 33 adults and 33 children. Through the course of time nearly all the original founders either died or had left the city, but the influx of Polish and Russian immigrants had more than replaced this loss.

An imposing stone building was erected in Leazes Park Road in 1880 and consecrated by the Chief Rabbi. At that time the number of Jews in Newcastle was about 750. The congregation was in being until 1978.

There were many more developments and synagogues in Newcastle during the 20th century: Corporation Street Synagogue (1904–1924), Jesmond Synagogue (1914–1986), Ravensworth Terrace Synagogue (1925–1969), and Gosforth and Kenton Hebrew Congregation (1947–1984)

With the drift of population from the West End of Newcastle, Jesmond synagogue was consecrated in 1914 leaving the oldest, the Leazes Park Road Synagogue in the centre of the city. A third synagogue was built in Gosforth, the Gosforth and Kenton Hebrew congregation. Eventually the running of the three Orthodox Congregations was considered as being uneconomical and with a declining population in other parts of the town a new purpose built Community Centre and Synagogue was built in Gosforth at Culzean Park in an area in which the majority of Jews resided. A new Reform movement Synagogue was built in 1986 nearby and continues to flourish.

Gay Community in Newcastle

Focused on the Times Square area near the Centre for Life, the "Pink Triangle" hosts approximately 12–14 bars and pubs, and two clubs, Powerhouse and The Loft. The community has seen much expansion in the past five years, with further growth planned in the future. The development of the Pink Triangle was a planned development promoted by the Regional Development Agency and is often seen to be in conflict with the macho native Geordie Culture. In 2001 Newcastle planned to host a Gay Pride festival but this was cancelled at the last minute due to opposition by the Council members.

Twin Cities

Museums & Places of Interest

In Newcastle

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Bessie Surtees House (Quayside)

In the surrounding area

See also

External links

Districts of England - North East England Flag of England
Alnwick - Berwick-upon-Tweed - Blyth Valley - Castle Morpeth - Chester-le-Street - Darlington - Derwentside - Durham - Easington - Gateshead - Hartlepool - Middlesbrough - Newcastle upon Tyne - North Tyneside - Redcar and Cleveland - Sedgefield - South Tyneside - Stockton-on-Tees - Sunderland - Teesdale - Tynedale - Wansbeck - Wear Valley

1974 counties: Cleveland - County Durham - Northumberland - Tyne and Wear

de:Newcastle upon Tyne

es:Newcastle-upon-Tyne eo:Newcastle-upon-Tyne fr:Newcastle-upon-Tyne id:Newcastle upon Tyne no:Newcastle upon Tyne nn:Newcastle upon Tyne pl:Newcastle upon Tyne pt:Newcastle upon Tyne fi:Newcastle upon Tyne sv:Newcastle-upon-Tyne


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