Newcastle upon Tyne

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Newcastle upon Tyne (/njuːˈkæsəl/; often shortened to Newcastle) is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne. The city developed in the area that was the location of the Roman settlement called Pons Aelius, though it owes its name to the castle built in 1080, by Robert II, Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror.

Newcastle is close to the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

The city grew as an important centre for the wool trade and it later became a major coal mining area. The port developed in the 16th century and, along with the shipyards lower down the river, was amongst the world’s largest shipbuilding and ship-repairing centres. These industries have since experienced severe decline and closure, and the city today is largely a business and cultural centre, with a particular reputation for nightlife.

Like most cities, Newcastle has a diverse cross section, from areas of poverty to areas of affluence. Among its main icons are Newcastle Brown Ale, a leading brand of beer, Newcastle United F.C., a Premier League team, and the Tyne Bridge. It has hosted the world’s most popular half marathon, the Great North Run, since it began in 1981.

The city is the sixteenth most populous city in the United Kingdom; while the larger Tyneside conurbation, of which Newcastle forms part, is the sixth most populous conurbation in the United Kingdom. Newcastle is a member of the English Core Cities Group and with Gateshead the Eurocities network of European cities.

The regional nickname for people from Newcastle and the surrounding area is Geordie.

The first settlement in what is now Newcastle was Pons Aelius, a Roman fort and bridge across the River Tyne and given the family name of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who founded it in the 2nd century AD. The population of Pons Aelius at this period was estimated at 2,000. Hadrian’s Wall is still visible in parts of Newcastle, particularly along the West Road. The course of the “Roman Wall” can also be traced eastwards to the Segedunum Roman fort in Wallsend—the wall’s end and to the supply fort Arbeia in South Shields. The extent of Hadrian’s Wall was 73 miles (117 km), spanning the width of Britain; the wall incorporated Agricola’s Ditch and was constructed primarily to prevent unwanted immigration and incursion of Pictish tribes from the north, not as a fighting line for a major invasion.

After the Roman departure from Britain, completed in 410, Newcastle became part of the powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, and became known throughout this period as Monkchester. After a series of conflicts with the Danes and the devastation north of the River Tyne inflicted by Odo of Bayeux after the 1080 rebellion against the Normans, Monkchester was all but destroyed. Because of its strategic position, Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror, erected a wooden castle there in the year 1080 and the town was henceforth known as Novum Castellum or New Castle.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Newcastle was England’s northern fortress. Incorporated first by Henry II, a new charter was granted by Elizabeth in 1589. A 25-foot (7.6 m) high stone wall was built around the town in the 13th century, to defend it from invaders during the Border war against Scotland. The Scots king William the Lion was imprisoned in Newcastle in 1174, and Edward I brought the Stone of Scone and William Wallace south through the town. Newcastle was successfully defended against the Scots three times during the 14th century, and was created a county corporate with its own sheriff by Henry IV in 1400.

From 1530 a royal act restricted all shipments of coal from Tyneside to Newcastle Quayside, giving a monopoly in the coal trade to a cartel of Newcastle burgesses known as the Hostmen. The phrase taking coals to Newcastle was first recorded in 1538. This monopoly, which lasted for a considerable time, helped Newcastle prosper and develop into a major town. It also had an impact on the growth of near-neighbours Sunderland, causing a Tyneside and a Wearside rivalry that still exists.

In the Sandgate area, to the east of the city and beside the river, resided the close-knit community of keelmen and their families. They were so called because they worked on the keels, boats that were used to transfer coal from the river banks to the waiting colliers, for export to London and elsewhere. In 1636 about 7,000 out of 20,000 inhabitants of Newcastle died of plague.

During the English Civil War, Newcastle supported the king and in 1644 the city was besieged for many months, then stormed (‘with roaring drummes’) and sacked by Cromwell’s Scots allies, based in pro-Parliament Sunderland. The grateful King bestowed the motto “Fortiter Defendit Triumphans” (“Triumphing by a brave defence”) upon the town. Ironically, Charles was imprisoned in Newcastle by the Scots in 1646–7.

In the 18th century, Newcastle was the country’s fourth largest print centre after London, Oxford and Cambridge, and the Literary and Philosophical Society of 1793, with its erudite debates and large stock of books in several languages, predated the London Library by half a century. Newcastle also became a glass producer with a reputation for brilliant flint glass.

