Newcastle Streets M-W

Newcastle Central Station
Inside the elegant Newcastle Central Station : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

Mosley Street – Let there be light

Mosley Street near Newcastle cathedral was built by David Stephenson in 1784 and named from Edward Mosley a Newcastle alderman who encouraged improvements in the town. It was the first street in the world lit by the incandescent light bulb, invented by Newcastle resident Joseph Swan.

Neville Street – Powerful people

This nineteenth century street near the Central Station, recalls the name of the powerful Neville family who were Earls of Westmorland. Their townhouse called Westmorland Place stood here in medieval times. It was just within the town walls close to the point where Neville Street now joins Westgate Road. West of Central Station Neville Street becomes Westmorland Road.

Newcastle Central Station was designed by John Dobson and completed between 1847 and 1851. It was opened by Queen Victoria on August 29, 1850. The impressive arched entranceway or port cochère was built by railway architect Thomas Prosser in the 1860s.

Newgate Street – The old jail

Along with Westgate, Pilgrim Street and the adjoining Bigg Market, Newgate Street was one of the principal thoroughfares of medieval Newcastle. It was named from a gate in the town wall. Outside the wall the street split into the streets of Gallowgate and Sidegate (Percy Street). A New Gate was first mentioned in the fourteenth century. It has been suggested it was named ‘New’ because it replaced an earlier gate.

For centuries the gate served as Newcastle’s jail, so that both London and Newcastle were home to a Newgate Jail. By 1820 the New Gate was in disrepair. The felons were moved to a new prison at Carliol Croft and the debtors to a prison in the castle keep. The demolition of Newgate Prison began in 1823. The New Gate and prison stood north of St Andrew’s Church where Newgate Street now joins Blackett Street and Gallowgate. Newgate Street’s modern entertainment complex called, The Gate, is really closer to the minor gate in the town wall, once used by the Black Friars.

Newgate, Newcastle
Newgate, Newcastle

Northumberland Street – shoppers’ street

Northumberland Street was described as ‘quiet and unpretentious’ in 1882. It began as the continuation of Pilgrim Street, beyond the town wall and was the main route into Northumberland. Buildings developed here from Elizabethan times when peace with Scotland enabled the construction of homes beyond the town walls. By the eighteenth century this was a Newcastle suburb. When the Tyne Bridge opened in 1928 it lined up with Pilgrim Street and secured Northumberland Street’s place as Newcastle’s principal commercial street, a role originally intended for Grey Street.

Northumberland Street
Northumberland Street : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

Percy Street – Earls and Dukes

Percy Street is named from the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland. It was called Sidgate or Sidegate in earlier times. Sidegate was effectively Newgate Street beyond the town wall and provided an alternative exit to the Pilgrim Gate. It was possibly regarded as the new, sideway, out of town.

Sidegate formed an almost separate settlement sometimes referred to as the ‘suburb of Newgate’ and had its own haymarket. The suburb suffered severe damage during the civil war of the 1600s. In the 1880s Percy Street and Haymarket were described as having an old-fashioned look. At the time they resembled the High Street of a country town with old cottages interspersed here and there amongst modern houses.

Pilgrim Street : Vicus Perogronium

Pilgrim Street was historically Newcastle’s principal medieval route. In Gray’s Chorographia of 1649 it was ‘the longest and fairest street in the town’, thronging with medieval pilgrim’s inns and later coaching inns.

Sadly, little can be seen of such antiquity in Pilgrim Street other than Alderman Fenwick’s House at 98-100 Pilgrim Street. This impressive brick building of the late 1600s, near Swan House roundabout is Newcastle’s most complete historic house. Pilgrim Street’s name is said to derive from pilgrims visiting the chapel of St Mary in Jesmond, where miracles supposedly occurred in medieval times.

Pilgrim Street.
Pilgrim Street. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Pilgrim Street was called Vicus Peregronium before 1230 and was historically part of the Great North Road. It was thus part of the route between the major medieval pilgrimage centres of Durham and Lindisfarne.

The Pilgrim Gate on the medieval town wall stood at the northern end of the street beyond which the Great North Road became the Northumberland Street of today. The Pilgrim Gate was described as ‘remarkably strong, clumsy and gloomy’ but served an important part in defending Newcastle from Scottish invasion.

Once the border troubles were over its low arch was considered an obstruction to traffic and was said to interfere with the circulation of air in the town. It was demolished in 1802.

Pilgrim Street Newcastle
Pilgrim Street Newcastle

A street called Manor Chare joined the eastern side of Pilgrim Street but was obliterated by the Swan House roundabout (the roundabout is now called 55 Degrees North). Manor Chare recalled the nearby King’s Manor. The manor was the name given to the former Austin Friary that became a seat for the King’s Council in the North from the 1530s. Manors railway station and the Manors district also recall the name.

