Newcastle Streets : M to W
Market Lane to Westgate Road
Here we feature a history of Newcastle streets through street-names and notable buildings. This page covers streets beginning with the letters M to W including Market Street; Milk Market and Neville Street along with the beautiful Central Station. We explore Pilgrim Street, once part of the historic Great North Road and Northumberland Street, famed for its shopping. We also look at Percy Street and visit St Nicholas Churchyard with its ‘Vampire Rabbit’. The famous Westgate Road follows the course of Hadrian’s Wall.
Not to be confused with Market Street which is slightly further to the north, Market Lane is accessed from Pilgrim Street and hidden to the rear of Grey Street. The Market Lane Pub in Pilgrim Street at the entrance to the lane is a former town house of around 1740.
Market Street is part of the nineteenth century Grainger developments and stretches from Grainger Street opposite the Grainger Markets eastward, crossing Grey Street and then Pilgrim Street and then crosses the meeting of John Dobson Street and Carliol Street. It finally joins the central motorway roundabout to the east. In 1849, a Weardale businessman, Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge (1817-1892) established what is thought to have been England’s first department store in Market Street.
Marlborough Crescent is on the west side of the Centre for Life and Times Square. It is probably named from the First Duke of Marlborough as nearby Churchill Street, Sunderland Street and Blandford Street, all just across St James Boulevard, are names and titles associated with him. On a more local theme, the eastern terminus of the lengthy Scotswood Road is at Marlborough Crescent.
Milk Market is now part of the A186 linking City Road below the Keelmen’s Hospital to the Quayside and Sandgate area above the Millennium Bridge. The trading of milk likely took place here long ago in medieval times but from the nineteenth century it was the site of the busy Paddy’s Market, where clothes were traded as late as the 1970s. Nearby Sandgate was an important area of Irish settlement in the mid to late nineteenth century.
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. Swan, who worked in Mosley Street was also noted for his pioneering photographic processing developments which revolutionised the beginning of photography as an accessible and practical pursuit.
Named from Lord Nelson and one of the streets of the Grainger Town development. The former Cordwainers Hall opposite one of the entrances to the Grainger Market was built in 1838 for the guild of shoemakers (cordwainers).
Nearby, a plaque by the entrance to a former music hall of 1838 recalls the public readings given there by the writer Charles Dickens in 1852 and 1867.
Neville Street : Central Station
Neville Street is a nineteenth century street near Newcastle’s Central Station and recalls the name of the powerful medieval magnates, the Nevilles, who were Earls of Westmorland, though their power base was actually in County Durham (at Raby and Brancepeth Castles) and at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire.
Their townhouse, called Westmorland Place stood in this area in medieval times. It was just within the town walls close to the point where Neville Street now joins Westgate Road. Just west of Central Station, Neville Street becomes Westmorland Road.
Newcastle Central Station, which faces out onto Neville Street 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 porte cochère was built by the railway architect Thomas Prosser in the 1860s from the designs of John Dobson.
Neville Street is home to two prominent hotels associated with the street’s proximity to the railway station. The first is directly opposite the station and is the County Hotel of 1874 designed by John Johnstone.
To the east of the station towards Neville Street’s junction with Westgate Road and Collingwood Street is the Royal Station Hotel of 1863 by Thomas Prosser. It was extended in the late 1880s.
Neville Street : Neville Hall and the Lit & Phil
Just east of the Central Station and Royal Station Hotel where Neville Street, Westgate Road, Collingwood Street and Pudding Chare meet, we find Neville Hall. This impressive building was built in 1868-72 by Archibald M. Dunn for the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers (established in 1852). It was a royal chartered institute for science and technology in the North.
Inside, the building features the impressive Wood Memorial Hall built in honour of pioneering mining engineer Nicholas Wood (1795-1865) whose huge statue has pride of place. The hall features beautiful wooden balconies and an arched roof with decorative top lights (windows) and end windows with ornate tracery.
Neville Hall is now home to the Common Room of The Great North which looks after the extensive collections gifted by the mining institute. This internationally important public collection includes books, scientific reports, photographs, maps, plans, manuscripts and other archive material relating to mining, including railways, geology and social, economic and cultural history. The Common Room continues the tradition of inspiring innovators and engineers and includes a programme of lectures and events. It also serves as a wedding venue and features a cafe bar.
