Odd bits
Sat. 23rd Dec., 2000

Alfred Glover designed this floozie in the act of diving into oblivion. She has been eternally teetering on the brink since 1932.

She stands on the Northern Goldsmith's clock at the corner of Pilgrim Street and Blackett Street. She is made of gilded bronze. Her sister stands on the corner of Clayton Street and Westgate Road.

The sound of the clock chimes are surprising. The clangs seem to be far too loud and imposing to come out of such a small box. I suspect some electronic assistance has been employed!

This week I have not chosen a theme, but just some bits suggested from emails that I have received.

Is there water down there yet?
This quartet are here but seldom seen

This is number 45 Northumberland Street.

Most shoppers see the Xmas Box and its wares in their headlong rush towards the festive season. However, above the shop front, protected against the ravages of birds and their caustic droppings by a mesh are four famous Tynesiders.


Thomas Bewick was an Internationally renowned wood engraver. He was born in Cherryburn in 1753 and showed remarkable talent at an early age. He was apprenticed to a famous Newcastle engraver at the age of 14.

Bewick's subjects were derived from the natural world. He is most remembered fro his "British Birds" published in 1804.

He worked with his former Master in Newcastle for many years and died in Gateshead in 1828.

The birds canot get their revenge on Thomas!
Hotspur was rather unsuccessful

Harry Hotspur, or Sir Henry Percy, was knighted at the age of 11. He was the first son of Henry, 1st Earl of Northumberland, being born in 1364. By 14 he was fighting at the siege of Berwick, defending Northumbria and England against the Scots.

In 1388 the Scots again planned an incursion into north England, this time by way of Carlisle. During the ferocious hand to hand fighting at the walls of Newcastle near Gallowgate, the Scottish Earl of Douglas seized Henry's flag and swore to fly it from his stronghold at Dalkeith near Edinburgh.

Sir Henry could not live with that humiliation and pursued Douglas to Otterburn where the Scots earl was slain, but Henry and his brother were

taken prisoner. A hefty ransom secured their release, 3,000 of which was contributed by the king, Richard II. Mainly at the instigation of his father, Sir Henry sided with the Lancastrians waiting for an opportunity to topple the King. They waited many years until the reign of Henry IV and in 1403 after a very public squabble he proclaimed himself and his forces against the ruler. He recruited the then Earl of Douglas, son of the earlier slain Earl, Owen Glendower, leader of the Welsh, and Thomas Earl of Worcester.

His final showdown was at Shrewsbury, where he found the King's forces had arrived first. Percy retreated to nearby Whitchurch on the English side of the Welsh border. The following day the Royalists pursued the battle after some talks, and Hotspur was killed. The remaining rebels were either captured or dispersed. Sir Henry's body was buried in Whitchurch, but was dug up a few days later to be paraded around Shrewsbury as a trophy. His head was chopped off and it was spiked on the city walls at York.

Sir John Marley defended the King's interest in the town during the Civil War and later became Mayor.

During the Siege of Newcastle in 1644 when the ravaging Scots, on the verge of taking the town in the name of Parliament, threatened to destroy the tower of St. Nicholas Church, now the Cathedral, with cannon-fire lest the town resist further. Tradition has it that Sir John Marley proceeded to place Scottish prisoners within the structure to save its very existence - and save it he did!

The town was surrounded, the Roundheads had their local headquarters at nearby Sunderland. The royalist garrison rejected commands to surrender and at 5pm on the 19th October 1644, after a day of artillery bombardment

Flowing locks and pantaloons did not save him

and mine explosions had left huge gaps in the town walls, the town was finally stormed and captured. John Marley and some of the garrison retreated to the castle keep and resisted for a few more days before surrendering.

The whole town had suffered damage in the course of the siege. It was reported that people in the lower part of the town were forced to flee to the upper parts to escape gunfire from Callender's batteries on the Gateshead riverbank. Large sections of the town wall were completely demolished, St Andrew's church was badly damaged and many houses destroyed.

You can tell I'm rich; I've got a handbag

Roger Thornton rose from humble beginings to become a wealthy merchant and the town's mayor and MP at the end of the 14th century.

This blaze lit up the sky

Photograph copyright Newsquest (NE) Ltd.

The date is December, 1969, and opposite those statues Callers Department store burns. Those Christmas decorations add a curiously poignant touch, there was no jolity here as the fire brigade battled to save the shop and its neighbours. Hours of high pressure hoses were not enough to save the store and it was demolished after the fire.

Those hoses look puny compared with the fire

Photograph copyright Newsquest (NE) Ltd.

Here is the same scene as that top photo today. Callers has been replaced by J.D. Sports, that big HMV emporium and the neighbouring Dixon's electrical store.

That new development nearest the camera is the result of rebuilding during the same era, but as a result of the construction of parallel John Dobson Street and the Central Library complex.

The bells of Xmas - the cash registers!
The old stuff is modern now

Here is the southern end of the new section. The Superdug building is all that now remains of this section of 1880s Northumberland Street. Even the older buildings have been extensively altered on their ground floors to increase their retail space and accessibility.

The upper floors are given over to beauty parlours and hair restoration clinics.

The northern end of the new replacement for the fire damaged Callers store is adjacent to those Ionian columns and the now home of Mc Donlad's fast food store. You can see that the upper part of this edifice is just for show!

In the distance you can see that the previous C&A Modes shop has been taken over by Primark, a newcomer to the area, purveyor of clothing and household goods. British Home Stores still shares this building.

Dixon's store looks like a giant radiator
Do they cre that the new is so out of place?

Here pre Christmas shoppers pass the site of that disastrous fire. This would hardly be possible today as furnishings are fire retarding, sprinkler systems are mandatory, and smoking is generally forbidden in the stores.

It was almost certain that a  cigarette caused the smouldering that turned into a blaze. There was no Christmas cheer in the street that year.

Finally, below is a view of the Central Station in 1977 when the Metro was being built. This section of tunnel was cut and cover, but the station below was excavated, the hole here being the entrance and exit. The portico was partly dismantled to avoid damage, However, the contractors managed to smash two of the three famous clocks.

During this period, 1972 to 1980 Newcastle seemed to be all holes and temporary road diversions. Residents were treated to some strange views and the whole city seemed like a massive building site.

Other cities have reintroduced trams or other rapid transit solutions by using reserved surface track. It seems that Newcastle was alone in planning a brand new underground railway system.

Most stations were built deliberately larger than it seemed necessary at the time, but today longer trains carry more passengers than those original plans predicted.

Not all new stuff is bad, though

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

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