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Newcastle, medieval town








Documentary Evidence

Newcastle developed at the lowest bridging point across the River Tyne, where the river is fairly narrow and flows between high steep banks. Several streams flowed into the Tyne through deep ravines, indeed the Lort Burn split the town into two. The flat land between the foot of the bank and the riverside above the site of the medieval bridge was made up of sandy material ('Sandhill') and was probably frequently under water. The present ground level is artificial, the result of reclamation. It is therefore suggested that Newcastle originated at the top of the river bank, with riverside development on reclaimed land being secondary. A new castle (HER 101) of motte and bailey type was founded in 1080. A second stone castle with tower keep was built on the same site in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a new gatehouse, the Black Gate added in the mid thirteenth century. It is not certain when the medieval bridge (HER 310) was built over the River Tyne, but it seems likely that it was built in the late twelfth century. The bridge gave access to a triangular space called Sandhill (first referenced in 1310) at the mouth of the Lort Burn. The guildhall and a market cross (Cale Cross) were located here. From Sandhill you could climb the steep bank from the west via the Side (first referenced in 1366) or eastwards up All Hallows Bank (first referenced 1586) , later Butcher Bank (Akenside Hill today). There were three main streets running north from the top of the bank - Pilgrim Street (vicus peregrinorum, first referenced in c.1230) which followed the east bank of the Lort Burn; the market street (vicus fori, first referenced before 1235, now Newgate Street and Bigg Market) on the west side of the Lort Burn; and Westgate (first referenced in 1163-80) which ran north-west from Tuthill Stairs. At the foot of the market street was the parish church of St. Nicholas (in existence by 1100). Further up the bank stood the Benedictine nunnery of St. Bartholomew (probably founded in the mid twelfth century). At the top of the street stood St Andrew's church (again twelfth century). At the southern end of Pilgrim Street was All Saints Church (later twelfth century). The street continued north (now Northumberland Street) to cross the Pandon Burn by the Barras Bridge. The leper hospital of St. Mary Magdalene stood near to the Barras Bridge. The twelfth century hospital and chapel of St. Mary the Virgin stood on Westgate. Opposite it was St. John's Church. The main streets were linked by minor streets (chares) and burgage plots. Baylygate (first referenced in 1354) ran westwards from opposite the Bailey Gate of the castle. Low Friar Street, Pudding Chare (1333), Denton Chare (1425) and St. John's Chare linked Westgate to the market street. Brother Char (or Friarminor, Bareforfriar or Greyfriar, later High Friar Street, 1251-59) and the Denebrig (1334, later Overdenebrigg then High Bridge) linked the market street with Pilgrim Street. Cowgate (1272-3, upper part Austin Chare, later Manor Chare) linked Pilgrim Street to the Pandon Dene. All Saints or All Hallows Street (later Silver Street) ran along the north side of All Saints' churchyard, Dog Bank along the south side. The minor streets split the burgage plots into street blocks which became developed with small tenements. Newcastle became a borough in the twelfth century under Henry I. By 1200 it was a wealthy port. Newcastle received the four principal orders of friars - the Franciscans or Grey Friars from at least 1237 on the west side of Pilgrim Street; the Dominican or Black Friars by 1239 behind Low Friar Street; the Carmelite or White Friars in 1262 on Wallknoll in Pandon (separate village until the thirteenth century). The Trinitarians took over the Carmelite Friary site in 1360. The Friars of the Sack arrived some time around 1266 at Clavering Place and in 1307 the Carmelite Friars took over their site. The Austin Friars arrived around 1291, setting up their precinct south of the




Barbara Harbottle and Peter Clack, 1976, 'Newcastle upon Tyne: Archaeology and Development' in P.A.G. Clack and P.F. Gosling, 1976, Archaeology in the North - Report of the Northern Archaeological Survey, pp. 111-132; H. Bourne, 1736, History of Newcastle upon Tyne; J. Brand, 1789, History of Newcastle upon Tyne; R.J. Charleton, n.d., History of Newcastle; C.M Fraser and K. Emsley, 1973, Tyneside; W. Gray, 1649, Chorographia (reprinted 1884); W.H. Knowles and J.R. Boyle, 1890, Vestiges of Old Newcastle and Gateshead; S. Middlebrook, 1950, Newcastle upon Tyne; Northumberland County History Volume 13; A.M. Oliver, 1924, Early Newcastle Deeds (Surtees Society 137); T. Oliver, 1831, A new Picture of Newcastle upon Tyne; J. Raine et al, 1835-1929, Northumberland and Durham Deeds (Surtees Society 38); R. Welford, n.d., History of Newcastle and Gateshead; W. Collard and M. Ross, 1841, Architectural and Picturesque Views in Newcastle upon Tyne (reprinted 1971); R.F. Walker, 1976, The Origins of Newcastle upon Tyne; P. Winter, D. Milne, J. Brown and A. Rushworth, 1989, Northern Heritage - Newcastle upon Tyne; F. Graham, 1976, Historic Newcastle; P.J. Brown, 1929, Canny Newcastle - Some Scattered Threads of a Romantic Story Collected and Tied in a Bunch; Tyne and Wear Council Archives Department, n.d., Discovering Old Newcastle - an archive-linked historical trail; T. Dibdin, 1968, Newcastle in 1836; G. Daphne Rendel, 1898, Newcastle on Tyne - Its Municipal Origin and Growth; Grace McCombie, 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead - Pevsner Architectural Guides; Barbara Harbottle, 2009, The Medieval Archaeology of Newcastle in Diana Newton and AJ Pollard (eds), 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead before 1700, pages 23-40; Diana Newton and AJ Pollard (eds), 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead before 1700; David H Heslop and Grace McCombie, 2013, The Making of Newcastle in Jeremy Ashbee and Julian Luxford (eds), 2013, Newcastle and Northumberland - Roman and Medieval Architecture and Art, The British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XXXVI, pp 1-17; Manuscript Cotton Augustus I.ii.4 held by the British Library (a Tudor view of Newcastle); Samuel Buck, 1723, The South Prospect of Newcastle upon Tyne taken from Gateshead Church Steple, (engraving) in the Coleraine collection of British topography in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of London; Wenceslaus Hollar, 1655, The River of Tyne, map held by Newcastle City Library; M.R.G. Conzen, 1962, The plan analysis of an English city centre in K. Norborg (ed), 1962, Proceedings of the IGU symposium in urban geography Lund 1960, pp 383-414 reprinted in J.W.R. Whitehand (ed), 1981, The urban landscape: historical development and management, Institute of British Geographers Special Publication No. 13, pp 25-53

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