Pudding Chare – Black Puddings

Pudding Chare inks the Bigg Market to Westgate Road and is said to be named from the valley of a stream called the Pow Dene or from the sale of black puddings.

Sandgate and the Milk Market

Sandgate (see the Quayside) was named  from a gate in the town walls. This was historically the home to the keelmen. Joining Sandgate and the Quayside just up bank from the Millennium Bridge is Milk Market where milk was once traded. By the nineteenth century it was the home to a fair for old clothes (Paddy’s Market) and a butchers’ market. Stall holders set up their wares on the remnants of the town wall on the western side of the street but this has long since gone.

Saville Row

Off Northumberland Street is named from Colonel Sir George Saville, a commander of the West Yorkshire Militia. During the American War of Independence he lived near Percy Street.

Scotswood Road

The road into Scotswood, a long road with numerous pubs in times past and forming a huge community all of its own, most of whom worked at the neighbouring Armstrong’s armaments factory in Elswick. The road was made famous through the Tyneside anthem The Blaydon Races and as the historic home of William Armstrong’s famous factory. The name Scotswood dates back to medieval times when, in 1368, the King allowed a Richard Scott of Newcastle to enclose a wood here, hence the name.

Shakespeare Street

Named from the famous playwright. It runs along the south side of Newcastle’s Theatre Royal off Grey Street.

The Swirle

Named from a broad opening to the river on the Quayside that is named from a small stream, river or inlet called ‘the Swirle’. It marked the eastern jurisdiction of the liberties of Newcastle from 1299.

Stowell Street – Eldon’s Brother

The name Stowell Street comes from the Tyneside-born Judge William Scott, the first Baron Stowell (1745-1836). He was the older brother of the Lord Chancellor, John Scott, Lord Eldon, from whom Eldon Square is named. Stowell Street  has some of the best remaining sections of Newcastle’s medieval wall close by but the street is best-known as the home to the city’s Chinatown.

Stowell Street China Town
Entrance to Stowell Street China Town : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

The street is entered by a Chinese arch close to the Tyneside Irish Centre, a reminder that Newcastle is a home to many different cultural communities. Friars Street adjoining Stowell Street leads to the impressive medieval remains of Blackfriar’s monastery.

Times Square – All About Life

This modern square is the home to the Centre for Life which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000. It examines aspects of human life and humanity. One fascinating feature is ‘the Dome’ with its 360 degree domed projection ceiling. The centre also houses an Institute of Human Genetics and the Newcastle Fertility Centre which researches and pioneers fertility treatments.

Worswick Street

Named from the Reverend James Worswick. He founded a Roman Catholic chapel that once stood in adjoining Pilgrim Street from 1798.

Westgate Road : Along the Roman Wall

Westgate Road takes its name from the west gate in Newcastle’s medieval town walls. The road more or less follows the course of the earlier Hadrian’s Wall. 

The Assembly Rooms near Westgate Road, were built by William Newton in 1776 and are one of Newcastle’s grandest Georgian buildings. The Journal Tyne Theatre in Westgate Road opposite Bath Lane was built in 1867 as the Tyne Theatre and Opera House and became a cinema known as the Stoll Picture House in 1919 and then a theatre again in 1971.

The illustrious Literary and Philosophical Society in Westgate Road dates from 1825. Known to locals as ‘the Lit and Phil’ it was founded in 1793. Members over the years have included wood engraver Thomas Bewick; industrialists Robert Stephenson, William Armstrong and Joseph Swan; writer Sid Chaplin; architect John Dobson and Prime Minister Charles Earl Grey.

It was here in February 1879 that Joseph Swan first demonstrated his remarkable invention – the electric light bulb. Born in Sunderland in 1828, Swan had worked as a young man for the Newcastle chemist Mawson in Grey Street where he learned his trade. Swan’s incandescent electric light, developed in 1878, was first successfully demonstrated to the public in a lecture at the ‘Lit and Phil’ that was presided over by industrialist, William Armstrong.

Joseph Swan
Joseph Swan

The institute’s library became the first public room in the world lit by electric light and this must have caused gasps of astonishment. William Armstrong was one of the first to be captivated and in 1880 Swan installed electric lights at Armstrong’s house at Cragside, in Northumberland.

At that time Swan lived at a house called Underhill in Low Fell, Gateshead and this was the first private house in the world to be lit by electricity. Armstrong’s Cragside holds the distinction of being the first house lit by hydro-electic power.

Swan established the world’s first light bulb factory at Benwell in 1881 and of course Newcastle’s Mosley Street was the first street in the world to be lit by electricity.

Swan was first to develop the light bulb but the American inventor, Thomas Edison, was much quicker to patent it. In 1883 the two inventors combined forces as Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company or Ediswan for short.

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