The illustrious Literary and Philosophical Society stands just to the east of Neville Hall. This building, by John Green dates from 1822-25 and is known to locals as the ‘Lit and Phil’. The society was founded in 1793.
Members of the Lit and Phil over the years have included 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. Swan’s incandescent electric light, developed in 1878, was first successfully demonstrated to the public in a lecture at the ‘Lit and Phil’ at a meeting that was presided over by industrialist, William Armstrong.
The Lit and Phil’s beautiful library became the first public room in the world lit and filled with illumination by electric light and this must have captivated the interest of the learned and enquiring men in attendance. William Armstrong was one of the first to recognise the potential 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-electric power.
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.
Bolbec Hall by A.F. Rich on the immediate east side of the Lit and Phil dates from 1907-09 and was built as an additional hall for the Literary and Philosophical Society.
Newgate Street : Gate and 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 that 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 (Carliol Square) and the debtors to a prison in the castle keep. The demolition of Newgate Prison began in 1823.
The New Gate and its prison stood north of St Andrew’s Church where Newgate Street now joins Blackett Street and Gallowgate. Newgate Street’s modern glass-fronted entertainment complex called ‘The Gate’ (2002) a leisure, eateries and bar complex is in fact closer to the site of a minor gateway in the town wall, that was once used by the Black Friars (see Friars Street).
The huge, slightly fortress-like art deco building of 1932 alongside the Gate stretching to the corner of St Andrew’s Street was built by L.G. Eskins for the Newcastle Co-operative Wholesale Society.
Northumberland Road : College Quarter
Northumberland Road (see also College Street) is a relatively long road stretching from Northumberland Street to the Central motorway at the heart of the Northumbria University-dominated part of the city. Here, the University’s red brick Sutherland Building was once the Medical School of Durham University and dates from 1887 with the University’s Trinity Building (a former Presbyterian church of 1895) next door.
Further along Northumberland Road from the Sutherland Building, across the junction with College Street is Burt Hall of 1895, another red brick building belonging to the University. It was formerly the Northumberland Miners Hall and is named from Thomas Burt (1837-1922), a Trade Unionist and MP for Morpeth.
A blue plaque commemorates William Straker (1855-1941), another noted trade unionist and a Primitive Methodist temperance campaigner who succeeded Burt as Secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association. The 1840s brick building next door, designed by John Dobson, was a riding school for the Northumberland Yeomanry.
Opposite Burt Hall on the north side of Northumberland Road are the City Baths and City Hall of 1928, with a commemorative plaque to the popular Lindisfarne singer-songwriter, Alan Hull (1945–1995), who performed there with the group on 120 occasions.
Towards the eastern end of the road is the handsome Brady and Martin Building, dating from the 1890s and once offices to a chemical manufacturer of that name. A plaque commemorates the Newcastle-born physician and medical researcher George Redmayne Murray (1865-1939) who devised the first successful hormone replacement therapy (in 1891) for whom Brady and Martin made the thyroid extract.
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 walls.
By the eighteenth century this area was a Newcastle suburb. When the Tyne Bridge opened in 1928, the bridge it lined up with Pilgrim Street. This secured Northumberland Street’s place as Newcastle’s principal commercial street, a role originally intended for Grey Street.
Northumberland Street is not noted for its architecture but is cherished for its shops and familiar ‘High Street’ names. Most famous in Newcastle is of course the Fenwick department store.
Founded on this site by John James Fenwick of Richmond, North Yorkshire in 1882, it was the first of his chain of department stores. The Newcastle store was a great success and was rebuilt on a larger scale in 1913. The annual themed seasonal dressing of the store’s display window is a major Christmas tradition in Newcastle.
On the south side of Fenwick is the entrance to Brunswick Place and on its north side an adjoining store of 1912 features, above the front windows, four statue reliefs of characters from Newcastle’s history.
The depicted figures are Roger Thornton (died 1430), a mayor who was known as ‘Newcastle’s Dick Whittington’; the engraver Thomas Bewick (1753-1828); Sir John Marley who was Newcastle mayor at the time of the Civil War and Sir Henry Percy – the Northumberland warrior otherwise known as ‘Harry Hotspur’ (1364-1403).
