Newcastle upon Tyne, often called just Newcastle, is a city in North East England that is now a Unitary Authority. The City has a relatively small population of around 259,000 (2001 census). However, the Metropolitan Boroughs of North Tyneside (population c.190,000), South Tyneside (population c. 150,000) and Gateshead (population c.200,000) are close by within an overall Tyneside conurbation that is linked by the Nexus operated Metro System.
Historically people from Newcastle have been known as Novocastrians. The word Geordie is more often used to refer to inhabitants of the "toon", however Geordie is also used in reference to people from other parts of Tyneside, for example Wallsend.
History and development of the city
The New Castle which gave the city its name was constructed by the Normans in 1080. Its keep and one of its gates still exist, though they are oddly separated from each other by the nineteenth-century railway tracks for which the rest of the castle was demolished to make way. Prior to the Norman Conquest the town was known as Monkchester. Pilgrims came to the Holy Well of Jesus' Mount, now part of Jesmond. One of the biggest shopping streets, Pilgrim Street, is so-called because of the popularity of the well.
Newcastle's development as a major city owed much to its central role in the export of coal from the Northumberland coalfield – the phrase "carrying coals to Newcastle" proverbially denotes the act of bringing a particular commodity to a locality that has more than enough of it already. In the nineteenth century, shipbuilding and heavy engineering were central to the city's prosperity; and the city was a powerhouse of the nation's prosperity. Innovation in Newcastle and surrounding areas includes:
- George Stephenson and/or Humphry Davy's safety lamps, which made possible the opening up of ever deeper mines to provide the coal that powered the industrial revolution.
- Stephenson's early work in railways, prior to The Rocket, including The Blucher, a locomotive working at Killingworth colliery in 1814, leading to the railways and a step change in the economics of transportation.
- Joseph Swan's first demonstration of his electric light bulb – like Davy's lamp, the subject of some controversy since Thomas Edison also laid claim to the invention.
- Charles Parsons' invention and commercialisation of the steam turbine, leading to his Turbinia, a turbine-powered ship that literally ran rings around the British Fleet at a review at Spithead in 1897.
- William Armstrong whose company was famous for the production of best-of-breed heavy armaments, used in the Crimean War, the American Civil War – by both sides – and the First World War
- Mosley Street, in the centre of Newcastle, is claimed to be the first in the world to have electric street lighting though this is contested..
Heavy industries declined in the second half of the twentieth century; office and retail employment are now the city's staples; a short distance from the flourishing city centre there are impoverished inner-city estates, in areas whose original raison d'Ítre was to provide working class housing for the shipyards or other heavy industries.
Architecture and urban development
Looking through Newcastle's bridges
The city has an extensive neoclassical centre, largely developed in the 1830s
by Richard Grainger and John Dobson
, and recently extensively restored. Grey Street, which curves down from a monument to the parliamentary reformer Earl Grey
towards the valley of the River Tyne
, has a claim to be one of England's most beautiful urban streets. A large portion of Grainger Town was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a shopping centre.
Immediately to the northwest of the city centre is Leazes Park , a park established in 1873 after a petition by 3,000 working men of the city for "ready access to some open ground for the purpose of health and recreation", and in one corner of which is St James' Park, the stadium home of Newcastle United F.C. which dominates the view of the city from the south.
Another green space in Newcastle is the vast Town Moor, lying immediately north of the city centre. The hereditary freemen of the city have held the right to graze cattle on the Town Moor since the Middle Ages – a reward for defending the town against the marauding Scots!
The wooded gorge of the Ouseburn in the east of the city is known as Jesmond Dene and forms another popular recreation area.
The development of the city in the 1960s and 1970s was marred by a corruption scandal involving, especially, T. Dan Smith, a local politician and John Poulson, a property developer. Echoes of the scandal were revisited in the late 1990s in the BBC TV mini-series, Our Friends in the North.
The tilting Gateshead Millennium Bridge from the Baltic Art Gallery
The Tyne itself passes through a gorge between Newcastle (on the North Bank) and Gateshead
(the administratively separate Borough and urban area south of the river), which is famous for a series of dramatic and notable bridges such as the Tyne Bridge
and High Level Bridge
shared by Newcastle and Gateshead. Large scale regeneration
of the Tyne Gorge has replaced former shipping industries with imposing new office developments; an innovative tilting bridge, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge
was commissioned by Gateshead
and has integrated the older Newcastle quayside more closely with major cultural developments in the Gateshead, including the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
and the Norman Foster
designed The Sage Gateshead
music centre. As a tourist promotion, Newcastle and Gateashead have linked together under the banner NewcastleGateshead but both remain separate for other purposes.
Newcastle has an international airport near Ponteland , some 15 minutes from the centre by car or Metro. Its railway station has a fine classical frontage and is a principal stop on the East Coast Main Line, providing a half-hourly service of trains to London (with a journey time of around three hours) operated by GNER as well as trains to Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Carlisle plus local services.