In the 19th century, shipbuilding and heavy engineering were central to the city’s prosperity; and the city was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution. Innovation in Newcastle and surrounding areas included the development of safety lamps, Stephenson’s Rocket, Lord Armstrong’s artillery, Be-Ro flour, Joseph Swan’s electric light bulbs, and Charles Parsons’ invention of the steam turbine, which led to the revolution of marine propulsion and the production of cheap electricity.

Newcastle’s public transport system was revolutionised in 1901 when electric trams were introduced to the city’s streets, though these had been replaced by buses within 40 years.

The city acquired its first art gallery, the Laing Art Gallery in 1901, so named after its founder Alexander Laing, a Scottish wine and spirit merchant who wanted to give something back to the city in which he had made his Fortune. Another art gallery, the Hatton Gallery (now part of Newcastle University), opened in 1925.

With the advent of the motor car, Newcastle’s road network was improved in the early part of the 20th century, beginning with the opening of the Redheugh road bridge in 1900 and the Tyne Bridge (a suspension bridge) in 1928.

Efforts to preserve the city’s historic past were evident as long ago as 1934, when the Museum of Science and Industry opened, as did the John G Joicey Museum in the same year.

Council housing began to replace inner city slums in the 1920s and the process continued into the 1970s, along with substantial private house building.

Unemployment hit record heights in Newcastle during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The city’s last coalpit closed in 1956. The slow demise of the shipyards on the banks of the River Tyne happened in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The public sector in Newcastle began to expand in the 1960s, as more people were employed in local government administration and Newcastle University was founded in 1963, followed by a Polytechnic in 1969; the latter received university status in 1992.

Further efforts to preserve the city’s historic past continued as the 20th century wore on, with the opening of Newcastle Military Museum in 1983 and Stephenson Railway Museum in 1986. New developments at the turn of the 21st century included the Life Science Centre in 2000 and Millennium Bridge in 2001.

Based at St James’ Park since 1886, Newcastle United FC became Football League members in 1893. They have won four top division titles (the first in 1905 and the most recent in 1927), six FA Cups (the first in 1910 and the most recent in 1955) and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969. They broke the world national transfer record in 1996 by paying £15million for Blackburn Rovers and England striker Alan Shearer, one of the most prolific goalscorers of that era.

Newcastle is situated in the North East of England, in the ceremonial county of Tyne and Wear and the historical and traditional county of Northumberland. The city is located on the northern bank of the River Tyne.

The ground beneath the city is formed from Carboniferous strata of the Middle Pennine Coal Measures Group—a suite of sandstones, mudstones and coal seams which generally dip moderately eastwards. To the west of the city are the Upper Pennine Coal Measures and further west again the sandstones and mudstones of the Stainmore Formation, the local equivalent of the Millstone Grit.

In large parts, Newcastle still retains a mediaeval street layout. Narrow alleys or ‘chares’, most of which can only be traversed by foot, still exist in abundance, particularly around the riverside. Stairs from the riverside to higher parts of the city centre and the extant Castle Keep, originally recorded in the 14th century, remain in places. Close, Sandhill and Quayside contain modern buildings as well as structures dating from the 15th–18th centuries, including Bessie Surtees House, the Cooperage and Lloyds Quayside Bars, Derwentwater House and the currently unused Grade I-listed 16th century merchant’s house at 28–30 Close.

The city has an extensive neoclassical centre referred to as Tyneside Classical largely developed in the 1830s by Richard Grainger and John Dobson, and recently extensively restored. Broadcaster and writer Stuart Maconie described Newcastle as England’s best-looking city and the late German-born British scholar of architecture, Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon Pevsner, describes Grey Street as one of the finest streets in England, and Grey Street, which curves down from Grey’s Monument towards the valley of the River Tyne, was voted as England’s finest street in 2005 in a survey of BBC Radio 4 listeners. In the Google Street View awards of 2010, Grey Street came 3rd in the British picturesque category. Osborne Road came 4th in the foodie street category. A portion of Grainger Town was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Eldon Square Shopping Centre, including all but one side of the original Eldon Square itself.

Immediately to the northwest of the city centre is Leazes 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”. Just outside one corner of this is St James’ Park, the stadium home of Newcastle United F.C. which dominates the view of the city from all directions.

Another green space in Newcastle is the Town Moor, lying immediately north of the city centre. It is larger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath put together and the freemen of the city have the right to graze cattle on it. Unlike other cities where similar rights exist, they often take advantage of this. The right incidentally extends to the pitch of St. James’ Park, Newcastle United Football Club’s ground, though this is not exercised, although the Freemen do collect rent for the loss of privilege. Honorary freemen include Bob Geldof, King Harald V of Norway, Nelson Mandela, Bobby Robson, Alan Shearer and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Hoppings funfair, said to be the largest travelling fair in Europe, is held here annually in June.

