Newcastle upon Tyne Historic Streets A-D

Akenside Hill : A Poet’s Corner

Akenside Hill beneath the Tyne Bridge was once the eastern bank of the Lort Burn valley. It is named from the Newcastle poet Mark Akenside (1721-1770) who was born here. The street was previously called Butcher Bank from its resident butchers. Butchers threw their offal into the stream creating a ‘nauseous hollow’. Before then Butcher Bank was called All Hallows Bank from the nearby All Saints Church.

Cathedral and castle Blackgate Newcastle
Cathedral and castle. St Nicholas and the Blackgate : Photo © 2015 David

Amen Corner – Newcastle Cathedral

Amen Corner is situated near St Nicholas cathedral. Like the street of this name near St Paul’s in London, it is probably named from being a focus for religious processions. The Anglican cathedral of St Nicholas plays an important role in Newcastle’s history. In 1882 Newcastle upon Tyne became a city. This was also the year when Newcastle’s most historic church, St Nicholas, became a cathedral, following the creation of the Diocese of Newcastle from the northern half of the Diocese of Durham.

St Nicholas Cathedral Newcastle
Cathedral of St Nicholas., Newcastle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Situated near the castle, St Nicholas started life as Newcastle’s main parish church and was first mentioned in 1194, though it is said to date to 1091. The church was extended with the construction of a larger nave in 1370 but the cathedral’s most beautiful feature is the impressive lantern crown of 1435-70 adorning the tower. It may have inspired the similar but later crown of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Barrack Road : BBC, Barracks, Black and Whites

The Fenham military barracks opened here in 1806 where the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers were based until 1962. BBC Television Centre stands nearby. At the south end of the road is St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United Football Club one of the most prominent landmarks in the area and a shrine to many far and wide.

St James' Park Newcastle
St James’ Park : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

Barras Bridge

Barras Bridge is named from a medieval bridge across the upper Pandon Burn which is known as the Bailiff Burn hereabouts. A later bridge of the nineteenth century exists south of Claremont Road beneath the modern road.

Barras could possibly mean ‘bare arse’ which is usually a reference to a hill or piece of land that resembles one. Another possibility is that it derives from an old word for a venue outside a city wall where tournaments were held.

Newcastle Civic Centre
Newcastle Civic Centre Photo © David Simpson 2018

Also known as the Haymarket area notable buildings in the vicinity of Barras Bridge include Newcastle Civic Centre. It was built by George Kenyon and was opened by King Olav of Norway in 1968. Sea-horses surrounding the tower commemorate Newcastle’s maritime links.

Newcastle Civic Centre
Seahorses, Newcastle Civic Centre : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

Next to it is the handsome if rather blackened looking church of St Thomas. It was built by architect John Dobson in 1825-1830, in what was then a new part of town outside the medieval walls. It replaced an earlier church of St Thomas on Sandhill near the Tyne that was demolished in 1830.

St Thomas Church Newcastle
St Thomas Church, Newcastle. Photo © David Simpson 2015

Barass Bridge stands at the heart of Newcastle’s student quarter and at the head of the busy retail focus of Northumberland Street. Newcastle University is just to the west. The university developed from a School of Medicine of 1834 that combined with the Armstrong College (of science) of 1883.

Formerly a part of Durham University it became Newcastle University in 1963. The University of Northumbria to the east traces its origins to Rutherford College of Technology of 1880 which merged with two other nineteenth century colleges in 1969 to form Newcastle Polytechnic, becoming Northumbria University in 1992.

Barras Bridge
Barras Bridge as it looked long ago

Bigg Market – Barley and Beer

Popular with weekend revellers in the present age, the Bigg Market was once part of the medieval Market Street. Bigg is a kind of barley with four rows of grain on each ear. By the 1890s the street was a market for poultry, eggs, bacon and butter but has long been noted for pubs and inns.

Today the Bigg Market is principally famed for its weekend revelry and abundance of young people in T-shirts, short skirts and generally minimal attire even on weekend nights in the depths of a freezing winter. Adjoining Bigg Market to the east is Cloth Market (pictured), another old street that dates back to medieval times, where cloth was once traded.

Cloth Market
Cloth Market which joins Bigg Market to the east. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Blackett Street: Edge of the Wall

Blackett Street follows an old lane that was situated outside the northern section of the town wall where there were once only pig styes, sheds and a few straggling houses in times long past. In 1824 the town wall here was demolished making way for the street constructed by Richard Grainger. It is named from Alderman John Erasmus Blackett, the father in law of Admiral Collingwood. Grainger’s buildings have now gone but two striking buildings of 1904 are the Emerson Chambers (now a bookshop) and the Reid and Sons jeweller’s shop with its beautiful bay windows.

Blandford Square – Great Discovery

Home to the Discovery Museum which houses, along with many other great exhibits of interest the Parson’s ‘Turbinia’ steam ship of 1894. The museum began as the Municipal Museum of Science and Industry in 1934 utilising exhibits from the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929 at Exhibition Park. The museum occupies a former Co-operative wholesalers building of 1899.

