Previous to the construction of Grey-street, Pilgrim-street was the main highway through the town. Its name is said to be derived from the number of pilgrims who, in ancient times, passed along it on their way to the shrine at Jesus' Mount, now Jesmond, in the north-east vicinity of the town. Our northern margin brings us up to the open country, where Jesmond, with its beautiful cemetery, the extensive Town Moor, the Castle Leazes, the Nun's Moor, the Westgate Cemetery, and the numerous streets of well-built private houses, and the churches and chapels all erected within the last few years, all tend to show that it is in this direction we must principally look for the private residences of the principal inhabitants of Newcastle.

To the west and south-west of the centre of the town, we find more build­ings connected with the early history of Newcastle than in any other quarter. As in the eastern division, we will begin at the river, and ascend to the higher parts of the town. First then for the Close which runs from Sandhill to the Forth Bank. It is a narrow street crowded with all kinds of manufactories, warehouses, and wharfs. Yet this street was formerly the dwelling place of the leading inhabitants of the town, among whom were the Earl of Northumberland and Sir William Blackett. One of the large buildings on the  south side, now occupied as a warehouse, was for many generations the Mansion House, in which civic festivities ran their career of glory. Immediately north of the Close, and forming the most conspicuous objects from the two bridges, are the Castle and the County Courts, crowning the summit of the ascent. The two buildings are very near each other, and the open space of ground between and around them is called the Castle Garth. The County Court comprises the Moot Hall for Northumberland,  where the assizes are held. It is a fine commodious building erected about forty years ago, on the site of a Roman station. Not far from the castle is St. Nicholas' Church, by far the most remarkable in Newcastle. If there were nothing else about it to attract attention, its delicately supported spire,  would be an object of interest, but in addition to this it has the claims of antiquity in its favour. This church lies at the southern extremity of a wide line of street, which probably formed, at one period, the main thoroughfare of the town, and the names of Groat Market, Cloth Market, and Bigg Market, applied to different portions of its length, seem to indicate that the markets of Newcastle were once held here.

To the west of the castle lies an irregular mass of streets, occupied partly by factories, and partly by poor dwellings. Nothing picturesque need be looked for, until we pass the Forth Field and Forth Bank, which, in the middle of the last century [i.e. the 18th], were the principal promenades of Newcastle. But brick and stone, population and industry, have by little and little, crept up and over the Forth, until scarcely a vestige of it now remains. One portion has been converted into a Cattle Market, the Infirmary is situated upon another, while a third portion has been swallowed up by the Central Railway Station.


William Whellan & Co., History of Northumberland, 1855

30 January 2007


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