Nun Street and Nuns Lane : Nunnery site
Nun Street and the adjoining Nuns Lane on the south side of the Grainger Market recall the site of the Benedictine Nunnery of St Bartholomew which was closed by King Henry VIII in the 1530s during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The nunnery was older than the numerous friaries that were established in the town in medieval times and dated to at least the mid twelfth century. Grainger Market and a significant portion of the Eldon Square shopping centre occupy the site of their nunnery.
Orchard Street : Along the wall
Orchard Street lies in was once a rural area outside the town walls. It adjoins Neville Street at its northern end but much of the street then disappears in an underpass beneath the Central Station car park and railway line.
It re-emerges on the south side alongside a preserved section of the medieval town wall at Orchard Street car park. Apart from the West Walls near Stowell Street, these are the only preserved continuous section of the town wall. From here the wall descends to the Close. Orchard Street ends abruptly near Hanover Street.
Painter Heugh : Lort Burn boats
Painter Heugh, linking Dean Street and Pilgrim Street was the name of a narrow medieval lane. A ‘heugh’ is a hill spur and a ‘painter’ is a rope used for mooring small boats. It is a reference to mooring on the Lort Burn (see Dean Street).
Pandon : Burn, dene and a ship for a king
Pandon and Pandon Bank are the names of two separate streets. Pandon was once a separate settlement, referred to in the oldest records as ‘Pampeden’. It was roughly the area above the Quayside between Broad Chare and Millennium Bridge.
The ‘den’ part of Pandon’s name derives from the dene or valley of the no longer to be seen Pandon Burn which more or less flowed along the course of Pandon Bank. A galley ship was built for King Edward I at the mouth of the Pandon Burn in 1294 roughly where we now find the law courts on the Quayside. Five years later the king gave permission for Newcastle to purchase Pandon as part of the town. In 1307 Pandon was enclosed within the easterly sections of the town wall.
Percy Street : Earls and Dukes
Percy Street is named from the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland. Once a medieval street it was called Sidgate or Sidegate in earlier times. Sidegate effectively formed that part of Newgate Street that continued beyond the town wall. It provided an alternative exit to the Pilgrim Gate and was possibly regarded as the new, sideway, out of town.
Sidegate formed an almost separate settlement sometimes referred to in earlier times as the ‘suburb of Newgate’ and had its own hay market in the early nineteenth century. Being outside the town walls the suburb suffered severe damage during the Civil War in the 1640s.
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. Near the north end of Percy Street is Blackwells Bookshop. It was formerly the Grand Hotel of 1889.
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.
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 the 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 was called Vicus Peregronium before 1230 and was historically part of the Great North Road. It was thought to contain lodging houses for pilgrims visiting the holy site of St Mary’s well and chapel in Jesmond Dene, a major centre of pilgrimage associated with miracles. As part of the Great North Road, Pilgrim Street was also likely significant as part of the route between the important 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.
For centuries, Pilgrim Street formed part of the Great North Road that wound its way down to the riverside to cross the old Tyne Bridge (where the Swing Bridge is today) but the opening of the High Level Bridge in 1849 created a more direct route by road into town. The importance of the lower part of Pilgrim Street was further reduced with the opening of the new Tyne Bridge in 1928 which directed traffic on that crossing directly into the upper part of Pilgrim Street and on into Northumberland Street.
In the 1960s the lower part of Pilgrim Street was separated more dramatically from the upper part of the street by the construction of the Swan House roundabout.
55° North is the name of the 1961 office building (and a bar) formerly called Swan House that hovers above this roundabout at the junction of Pilgrim Street and the A167(M) motorway. The roundabout is still often known as Swan House Roundabout with the nearby Carliol Square just to its north.
Below the roundabout and neighbouring railway viaduct towards the river, the old, lower part of Pilgrim Street survives as a winding footpath that twists its way down bank around the eighteenth century All Saints Church, on the site of the earlier All Hallows church that was presumably a point of call for pilgrims in times past. It finally descends to the riverside via Akenside Hill, Queen Street and Sandhill with an alternative route via Dog Bank and Broad Chare.
Manor Chare also joins this old part of Pilgrim Street in the vicinity of All Saints Church and descends to the riverside via Pandon. The ‘manor’ of the name recalls the nearby King’s Manor. This was the former Austin Friary that became a seat for the King’s Council in the North from the 1530s and then later still, the Holy Jesus Hospital. Manors railway station and the Manors district also recall the name.
