Newcastle City of Stairs

Red Stairs Swing Bridge
Red Stairs Swing Bridge

Newcastle has some startling stairs or steps, in other places stairs have been turned into major tourist attractions, often by painting them in a variety of colours, or using them to embed art works of one sort or another. Newcastle’s stairs with the exception of the Swan House and Swing Bridge Stairs remain relatively unadorned.

Many of Newcastle’s Stairs link the city centre and the attractive quayside. Navigating from the Quayside presents fewer problems than from the main town. Many of the stairs are difficult to find from the higher ground, most remain unsigned from the main town, there is an opportunity here to produce a major tourist attraction at very little cost.

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Castle Stairs

Castle Stairs
Castle Stairs
Castle Stairs the hard way
Castle Stairs the hard way

An ancient pedestrian route, west of the Moot Hall past a restored medieval well. The Castle stairs are yet another historic route into Old Newcastle. Looking up the steep Castle Stairs from the bottom. The path takes a dogleg turn to the left around the building visible at the top of this section of the stairs, before encountering another section of steps. Halfway up, pause (for breath!) and admire the ancient Postern Gate – a doorway through the castles curtain wall – which is one of the best preserved in England.

At the west side of the top of the Castle Stairs was a group of buildings, called Dowey’s Corner, named from a baker who lived there.

The entrance to this historic stairway to the Black Gate and Castle Keep can be found a little further west along Sandhill, almost opposite the road leading from the Swing Bridge. It’s steep but will bring you up to the Castle Garth past the old well.

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How to Climb Stairs to Newcastle's Castle - Snapguide

Long Stairs

Long Stairs
Long Stairs

Long Stairs start between the 15th century Cooperage and 16th century “Buttress” merchant’s house and lead up to the Moot Hall.   Start at the side of the Cooperage Pub on the Quayside.

There are about 82 Long Stairs, though it feels like more.  The stairs offer wonderful panoramic views of the High Level Bridge, the stairs feel very old unlike some of the other stairs.

After that climb you might want to  cross the road and take refreshments at the Bridge Hotel public house (opposite the Keep and just before the High Level Bridge).  The Bridge Hotel has some wonderful stained glass depicting many of Newcastle’s finest buildings and structures
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Related

How to Climb Stairs to Newcastle's Castle - Snapguide

How to Climb Stairs to Newcastle’s Castle – Snapguidehttp://snapguide.com/guides/climb-stairs-to-newcastles-castle/

 

Newcastle Stairs

Newcastle is a city built on two levels, the high level of the city centre and the lower level of the Quayside. The different levels of the Quayside and the main town are obvious to anyone who has ever struggled up Dean Street.

It is Dean Street that provides the main way of traversing the two levels, at least for pedestrians. Dean Street is not the only way of traversing the two levels, there are many stairs and banks, some of them unnamed which allow pedestrians to climb up from the Quayside.

Many of these stairs offer amazing views and lead to some fascinating buildings, providing an insight into an older Newcastle.

Not all the stairs are easy to find. Neither Tuthill nor Breakneck Stairs are signed. The stairs that do have signs are marked at the bottom rather than the top. Which makes them hard to find when you want to come down. As well as being difficult to navigate the stairs are not accessible to people with crutches or wheel chairs. Nor are many of them well enough lit to use in darkness or in adverse weather. The Battery Stairs are in need of repair.

That said the Stairs offer unique close up views of some of Newcastle’s finest buildings and sights. Buildings such as the Castle Keep, the Turnbull Building, the Cooperage, St Ann’s. Many of the stairs offer unparalleled views of the river and the bridges.

There are networks of high level paths which enable walkers to move between stairs. There is for example a small tunnel under the High Level Bridge which connects Castle Stairs with the Long Stairs. An interesting short walk would be ascending Castle Stairs to the Castle, then descending Long Stairs to the Cooperage and Quayside.

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Dog Leap Stairs

Dog Leap Stairs
Dog Leap Stairs
Dog Leap Stairs lead from the Castle Garth to the Side, alongside the Railway Viaduct. When the Viaduct was doubled in the 1890’s the stairs were relocated. Most local people know the name Dog Leap Stairs, even if they are unable to recall the names of any other stairs.

Dog Leap Stairs were made famous in the Dire Straits song ‘Down to the Waterline’. The first song on the first Dire Straits Album.

