Newcastle gained its name from the “new castle” built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, son of William I. This was basically a strong wooden tower erected on a man-made earthen mount. It was replaced, 100 years later, by Henry II who built a massive stone keep with a surrounding wall. Although there is virtually no trace of the wall, we can still admire the keep, more than 900 years since its original construction. The building of a separate town wall commenced in the 13th century, within100 years of the completion of Henry II’s castle. As a result of the building and subsequent strengthening of the town wall, the defensive wall round the castle keep was, in effect, redundant. When completed, the town wall was two miles long and included seven gates and a series of nineteen strong, semicircular towers interspersed by lookout turrets. The sections of the wall which still exist, and which feature in this walk, give a good idea of the impressive defences possessed by Newcastle in medieval times.
As you pass through the station concourse, notice the posters of Newcastle United stars by Bob Olley. Exit from St James Metro station, bear right and walk past the car park on your right to join a road (Gallowgate). Turn left and walk to the second set of traffic lights. Turn right to cross the road and walk to the ancient parish church of St Andrew. The origins of the present building date from the 12th century and it is generally recognised as the oldest of the city’s churches (A).
Turn right, at the second gate, into the church grounds. Walk to the left of the building past the main entrance. Beyond the church, on your right are two sections of the town wall. Retrace your steps to exit the church grounds and turn right. Walk a few yards and turn right to go up St Andrew’s Street (formerly Darn Crook). At the junction turn left into Stowell Street, Newcastle’s Chinatown. Walk ahead and, opposite the Shangri-la restaurant - just before No 41, Norden House, go through the archway on the left to Blackfriars and its monastic remains. Walk ahead, then take the last path on the right onto the paved area leading to the buildings and two information panels which give a historical summary and details of recent renovations (B).
Exit through the arch, past a café/bar, and turn right. Proceed ahead. Cross Stowell Street to an information panel which gives details of the nearby town wall. Go through the opening in the wall. From here you have a good view of this section. The stone-built three storey building ahead is the former fever hospital (1808). Turn left and proceed round the tower remains, then cross Stowell Street and continue ahead on the path, with the town wall on your left. At the end of the road, cross by the traffic lights to the Tyne Theatre and Opera House (originally a theatre, then for some years a cinema before being returned to its original use). Turn left and walk a short distance, then turn second right into the pedestrian section of Pink Lane. Proceed to the junction with Clayton Street. Turn right, walk to the traffic lights and cross over to Bewick Street. On the right is the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St Mary (Pugin 1842-4 – the spire was added in 1872); its Cloister Café is open to the public (C).
Walk down Bewick Street. At the bottom you can admire the statue of Cardinal Basil Hume (Nigel Boonham 2002). Opposite is the railway station with its splendid portico (John Dobson 1846-50). Turn left, walk past the Thistle Hotel, then turn left into Grainger Street. Proceed to the crossroads. Turn right to cross the road at the lights. On the opposite side of the road is St John the Baptist’s Church. The tower is 15th century but the building’s origins are much earlier. The walk continues by proceeding ahead on the pavement past the Long Bar on your right. At a stone pillar (with an explanatory plaque below), turn right and walk a few yards to the traffic lights. Cross to an island with the monument to George Stephenson (1862), the noted railway engineer, by the distinguished sculptor John Lough (1798-1876). Turn immediately right and cross by the traffic lights. Turn left and walk a few yards to turn into Orchard Street. Proceed ahead through the tunnel to arrive at a crossroads near The Telegraph pub. On the right is Central Square, an award – winning refurbishment of the former Post Office sorting office. The sculpture Vulcan (the blacksmith of the gods) is by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (2000). Cross over to The Telegraph pub. Walk along the pavement, with the pub on your right, to a well-preserved section of the town wall, beyond which is an information board (D).
To continue the walk, take the path to the right of the wall and proceed ahead with the wall on your left. (In a gap between buildings over to the right notice the sculpture Reaching for the Stars by Kenneth Armitage (2002)). At the end of the path turn right then immediately left and go down steps to arrive at a narrow road (Hanover Street). The granite insets in the road surface were to accommodate the wheels of horse-drawn vehicles. Cross the road and go down the steps straight ahead of you. Keep to the steps on the right. As you descend you can appreciate why the section of the wall which ran over to your right was known as “the breakneck steps”! The steps exit onto a pavement opposite the Copthorne Hotel. A plaque on your right indicates that you are now at the site of the Close Gate (E).
Turn left and carry straight on. You pass the impressive 500 years old building with high curved exposed beams, now occupied by The Cooperage pub. A little further on, you come to a group of 16th and 17th-century merchants’ houses including Bessie Surtees House. This in the care of English Heritage and has an interesting museum (open Monday-Friday, admission free). At the junction, cross the road with extreme care, turn right then left to go under the Tyne Bridge. Proceed ahead, cross Lombard Street, and shortly, turn left at a sign indicating the direction for All Saints Church. Walk ahead to go up some steps. At the top, bear right to walk a short distance up Pilgrim Street and enter the grounds of the former parish church of All Saints (1796) (F).
An information panel on the left provides interesting details. As well as being a venue for concerts and other events, the building is used for worship by an independent church (which calls the building “The Church of St Willibrord with All Saints”). Bear left to exit the church grounds. Turn sharp right and walk down the side of a modern office block for about 30 yards. Turn right up a short flight of steps then turn left. Go down the wide, cobbled steps - take care, they can be slippery. At the bottom, turn left and walk for about 50 yards, then cross the road to go up Croft Stairs. At the top, there is another section of the town wall and the remains of the unusual corner tower, built when the wall was extended to embrace a new area. Exit onto City road. Cross at the pedestrian crossing on your right. Bear right, cross the road and turn right to walk up Melbourne Street to the second crossroads. (At the end of the street on your right is the medieval Sallyport Tower). Turn left and walk ahead. Before you reach the traffic lights, turn left into the business park area and proceed to Manors Metro station and the end of the walk.