In 1080 Robert Curhose, son of William the Conqueror, was ordered to build a “new castle” on the high ground overlooking a crossing point on the River Tyne. This new castle was a royal castle and was often home to the early Norman kings. It was used as somewhere they could hold court, sit in judgement and entertain. The Keep was the principal stronghold of what would have been a much larger castle complex than survives today.
Climbing to the top of the battlements gives you a fantastic view of the river and the city.
The Moot Hall designed by architect John Stoke was built in 1812, the buildings design was influenced by the classical style of ancient Greece. “Moot” is an old English term meaning a meeting place. Usually a meeting place of judges or magistrates and where sentences or punishments could be announced.
Around the Castle Keep there are cobble stones set into the pavement. These mark the position of the Roman Fort, Pons Aelius.
Another significant part of the castle complex is the Blackgate. This massive gateway originally strengthened the defences of the castle on its vulnerable west side.
Milburn House is on a steep hill known as The Side, above its doorway is a bust of Admiral Lord Collingwood who was born in 1748 in a house on this site. During the battle of Trafalgar, it was Collingwood who took over command of the fleet after Lord Nelson was killed.
One of the oldest pubs in the quayside area is the Crown Posada, it’s a real step back in time with its high, ornate ceilings, embossed wallpaper and stained glass windows.
A little further down is an imposing black and white framed building, this is part of the Medieval Sandhill area. In the bottom left hand corner of one of the buildings is a plaque beneath a window. In the 18th century, this was the home of Bessie Surtees, the eldest daughter of a Newcastle banker. She eloped with John Scott – he was from a poor family and was not considered suitable for her – and this is the actual window she climbed out of to elope with him. Wondering what happened to them? Bessie’s parents eventually accepted the marriage and John went on to become Lord Chancellor of England.
Opposite Bessie Surtees house is The Guildhall. Once the centre of the commercial life of the area, it has now been transformed into a tourist information centre. There is evidence that a Guildhall has stood here as early as the 13th century. The current building dates to the 17th century and most of the interiors are from 1658. The semi circle of columns on its east side were built to support a portico to give shelter to a fish market. They were designed by architect John Dobson.
Behind The Guildhall are Newcastle’s famous five bridges that cross the River Tyne. These are The High Level Bridge (1849), The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (1981), The Swing Bridge (1876), Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2001), and The Tyne Bridge (1928), the city’s most famous landmark.
All Saints Church is a pretty little Grade I listed building which sits looking down towards the river. There’s been a church on this site since 1286 but the current building dates from about 1786.
Trinity House was founded in 1492 and from the mid 1500’s onwards was responsible for collecting tolls and taxes from ships using the River Tyne. At the end of Broad Chare is the river.
There’s a lot of public art dotted around this area, but it’s the magnificent Gateshead Millennium Bridge which draws the eye. Opened to the public in 2001, it has already won a host of awards including the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize.
Over the bridge on the Gateshead side of the river is the stunning Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, an old flour mill converted into an arts centre with an ever changing programme of events. Inside go up to the viewing platform where there are amazing views of the river and city. The Baltic is free to visit.
Next door to the Baltic is The Sage Gateshead. This huge steel and glass structure is an internationally acclaimed music venue and the home of Northern Sinfonia. This unusual modern building was an interesting addition to the riverside landscape when it was built and is definitely worth a visit.
Newcastle’s a very different city to the one I used to know, things are changing all of the time and I can’t wait to get back to explore some more.