Major roads in the area include the A1(M), A19, A69, and A1058 .
Newcastle also has access to an international Ferry Terminal, located at nearby North Shields, offering services to destinations including: Amsterdam, Kristiansand, Stavanger, and Bergen.
The North Eastern Railway built an electric suburban railway serving both banks of the Tyne, and the northern suburbs. This system has been transformed into the Tyne and Wear Metro which extends as far as Newcastle Airport, Tynemouth and South Hylton in Sunderland. The system is one of only three underground systems in the United Kingdom.
Newcastle is part of an area called Tyneside, whose people are commonly known as Geordies, and are known for their distinctive accent and sense of humour.
Newcastle has a reputation of being a fun-loving city with many bars, restaurants and night clubs. In the 1960s the internationally successful rock group The Animals emerged from the Club-A-Go-Go and other Newcastle music spots. More recently, Newcastle has become popular as a destination for Stag and Hen parties.
The City has a strong sporting tradition, with the City being home to Premiership football Newcastle United, and Zurich Premiership rugby union side Newcastle Falcons, for whom England's "(Rugby Union) World Cup winning hero" Jonny Wilkinson features. The city's Metro Radio Arena is home to Newcastle Vipers ice hockey team, and Newcastle Eagles basketball team. The City's Speedway team Newcastle Diamonds are based at Brough Park in Byker , a venue that is also home to Greyhound Racing . Newcastle Racecourse at High Gosforth Park holds regular meets, including the prestigious race for the Northumberland Plate , which takes place in June each year.
The city also hosts the start of the annual Bupa Great North Run, the world's largest half Marathon in which participants famously race over the Tyne Bridge into Gateshead and then towards the finish line 21 km away on the coast at neighbouring South Shields.
A growth in the Theatre Culture has taken place in recent years, centred on the impressive Theatre Royal on Grey Street, which for over 25 years has hosted a season of performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Other Theatres in the City include the Tyne Opera House , the Newcastle Playhouse , the Live Theatre, the Peoples Theatre and the Gulbenkian Studio . There are several other venues in and around Newcastle, such as: Newcastle City Hall , Newcastle Arena and The Sage Gateshead.
The city has two universities, the University of Newcastle and Northumbria University, and two cathedrals, the anglican St. Nicholas and the catholic St. Mary's.
The Hoppings, reputedly the largest travelling fair in Europe takes place on Newcastle Town Moor every June. The event had its origins in the Temperance movement during the early 1880s and coincides with the annual race week at High Gosforth Park .
The UK's first Biotechnology Village, the "Centre for Life" is located in the City Centre.
Jewish Community in the City
No records exist of Jews resident in Newcastle before 1830 although there is a tradition that the community dates from 1775. It is thought, however, that over 500 years prior to this Jews resided in Silver Street (formerly known as Jew Gate).
On October 8 1832, the congregation was formally established. The cathedral bells were rung when the first synagogue, in Temple Street, was officially opened on July 13 1838. The Newcastle Courant published a headline in Hebrew.
By 1845 the congregation had grown to 33 adults and 33 children. Through the course of time nearly all the original founders either died or had left the city, but the influx of Polish and Russian immigrants had more than replaced this loss.
An imposing stone building was erected in Leazes Park Road in 1880 and consecrated by the Chief Rabbi. At that time the number of Jews in Newcastle was about 750. The congregation was in being until 1978.
There were many more developments and synagogues in Newcastle during the 20th century: Corporation Street Synagogue (1904–1924), Jesmond Synagogue (1914–1986), Ravensworth Terrace Synagogue (1925–1969), and Gosforth and Kenton Hebrew Congregation (1947–1984)
With the drift of population from the West End of Newcastle, Jesmond synagogue was consecrated in 1914 leaving the oldest, the Leazes Park Road Synagogue in the centre of the city. A third synagogue was built in Gosforth , the Gosforth and Kenton Hebrew congregation. Eventually the running of the three Orthodox Congregations was considered as being uneconomical and with a declining population in other parts of the town a new purpose built Community Centre and Synagogue was built in Gosforth at Culzean Park in an area in which the majority of Jews resided. A new Reform movement Synagogue was built in 1986 nearby and continues to flourish.
Gay Community in Newcastle
Focused on the Times Square area near the Centre for Life, the "Pink Triangle" hosts approximately 12–14 bars and pubs, and two clubs, Powerhouse and The Loft. The community has seen much expansion in the past five years, with further growth planned in the future. The development of the Pink Triangle was a planned development promoted by the Regional Development Agency and is often seen to be in conflict with the macho native Geordie Culture. In 2001 Newcastle planned to host a Gay Pride festival but this was cancelled at the last minute due to opposition by the Council members.
Museums & Places of Interest
In the surrounding area