Cheap Street
Clayton/Westgate Lantern Tower

Clayton St.
Sat. 21st Oct., 2000

The grand transformation trio of the 19th century, Richard Grainger, planner and entrepreneur, John Dobson, architect and surveyor, and John Clayton, lawyer and Town Clerk shaped much of the present city centre.

Clayton Street, always a popular thoroughfare, linked the Cattle Market, and latterly Marlborough Crescent Bus Station, and Blackett Street and Eldon Square, passing Westgate Road and Newgate Street on the way.

It was opened late in the plans  in 1841. The lantern tower shown here stands atop a present day burger bar at the Westgate Road junction.

The western side of the southern part of Clayton Street was occupied by the the grand Crown Hotel. During the early 1980s the building was demolished behind its Granger fašade and rebuilt as apartments.

The original building was also used for ground floor offices and basement manufacturers, a combination that would hardly be tolerated today.

Richard Grainger had his house and offices just to the south of this doorway. This stretch of road between Westgate Road and Westmorland Road is now called Clayton Street West.

Clayton Street Crown Hotel Entrance
Clayton Street Foot, Life Centre

Here is the present south end of Clayton Street. The newly built Centre for Life Sciences now blocks progress where the final part of this street ran alongside the old cattle market at the head of Scotswood Road. The market was moved in the 1920s to a nearby site and a bus station built to provide for routes from the west and south.

Here, on the right, is Blundell's department store, now empty for about eight years. I fancy, even though local businesses have shown an interest in taking the lease on this property, the owner is holding on for a higher price, given that this area is due for massive "improvements". I shudder to think to what that might lead, given that dreadful Life building peeping through on the right.

Clayton Street, St. Mary's

St. Mary's Roman Catholic cathedral, opposite the Crown Hotel,  was built in 1842 and was dedicated in 1850. It was designed by A. W. N. Pugin. The spire was a later addition. Its slender finger pointing heavenwards was designed by A. M. Dunn and E. J. Hanson and was finished in 1873.

Clayton Street, Clarendon House

Clarendon House was a later addition, replacing the previous John Knox Church built by John Dobson in his plain style. The church was moved to Elswick Road when Clarendon House was built by the late Victorian profiteers. Even in the late 1800s this area was the subject of speculation. Surely all of those commercial rents would more than make up for the removal of a church, whose financial gain in the site was almost zero.

Pink Lane existed before the Grainger development. It follows the line of the mediŠval town wall from Westgate, past the Pink Tower at the point where the tobacco shop now stands, Gunner Tower where the grey building at the bend in the street can be seen now, to Postern Back Row and Stank Tower, where the Central Station now stands. (Stank = floodgate or strong bank)

The walls were built between 1265 with the passing of the "murage" act allowing the raising of taxes for walls and 1370. They protected the town from attacks by the Scots. This security allowed the town to flourish in churches, trade and commerce, so becoming a regional centre. The walls fell victim to the 18th and 19th century developers.

Pink Lane
Clayton Street, north from Fenkle Street

Richard Grainger's vision is clearly visible in this northerly view from near the junction with Westgate Road.

The tall neo-classical structures, at least twice the height of previous buildings, and the broad sweep of the streets logically linking areas of commercial and social interest were radical departures from the previous piecemeal patchwork of crumbling buildings.

Grainger's grand plan was not without its opposition, but he was able to raise finance to buy the land and relocate treasured resources, such as the Flesh Market and the Theatre to new homes in his vision for an integrated city centre, that avoided the grid iron monotony so favoured in the United States and parts of London during this period.

Clayton Street, should be CafÚ Clayton
Clayton Street, mid way along
Clayton Street, 1958 LTN 494

Photo property of Newcastle City Libraries

In 1973 Clayton Street was made one-way for traffic. This 1958 view shows trolleybus No. 494 edging slowly south, against the present day traffic flow. Below is a view from approximately the same position.

The site of Gordon's store in the older picture has now been replaced by the 1970s Newgate Shopping Arcade development. This replaced the Empire Theatre and Cinema buildings with a high rise hotel and shopping arcade. The fašade was "tastefully" blended into the existing architecture.

You can see that, despite the one way traffic scheme and the fact that this road now only gives car access to city  parking, it is still as congested and threatening to pedestrians as in the older shot.

Newgate Street crosses Clayton Street at the white building ahead, and the final section of Clayton Street, beyond the no-entry signs, used to lead to Blackett Street. Since 1975 and the construction of Eldon Square shopping mall, it has come to an abrupt end at its junction with Nelson Street. The blank wall of the new corporate vandalism stares blindly back at the utilitarian elegance that Grainger so easily created. Surely, Clayton Street is a lesson in how city streets can be pleasing, show good proportions, if a little narrow, and yet not excessively ornate, fussy or expensive.

Although Richard Grainger was a visionary risk taker, his plans were completed, even after his death. However, he was rendered bankrupt as others cashed in on his vision and bravery. He continued to work as a developer and planner until his sudden death at his offices in Clayton Street at the age of 64 on 4th July, 1861.

Clayton Street, north to Newgate Street
Clayton Street, the north end, what a shame!

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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