Carliol Square and Holy Jesus Hospital

Carliol Square off Worswick Street, joins Pilgrim Street near the Swan House (55 Degrees North) roundabout. It is named from the De Carliol family of Northumberland. The town wall’s Carliol Tower stood near here. A prison was built here in 1827 superseding that in Newcastle’s Newgate but closed in 1925.

Holy Jesus Hospital Newcastle
Holy Jesus Hospital, Newcastle Photo © David Simpson 2016

The former Holy Jesus Hospital on the east side of the Swan House roundabout is one of Newcastle’s most interesting buildings. It in a rather isolated modern setting where it can be reached by an underpass. It was constructed in 1681 on the site of an Augustinian Friary.

A tower of the old friary can be seen to the rear of the building, but in truth this dates from the late 1500s after the friary had closed. By that time the friary had become the King’s manor house and is remembered in the name of the neighbouring district of Manors.

Holy Jesus Hospital Newcastle
Holy Jesus Hospital, Newcastle Photo © David Simpson 2016

The Holy Jesus Hospital is a lovely brick structure of the seventeenth century with an elegant arcade of 30 arches. The hospital was built by the Newcastle Corporation to look after 39 poor freemen of the city and their widows who were collectively known as brethren and sisters. In later years the building served as a chemical works, soup kitchen and museum. Its present occupants include the National Trust.

Holy Jesus Hospital Newcastle
Holy Jesus Hospital Newcastle. Photo: © David Simpson 2016

Castle Garth

The Castle Garth is situated next to the castle keep. Garth is a word of Scandinavian origin meaning, ‘enclosure’. When Newcastle became a county in 1400, the castle and its garth remained in Northumberland with the keep becoming a prison for that county.

Clavering Place

Near the Turnbull warehouse behind Newcastle Central Station. It belonged to Sir Thomas Clavering of Axwell, near Blaydon, after he married the daughter of Newcastle town clerk Joshua Douglas. The impressive Clavering House dates from around 1784.

Clayton Street and a Catholic Cathedral

Built by Richard Grainger in the 1830s, Clayton Street recalls the solicitor and Town Clerk, John Clayton who backed him. Though not as old as St. Nicholas, St Mary’s catholic cathedral in Clayton Street West has been a cathedral for longer. Situated near the central station it was built in 1844 as a Catholic church by A.W.N Pugin. In 1850 it became the Catholic cathedral for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral Newcastle
St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral Newcastle : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

Collingwood Street – Admirable Admiral

Recalls the Newcastle-born Admiral Lord Collingwood (1748-1810) who was in command at the Battle of Trafalgar. The street is mentioned in ‘The Blaydon Races’. Collingwood is of course also recalled in the famous monument to his memory at Tynemouth.

Dean Street – Down in the Dene

Built in the dene of the Lort Burn. Traffic arriving across the old Tyne Bridge previously headed up Side towards Newgate Street or east up Akenside Hill towards Pilgrim Street. When Dean Street was completed by David Stephenson in 1787 it was linked to the bridge and became one of Newcastle’s principal streets.

The steep valley or ‘dene’ of the Lort Burn was one of Newcastle’s most prominent natural features. Cutting through the landscape towards the Tyne, it created an obstacle for travellers and supplemented the eastern defences of the castle.

It flowed north-south and a little to the west of where Grey Street is found today. Here it was crossed by High Bridge, still remembered in a street of that name.

At Grey Street’s southern end, its course is betrayed by a dip in Mosley Street where it flowed south along the course of Dean Street.

The valley was filled in and covered over time, allowing architect David Stephenson to build Dean Street (Dene Street) along its course in 1787. Further infilling took place in the 1830s and nothing now remains. The only clues are some steeply ascending steps on opposite sides of lower Dean Street marking the site of Nether Bridge or Low Bridge that crossed the burn here.

The Lort Burn entered the Tyne at Sandhill, more or less flowing down the eastern edge of the rapidly descending street called Side, with the ascending Akenside Hill to the east, marking the opposing bank of its valley. The Lort finally emptied into the Tyne at Sandhill east of the Guildhall almost directly below the present Tyne Bridge.

Denton Chare

This is a street of medieval origin with uncertain meaning. It was, along with Pudding Chare, one of the principal links between the primary streets of Westgate and Bigg Market/Groat Market near St Nicholas church. It is now a narrow alley to the rear of Collingwood Street.

Dog Bank

This is an old street on the south side of All Saints church uphill from Akenside Hill. It once joined Silver Street on the north side of the church.

Dog Leap Stairs

This links the Castle Garth to Side. Mentioned in a Dire Straits song and allegedly the route that Lord Eldon took on horseback following his elopement with Bessie Surtees.

Dog Leap Stairs, Newcastle
Dog Leap Stairs, Newcastle. Photo David Simpson

Drury Lane – Old Theatre Land

Close to the junction of Grey Street and Mosley Street. It is named from London theatre-land and was the site of the Theatre Royal built by David Stephenson in 1788. The theatre was demolished in the 1830s to make way for Grey Street and is not the Theatre Royal of today.

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