The influence of Newcastle permeates Tyneside. It is
the Major shopping centre and seat of a crown court and government offices. Its dominance
stems from the fact that it is situated at the northern end of the lowest bridge crossing
of a navigable river. (The Tyne) This was of immense commercial and originally military
importance. The first bridge was built by the Romans and named Pons Aelius in honour of
the Emperor Hadrian in about 122. A fort was sited on the cliff above with a spur wall
running to the main wall. This bridge did not survive the dark ages.
The Norman's who built their New Castle on the Roman site,
restored the bridge, which was again in use by the mid-twelfth century. Slightly more of
old Newcastle survives than might have been expected. The castle keep and nearby gatehouse
are cherished, although the main east coast railway line runs just inches between them.
Sections of the original town walls survive as well as towers and turrets.
Richard Grainger redesigned the centre of the city in
the 1830's, and recently the city was enhanced by the Eldon Square shopping centre.
Outside the cities Central railway station is a
statue to the man who helped more than anybody to bring railways to the people, George
Stephenson. Apart from the Tyne Bridge the river is crossed by 5 more bridges, one of
these being the High Level Bridge, designed by George Stephenson's son Robert. However,
the massive steel arch of the Tyne Bridge is now the City's signature and is perfectly
mirrored by the new Gateshead Millenium Bridge. Another major monument stands at the very
heart of the city; Grey's monument commemorates the passing of the reform act in 1832.
Earl Grey (Yes, the one the tea was named after) was prime minister at the time.