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Newcastle – A Brief History

by Lisa Salisbury, Sep 2018

The first recorded settlement in what is today Newcastle consisted of a roman fort and bridge across the river Tyne named Pons Aelius. Hadrian showed particular interest in the area after founding it in 2 AD. Parts of Hadrian’s wall actually passed through Newcastle and can still be seen today.

After the departure of the romans in 410, Newcastle was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, known at the time as Monkchester

The Danes left the settlements on the river Tyne in ruins after conflict in 876. After this conflict, the rebellion of 1088 and the Odo of Bayeux left the city of Monkchester in ruins.

In 1080, Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror, erected a wooden castle in the town. From that point on, it was known as ‘Novum Castellum’ (New Castle). It was eventually changed to a stone structure and then rebuilt again in 1172 by Henry II. This period is where most of the architecture of the city today comes from.

The middle ages saw Newcastle fully incorporated into England by Henry II and taking on a new strategic importance, as the country’s northern defence. A 7.6-meter high stone wall was build around the city to protect it from the Scottish in the border wars.

1530 saw a royal act that restricted shipments of coal from Tyneside to Newcastle Quayside, giving an effective monopoly on the coal trade to a cartel known as the Hostmen. It was this monopoly that saw Newcastle become a prosperous town.

In the 1630’s, around a third of the population of Newcastle died of the plague. Specifically in 1636, around 47% of the population died; the biggest loss for any British city in this period.

The city was placed under siege and sacked by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. The king at the time bestowed upon the town the motto ‘Fortiter Defendit Triumphans’ (Triumphing by a brave defence).

In the 18th century, Newcastle became the countries 4th largest print centre and also became a brilliant producer of flint glass.

In June of 1882, Newcastle was officially granted the status of city. During the 19th century, the city became a powerhouse of the industrial revolution.

The slums were replaced by council housing from 1920 to 1970. During World War II, the city was a major target for air raids. 141 people in Newcastle would die in these air raids.

In 1996, Newcastle United broke the transfer record by purchasing Alan Shearer for £15 million.

Today, Newcastle hosts the Great Exhibition of the North, which describes the story of the north of England through its innovators, artists and businessmen