This narrow street is named from one of the towers, the Pink Tower that existed on the medieval town wall nearby.
Pudding Chare : Black Puddings
Pudding Chare links the Bigg Market to the junction of Collingwood Street and Westgate Road and is said to be named from a valley called the Pow Dene (there was also, incidentally, a Pow Burn at North Shields) or it may possibly be named from the sale of black puddings. If this lane was continued directly southward it would run parallel to the most southerly section of the old town wall down to the river but just outside the wall, more or less following the course of Orchard Street.
St. Andrew’s Street (Darn Crook)
This street near St Andrew’s church is situated where there is an opening in the town wall near the arch of China Town. Historically known in medieval times as Darn Crook this older name is a bit of a mystery. Crook usually refers to a bend of some kind. Darn is thought to refer to some dark or hidden place.
St. James’ Boulevard
A modern thoroughfare linking the Redheugh Bridge to the Gallowgate and St James’ Park area of the city it is a focus for a number of modern buildings.
St. Nicholas Churchyard : Vampire rabbit
Hidden away on the east side of St Nicholas Cathedral, St Nicholas Churchyard can be entered near the Queen Victoria statue close to the junction of Collingwood Street, Mosley Street and Cloth Market. Though going back to medieval times, the old churchyard is dominated by tall red brick such as the Cathedral Buildings of the period 1901-1905 by the architects Oliver, Leeson & Wood.
Most intriguing is the ornate window featuring the so-called ‘Vampire Rabbit’ one of the most talked about and ‘mysterious’ features of Newcastle’s street architecture. It features on a red brick building of 1901. The front of the building faces out to Dean Street on its eastern side but there is nothing so ornate on the front as this rear window and its rabbit that faces towards the cathedral and its former churchyard.
Some say the rabbit is masonic or that it was meant to be a hare or that it was designed to guard against grave robbery. With its black painted exterior, googly eyes, red-painted claws and pricked ears it has a comical and slightly sinister appearance that is perhaps reminiscent of some kind of medieval grotestque.
Nearby, there is a blue plaque on another red brick building on the south side of the churchyard. It recalls that long before these early twentieth century buildings were built, this old churchyard area had been the site of the workshop of the famed naturalist and engraver Thomas Bewick (1753-1828).
At the far south corner of St Nicholas churchyard and adjoining St Nicholas Square, is Milburn House a prominent red brick building of 1905, built for a shipping owner of that name and fronting the street called Side at Amen Corner. Here the red brick buildings separate Newcastle cathedral from the Blackgate of the castle.
The cathedral church of St Nicholas Cathedral (see Amen Corner) is one of the most beautiful medieval features of Newcastle upon Tyne and is still, despite the many modern buildings throughout the city, a landmark that can be seen in many vantage points. Its distinct lantern tower makes an appearance in views throughout the central areas of the city.
St. Thomas Crescent
St Thomas Street, St Thomas Crescent and St Thomas Square are situated just off the west side of Percy Street with the the main buildings of Newcastle University to its north and the Royal Victoria Infirmary nearby to the north west. They are presumably named from the nearby St. Thomas church in the Barras Bridge area.
The houses in the three ‘St. Thomas’ streets are early nineteenth century, dating from 1840 to 1858. St. Thomas Crescent was once home to the studio of the Scottish Pre-Raphaelite artist, William Bell Scott (1811-1890), who is famed in the North East for his wall paintings at Wallington Hall depicting famous scenes from North East history. A plaque in the crescent marks the home of his studio.
Sandhill is the medieval heartland of the Newcastle Quayside and named simply from the build up of sand on the riverside. It is best-known for its multi-windowed timber-framed houses and the Guildhall. See the Quayside page.
Sandgate (see the Quayside) was named from a gate in the town wall. The street was historically the home to the keelmen. Joining Sandgate and the Quayside just up bank from the Millennium Bridge is Milk Market.
Off Northumberland Street, Saville Row 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 is the road into Scotswood, and is a long road that had numerous pubs in times past and to the west formed 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, mentioned in the song. 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.
Built by Richard Grainger, Shakespeare Street joins Grey Street which it links to Pilgrim Street. It is named of course from the famed playwright because it runs along the south side of John and Benjamin Green’s Newcastle’s Theatre Royal. See Grainger Town and Grey Street.
