Blackett Street

City Centre  Saturday 20th May, 2000

This is Emerson Chambers on the north side of Blackett Street between Fenwick's Department Store and Monument Mall, a new commercial shopping centre that replaced a post office and faceless 1920s office block.

This building is the current home to Waterstone's bookshop, and it now stands alone, its nearest cousins being the Eldon Building opposite, one time venue for the "Eldon Grill" one of the pre 1967 oh so discreet meeting place for gay men.

Blackett Street was constructed in 1824 following the route of an earlier lane. It was named after John Blackett who died in 1814 aged 86 having been four times Mayor of the city during the eighteenth century.

The entrance to Eldon Square, the city centre shopping centre, built during the 1970s regeneration of the city following radical ideas of the now disgraced but visionary T. Dan Smith, is on the site of the previous High Friar Street. The curved frontage of the electricity showroom, centre, reflects the shape of the previous YMCA building.

The YMCA building was   opened in 1900, and facilities included a reading room, games hall, and a gymnasium mounted on rubber blocks to reduce sound transmission. There was also a meeting hall capable of holding 1,000 people.

In this 1920s photo you can see the single tram wires, the double wire trolleybus services did not start here until September 1937. Blackett Street is to the right of the picture, and the road to the left is High Friar Street. The name has been kept in part for the walkway through the new mall, called "High Friars"

In nearby Northumberland Street, this flautist entertained us with a selection of haunting melodies from the romantics. Claude Debussy was a hit with the shoppers. He played along to a pre recorded piano track and served up some hot lip action on his silver instrument.

This is the Rutherford Memorial Fountain, now standing at the junction of the Bigg Market and Grainger Street. The Bigg Market (Bigg is a mediŠval word for Barley) is still used on market days, but to a much lesser extent since its elevation to "Piazza" status during 1998.

At this time the red sandstone monument was cleaned and moved about 120 metres from the other end of the street. It originally stood in St. Nicholas' Square next to the cathedral, and was erected in 1894 to the memory of Doctor John Hunter Rutherford. This radical doctor pioneered free secondary and technical education for the city. It was moved to the Bigg Market in 1903. The 1974 photo below shows its previous position and the demolition of the Old Town Hall. For a brief period we could enjoy the cathedral from the north, until the present monolithic edifice to the everlasting glory of the Almighty Insurance Company spoilt the view.

This map of the centre of Newcastle as it was in the post war years up to the development of Eldon Square, the Central Motorway, and the Metro system will assist in placing some of the views

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