Friday, June 17, 2011


Recently someone invited me out to lunch. Rare enough to make me punctual, even slightly ahead of myself. A fine day and I fancied a walk. It took me through part of the city I've wanted to view for months but never got around to.

I do not have a name for this area. It is a zone, one of those particularly apt urban expressions for a place that has no identity excepting the lack of one; a place one hurries through on the  way to somewhere else. It lies between districts I have covered on this blog, fringing the Quayside in central Newcastle, itself now well known and rapidly becoming the public face of the new Newcastle following a classic bottom up development in the 90s. For many today, the Quayside is Newcastle.

Just behind the glamourised waterfront is a less well known set of streets and buildings which have rapidly been added to in the past year. Indeed it is the fastest growing area of the city, fuelled by an expansion of halls of residence for the two universities: Northumbria, the newest of the two in the city and the older, 'red brick' Newcastle University. These  new halls now comprise the major buildings in this strip of city sandwiched between the Tyne and the main road to the coast through Byker, on the eastern edge of the Lower Ouseburn Valley.

On the day of my lunch appointment the sun was shining bright. I was expecting to be critical of this "hand over fist" development. Yet I wasn't; could not be. The buildings individually it must be allowed, are not great. Most are down right mediocre. Yet ... Somehow, even a conglomeration like this can be greater than its parts. High up on the side of one of the new tenements for undergraduates a sign proclaimed 'Studentcastle'. It seemed right.

View of the new halls of residence for Northumbria University on New Bridge Street; buildings so trivial they are not even banal. Local services for residents comprise of bus stops. The street is busy with through traffic and essentially without the a sense of street life for which one one might hope. It's just a set of large dormitories, replacing early Victorian era villas of some architectural merit, constructed sometime between 1820s and 30s. A few remain further up the street, languishing under business premises signs and or layers of garish masonry paint.

Famous for 'posh nosh', Sainsbury's have at least moved in on the business opportunity presented by the captive audience on the doorstep. It represents the only retail food outlet locally, and one of the first developments of its kind in this district since the last century.

More thoughts and reflections in due course. Meanwhile a slideshow taken from my web site's Flickr feed.

Studentcastle: Sheildfield

Studentcastle: Newbridge Street.

Studentcastle: Manors to Melbourne Street.

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