Side is a notable street near St Nicholas Cathedral that descends steeply to the Quayside area and was once the side of the valley of the Lort Burn. For ‘Side’, Sandgate and Sandhill see the Quayside page.
Situated near All Saint’s church (historically called All Hallows). Silver Street is an old name in itself, but was once also known as Jewgate in medieval times and before that was called All Hallows Gate. Silver plate and silver ware were once traded here and it is thought to have been home to a Jewish community. It is another offshoot of the old Pilgrim Street near All Saints Church.
Stowell Street : Eldon’s Brother
The name Stowell Street comes from the Tyneside-born Judge William Scott, 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 today as the home to the city’s China Town.
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.
Summerhill and Ravensworth Terrace
Tucked away to the rear of the Westgate Road with the Discovery Museum to the east and Westmorland Road to the south is the attractive green haven of Summerhill Park and Summerhill Square, bordered by lovely Georgian-style terraces of the 1820s to 1840s. Attractive streets of note in this area include Victoria Street, Summerhill Street, Summerhill Terrace and Summerhill Grove.
Number 5 Summerhill Grove was the nineteenth century home of the Richardson family of Quakers, namely Henry Richardson, his wife Anna and Henry’s sister, Ellen, who were active campaigners for the abolition of slavery. One of a number of fugitive slaves who stayed here with the family was the famed African American abolitionist, writer and social reformer Frederick Douglass (c1817-1895) who is commemorated by a plaque.
Douglass, who had escaped from a slave owner in Baltimore in Maryland fled to the city of Philadelphia in the slave-free state of Pennsylvania. He came to Britain for his safety and toured towns in Ireland and England on his campaigns. The Richardsons helped to raise funds to buy his freedom in 1846 and the following year Douglass returned to the United States.
Close by, just to the east, another plaque in neighbouring Summerhill Terrace marks the home from 1979-1983 of the politician Mo Mowlam (1949-2005). Mowlam, who was the MP for Redcar, was Northern Ireland Secretary 1997-1999 and played an instrumental part in the peace process that led to the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
The northern side of the Summerhill area has yet more Georgian style houses, where overlooking the green and running parallel to the rear of the Westgate Road we find Ravensworth Terrace and High Swinburne Place. The remarkable history of Number 5 Ravensworth Terrace was the subject of the second series of BBC television’s A House Through Time (2019) presented by David Olusoga. A plaque recalls one of its residents, the marine biologist, Joshua Alder.
In addition to the connection with Alder, the series examined the stories of numerous occupants over many decades spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was discovered that the house had been the scene of a minor crime that resulted in the deportation of two children; that it had served as a refuge for girls; was once a site for séances and spiritualism and, perhaps most surprisingly, once served as an Irish Republican Army (IRA) safe house following the First World War.
Named from a broad opening onto the River Tyne on the Quayside that was formed from a small stream, river or inlet. The Swirle marked the eastern jurisdiction of the liberties of Newcastle from 1299.
Times Square : All About Life
Times Square is an open modern square and 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 for Life also houses an Institute of Human Genetics and the Newcastle Fertility Centre which researches and pioneers fertility treatments. At the centre of Times Square, forming an interesting contrast with the modern surrounding buildings is the former Market Keeper’s House built by Dobson in 1840.
Tower Street’s name is from Wall Knoll Tower (or ‘Secret Tower’) and Sally Port, a surviving feature of Newcastle’s medieval town wall that stands nearby close to City Road. It lies within the eastern extremity of the town walls. Nearby Causey Bank is named from the associated causeway. Close by is Garth Heads which partly follows the course of Hadrian’s Wall.
Town Moor, Claremont Road, Spital Tongues
Not a street of course but the Town Moor is an important and glorious feature of central Newcastle’s heritage that is shared with many of the city’s suburbs. It is common land forming a lovely open space of around 400 hectares where the freemen can traditionally graze their cattle.
Forming a huge breathing lung for Newcastle it encompasses an area bigger than London’s Hampstead Heath and Hyde Park combined. It was home to the Northumberland Plate horserace from 1833 before that event transferred to High Gosforth Park in 1881.
