Many of England’s large towns and cities are products of the “industrial revolution” in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Newcastle not only has the distinction of being part of such a time, but also having a long and proud history dating back to Roman times. From what once was a wooden bridge, guarded by a fort around 120 A.D. to today’s modern bustling city of shopping, entertainment and arts, the city has always been a vital provincial center in England.
This northern English city was in an area realized to be of great military importance to the Romans in crossing the river Tyne. With construction of a wooden bridge and the fort that defended it, this settlement quickly became a vital part of the frontier defence system known as Hadrian’s Wall.
After the Romans left in the early fifth century, little records are known to exist of the area for almost 600 years. That is until 1080 when the strategic importance of the area was again realised. With its proximity to Scotland, the best river crossing and its possibilities as a port, a wooden fortification was erected by Robert, Son of William I, giving it its namesake.
The protection of the walls gave away to security that allowed this city to flourish as a merchant and trading community. First being known for its wool trade, gave way to the coal trade at the end of the fourteenth century with its control of the trade on the river and monetization of it with its port.
From the late seventeenth century, other trades and industries joined coal as producers of wealth, such as: iron, salt and glass. With this, the town quickly became a regional center with a developed commercial infrastructure, which was not present elsewhere in the northeastern part of the country.
In the nineteenth century, the city center was largely rebuilt and new industries developed. From the locomotives of Stephenson to the armaments and ships of W.G. Armstrong, the citybecame the center of the inventiveness and commercial enterprise towards the end of the century. Many of the city’s finest architecture, buildings and streets come from this period in time: Grey Street, Grainger Market and the Theatre Royal just to name a few.
Industrial growth expanded the city, creating new suburbs such as Jesmond and Heaton, while urban transportation encouraged growth away from the city center with suburban railways and street tramways. This growth was vital in what was to come in the near future for all of England... the Great Wars.
After the last War, the city was hit hard by the economic downturn that came from the decline of the industries on which it depended - coal, chemicals, shipbuilding and engineering. In the 1970’s, the economic tides began to turn back in the favor of the city with the infusion of shopping districts that soon made the city the shopping destination of the region. A distinction that it can still claim today having the largest shopping complex in all of the United Kingdom: Eldon Square
With the infusion of art and cultural experiences, shopping and beautiful places to recreate, NewCastle stays strong as a regional center and enduring symbol of Northern England’s prosperity and persevering spirit.