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History and Haunting of Newcastle upon Tyne

Updated on April 6, 2014


The original settlement at Newcastle was a Roman fort and bridge over the river which was called Pons Aelius. It was named for and founded by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD and by that time, there were around 2000 people living there. Hadrian’s Wall entered the city and parts of it can still be seen, especially along West Road. The wall’s route continues to Segedunum fort at Wallsend and the supply fort at South Shields called Arbeia.

After the Romans left Britain in 410, Newcastle was a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria and was known as Monkchester. However, the settlement was nearly destroyed by raids from the Danes as well as devastation inflicted by Odo of Bayeux after the rebellion against the Normans. A wooden castle was erected in 1080 by William the Conqueror’s son Robert Curthose and the town was known as Novum Castellum or New Castle.

Newcastle Keep


Middle Ages

Newcastle served as England’s main northern fortress during the Middle Ages. It was incorporated by Henry II and given a charter in 1589 by Queen Elizabeth. A stone wall was built around the town in the 13th century to help in holding back raids from the Scots and the Scots king William the Lion was even held prisoner in the town in 1174. Edward I brought the Stone of Scone to Newcastle and William Wallace was also brought through the town when being taken south. It repelled raids from the Scots on three occasions and was given its own sheriff in 1400 by Henry IV.

Sights around Newcastle

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A markerNewcastle Keep, Newcastle -
Castle Keep, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 1RQ, UK
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B markerTyne Bridge, Newcastle -
Tyne Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1, UK
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C markerRedheugh Bridge, Newcastle -
Redheugh Bridge, Tyne and Wear, UK
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D markerGrainger Town, Newcastle -
Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1, UK
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E markerQuayside, Newcastle -
Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK
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F markerMillennium Bridge, Newcastle -
Gateshead Millenium Bridge, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE8 3BA, UK
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G markerTheatre Royal, Newcastle -
Theatre Royal, 7 Market Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, City Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear
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H markerChinatown, Newcastle -
Chinatown, Stowell Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 4YB, UK
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1600 - 1900

A royal act from 1530 restricted all coal shipment from Tyneside to Newcastle Quayside, giving a monopoly to the Newcastle burgess known as the Hostmen. Coal was first recorded as being taken into the town in 1538, and the monopoly helped the growth and prosperity of the town. It also had a negative impact on neighbouring Sunderland, causing a Tyne-Wear rivalry which still exists in different forms today.

During the Civil War, Newcastle remained loyal to the king and was besieged in 1644 for a number of months then stormed and sacked by Cromwell’s Scots allies, who were based in Sunderland, which was a pro-Parliament settlement.

By the 19th century, heavy engineering and especially shipbuilding was at the heart of the city’s prosperity. Local innovations included the development of safety lamps, Lord Armstrong’s artillery, Stephenson’s Rocket, Be-Ro flour, Charles Parsons’ invention of the steam turbine which led to the revolution of marine population as well as cheap electricity, and Joseph Swan’s electrical light bulbs.

Tyne Bridge


A Tour Around the City

Recent History

As the motor car became a common way of life, the road network of the city was improved and saw the opening of two new bridges; the Redheugh road bridge (1900) and the iconic Tyne Bridge (1928). The first art gallery in the city opened in 1901, the Laing Art Gallery, which was named for Alexander Laing. He was a Scottish wine and spirit merchant who founded the museum having made his fortune in Newcastle. The Museum of Science and Industry opened in 1934, as did the John G Joicey Museum.

The Great Depression hit the city hard during the 1930s, and the city’s last coal pit closed in 1956. The shipyards on the Tyne also saw a slow demise, until the 1990s when it ended. A new major employer was Newcastle University, which opened in 1963 followed by the Newcastle Polytechnic in 1969, which later became Northumbria University.



Areas of the City

Chinatown is an area of Newcastle north-west of Grainger Town centred around Stowell Street and is marked by a Chinese arch, or paifang, which was erected in 2005.

The Quayside, on the banks of the River Tyne, is overlooked by the bridges including the Tyne Bridge and Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge, built in 1849 and the first road-rail bridge in the world. The new Gateshead Millennium Bridge also joins Newcastle on the quayside.

Grainger Town is the historic heart of the city and features streets designed by Richard Grainger, from 1835-1842. In this area is the Grainger Market, Theatre Royal, Grey Street, Grainger Street and Clayton Street with four storey high buildings, domes, turrets and spikes being common. Of the 450 buildings in the area, 244 are listed, and 29 of those are the top grade I.

Millennium Bridge


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Tyne Cinema



Castle Keep

Castle Keep is all that remains of the medieval fortress which gave the city its name. On the same site is the Black Gate, its fortified gatehouse. The original castle was built by Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror with the Black Gate being added in from 1247-1250 by Henry III.

The Castle Keep can probably boast to being the most haunted spot in Newcastle, as testified by many different sightings. There is a range of general hauntings, such as ghostly footsteps in empty corridors, strange mists on photos as well as odd dark shadows and cold spots as well as people being touched by unseen hands.

One of the busiest places for ghosts is the Queens Chamber. There have been reports of chanting echoing around the keep from the chamber as well as a lady having been spotted. Some visitors have reported being scratched and pushed.

Poppy Girl is another ghost of the keep. Legend tells that she was a flower girl sent to prison for owing someone money. She was raped and murdered while in prison in the keep and is often seen on the stairs. Her presence is accompanied by the smell of flowers.

Society of Literature and Philosophy

The Society is located in a grade II listed building between Central Station and Castle Keep. It houses the largest collection of literature and music in its library outside London and was built on a site which was originally part of Hadrian’s Wall. The Society itself was founded in 1793 as a conservative club and often displayed new technologies, such as Stephenson’s Miners Lamp.

The Society’s building rates alongside the Keep as the most haunted building in Newcastle with some sources claiming as many as 16 ghosts! Disembodied sounds such as pages of books turning and footsteps are reported as well as the feeling of being watched on the second floor from a balcony above.

The busiest area is the book storage area in the basement where people have reported being watched, as well as strange drops of temperature and inexplicable EMF readings during paranormal investigations.

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Tyne Theatre

Before modern sound effects, the Tyne Theatre had a piece of equipment which was used to make thunder which ran on a metal track around the top of the sets, over the heads of the upper gallery and behind the stage again. To make it work, a heavy bowling ball was placed on it and left to run the course, making the sound effect. One night, the track buckled and the ball fell, hitting a man in the audience and killing him instantly. After the accident, the track was removed, and an alabaster figure was placed in the dead man’s seat as a memorial. The ghost of the man has been seen since then by numerous witnesses and even makes his way to the dressing room.

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Tyneside Cinema

The cinema stands on the corner of Pilgrim Street and High Friars and is built on a site which was originally the home to the Franciscan Monks, or Grey Friars going back to 1267. The monastery was destroyed in a fire with the monks still inside and in 1580, the Newe House was built on the site. It later became a jail and held King Charles I for ten months before he was executed during the Civil War. The modern Newe House was built in early 1900s and was opened as a theatre in 1937 by Dixon Scott, great-uncle to Ridley and Tony Scott.

Unsurprisingly, monks are said to haunt the site and their chanting is heard in the lower parts of the building. Apparitions have been sighted in the office areas as well as on the stage. There are also reported of lights working on their own.

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