An October 2001 trip
to Newcastle upon Tyne by michaelhudson
Quote: The capital city of North Eastern England
Grey Street, rated the finest street in England by Sir John Betjeman, runs from the Monument down towards the Quayside. At the top end is the Theatre Royal, home to annual performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
A few hundred metres west of Grey's Monument, near St James' Park, the 52,000 capacity home of Newcastle United, the city's small Chinatown has some excellent restaurants. You'll also find the best preserved section of the town walls and Blackfriars, a 13th century monastery that now houses a cafe and craft shops, nearby.
Newcastle has lots of interesting museums and galleries. In the centre, you can see Pre-Raphaelites at the Laing Art Gallery, learn about local history at the Discovery Museum, explore Greek and Roman history at the Shefton Museum and the Museum of Antiquities or travel back to the beginning of the world at Life Science Centre. There's also Seven Stories, the new centre for children's literature, and natural history at The Hancock.
The 11th century Castle Keep and St Nicholas's Cathedral are the two finest historical buildings in the city centre. Bessie Surtees House, two 17th century merchants' houses, are also worth a visit, as is Newcastle's Roman Catholic cathedral, St Mary's, directly opposite Central Station.
Don't miss the re-developed Quayside, which has more bars and restaurants, plus excellent views of the six bridges spanning the Tyne and the cultural development across the river in Gateshead.
The city's best shopping is inside Eldon Square and along Northumberland Street, both of which are easily reached from Haymarket and Monument.
Newcastle is renowned as a party city. The liveliest pubs can be found in the Bigg Market, halfway between Central Station and the Monument. There's a more upmarket scene down on the Quayside, and clusters of pubs around Haymarket and Central stations and in Osbourne Road, near Jesmond station.
Travelling around by Metro can be expensive. The best deals are on Sundays and Wednesdays, when cheap day saver tickets are available.
For online information, try the Visit Newcastle Gateshead site, or Northumbria Tourist Board.
Newcastle city centre is best seen on foot. Chinatown, the Laing Art Gallery, the Discovery Museum and Grainger Town are all within a ten-minute walk of the three Metro stations in the centre.
Unless you're travelling to the suburbs or outside the city, you shouldn't need to use the local buses. The main station for services within the city is near behind Marks & Spencer, not far from Haymarket Metro Station. Regional services depart from Eldon Square Station, further along Percy Street. Electric Quaylink buses connect the Haymarket and Central Station to the Quayide and Gateshead.
City Sightseeing run open top bus tours of Newcastle and Gateshead between the beginning of April and the end of December. Tickets cost £6 for adults.
Attraction | "Grainger Town"
Grey's Monument sits at the top of Grey Street and Grainger Street. The former is the site of the Theatre Royal-a superb Victorian Theatre, first opened in 1837,which boasts a monumental Corinthian portico and is the second home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Grey Street, described by Gladstone in 1862 as "our best modern street", had sadly decayed somewhat but, as part of the Grainger Town project(www.graingertown.tv), it has now almost been restored to the majesty which once prompted Sir John Betjeman to write:
"As for the curve of Grey Street, I shall never forget seeing it to perfection, traffic-less on a misty Sunday morning. Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that subtle descending curve."
If you follow the descending curve extolled by Betjeman to the bottom of Grey Street, you'll come to the somewhat steeper Dean Street. This is an extremely scenic route down to the Quayside.
Grainger Street is no less impressive than its illustrious neighbour. Linked to Grey Street by the beautiful Central Arcade(dating from 1840 and located about 100 metres from Grey's Monument and the Monument Metro Station), it serves as the main artery linking the Central railway station to the Monument area. Notable buildings include the People's Museum of Memorabilia-a museum and antiques centre diaplaying objects of local commercial and domestic interest dating from the 18th century-and the new location for Yates' Wine Lodge. Both are on the left side of the street as you walk away from the Monument.
