Newcastle upon Tyne Stories and Tips

Around the Monument

Earl Grey's Monument as it is properly named, stands in a small plaza at the convergence of several of Newcastle's principle streets. Especially at weekends, it is teeming with people of all ages because it's central and, largely traffic-free, location make it an ideal spot for a meeting point.

The Monument is a rather less grand version of Nelson's Column in London and was erected in 1838 in honour of Earl Grey's efforts with the Reform Bill. The steps around the Monument offer a place to sit down and people watch but beware -- the local drunks also like to take the weight off their feet here and at weekends there are often placard-waving people of various religious persuasions delivering their own particular version of the gospel. The plaza is often the finishing point for demos, where the final speeches are delivered.

Looking south at the Monument towards the river, you are greeted with the spectacle that is Grey Street. Grey Street has over the years won various awards for tiltes such as the "most impressive street in Britain". Certainly, its architecture is most imposing and this street has, unlike some others in the city centre, retained it's grandeur. Facades are largely untouched and any shop signs, etc. have been added sensitively and in keeping with the style. Near the top of Grey Street is the Theatre Royal, another neo-classical building with a fantastic portico of Greek columns. The Theatre plays mostly plays host to touring productions and visiting ballets and orchestras from overseas. It is also home to the English Northern Opera.

Grainger Street which runs from the Monument to the Central Station is another street largely in the Greek revival style but one which has not been so meticulously looked after. Nevertheless, things are improving and several buildings which had been neglected are now in the process of being sympathetically restored.

Just along Grainger Street on the north side is the Windows Arcade. A fantastic little covered crescent which houses, amongst others, one of the city's best music stores, Windows. There is also an internet cafe in the arcade and a tourist information office.

At the bottom end of Grainger Street, towards the railway station, check out the Period Clothing Warehouse, a must for lovers of second hand and retro clothing. This place also does a great line in '60s and '70s furnishings and glassware.

Finally there is Blackett Street -- watch out for the buses. They appear from nowhere and are very fast! To the left, Blackett Street leads you to the football ground and to the right out of town towards the city's east end. To the left is Old Eldon Square, a small green, mostly inhabited by teenage Goths. This has been regarded as a problem by the city council but, by and large, these young people cause few problems and, in my opinion, prejudiced narrow-minded people have blown the situation out of proportion.

Just behind you, when at the Monument is Monument Mall, a recently built arcade which links the Metro station with one of the larger department stores, Fenwick. This entry is intended as a orientation guide. All the places mentioned will be covered in more detail in further journals.

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