In the south eastern corner is Exhibition Park, which contains the only remaining pavilion from the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929. Since the 1970s this has housed the Newcastle Military Vehicle Museum; this is closed until further notice because of structural problems with the building—originally a temporary structure.

The wooded gorge of the Ouseburn in the east of the city is known as Jesmond Dene and forms another popular recreation area, linked by Armstrong Park and Heaton Park to the Ouseburn Valley, where the river finally reaches the River Tyne.

Notable Newcastle housing developments include Ralph Erskine’s the Byker Wall designed in the 1960s and now Grade II* listed. It is on UNESCO’s list of outstanding 20th century buildings.

Newcastle’s thriving Chinatown lies in the north-west of Grainger Town, centred on Stowell Street. A new Chinese arch, or paifang, providing a landmark entrance, was handed over to the city with a ceremony in 2005.

The UK’s first biotechnology village, the “Centre for Life” is located in the city centre close to the Central Station. The village is the first step in the City Council’s plans to transform Newcastle into a science city.

Newcastle was voted as the Best City in the North in April 2007 by The Daily Telegraph newspaper—beating Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds in an online poll conducted of its readers.

The Tyne Gorge, between Newcastle on the north bank and Gateshead—a separate town and borough—on the south bank, is famous for a series of dramatic bridges, including the Tyne Bridge of 1928 which was built by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough, and Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge of 1849, the first road/rail bridge in the world.

Large-scale regeneration has replaced former shipping premises with imposing new office developments; an innovative tilting bridge, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge was commissioned by Gateshead Council and has integrated the older Newcastle Quayside more closely with major cultural developments in Gateshead, including the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, the venue for the Turner Prize 2011 and the Norman Foster-designed The Sage Gateshead music centre. The Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides are now a thriving, cosmopolitan area with bars, restaurants and public spaces. As a tourist promotion, Newcastle and Gateshead have linked together under the banner “NewcastleGateshead”, to spearhead the regeneration of the North-East. The River Tyne had the temporary Bambuco Bridge in 2008 for ten days; it was not made for walking, road or cycling, but was just a sculpture.

The historic heart of Newcastle is the Grainger Town area. Established on classical streets built by Richard Grainger, a builder and developer, between 1835 and 1842, some of Newcastle upon Tyne’s finest buildings and streets lie within this area of the city centre including Grainger Market, Theatre Royal, Grey Street, Grainger Street and Clayton Street. These buildings are predominately four stories high, with vertical dormers, domes, turrets and spikes. Richard Grainger was said to ‘have found Newcastle of bricks and timber and left it in stone’. Of Grainger Town’s 450 buildings, 244 are listed, of which 29 are grade I and 49 are grade II*.

Grey’s Monument, which commemorates Prime Minister Earl Grey and his Reform Act of 1832, stands beside Monument Metro Station and was designed and built by Edward Hodges Baily and Benjamin Green. Hodges, who also built the Nelson’s Column, designed and built the statue, and the monument plinth was designed and built by Benjamin Green.

The Grainger Market opened in 1835 and was Newcastle’s first indoor market. At the time of its opening in 1835 it was said to be one of the largest and beautiful markets in Europe. And the opening was celebrated with a grand dinner attended by 2000 guests, the Laing Art Gallery, has a painting of this event. With the exception of the timber roof which was destroyed by a fire in 1901 and replaced by latticed-steel arches the Market is largely in its original condition.

The development of the city in the 1960s and 1970s saw the demolition of part of Grainger Town as a prelude to the modernist rebuilding initiatives of T. Dan Smith, the leader of Newcastle City Council. A corruption scandal was uncovered involving Smith and John Poulson, a property developer from Pontefract, West Yorkshire, and both were imprisoned. Echoes of the scandal were revisited in the late 1990s in the BBC TV mini-series, Our Friends in the North.

Newcastle played a major role during the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, and was a leading centre for coal mining and manufacturing. Heavy industries in Newcastle declined in the second half of the 20th century; office, service and retail employment are now the city’s staples. The city is also today recognised for its commitment to environmental issues, with a programme planned for Newcastle to become “the first Carbon Neutral town”.

Newcastle is the commercial, educational and, in partnership with nearby Gateshead, the cultural focus for North East England. As part of Tyneside, Newcastle’s economy contributes around £13 billion to the UK GVA. The Central Business District is in the centre of the city, bounded by Haymarket, Central Station and the Quayside areas.