‘Near misses on the dogleap stairways
French kisses in the darkened doorways.
A foghorn blowing out wild and cold
A policeman shines a light upon my shoulder’

In 1772 Baron Eldon, later Lord Chancellor of England, eloped with Bessie Surtees making their escape, according to folklore, on horseback up Dog Leap Stairs. Must have been quite some horse! It is difficult to imagine any horse being able to navigate such steep stairs today!

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Tuthill Stairs

Tuthill Stairs
Tuthill Stairs
These stairs are no longer marked with a sign indicating their name. Recently rebuilt and modernised as part of the Quayside Lofts project. Tuthill Stairs is now a modern connection between Close and Clavering Place providing a passage between the new apartment blocks west of the High Level Bridge.

There are approximately 128 stairs. A high point, at the top of where the stairs stand, used in Medieval times to be a lookout point for invaders. There are still a network of paths higher up which give good views of the Quayside.

A local word for keeping a look out is “keeping toot” – thus Tuthill Stairs or toot hill.

015421:Tuthill Stairs Newcastle-upon-Tyne May 1966 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

015421:Tuthill Stairs Newcastle-upon-Tyne May 1966 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!http://www.flickr.com/photos/newcastlelibraries/4077647928/Type : Photograph Medium : Print-black-and-white Description : The photograph is taken from the bottom of the stairs at the close looking up. Collection : Local Studies Printed Copy : If you would like a printed copy of this image please contact Newcastle Libraries www.newcastle.gov.uk/tlt quoting Accession Number : 015421
003836:Tuthill Stairs Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown 1886 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

003836:Tuthill Stairs Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown 1886 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!http://www.flickr.com/photos/newcastlelibraries/4075632885Type : Photograph Medium : Print-black-and-white Description : A view of Tuthill Stairs Newcastle upon Tyne taken in 1886. The photograph shows a house near the foot of Tuthill Stairs. A group of four men and one woman are standing to the right of the stone arch on the ground floor of the house. A bare-footed boy is standing to the left of the arch. Collection : Local Studies Printed Copy : If you would like a printed copy of this image please contact Newcastle Libraries www.newcastle.gov.uk/tlt quoting Accession Number : 003836

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St Ann’s Stairs

St Ann's Stairs
St Ann’s Stairs
These 99 stairs are unmarked but very easy to find, situated at the far end of the Quayside before Ouseburn and the Cycle Hub.

St Ann’s is also accessible from the quiet Breamish Street, as well much busier City Road and the 99 St Ann’s Stairs from the Quayside.

St. Ann’s is a Grade 1 listed church consecrated in 1768. There has been a church on this site since medieval times. The present church was largely built with stone from the City Walls. The churchyard is among the last within the city to be closed for burials and is the resting place of many who died in the last great cholera epidemic.

St Ann’s Church served as a Quayside church. Its various savings clubs, societies, guilds and festivals supported local Battlefield families through good times and bad. Today, St Ann’s gives its name to the whole Battlefield area, now a quiet council estate built in the 1960s to replace the older terraces.

St Ann’s Church is today the major landmark of the Battlefield, standing proud above the east Quayside. Originally established as a chapel of All Saints, the church became increasingly important to the area as the eastward expansion of the Quayside brought an influx of largely unskilled and semi-skilled workers to the area.

Until the 1880s much of the Battlefield was open ground, but thereafter the area was covered with terraces of flats and houses laid out in streets named after Northumbrian rivers – Pont Street, Breamish Street, Coquet Street, Wansbeck Street, Rede Street, and Blyth Street. These flats tended to be roomier and better built than similar properties in the lower Ouseburn, and Battlefield residents had a strong sense of local identity that focused more on the Tyne riverfront than the Ouseburn or Shieldfield.
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Croft Stairs

Croft Stairs
Croft Stairs
To get to Croft Stairs walk down Broad Chare, past the Live Theatre, to the open space outside the modern office block ‘Trinity One’. Croft Stairs should be in front of you.

Every so often a new development opens up a new space and this is the case with ‘Trinity One’, peer inside the building to see a magnificent atrium. Outside is an open space with an Art Work surrounded by Lime Trees. Leading up to the right are the Croft Stairs, to the left a pathway leads to All Saints, one of Newcastle’smany grade 1 listed churches.