The Town Moor is separated from Leazes Park in the north west corner of the city centre by Castle Leazes (off Barrack Road) and Spital Tongues. The area of Spital Tongues is bounded on its north side by the A167 and by the parallel Claremont Road which form the southern edge of the Town Moor. Part of the A167 here is famously the starting point for the annual Great North Run half marathon.
Nearby, the Claremont Road (which links this area to Barras Bridge and the Civic Centre to the east) is home to a prominent windmill called the Chimney Mill which dates from 1782 and was designed by engineer, John Smeaton. The mill no longer has any sails. In more recent times the mill served as a golf club house.
Spital Tongues is named from tongue-shaped land used by the hospital (spital) of St Mary Magdalene, established nearby in the twelfth century. This was a hospital in the medieval sense and stood in the Barras Bridge-Northumberland Street area. It is interesting that the term spital may often be used for a spit-shaped piece of land.
From the 1830s until 1860 the Spital Tongues and Castle Leazes area was home to Spital Tongues Colliery (also called Leazes Main Colliery) which was linked from 1842 to the Tyne at Ouseburn by an underground wagonway (the Victoria Tunnel) where parts of the tunnel are accessible on underground tours. Sections of the tunnel run alongside the Claremont Road where an entrance was constructed during the Second World War when the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter.
The neighbouring part of the Town Moor to Spital Tongues is in fact Hunter’s Moor which becomes Nuns Moor to the west. Bordered by Cowgate and Fenham on its western side and Arthurs Hill to the south, the Nuns Moor is named from the nuns of Newcastle’s medieval Benedictine nunnery of St Bartholomew (see Nun Street above) who are thought to have grazed their livestock here.
In later times farmers once drove their cattle from the Nuns Moor into Newcastle along the neighbouring road or ‘gate’ that gave rise to the name Cowgate now a suburb to the east. Nearby Blakelaw means, ‘black hill’. It was the name of a hill, also called Kenton Bank Top. In the nineteenth century a stationary engine on the top of the hill hauled coal-laden wagons from the nearby Fawdon Colliery.
The northern and eastern edge of the Town Moor is respectively bordered by Gosforth and Jesmond. Flanking the eastern side of the Town Moor is the Great North Road (B1318) with much of the south eastern corner of the Moor being home to Exhibition Park which can be accessed by underpass from Newcastle centre or Jesmond.
Exhibition Park, which features a lake, opened in 1878. It was home to the Royal Jubilee Exhibition in 1887 and the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929 which focused on North East art and industry.
A permanent survivor of the 1929 exhibition is the former Palace of Arts built by the Sunderland architects W & T.R Milburn. The building with its distinctive dome later served as a military vehicle museum but is now home to the Wylam Brewery. The brewery, established in 2020 at Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland relocated here in 2016. It is an active brewery and a popular venue for live music and events.
Named from the best surviving stretches of the medieval town wall in the Stowell Street area. The medieval walls should not be confused with the earlier Hadrian’s Wall of the Roman era which was situated in the Westgate Road area further to the south.
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 is the main thoroughfare leading in and out of the western part of the city centre. It takes its name from the west gate in Newcastle’s medieval town walls. The road more or less follows the course of the much earlier Hadrian’s Wall.
A prominent feature of the street is the Tyne Theatre which stands opposite the entrance to Bath Lane. It 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.
In 1985, a Hadrian’s Wall milecastle was discovered in Westgate Road at the Black Swan establishment near Newcastle Arts Centre. Milecastles were built at intervals of one Roman mile along the course of Hadrian’s Wall and were smaller than the larger Roman forts along the wall (of which there were eighteen). Hadrian’s Wall was 80 Roman miles in length from Bowness on the Solway to Wallsend on Tyne.
Few traces of Hadrian’s Wall can be seen in the very centre of Newcastle (see Roman Newcastle) though there are significant remains in the western suburbs of Benwell and West Denton. In Westgate Road, a pub called the Milecastle and the nearby Hadrian’s Tower, Newcastle’s tallest building, which towers above the road, recall the Roman past.
The Milecastle pub actually stands opposite the Arts Centre and occupies the building of the former Newcastle Savings Bank of 1863 designed by John Edward Watson. Next door are the Gibb Chambers once the home from 1861 of the surgeon Dr Charles John Gibb (1824-1916) who is famously mentioned in one of the verses of the Blaydon Races Geordie anthem.