In 2010, Newcastle was positioned ninth in the retail centre expenditure league of the UK. There are several major shopping areas in Newcastle City Centre. The largest of these is the Eldon Square Shopping Centre, one of the largest city centre shopping complexes in the UK. It incorporates a flagship Debenhams store as well as one of the largest John Lewis stores in the UK. John Lewis is still known to many in Newcastle as Bainbridges which according to sources was one of the first department stores in the world. Eldon Square is currently undergoing a full redevelopment. A new bus station, replacing the old underground bus station, was officially opened in March 2007. The wing of the centre, including the undercover Green Market, near Grainger Street was demolished in 2007 so that the area could be redeveloped. This was completed in February 2010 with the opening of a flagship Debenhams department store as well as other major stores including Apple, Hollister & Guess.

The main shopping street in the city is Northumberland Street. In a 2004 report, it was ranked as the most expensive shopping street in the UK for rent, outside of London. It is home to two major department stores including the first and largest Fenwick department store, which houses some of the most luxurious designer labels, and one of the largest Marks and Spencer stores outside London. Both stores have entrances into Eldon Square Shopping Centre.

Other shopping destinations in Newcastle include Grainger Street and the area around Grey’s Monument, the relatively modern Eldon Garden and Monument Mall complexes, the Newgate Centre, Central Arcade and the traditional Grainger Market. Outside the city centre, the largest suburban shopping areas are Gosforth and Byker. The largest Tesco store in the United Kingdom is located in Kingston Park on the edge of Newcastle. Close to Newcastle, the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe, the MetroCentre, is located in Gateshead.

In terms of housing stock, the authority is one of few authorities to see the proportion of detached homes rise (to 7.8%), in this instance this was coupled with a similar rise in flats and waterside apartments to 25.6%, and the proportion of converted or shared houses in 2011 renders this dwelling type within the highest of the five colour-coded brackets at 5.9%, and on a par with Oxford and Reading, greater than Manchester and Liverpool and below a handful of historic densely occupied, arguably overinflated markets in the local authorities: Harrogate, Cheltenham, Bath, inner London, Hastings, Brighton and Tunbridge Wells.

According to the UK Government’s 2001 census information, the city of Newcastle had a population of 189,863, whereas the unitary authority of Newcastle had a population of around 259,000. However, the metropolitan boroughs of North Tyneside (population c. 192,000), South Tyneside (population c. 153,000) and Gateshead (population c. 191,000) are, along with Newcastle, all part of the Tyneside conurbation (population c. 880,000). The metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear, which consists of the four aforementioned boroughs as well as the City of Sunderland (population c. 281,000), had a population of around 1,076,000 and the Tyne and Wear City Region which also includes North Durham, South East Northumberland and the Tyne Valley has a population of 1,650,000.

The regional nickname for people from Newcastle and the surrounding area is Geordie. The Latin term Novocastrian, which can equally be applied to residents of any place called Newcastle, is also used for ex-pupils of the city’s Royal Grammar School.

Year and current total population

  • 1801: 33,322
  • 1851: 80,184
  • 1901: 246,905
  • 1911: 293,944
  • 1921: 309,820
  • 1931: 326,576
  • 1941: 333,286
  • 1951: 340,155
  • 1961: 323,844
  • 1971: 308,317
  • 1981: 272,923
  • 1991: 277,723
  • 2001: 259,573
  • 2010: 292,200

The dialect of Newcastle is known as Geordie, and contains a large amount of vocabulary and distinctive word pronunciations not used in other parts of the United Kingdom. The Geordie dialect has much of its origins in the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon populations who migrated to and conquered much of England after the end of Roman Imperial rule. This language was the forerunner of Modern English; but while the dialects of other English regions have been heavily altered by the influences of other foreign languages—particularly Latin and Norman French—the Geordie dialect retains many elements of the old language. An example of this is the pronunciation of certain words: “dead”, “cow”, “house” and “strong” are pronounced “deed”, “coo”, “hoos” and “strang”—which is how they were pronounced in the Anglo-Saxon language. Other Geordie words with Anglo-Saxon origins include: “larn” (from the Anglo-Saxon “laeran”, meaning “teach”), “burn” (“stream”) and “gan” (“go”). “Bairn” and “hyem”, meaning “child” and “home”, are examples of Geordie words with origins in Scandinavia; “barn” and “hjem” are the corresponding modern Norwegian words. Some words used in the Geordie dialect are used elsewhere in the northern United Kingdom. The words “bonny” (meaning “pretty”), “howay” (“come on”), “stot” (“bounce”) and “hadaway” (“go away” or “you’re kidding”), all appear to be used in Scottish dialect; “aye” (“yes”) and “nowt” (IPA://naʊt/, rhymes with out,”nothing”) are used elsewhere in northern England. Many words, however, appear to be used exclusively in Newcastle and the surrounding area, such as “Canny” (a versatile word meaning “good”, “nice” or “very”), “hacky” (“dirty”), “netty” (“toilet”), “hoy” (“throw”), “hockle” (“spit”).

