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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

(189,000 in 1991)
City and port in Tyne and Wear, on the north bank of a shallow gorge of the river Tyne, about 13km/8m from its mouth (the town on the opposite bank is *Gateshead). This area has been the gateway to the northeast since Roman times, when the first bridge was built here and *Hadrian's Wall ran nearby. Bridges over the Tyne have remained a famous feature of Newcastle (there are now eight). The Swing Bridge, constructed in 1876, is on the site of the Roman bridge and of its medieval successors; lying low, it swings open for ships to move up or down river. The High Level Bridge, designed by Robert *Stephenson and opened in 1849, carries road and railway well above the masts of any vessel. The Tyne Bridge (1928) has become the city's best-known feature because of the dramatic single arch of girders from which the road is suspended.

The Norman castle, which gave the city its name, was evidence of its continuing military importance. A wooden fortress was built here in 1080 by Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror, and was later replaced in stone; the impressive square keep dates from the 1170s. In the 16C Newcastle's importance became industrial, as the port for *Tyneside's coal; its near monopoly in this trade is remembered still in the common phrase for a useless activity, 'carrying coals to Newcastle'. The boats came back with sand as ballast, which led in turn to glass-making, Newcastle's other great industry in the early period of the industrial revolution.

Shipbuilding and engineering followed later (George *Stephenson set up here in 1823). The city's 19C wealth is reflected in the streets laid out by a speculative builder, Richard Grainger (1798–1861), with architecture mainly by John Dobson (1787–1865). Grey Street stands today as the most striking example of their work. At its end is Grey's Monument, the city's focal point, with Lord *Grey on a high column to commemorate the Reform Act (1832). The architects of the monument, John Green (1787–1852) and his son Benjamin, were also responsible for the nearby Theatre Royal.

Newcastle became a diocese in 1882 and the very large 14–15C parish church of St Nicholas was then promoted to the status of cathedral. Its outstanding feature is the tower with its 'crown spire' – an openwork structure of buttresses and small steeples to form a crown (dating from the mid-15C, and so about 25 years earlier than the more famous equivalent on St Giles' in Edinburgh). St Mary's, the Roman Catholic cathedral, was completed in 1844 to a design of *Pugin.

The Laing Art Gallery has a collection of British paintings and specializes in the local decorative arts, particularly glass by the *Beilby family. The Museum of Science and Engineering uses early working models to commemorate the region's contribution to technology, which in addition to the Stephensons has included Parsons, whose *steam turbines were produced locally, and *Swan, who first demonstrated his electric light filament in Newcastle. The city's *underground railway, the Tyne and Wear Metro, opened in 1980.

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