As a football supporter (love the game, not the business) I can only look on in envy at other parts of the country that have produced some great teams over the years.
The West Country has never been able to produce a decent football club, and that’s probably down to the fact that it’s never had football in its blood the same way as other regions have.
As far as trophy winners are concerned Manchester United and Liverpool have the most, with Newcastle United 9th on the list, with 4 League Titles, 6 FA Cups, and 1 UEFA Cup to its name.
The Magpies (Newcastle Utd’s nickname) haven’t had any silverware to stash away in their cupboard for a while, but it doesn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm. Their fans passion for the game is well known and the ground’s attendance figures are consistently amongst the highest in the land with nigh on full capacity at most home games.
The team plays at St. James’ Park near the city centre which has a current capacity of 52,354, and although I haven’t been to see a game here I took advantage of one of the stadium tours that are on offer.
On my first visit to Newcastle I was surprised to see old timber-framed buildings. For some reason I just wasn’t expecting to see any, but at Sandhill there is a group of impressive 17th century merchant’s houses including Bessie Surtees House.
Built in the 17th century, it was originally two houses, named after the merchants who lived in them – Millbank and Surtees. These five storey buildings are fine examples of Jacobean architecture, and even though they have gone through periods of neglect, today they are admirably cared for by Historic England.
To keep everything commercially viable most of the combined building is leased out for office space, but the impressive first floor is freely available for visitors to take a look at.
The image of Newcastle as a shipbuilding city with a party town atmosphere tends to hide the fact that it has some wonderful classical buildings, especially in the area known as Grainger Town.
Richard Grainger was the man behind the area’s development in the first half of the 19th century, and one of his most notable achievements was the construction of Grey St, which runs over the top of the Lort Burn.
The Lort Burn used to flow openly downhill to the Tyne, but eventually became just an open sewer until the lower section was transferred underground with the construction of Dean St over the top of it in 1749.
If you’re anything like me, one of the first things you’ll want to see in Newcastle is the building that gives the city its name – so what can you expect?
Well firstly, don’t expect a Bamburgh or Alnwick Castle because all that’s left is The Keep and Black Gate.
Northumberland has any number of castles due to its proximity with the Scottish border, and although that border is someway north of Newcastle it has to be remembered that Hadrian’s Wall came right through where the city stands today in order to “separate the Romans from the barbarians”.
In fact, the very spot where the castle is located was the site of Pons Aelius, the original fort on Hadrian’s Wall that overlooked the Roman bridge below.
When the Roman Emperor Hadrian came to Britain in 122 AD he set about building his famous northern frontier wall between the Cumbrian coast and the North Sea, and at the eastern end he constructed a bridge and fort on the River Tyne known as Pons Aelius, or Hadrian’s Bridge.
The wall was later extended to Segedunum (now called Wallsend), and the fort at Hadrian’s Bridge has become the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
After the Romans left, little is known about Anglo-Saxon Newcastle, which is surprising when you think that the great chronicler of the time, the Venerable Bede, was living only a short distance away on the other side of the river at Jarrow.
What we do know though is that the original Roman bridge was replaced, and that bridge too was replaced after a fire in 1248. Today, the site of all these bridges is occupied by another one – William Armstrong’s practical and wonderfully designed Swing Bridge of 1876. There are now seven bridges that span the river from this part of the city and this is definitely one of my favourites.
Shipbuilding, coal and bridges are all words that conjure up images of Newcastle, but so does nightlife, football and a sometimes hard to understand dialect.
This is a city that has always liked to work hard and play hard, but the native Geordies also jealously guard their city’s strong identity with a fierce pride that few other English cities can match. Newcastle is as much about the people as it is the city itself.
The city centre has an eclectic mix of medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and modern architecture, with Grey’s Monument standing pride of place at the top of Grey St which sweeps downhill towards Dean St and the Quayside.
The ‘New’ Castle is Norman in origin and built on the site where the Romans built a fort to guard Pons Aelius (Aelian Bridge). It was part of Hadrian’s Wall that passed through present day Newcastle and ended just outside the city boundary at the appropriately named Wallsend.