In a report, published in early February 2007 by the Ear Institute at the University College London, and Widex, a Danish hearing aid manufacturer, Newcastle was named as the noisiest city in the whole of the UK, with an average level of 80.4 decibels. The report claimed that these noise levels would have a negative long-term impact on the health of the city’s residents. The report was criticised, however, for attaching too much weight to readings at arbitrarily selected locations, which in Newcastle’s case included a motorway underpass without pedestrian access.

Newcastle was in the top ten of the country’s top night spots, and The Rough Guide to Britain placed Newcastle upon Tyne’s nightlife as Great Britain’s no. 1 tourist attraction. In the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination Awards for European Nightlife destinations, four of the UK’s nightspots finished in the top 10; Newcastle was awarded 3rd Place behind London, and Berlin. Newcastle also came in seventh for the World category.

There are notable concentrations of pubs, bars and nightclubs around the Bigg Market, and the Quayside area of the city centre. There are many bars on the Bigg Market, and other popular areas for nightlife are Collingwood Street, popularly referred to as the ‘Diamond Strip’ due to its concentration of high-end bars, Neville Street, the Central Station area and Osborne Road in the Jesmond area of the city. In recent years “The Gate” has opened in the city centre, a new indoor complex consisting of bars, upmarket clubs, restaurants and a 12-screen Empire multiplex cinema. Newcastle’s gay scene – ‘The Pink Triangle’ – is centred around the Times Square area near the Centre for Life and has a range of bars, cafés and clubs.

The city has a wide variety of restaurants such as Italian, Indian, Persian, Japanese, Greek, Mexican, Spanish, American, Polish, Malaysian, French, Mongolian, Moroccan, Thai food, Vietnamese, Lebanese, and has a Chinese village with many Chinese restaurants on Stowell Street. There has also been a growth in premium restaurants in recent years with top chefs.

The city has a proud history of theatre. Stephen Kemble of the famous Kemble family successfully managed the original Theatre Royal, Newcastle for fifteen years (1791–1806). He brought members of his famous acting family such as Sarah Siddons and John Kemble out of London to Newcastle. Stephen Kemble guided the theatre through many celebrated seasons. The original Theatre Royal was opened on 21 January 1788 and was located on Mosley Street, next to Drury Lane.

The city still contains many theatres. The largest, the Theatre Royal on Grey Street, first opened in 1837, designed by John and Benjamin Green. It has hosted a season of performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company for over 25 years, as well as touring productions of West End musicals. The Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre hosts smaller touring productions, whilst other venues feature local talent. Northern Stage, formally known as the Newcastle Playhouse and Gulbenkian Studio, hosts various local, national and international productions in addition to those produced by the Northern Stage company. Other theatres in the city include the Live Theatre, the People’s Theatre, and the Jubilee Theatre. NewcastleGateshead was voted in 2006 as the arts capital of the UK in a survey conducted by the Artsworld TV channel.

Newcastle has a strong reputation as a poetry centre. The Morden Tower, run by poet Tom Pickard, is a major venue for poetry readings in the North East, being the place where Basil Bunting gave the first reading of Briggflatts in 1965.

The Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne (popularly known as the ‘Lit & Phil’) is the largest independent library outside London, housing more than 150,000 books. Its music library contains 8000 CDs and 10,000 LPs. The current Lit and Phil premises were built in 1825 and the building was designed by John and Benjamin Green. Operating since 1793 and founded as a ‘conversation club,’ its lecture theatre was the first public building to be lit by electric light, during a lecture by Joseph Swan on 20 October 1880.

The Seven Stories is a museum dedicated to children’s books. Opened it 2005, it is based in the Ouseburn Valley.