At the bottom of Grainger Street is Neville Street, where you'll find the Central Station and the Grade 1 listed St Mary's Cathedral. The station was designed by John Dobson and constructed between 1845-1850. St Mary's, the city's Catholic cathedral bulit in the Gothic Revival style, was designed by A.W.H. Pugin, who is most famous for his interiors of the Houses of Parliament. While you're on Neville Street also look out for the grand Thistle Hotel and the French Renaissance style Union Rooms, which were renovated and turned into a Weatherspoons pub a few years ago.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 26, 2002
Off Nelson Street
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England NE1 5QG
Attraction | "The Quayside"
The Quayside is also a great vantage point to survey the great bridges spanning the Tyne. The Tyne Bridge is synonymous with the city, but it is equaled in majesty by the Swing Bridge(designed by William Armstrong and opened in 1876) and the High Level Bridge, which was the world's first road and rail bridge, designed by Robert Stephenson and opened by Queen Victoria in 1849. The aforementioned Millennium Bridge was built at a cost of 22 million pounds and is the world's first rotating bridge. Designed to resemble a blinking eye, it links Newcastle's Quayside to its Gateshead equivalent, which is the site of the Baltic Flour Mill Development (a massive visual arts centre-one of the biggest in Europe-with 3000 square meters of art space in five galleries)and the adjacent Music Centre. This area is the focal point of the joint Newcastle-Gateshead bid for the 2008 European City of Culture. For a great panoramic view of the Quayside, I'd highly recommend the video images found on www.medieval-ayside.de.vu.
35 The Close
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England NE1 3RN
+44 191 221 0828
Attraction | "Gibside"
In addition to the numerous fine walks around the estate grounds, Gibside is perhaps most notable for the Palladian Chapel, which features an ornate portico and parapet, and the Statue to British Liberty (which is higher than Nelson's Column). A picture of the latter can be viwed at www.graeme-peacock.com/e_photographs/e-10.htm (there is a great selection of photographs of Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham on this website). The Chapel used to be notorious locally for the satanic rituals which took place there.
The best time to visit Gibside is probably late-Spring or Summer when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. However, the grounds are open year round, and with the Bowes Railway, Beamish Museum and the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne all a short drive away. There are plenty other attractions in the vicinity. Admission costs a more than reasonable three pounds for adults with family tickets (two adults plus four children) available for a bargain eight pounds. From the end of March until the end of October the grounds are open from 10am until 6pm (last admisssion ninety minutes before closing time) daily except Mondays (Bank Holidays excepted). From November until the 30th of March the closing time moves forward to 4pm. The Chapel is open from 11am until 4.30pm from the last day of March until the last day of October (visits by appointment only in the Winter).
To get to Gibside by car follow the A694 to Rowlands Gill then take the B6314. Alternatively, from the A1, take the exit north of the Metro Centre and follow the brown signs. Public transport links are not exactly great, but you can catch the Go-Northern bus number 745 from Newcastle city centre. If you get lost, you can contact Gibside Visitor Services on 01207 542255 for more information.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2002
Gibside Estate and Garden
Near Rowlands Gill, Burnopfield, Tyne and Wear
Gateshead, England NE16 6BG
44 1207 542255
Starting at the octagonal Market Cross, given to the town in 1747 and used subsequently as a ‘lock-up’, a market for dairy produce and a town hall, The Bank, once the town’s main commercial street and still notable for several Victorian shop windows and the 16th-century Blagraves House, reputed to have housed Oliver Cromwell in 1648, descends steeply towards the River Tees and lush green fields behind you. Just to the left is St Mary’s Parish Church, founded in the 12th-century and featuring 15th-century renovations attributed to the Duke of Gloucester, the then owner of the nearby castle who would later become King Richard III. Also note the road running in this direction, Newgate, as it leads to the Josephine and John Bowes Museum. In front, the cobbled Market Place, which still holds regular markets, curves gently to the left until it meets the tree-lined Galgate at a right angle next to the main Post Office. Galgate, formerly the site of the town’s Gallows but now an attractive street full of ornamental grass plots, follows the line of an old Roman road that forded the river 120 metres upstream from the castle.
The town’s Tourist Information office (firstname.lastname@example.org) is located in a rather grand building at the top of Flatts Road, to the left and a little behind the Post Office as you look at it from the corner of Market Place and Galgate.
