The centre of Newcastle is known as Grainger Town, after Richard Grainger, who was responsible for building it. His main architect was John Dobson and together they transformed the city centre from timber to stone. The architectural style they used to design their buildings, known as ‘Tyneside Classical’, formed streets so stately and gracious that Radio 4 listeners were moved to vote Grey Street Britain’s best street.
Hang out with Earl Grey
At the north end of Grey Street is Grey’s Monument, raised to commemorate the passing of the Great Reform Bill of 1832, for which Earl Grey was responsible. He faces south, towards the River Tyne and stands 41 metres (133 feet) above the ground. If you want to find out what he can see, take advantage of the occasional opening of the monument, when you can climb the spiral staircase and access the viewing platform. The monument was completed in 1838, with a time capsule containing coins and medals buried underneath. It was designed by John Baily, who later created Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. The area around the monument is very lively and a good place to people-watch. You can see buskers perform, and the occasional demonstration has been held here. All kinds of shops can be found, both high street and designer, and you can conduct your people-watching from the many cafes and restaurants, some of them with tables outside. Just a couple of steps away is the Theatre Royal, a beautiful Grade 1 listed building – and reputedly haunted by the ‘Grey Lady’!
Explore Grainger Town
There is more to Grainger Town than Grey Street, though. It covers a good sized area and includes Grainger Street and Blackett Street. Grainger bought an old mansion and its grounds, demolished it and began the development of the city centre. In 1893 the Eldon Grill, on the corner of Grey Street and Blackett Street, was built. It was apparently a gay meeting place of the time. Again there’s a good variety of shops in the area, and be sure not to miss the historic Grainger Market off Grainger Street.
The Eldon Grill was named after John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, who was the son of a wealthy coal mine owning family. Although later becoming very conservative and mistrustful of change, he, in his younger days, eloped to get married. The house of his prospective wife, Bessie Surtees, can be seen in Sandhill, on the Quayside, and is a fine example of Jacobean architecture. It is the offices of English Heritage, who have an exhibition there which you can view.
Within sight of the Eldon Grill is the modern Monument Mall, and, by way of contrast, just to its left is the Brunswick Methodist Chapel, a Grade 2 listed building. Nearby is Eldon Square, a shopping mall, and Old Eldon Square, which was originally a large residential square designed by John Dobson. If it’s fine, why not take a picnic there?
Only buses are allowed in an area which used to be very congested with traffic, leaving it free for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.
Newcastle is a fascinating city, with something for everyone. It is in easy reach by train from most other places, especially London from where the east coast line connects directly with Newcastle. So come and enjoy it!
The closest hotel in relation to the city centre is Grey’s Hotel located just along for Grey’s monument. This 4 star hotel, which is a grade II listed building, on this prestigious street blends beautiful the historic building and modern facilities.