In January or February, Newcastle’s Chinatown is at the centre of a carnival of colour and noise as the city celebrates the Chinese New Year. In early March there is the NewcastleGateshead Comedy Festival, this event makes a return to the region since the last event in 2006, it is hoped it will now continue as an annual event. The Newcastle Science Festival, now called Newcastle ScienceFest returns annually in early March.

The Newcastle Beer Festival, organised by CAMRA, takes place in April. In May, Newcastle and Gateshead host the Evolution Festival, a music festival held on the Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides over the Spring bank holiday, with performances by acts from the world of Rock, Indie and Dance music. The biennial AV Festival of international electronic art, featuring exhibitions, concerts, conferences and film screenings, is held in March. The North East Art Expo, a festival of art and design from the regions professional artists, is held in late May. EAT! NewcastleGateshead, a festival of food and drink, runs for 2 weeks each year in mid June.

The Hoppings, reputedly the largest travelling fair in Europe, takes place on Newcastle Town Moor every June. The event has its origins in the Temperance Movement during the early 1880s and coincides with the annual race week at High Gosforth Park. Newcastle Community Green Festival, which claims to be the UK’s biggest free community environmental festival, also takes place every June, in Leazes Park. The Northern Rock Cyclone, a cycling festival, takes place within, or starting from, Newcastle in June. The ‘Northern Gay Pride’ Festival and Parade is held in Leazes Park and in the city’s ‘Gay Community’ in mid July. The Ouseburn Festival, a family oriented weekend festival near the city centre, incorporating a “Family Fun Day” and “Carnival Day”, is held in late July.

Newcastle Mela, held on the late August bank holiday weekend, is an annual two-day multicultural event, blending drama, music and food from Punjabi, Pakistani, Bengali and Hindu cultures. NewcastleGateshead also holds an annual International Arts Fair. The 2009 event will be in the Norman Foster designed Sage Gateshead Music and Arts Centre in September. In October, there is the Design Event festival—an annual festival providing the public with an opportunity to see work by regional, national and international designers. The SAMA Festival, an East Asian cultural festival is also held in early October.

The largest music venue in the city is the 11,000-seat Metro Radio Arena, which is situated in the south of the city centre near the Centre for Life. The 2,000-seat Newcastle City Hall holds a number of music events every month, particularly featuring solo artists. Both of the city’s universities also have large performance venues (each holding around 2,000 people).

On 14 October 2005, the 2,000 capacity O2 Academy Newcastle opened, providing a new music venue in the city centre. The opening night was headlined by The Futureheads and the profile of the venue has attracted a greater variety of bands to play in the city. The O2 Academy Newcastle is one in a string of Academies to be opened across the UK.

Other popular music venues in the city include Newcastle Riverside Music Venue, The Head of Steam, which is near Newcastle Central railway station, and Trillians Rock Bar at Princess Square. The Cluny and The Cumberland Arms are both situated in the Ouseburn Valley between the city centre and Byker.

Apart from the city centre chain-cinema, the Empire multiplex, the city has its own independent cinema, the Tyneside Cinema. The Tyneside Cinema, on Pilgrim Street, originally opened as the ‘Bijou News-Reel Cinema’ in 1937, and was designed and built by Dixon Scott, great-uncle of film directors Ridley Scott and Tony Scott.

The Pilgrim Street building was refurbished between November 2006 and May 2008; during the refurbishment works, the cinema relocated to the Old Town Hall, Gateshead. In May 2008 the Tyneside Cinema reopened in the restored and refurbished original building. The site currently houses three cinemas, including the restored Classic —the United Kingdom’s last surviving news cinema still in full-time operation—alongside two new screens, a roof extension containing the Tyneside Bar, and dedicated education and teaching suites.

There are several museums and galleries in Newcastle, including the Centre for Life with its Science Village; the Discovery Museum a museum highlighting life on Tyneside, including Tyneside’s shipbuilding heritage, and inventions which changed the world; the Great North Museum; the Gallagher & Turner Gallery; the Laing Art Gallery; The Biscuit Factory (a commercial gallery); Vane; and the Newburn Hall Motor Museum.

The earliest known movie featuring some exterior scenes filmed in the city is On the Night of the Fire (1939), though by and large the action is studio-bound. Later came The Clouded Yellow (1951) and Payroll (1961), both of which feature more extensive scenes filmed in the city. The 1971 film Get Carter was shot on location in and around Newcastle and offers an opportunity to see what Newcastle looked like in the 1960s and early 1970s. The city was also backdrop to another gangster film, the 1988 film noir thriller Stormy Monday, directed by Mike Figgis and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith, Sting and Sean Bean. More recently the city has been the setting for films based around football; films such as Purely Belter, The One and Only and Goal! have all been focused around Tyneside. The comedy School for Seduction starring Kelly Brook was also filmed in Newcastle. The Bollywood film Hum Tum Aur Ghost was shot on location in Newcastle’s city centre and features key scenes in and around Grainger Town.

