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.
Above all else though, it’s the River Tyne that has had – and still has – the most impact on Newcastle. Synonymous with exporting coal and building ships, the river attracted a new legion of workers that provided the world with ships, and the Tyneside communities with employment – and the biggest and most important of these communities was Newcastle.
The Tyne may have provided work (even if it was hard work) during the profitable years, but when that work was taken away it left an impoverished legacy that was difficult to replace. The good news though is that the riverside is now springing back into life in a way that’s making it an attractive place for people to come and visit.
People native to Newcastle are often called Geordies, but the question has to be asked why? Actually, there are several theories. One is that the name George was a common name for coal miners and it seems to make sense, but the coal mines weren’t just in Newcastle but also around North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Gateshead, which is why presumably, you could still be called a Geordie if you also lived in these areas as well, but whatever you do don’t call somebody from Sunderland a Geordie – they’re Mackems!
Not being from this part of the world, I’m straying onto dodgy ground here, but it might help to explain why the individual character of the area is different to other parts of the country, and if somebody were to ask you if you liked Newcastle, then just say “Wae Aye Man”.