This ancient and interesting town - the last great centre of enterprise towards the northern margin of England, the last place in which industry, population, shipping, commerce, and wealth, present themselves on that scale of magnitude, which gives rank and importance to a town - is situated on the left bank of the Tyne opposite to Gateshead, 15 miles N.W. of Durham, 56 miles E. of Carlisle, 76 miles N.W. by W. of York, 117 miles S.E. of Edinburgh, and 373 miles N.W. of London. If population be the criterion of prosperity, Newcastle can boast of its full share, for it has more than doubled the number of its inhabitants since the commencement of the present century. Its population in 1801 was 33,048; in 1811, 32,537; in 1821, 41,794 ; in 1831, 53,613; in 1841, 70,337; and in 1851, it had increased to 87,748 souls. At the latter period it contained 10,441 inhabited houses, 311 uninhabited, and 163 in process of erection.

The situation of Newcastle possesses many remarkable features. The busy Tyne separates it from Gateshead, which bears a similar relation to Newcastle as Southwark does to London, or Salford to Manchester. The town occupies the steep slopes which, rising from the banks of the river, stretch away into suburbs that have little need of distance to lend them charms. The lower portion of Newcastle, next to the river, has crept along, east and west, year after year, until it now extends almost three miles in length, while on the edge of the dingy stream are closely crowded warehouses and workshops, with thronged approaches to the ships and barges that make another town upon the river. But, conspicuous above the sombre dwellings, and distinguished from the reeking stores and smithies, are civic halls and churches, claiming reverence for antiquity even in the presence of hugest modern marvels.

There is, perhaps, no town in England whose present state and appearance are more in contrast with its earlier condition and character, than Newcastle. It owes its origin to war, its establishment to the spirit of religion, and its increase to the spirit of commerce. It has been the resting place of many an army, and, in later days, of many a traveller, on the line of route to and from Scotland. It marks the eastern extremity of a wall which shielded the Roman legions from the barbarians of the north, and it speckles the shores of the Tyne, and gives to that river the appearance of one continuous harbour. It is the outlet whence vast cargoes of manufactured produce find their way to the south of England and to foreign climes; it is the very centre of the coal district, and the birth-place of railways and locomotives. Its old castle and churches indicate its connexion with antiquity, while its ranges of houses and shops, such as no other town in England can excel, and few can equal, prove the spirit of modern activity which animates its people. It has, within and around it, a population singularly varied, by the impress which particular employments give to those engaged therein. The Tyne, too, works unceasingly, bearing upon its bosom to the ocean, vessels of every size and shape, laden with the treasures - rough, and coarse, and dirty, but yet treasures, - which the town and its neigbourhood [sic] produce. Newcastle may be divided into three divisions, the "Old" the "Upper" and the "Central" towns, through which we now invite the reader to proceed. We will commence with :— THE OLD TOWN.


William Whellan & Co., History of Northumberland, 1855

22 January 2007


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Steve Bulman