The city has a strong sporting tradition. Football club Newcastle United has been based at St James’ Park since the club was established in 1892, although any traces of the original structure are now long gone as the stadium now holds more than 52,000 seated spectators. The city also has non-League football clubs, Newcastle Benfield, West Allotment Celtic and Team Northumbria. As for rugby, the Newcastle Falcons are the only team in north-east England to play in the Aviva Premiership rugby union. They play at Kingston Park Stadium in the northern suburb of Kingston Park. 1996 Pilkington Shield winners Medicals RFC are also based in Newcastle.

The 2012 London Olympic committee selected Newcastle as one of the UK host venue cities. With the stadium St James’ Park hosting 9 matches in both the men’s and women’s football.

Newcastle is governed using the leader and cabinet system.

Newcastle International Airport is located approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) from the city centre on the northern outskirts of the city near Ponteland and is the largest of the two main airports serving the North East. It is connected to the city via the Metro Light Rail system and a journey into Newcastle city centre takes approximately 20 minutes. The airport handles over five million passengers per year, and is the tenth largest, and the fastest growing regional airport in the UK, expecting to reach 10 million passengers by 2016, and 15 million by 2030. As of 2007, over 90 destinations are available worldwide.

Newcastle railway station, also known as Newcastle Central Station, is a principal stop on the East Coast Main Line and Cross Country Route. Opened in 1850 by Queen Victoria, it was the first covered railway station in the world and was much copied across the UK. It has a neoclassical facade, originally designed by the architect John Dobson, and was constructed in collaboration with Robert Stephenson. The first services were operated by the North Eastern Railway company. The city’s other mainline station, Manors, is to the east of the city centre.

Train operator East Coast provides a half-hourly frequency of trains to London King’s Cross, with a journey time of about three hours. Other destinations on the East Coast Main Line include to the south; Durham, Darlington, York, Doncaster and Peterborough and north to Scotland with all trains calling at Edinburgh and some extended to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. CrossCountry trains serve destinations in Yorkshire, the Midlands and the South West including Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Derby, Leeds, Plymouth, Sheffield and Reading. First TransPennine Express operates services to Manchester and Liverpool. Northern Rail provides local and regional services to Carlisle, Hexham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Morpeth.

The city is served by the Tyne and Wear Metro, a system of suburban and underground railways covering much of Tyne and Wear. It was opened in five phases between 1980 and 1984, and was Britain’s first urban light rail transit system; two extensions were opened in 1991 and 2002. It was developed from a combination of existing and newly built tracks and stations, with deep-level tunnels constructed through Newcastle city centre. A bridge was built across the Tyne, between Newcastle and Gateshead, and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1981. The network is operated by DB Regio on behalf of Nexus and carries over 37 million passengers a year, extending as far as Newcastle Airport, Tynemouth, South Shields and South Hylton in Sunderland. In 2004, the company Marconi designed and constructed the mobile radio system to the underground Metro system. The Metro system was the first in the UK to have mobile phone antennae installed in the tunnels.

The Metro consists of two lines. The Green line starts at Newcastle Airport, goes through the city centre and into Sunderland, terminating at South Hylton. The yellow line starts at St. James Park, runs north of the river alongside Byker towards Whitley Bay, before returning to the city, on to Gateshead and terminates at South Shields.

Major roads in the area include the A1 (Gateshead Newcastle Western Bypass), stretching north to Edinburgh and south to London; the A19 heading south past Sunderland and Middlesbrough to York and Doncaster; the A69 heading west to Carlisle; the A167, the old “Great North Road”, heading south to Gateshead, Chester-le-Street, Durham and Darlington; and the A1058 “Coast Road”, which runs from Jesmond to the east coast between Tynemouth and Cullercoats. Many of these designations are recent—upon completion of the Western Bypass, and its designation as the new line of the A1, the roads between this and the A1’s former alignment through the Tyne Tunnel were renumbered, with many city centre roads changing from a 6-prefix to their present 1-prefix numbers. In November 2011 the capacity of the Tyne Tunnel was increased when a project to build a second road tunnel and refurbish the first tunnel was completed.