Constructed by Bernard Baliol, whose descendant, John Baliol, was later to found the famous college at Oxford University as a penance for assaulting the Bishop of Durham, the magnificent 12th-century castle is now a ruin managed by English Heritage. The castle, which played an important part in the defeat of the Northern Earls who rose against Elizabeth I in 1569, has a fine round tower and spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.
Barnard Castle is open all year. Admission is £2.40 (concessions available).
Just below the castle, the River Tees once formed the boundary between Durham and Yorkshire. The centre of the lovely bridge here, which dates from 1569, was once a venue for illicit weddings as the ruling bishops of the counties on either side of the river could thus not raise any objections. There is another picnic area just to the left of the bridge, Flax Field, with great views of the river and castle.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 2, 2002
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Attraction | "The Castle Keep"
More recently used as a WWII air-raid shelter, the room contains parapet figures from the Town Walls, two stone balusters from the 18th century Tyne Bridge, a large, slightly eroded Royal Arms of England, which dates from the 14th century and was once set on the front of the barbican at the Black Gate, and the arms of both the Bishop of Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The weatherbeaten arms of the city once bore the motto 'Fortiter Defendit Triumphans 1646' (She Defends Bravely and Triumphs), which was awarded by a grateful King Charles I before his defeat and execution.
Occupying the whole of the basement underneath the main staircase, the old Norman Chapel is reached by climbing two thick steps. A long room with high arches and intricate craftsmanship, the nave runs north to south with the chancel at right angles to create extra space. The chapel was extensively renovated by John Dobson in 1848, though the ornamentation around the windows and vaulted ceilings is original 12th century Norman.
From here the central staircase circles its way back up to the entrance level where a small museum documents the history of the Keep and the surrounding Castle Garth area. The informative displays include pictures of the castle, 17th century Scottish rapiers and broadswords, a scale model of the Keep including floor plans and a larger conjectural model of the entire castle site made in 1852. Framed documents provide a host of useful information on the construction of the castle and its Keep, which was evidently built between 1172 and 1177 at a cost of £911. Excavated artefacts such as coins, roof tiles, pottery and implements are exhibited alongside 15th century German stoneware imported from the Rhine and 13th century decorated jugs from France. A series of wall displays detail the history of the castle from Pons Aelius, the remains of which now lie two metres below ground level, through to the present day.
Back on the staircase, and just around the next bend, a straight set of stairs branches off to the left. Both options lead up to opposite ends of the Gallery, a narrow walkway overlooking the hall via a series of openings, and ultimately the roof, while the opening at the foot of the straight staircase is one of five doorways to the Great Hall itself. Much of the room is empty, though there are some interesting displays devoted to World War I and the Scottish siege of the castle in 1644.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 18, 2002
First the museum. Head through the overpriced giftshop to the History of Art on Tyneside gallery, a dark, twisting corridor where you’ll fined original engravings by Thomas Bewick and sketches by John Dobson, the architect of much of the Victorian city. Though much is aimed at younger visitors, among the clutter and hands-on exhibits are some involving works showing local people and landmarks.
Upstairs, the rotating collection in Barbour Watercolours Gallery is a bit hit and miss. I much prefer the works on display in the permanent collection, not least Martin’s ‘The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah’ and ‘The Bard’. I love the intense drama of both pieces, which contrasts beautifully with the more sedate 18th and 19th century pastoral works along the other walls. The space has been successfully opened out recently, and thankfully the display cases that used to spoil the visual effect of the more powerful paintings have largely been removed.
The final main room on the upper floor houses the temporary exhibitions, currently a collection of works on the River Tyne but more often touring exhibitions from the National Gallery or the Tate that frequently include works of international significance. You can see everything comfortably in an hour to an hour and a half, slightly longer if you have children and stop off in the small Under Fives’ Area, a room of puzzles and dressing up boxes. You could stay to eat in the café but you can find better options elsewhere in the city centre. Take a few minutes to look at the exterior of the building, sit outside on the Blue Carpet, a colour flecked glass and resin floored public square between the circular glass entrance and the small garden in front of John Dobson’s Lying-in Hospital. And then walk the hundred metres back to the crowds on Northumberland Street.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2005
Laing Art Gallery
New Bridge Street
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England NE1 8AG
+44 191 232 7734
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom