On the corner of New Bridge Street and Gibson Street, by the side of what is now the busy commuter route, the A193, heading east toward Byker.
Gibson Street Baths closed in 1965, and has not been used as swimming pool since then. Many of the orginal tiles and fixtures are still there but are inaccessible. The building is used occasionally as a badminton court.
Newcastle Civic Centre is a unique modern British building, very distinct from the majority of Victorian Civic Centres in other parts of the country. It cost 4.8 million pounds to build and was designed by local architect George Kenyon. Eight years in construction, the building was designed to relate to Newcastle’s history, it’s built like a castle, there is a garth or courtyard in the centre, it’s surrounded by big wide walls, there is a moat and a grand ceremonial entrance, the tower is lit up at the top a bit like St Nicholas Cathedral. Prominent artists and sculptures were contracted to add features to enrich the building. Newcastle’s Civic Centre is unique, probably the most prestigious post war civic centre in England.
The Civic Centre itself was opened in 1968 by King Olav of Norway, it is still where the city council operates from. Look out for three golden castles on top of the tower which form part of the city’s coat of arms, while the seahorses recall Newcastle’s maritime heritage. Just before the arches leading to the entrance, you’ll notice on the wall the impressive sculpture ‘Tyne God’. Beyond it, under the arches, is an equally arresting work, ‘The Swan’. The five bronze birds represent to the five Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
Outside on the path towards the church are three flagpoles where there is the carved stone commemorating the visit of former US President, Jimmy Carter, who famously drawled in his southern accent to the cheering crowds, “Howay the lads”, a popular cry of the followers of Newcastle United.
The Banqueting Hall is the place most people have been to in the Civic, whenever there is a ‘Do’, it tends to be held here. The Hall is meant to be like a “Grand Baronial Hall”, it has grand proportions 125ft long, 23ft high, slit ‘arrow’ windows, a wooden beamed roof, a minstrels gallery and a tapestry. The Tapestry is by John Piper, see below. There is a sprung dance floor. Look out for the 48 guild badges in the ceiling.
The walls are made from a special limestone that allows for carving. This allows the Banqueting wall to feature the names of all the Mayors and Sheriffs of Newcastle over a thousand year period, and hopefully for another thousand years. The wall also includes the names of those given the honorary Freemen of the City, people such as Alan Shearer, Bobby Robson, Jimmy Carter.
John Piper (artist) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Piper_%28artist%29Piper, the son of solicitor, Charles Piper, was born in Epsom, Surrey, in 1903. He was educated at Epsom College and trained at the Richmond School of Art, followed by the Royal…
Wander around Newcastle at night and the Civic Centre is illuminated in a beautiful purple light. An even more pronounced purple motif can be seen inside the building, with many of the carpets having a vivid purple colour. The company that made many of these carpets was County Durham based, Durham University has purple in its logo, coincidence? Who knows?
Three Tunnels run under the Civic Centre site. The Pandon Burn, the Tyne and Wear Metro and the Victoria Tunnel.
The Pandon Burn was a deep and wide glacial valley crossed by Barras Bridge and New Bridge Street, its waters are joined, before reaching the river, by the Erick Burn, which flows beneath the Laing Art Gallery. Pandon Dean cut across the Great North Road from beside Claremont Buildings to the gardens in front of the Civic Centre. It continued in a broad arc on the east side of Newcastle, down to the Tyne. Imagine a deep ravine slicing across the Great North Road next to the Civic Centre, replacing concrete and tarmac with a beautiful tree-lined dean. Well. Much of the dean was still there well into the 19th century, and some of it survived into the 20th century. At its widest parts, the dean was as broad as Jesmond Dene, probably wider.
The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath Newcastle from the Town Moor down to the Tyne. It was built in 1842 to transport coal from Leazes Main Colliery to riverside staithes ready for loading onto ships. In 1939, it was converted into an air-raid shelter to protect hundreds of Newcastle citizens during World War II.
victoria tunnel | Ouseburn Trusthttps://ouseburntrust.org.uk/victoria-tunnel/The Victoria Tunnel is a fully preserved 19th century waggonway under the city from the Town Moor to the Tyne, to transport coal from Spital Tongues (Leazes Main) Colliery to the river and operated between 1842 and the 1860s. The Tunnel was converted into an air raid shelter to protect Newcastle citizens during World War …
Newcastle Civic Centre has bells, surprising how many people don’t know that. There are 25 bells with a combined weight of 22 tonnes, the Bells are huge, with the largest one weighing 3.5 tons. The Bells are fixed, but the clappers move. The clappers are controlled by a keyboard, rather than bell ringers, its a Flemish instrument and the person controlling it is known as a Carilloner rather than a bell ringer. The Bells are played or are rung on special occasions, Newcastle Sunderland games and weddings 🙂 . The bells are normaly rung by a GP from Lanchester. At ground level the bells sound fairly muted, but from the Tower they are deafening.
The first Wednesday of each month, apart from August, the Council meets, there are chairs available for members of the public that want to attend. Why not try it? See the beautiful Council Chamber. You can’t vote of course, but the the Civic Centre is a proud participant in the NE1 ‘Use our Loos’ Campaign, so if you want to avail yourself of the facilities, you will be more than welcome! The Council Voting Chamber was built with 146 seats, far more than would ever be needed for Newcastle Upon Tyne city councillors. T. Dan Smith hopd the Council Chamber would at some point become home to a provincial assembly for North East England
The Tower is built of concrete with a Portland stone fascade, rather than traditional sandstone. Paradoxicaly the more exposed to the elements the stone is, the less stained it is likely to become. By way of contrast, Carliol House, the old electricity board building on Market St, also built from Portland stone, suffers badly from staining. Wind and rain wash stone clean and the Civic Centre Tower still looks remarkably good after fifty years, one reason to hope for more plenty of wind and rain!
The purpose of the Tower was not entirely ornamental, but to house the lift for the building.