Back in the 1950s, Baltic was a flour mills used to store grain, with the River Tyne being used as a key route for trading with Scandinavian and Baltic states. The company that built it had a habit of naming its warehouses after famous oceans of the world, hence its name. The Baltic Flour Mill was built by the Rank Hovis company to a late-1930s design by architects Gelder and Kitchen and completed in 1950. It was extended in 1957 by the addition of an animal feed mill. The mill was closed in 1981, and remained derilict for many years, it was one of a number of mills located along the banks of the Tyne, all of which, due to their size, were prominent local landmarks.
After ten years in the planning and a capital investment of £50m, including £33.4m from the Arts Council Lottery Fund, BALTIC opened to the public at midnight on Saturday 13 July 2002. The Baltic, the Sage and the Millenium Bridge all opened within 2 years of each other, together they have transformed the Quayside.
Location: Great North Museum, Barras Bridge, NE2 4PT
Walk up Claremont Road and you’ll see the Great North (formerly Hancock) Museum on your right, which is North East England’s natural history museum, and just the place for all manner of wonders from the natural world and the odd Egyptian mummy or two.
The Hancock Museum was closed on 23 April 2006 for refurbishment and did not reopen until 23 May 2009. It was completely refurbished and extended as part of the Great North Museum Project, at a cost of £26 million. The new museum includes new displays on natural history and geology, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, Romans and Hadrian’s Wall, World Cultures and Pre-history. It also includes an interactive study zone, an under 5’s space, and a digital Planetarium, as well as new learning facilities, a new temporary exhibition space, and a study garden.
The museum opened on its current site in 1884 after the collection of the Natural History Society outgrew its small museum, located on Westgate Road, which opened in 1834. A major benefactor to the museum was William Armstrong who gave the then large sum of £11,500. Armstrong had also founded the College of Physical Science which later became part of Newcastle University. The museum was renamed in the 1890s, after the local Victorian naturalists, Albany and John Hancock.
In 1959 the Natural History Society agreed with the University of Newcastle for the University to care for the building and collections, and since 1992 the University has contracted with Tyne & Wear Museums to manage the Museum under a Service Level Agreement.
The Lit and Phil was thus the first public building in the world to be lit by electric light bulbs. First Art Gallery in the world to be lit by gas and to stay open in the evening. The Lit and Phil also housed the first Lecture room to demonstrate the possibilities of the incandescent electric light bulb, before a fascinated audience of 700 at the Literary and Philosophical Society on 3 February 1879. Swan’s demonstration at the Lit and Phil came nine months before Edison managed to get a bulb to burn for thirteen hours continuously. The Lit and Phil is open to the public and has the largest independent library outside of London. Armstrong, Swan and Stephenson were all members of the Lit and Phil.
The Literary & Philosophical Society (Lit & Phil) is the largest independent library outside London, housing over 150,000 books. A wide selection of current fiction and non-fiction can be found alongside historical collections covering every field of interest. The Grade II* listed building was opened in 1825 and the magnificent reading rooms remain largely unchanged. Our collection is coupled with an extensive set of periodicals, providing an exceptional resource for both general reader and academic researcher.
In addition to the library, the Society hosts a wide range of events including book launches, concerts, lectures, readings and workshops that cover a variety of topics and issues. Both members and non-members are welcome to attend these events.
The Lit and Phil is a hidden gem that no visitor to Newcastle should miss.
The Discovery Museum is a large red brick building, topped with some green domes. The museum is well worth a visit, it’s pride and joy is surely Turbinia, a boat constructed by Sir Charles Parsons (1854-1931). ‘Turbinia’ epitomises the achievements of Sir Charles Parsons (1854-1931), world-renowned engineer and inventor. The ship is powered by his greatest invention, the first practical steam turbine, which transformed high-speed ship propulsion and established the foundation for present-day electrical power generation. It would make a good film, Parsons at the helm, Pipe in hand. The Discovery displays a replica of Joseph Swan’s first light bulb.
The Centre for life, opens out onto Times Square. The Centre for Life is actually the UK’s first biotechnology village and is well worth paying a visit, if you are interested in discovering just how amazing life is! Here you can meet your 4 billion year old family, find out what makes you unique, test your brainpower and enjoy the thrill of the motion simulator ride.
