The history of Newcastle upon Tyne dates back almost 2,000 years, during which it has been controlled by the Romans, the Saxons and the Danes amongst others. Originally known by its Roman name Pons Aelius, the name “Newcastle” has been used since the Norman conquest of England. Due to its prime location on the River Tyne, the town developed greatly during the Middle Ages and it was to play a major role in the Industrial Revolution, being granted city status in 1882. Today, the city is a major retail, commercial and cultural centre.
Newcastle began its life as a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall, a little later a community of monks created settlement there and the place became known as Monkchester. After that the Normans arrived and built their ‘new’ castle on the site where an old Roman fort once lay. Still today the castle stands with the remains of the gatehouse used as museums.
For many centuries the town lived next to the river confined within the walls for protection against the Scots. All the finest pre 19th century buildings are found in this area such as the handsome 18th century Guildhall, a group of tall 17th century merchants’ houses situated on Sandhill, the wonderful elliptical church of All Saints that has now been converted into an urban studies centre and St Nicholas Cathedral which was once the parish church built in the 14th century, a period in time when Newcastle was known as the third most prosperous town in the whole of England.
During the Tudor times the coalfields that surround the area began to be exploited on a very large scale. The real boom came when in the 19th century the development of heavy engineering and shipbuilding took place and warehouses and factories cropped up everywhere. It was from this period of around 1825 – 1840 that a second phase of building took place to create the name ‘Tyneside Classical’.
This century buildings continue to be erected in Newcastle, although now they are mostly office blocks that some would describe as soulless and do not depict the true history of Newcastle. There is a new Civic Centre that looks very impressive along with the architecture of nearby university and museum buildings that make a wonderful landscape.
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