March 9, 2015
Coal, ships and steel
Strategically placed at a narrow point along the wide and navigable Tyne, Newcastle was always destined to play an important role in the development of Great Britain. Once an important fort in Hadrian's Wall, Newcastle became an Anglo-Saxon stronghold when the legions melted away. When William the Conquerer led his Normans north he faced stiff resistance from the people here and forces responded by burning, pillaging and generally depopulating the entire region. Soon after a castle was built to cement Norman rule over the lands (from which Newcastle gets its name). The imposing Castle Keep, which continues to dominate the city's skyline, was a newer castle built a bit later. This castle played an important role in the Middle Ages, often acting as England's front line in the continual wars against the Scots.
The heart of Newcastle from Gateshead. The High Level Bridge dominates the photo. That bridge, completed in 1849, was the world's first major two-leveled bridge and saw the pioneering use of many new iron-working and engineering techniques. In the foreground of the old photo a family appears to be enjoying a day out in the park that occupies the spot to this day.
Soldiers and people relax on the hills above the Tyne. Some waving to the busy maritime traffic on the waterway. Three churches and the castle keep can be seen in the background, along with the old Tyne Bridge which would be replaced by the Swing Bridge later that century. In the distance a tower can be seen at the Elswick Lead Works.
A steam tractor is used to help lay new streetcar lines outside Newcastle's Central Station. Solid rubber tyres would continue to be popular for another 20 years and were only gradually supplanted by the inflatable variety.
A busy Sunday morning on the Newcastle Quayside Market. Evidently the spot was both a place of social gatherings as well as a port.
A postcard view of the bridges across the Tyne and the 12th Century Keep.
A shot of Newcastle from Gateshead. Much of Gateshead has left its industrial past behind. Where warehouses and railyards once stood, there are now parks, condos and public buildings.
A ship passes through the Swing Bridge. The bridge replaced a smaller 18th Century bridge on the same spot and was meant to allow vessels to go upstream to Armstrong's Elswick armaments works. Armstrong designed and paid for the bridge, using the same engineering technologies that revolved turrets on battleships. The bridge is still in working order today, though ships rarely pass through it.
A military band marches down Grainger Street.
Firemen appear to have just put out a small fire on Clayton Street and are now picking their hoses from the soaked pavement. A crowd of curious onlookers have gathered. Of curiousity to us is the radically different design of fire engine used at the time.
An etching by R. Jobling of the River Tyne titled The Coaly Tyne. The Tyne is filled with vessels, many doubtlessly shuttling about Newcastle's primary export and source of economic might, coal. In the background can be seen the High Level Bridge and the fairly new Swing Bridge, while All Souls Church is on the left.