Corner Tower Faded Sign
Corner Tower Faded Sign
Croft Stairs leads to the Corner Tower. A faded panel explains the Corner Tower, once part of the Town Walls.

The Corner Tower, on the east side of the circuit, was constructed between 1299 and 1307 where the walls make a 90 degree change of direction from north-south to east-west to encompass the suburb of Pandon, which was granted to Newcastle in 1298.

The tower had two turrets set at right angles and a buttress to the south. Wallknoll Gate (later called Sallyport Tower) was built in 1299 as a fortified gate tower, though smaller than the six main gates, and was used by members of the Trinitarian Friary among others. It was refurbished in medieval times, and reinforced and repaired more than once during the post-medieval period.

In the surviving remains of the Corner Tower you can see sections of the original wall coming from the north, built of regular soussed stone mooring smaller masonry forming the Tower near the angle. From the Tower the Wall ran eastward down the steep west bank of the Pandon Dene to Pandon Gate, now under City Road, before rising again to Sallyport Tower on the Wall Knoll.

This was never apparently a tower in the form of those elsewhere on the Town Wall. It is little more than a larger version of the covered watch turrets placed at regular intervals, along other parts of the circuit.

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Breakneck Stairs

Breakneck Stairs
Breakneck Stairs
Despite the name these stairs are in good condition and not particularly steep, there is no sign however. Breakneck Stairs are the stairs between Close and Hanover Street. The stairs start almost directly opposite the main roadside entrance to the Copthorne Hotel. There are two lower starting points, 100 meters apart, but the end or top point is much the same. There are about 115 stairs, good views from the top.

Near the top of the stairs it is necessary to cross over Hanover Street, one of the most beautiful cobbled roads in Newcastle, note the smooth paving stones to help horses pull carts up the slope. On the other side of Hanover Street are a few more steps leading to a large section of the Town Wall (Plaque).

Central Square Atrium
Central Square Atrium
Two large converted Office Buildings appear, left, Central Square 1 and 2. Walk between the two buildings for great views of a large Artrium and Cafe.

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Merchant Stairs

Merchant Stairs
Merchant Stairs
There is little information on these apparently modern stairs, presumable called Merchant because of their proximity to Merchant Quay, the bottom is on (the) Close and the top near the base of the Turnbull Building.

Once above the modern buildings there is a network of paths, which can be traversed to get better views of the Quayside and Turnbull Building. The sheer size of the Turnbull building is striking from this particular vantage point.

Orienteering clubs have been known to set themselves the strange challenge of ‘doing’ all the Newcastle Quayside stairs.

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Battery Stairs

Battery Stairs
Battery Stairs
Battery Stairs are easily missed, follow the alleyway from the Side, signposted ‘Side Photographic Gallery’.

There are only about 55 stairs, past a few office entrances, including Amber Films. The stairs end abruptly in a dead end. The gate above the stairs is kept locked and there is no access to Castle Garth but there is a good view of All Saints Church from the top of the stairs. The stairs have not been well maintained and care should be taken going up and down.

The name ‘Battery Stairs’ comes from the Half Moon Battery, part of the Castle that was demolished and replaced by crowded tenements in C17th of the same name.

The Side Gallery on the way down is a great place to stop and look at old photographs of the City.

George Stairs

George Stairs
George Stairs

Walk down Dean Street until Dean Street becomes ‘The Side’ and George Stairs are on the left hand side as you move toward to river.

At first sight George Stairs do not appear to lead anywhere. In the sixties a very different vision of Newcastle’s future prevailed, there was to be a city traversed by walkways, a glimpse of this future can be had from the top of the George Stairs. It is possible to walk from here to the back of the Primark (BHS) Building on Northumberland St, using nothing but these sixties walkways. Each year Newcastle Guides do a walk called ‘Unfinished Vision” which does precisely this.

George Stairs lead to a number of alleyways which offer elevated views of ‘The Side’ and the Tyne Bridge, great for photography at certain times of the day and night.

The George Stairs are easy to find. Walk down Dean Street, as Dean Street, becomes ‘The Side’, notice a turning on your right, marked George Stairs.

georgestairs5

Cale Cross House, is a startling green and white, modern building, visible to traffic using the Tyne Bridge. A picture can be had of this green and white building nestled in the railway arch near the top of the stairs.

George’s Stairs are mentioned in accounts of the Great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead (1854)