Newcastle is accessible by several mostly traffic-free cycle routes that lead to the edges of the city centre, where cyclists can continue into the city by road, using no car lanes. The traffic-free C2C cycle route runs along the north bank of the River Tyne, enabling cyclists to travel off-road to North Shields and Tynemouth in the east, and westwards towards Hexham. Suburban cycle routes exist, which utilise converted trackbeds of former industrial wagonways and industrial railways. A network of signed on-road cycle routes is being established, including some designated on-road cycle lanes that will lead from the city centre to the suburbs of Gosforth, Heaton and Wallsend.

From Newcastle International Ferry Terminal, at North Shields, Danish DFDS Seaways run a service to IJmuiden (near Amsterdam). The DFDS ferry service to Gothenburg, Sweden, ceased at the end of October 2006 – the company cited high fuel prices and new competition from low-cost air services as the cause – and their service to Bergen and Stavanger, Norway was terminated late 2008. Since summer 2007, Thomson cruise lines have included Newcastle as a departure port on its Norwegian and Fjords cruise.

The city has two universities — Newcastle University and Northumbria University. Newcastle University has its origins in the School of Medicine and Surgery, established in 1834 and became independent from Durham University on 1 August 1963 to form the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle University is now one of the UK’s leading international universities. It won the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year award in 2000. Northumbria University has its origins in the Newcastle Polytechnic, established in 1969 and became the University of Northumbria at Newcastle in 1992 as part of the UK-wide process in which polytechnics became new universities. Northumbria University was voted ‘Best New University’ by The Times Good University Guide 2005 and also won a much coveted company award of the “Most IT enabled organisation” (in the UK), by the IT industry magazine Computing.

Newcastle has three cathedrals, the Anglican St. Nicholas, with its elegant lantern tower of 1474, the Roman Catholic St. Mary’s designed by Augustus Welby Pugin and the Coptic Cathedral located in Fenham. All three cathedrals began their lives as parish churches. St Mary’s became a cathedral in 1850 and St Nicholas’ in 1882. Another prominent church in the city centre is the Church of St Thomas the Martyr which is the only parish church in the Church of England without a parish and which is not a peculiar.

One of the largest evangelical Anglican churches in the UK is Jesmond Parish Church, situated a little to the north of the city centre.

Newcastle is home to the only Bahá’í Centre in North East England, the centre has served the local Bahá’í community for over 25 years and is located close to the Civic Centre in Jesmond.

Newcastle was a prominent centre of the Plymouth Brethren movement up to the 1950s and some small congregations still function. Among these are at the Hall, Denmark Street and Gospel Hall, St Lawrence.

The Parish Church of St Andrew is traditionally recognised as ‘the oldest church in this town’. The present building was begun in the 12th Century and the last addition to it, apart from the vestries, was the main porch in 1726. It is quite possible that there was an earlier church here dating from Saxon times. This older church would have been one of several churches along the River Tyne dedicated to St Andrew, including the Priory church at Hexham. The building contains more old stonework than any other church in Newcastle. It is surrounded by the last of the ancient churchyards to retain its original character. Many key names associated with Newcastle’s history worshipped and were buried here. The church tower received a battering during the Siege of Newcastle by the Scots who finally breached the Town Wall and forced surrender. Three of the cannonballs remain on site as testament to the siege.

Local newspapers that are printed in Newcastle include Trinity Mirror’s Evening Chronicle and The Journal, the Sunday Sun as well as the Metro freesheet. The Crack is a monthly style and listings magazine similar to London’s Time Out. The adult comic Viz originated in Jesmond, and The Mag is a fanzine for Newcastle United supporters.

ITV Tyne Tees was based at City Road for over 40 years after its launch in January 1959. In 2005 it moved to a new facility on The Watermark business park next to the MetroCentre in Gateshead. The entrance to studio 5 at the City Road complex gave its name to the 1980s music television programme, The Tube. BBC North East and Cumbria is located to the north of the city on Barrack Road, Spital Tongues, in a building known, as the result of its colouring, as the Pink Palace. It is from here that the Corporation broadcasts the Look North television regional news programme and local radio station BBC Radio Newcastle.

Newcastle is one of the first in the UK to have its city centre covered by wireless internet access.

Newcastle is twinned with Atlanta, United States; Bergen Norway; Gelsenkirchen, Germany (since 1948); Groningen, Netherlands; Haifa, Israel; Malmö, Sweden; Nancy, France; Newcastle, Australia; and Singkawang, Indonesia.

The following countries have consular representation in Newcastle: Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Sweden.

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