Also worthy of attention is the square itself, in the middle is a single stone building which was once the market manager’s office (this area used to house a bustling market).
Times Square, a large public space, in the middle of the Centre for Life is often used to host events, there is a Cafe some interesting sculpture and an old building. The old building is a relic of the market that once occupied this site. On the ground floor were the offices of the market keeper and the toll collector. Upstairs was living accommodation for the families of both. It was designed by the Newcastle architect John Dobson and built in 1840.
What better way to start a walk of Newcastle than to begin at the spot which gave Newcastle its name in 1080, Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror, was ordered to build it. If you don’t want to go inside, there are plenty of information panels to read outside.
Newcastle on the high ground overlooking a crossing point on the River Tyne. This new castle was a royal castle and was often home to the early Norman kings – somewhere they could hold court, sit in judgement and entertain. The Keep was the principle stronghold of what would have been a much larger castle complex than survives today. If you climb to the top of the battlements you will be rewarded by a bird’s eye view of the city. Turning left from the bottom of the stairs you will see the Moot Hall (1812).
The area surrounding you is a naturally defensible site with steep sides overlooking and running down to the River Tyne and has been occupied for nearly 2000 years.
From the mid second century the Roman fort of Pons Aelius stood here guarding the river crossing below until the beginning of the fifth century when Roman rule collapsed. The name Pons Aelius refers to the Roman name for bridge (pons) and the Emperor Hadrian whose family name was Aelius. Parts of Hadrian’s Wall are still visible today from Wallsend in the east to Carlisle on the west coast.
From the late seventh century until the construction of the Castle in 1080, the site was used as an extensive Saxon Cemetery. Even after the Castle had been built, burials continued within the area enclosed by its defences.
The ‘New Castle’, which gave the town its name, is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade 1 Listed Building. It was founded in 1080 by the eldest son of William the Conqueror, Robert Curthose, and built using earth and timber. There is evidence to argue that the Castle could have been of either motte and bailey or ringwork design. A motte and bailey castle consists of a mound on which a timber keep would stand, commonly known as the motte, and the land around and in front of it is known as the bailey, which was defended by a protective fence. A ringwork castle had no mound, but had an enclosing bank, with a ditch outside it.
Between 1168 and 1178 the castle was rebuilt in stone by Maurice the Engineer at a cost of just over £1,144, equivalent now to well over £600,000 Building work was interrupted by in 1173 when the castle was besieged by the Scots and again in 1174. This rebuilding produced the Keep that we can see today.
The Castle’s keep had two main functions – it was the principal strongpoints of the Castle and the living space for the commander of the garrison. It displays many important features, including the late Norman chapel, and the well, which is nearly 100 feet deep, allowing fresh water to be provided to the Castle, even during a siege.
Notable additions to the castle were made in the 13th century during the reign of King John (1207-1216) including the Great Hall which was built within the garth, the area enclosed by the castle walls. The last improvement to the defences was the addition of a barbican, now known as the Black Gate, between 1247 and 1250.
By the early 14th century the town and Castle were enclosed by the completion of the Town Wall, a fortified wall with six main gates, two postern gates, 19 towers and later medieval turrets, therefore reducing the Castle’s role to little more than a Royal supply base.
In 1400 Newcastle became a county in its own right, but the Castle Garth remained part of the County of Northumberland. The Keep became a prison for the county. The 13th century Great Hall, known as the Moot Hall (on the current site of the Vermont Hotel), was used by the assizes courts (courts which sat at regular intervals in each county of England and Wales).
In 1619 the Castle, with the exception of The Keep, Moot Hall and gaolers house, was leased by James 1 to Alexander Stephenson, one of the Kings courtiers. Stephenson allowed houses to be built, which doubled as workplaces, within the Castle walls.
When civil war broke out in 1642, the Castle was briefly refortified and became the last stronghold of the town’s Royalist defenders before it fell to a lowland Scottish Covenanter army, that was allied to the Parliamentarians, on 19th October 1644.
After the Civil War, houses were rebuilt and new ones were added until, by the end of the 18th century, the medieval Castle was almost completely concealed by dwellings. Clearance began in 1810, with construction f the new Moot Hall (to replace the medieval Moot Hall as the County Court) and was complete in 1847 when the first railway viaduct was built across the Castle Garth making it difficult to see the Keep and Black Gate as part of a single defensive structure.