Ø July 17 Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Wednesday)
Unable to continue sleeping, I was up at 7:30, out an hour later without the proffered breakfast (later noting that an egg sandwich might be a good idea) and began to push my bag up the hill to the Durham station. Confused as to which side, I eventually figured I needed to use the subway to get under the tracks (again) to get to the platform. Two trains came and went before my train with a reserved seat on a cushy train with plenty of luggage space. Fifteen minutes later, the train crossed the Tyne on the top of the double-decker bridge.
A quick link to photos is here.
The County Hotel was practically across Neville Street, but I needed to go down to the corner to cross – much too busy to risk jaywalking. Surprisingly, my room was ready. The bellman insisted on bring the bag, so up on a lift, down a hall and then 6 steps down, each of which he proceeded to hit with the wheels. Luckily, no damage. A decent room, I fired up the tablet and connected to WiFi so Drobox could be fed since nothing had moved up to the cloud the night before.
With 3 churches to see, I decided to visit the Cathedral Church of St Mary first. Continuing along Neville, I crossed Bewick Street at the next intersection to find a plaza on the east side of this Catholic cathedral. The church property took up more than 70% of the triangular block. A statue of a priest topped eight steps, with the plaza ending in a short wall and grass up to the walls at the end of the three aisles. A single tall bell-tower spire stands to the south of the nave behind the former baptistry. An interestingly designed wrought iron fence ran along the curb of Clayton St W protecting the entire west end of the cathedral.
Built in 1840 to a design by August Pugin, this parish church became the cathedral of the new diocese of Newcastle in 1850. Entering, a gallery for the organ and choir sits over the doorway. The vault over the nave is painted a rich red with stenciling at the outer edges and gilding along the dark timbers of the arches and on ceiling beams. Stained glass windows along the side walls are widely spaced and not very wide, limiting most of the natural light to the windows at the east end. The floors are covered with blue, white and brick-red patterned tiles throughout.
With about a half hour of exploration, looking at the alabaster-carved altars in the Lady and Blessed Sacrament chapels, the high altar and the predella and reredos; the organ in the loft, the cathedra and the various stained-glass windows, I came to Memorial section. Reading about the #TynesideIrishBrigade, it dawned on me that my grandfather who had been a Marine with the AEF at the end of World War I might have been trained by these survivor soldiers. While his heritage had been three-quarters German, he was always very proud of his Irish grandmother. This revelation had me sitting for a while, with tears rolling off my cheeks, as I remembered Grandpa. No wonder he wanted to be Irish.
Crossing the cloister, I entered the shop, stopping for a cup of tea to compose myself. My next goal was All Saints. When I had first pulled my list of cathedrals in England and Wales to process into a spreadsheet, it had been listed as the Cathedral Church of St Willibrord and All Saints, for the Ancient and Old Catholic sect. I remember in the later planning phase when I was trying to plot a route using Google Maps, I had difficulties finding it because it is sited on a hill encircled by buildings blocking access from the street. To get from St Mary’s, I’d walk past the Anglican cathedral and have to cross two major thoroughfares.
After passing St Nicholas, I spotted the spire of All Saints. As the seventh tallest building in Newcastle, I had eyes on it, I just kept wandering trying to get close to it. Maps puts it as a 15-minute walk, but it took me twice that, including asking for directions twice. A uniquely elliptical shaped nave, the entrance and clock tower are to the south. Determined as redundant in 1961, it had seen use as offices, auditorium before the Old Catholics used it as their cathedral church. Abandoned after flooding, it has since been taken up by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and repairs were underway when I visited. I was unable to enter due to construction work underway. So, does it count as a former cathedral?
Returning to the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, a statue of the mature Queen Victoria sits on an island at St Nicholas Square on Mosley Street. A cruciform layout, the lantern spire rises over the west entrance. Another parish church, it was raised to cathedral status in 1882 when the new diocese split from Durham. [There had been an attempt to form a diocese in #Newcastle, but Queen Mary (Tudor) put the kibosh on it.] Significant repairs and upgrades followed. Fixed wooden pews run the full width of the nave. The ceiling has a mild pitch and has wooden beams.
Charles Avison, his son and grandson were all organists at St Nicholas, and the organ is situated in the north transept over the crypt. The crypt was once one of the first chapels used to honor Thomas Becket, before becoming the ossuary for the overflowing cemetery.
Walking the ambulatory around the quire and sanctuary, the Ascension chapel has a five-light (panel) stained-glass window primarily of red, white and blue; the larger Incarnation chapel sits behind the high altar reredos and has a stunning medieval altarpiece and decorative altar.
Inside the sanctuary, the three-level carved slightly translucent alabaster reredos has canopied niches filled with statues of Christ and saints. The cathedra is carved of dark wood with a spire canopy, similar to many Victorian thrones. The choir and canon stalls run the length of the quire, highly carved, with a smaller organ over the north wall. Copying from Durham and Exeter, the late nineteenth century carvers exercised their fantasy with the end knobs and misericords. In the nave, on the south side, there is a chapel to St Margaret, which includes the oldest stained-glass, of the Virgin suckling the Child.
Still early afternoon, I left #NewcastleCathedral and walked toward the river along St Nicholas Street to the Black Gate, one of two historic buildings comprising Newcastle Castle. For my £6,50 I gained access to both, spending an hour and a half touring these building and enjoying the view of the river. With 75 pictures, I learned more about the Castle Garth area, the uses of the tower and how it played roles in English borderland history.
The view had afforded me looks at six bridges across the River Tyne. Intrigued, I walked down to the riverfront and headed east with the river’s flow. Following Hadrian’s Wall Path, my objective was the strikingly new #GatesheadMillenniumBridge. Starting with the High Level Bridge, with two levels, it transports trains on top, and pedestrians and vehicles below. Next came the red Swing Bridge, set close to surface level, and which swings open when vessels require passage. (Off to my left – inland – I spotted the spire of All Saints.) Set high again, the Tyne Bridge has a green steelwork arch holding the span up for pedestrians and vehicles to cross the river.
Continuing along the river, the modern Combined Court Centre rose five stories of red stone and smoked glass had a view across the Quayside. Coming at last to the Millennium Bridge, the separate bike and foot paths bow downriver as the supporting arch bows upriver at about a 120°angle. My better picture came from the Gateshead side, and I found it a spectacular piece of architecture. During my entire walk, I’d been marveling at the large mirrored blob of a building on the far side. Having crossed, I climbed up and entered the Sage Gateshead, a collection of venues and auditoriums for various arts programs and performances. I was able to walk its length inside, but no halls were available for a tour.
Continuing upstream, St Mary’s Heritage Center is a former church with a great view at the footings for the Tyne Bridge and the remains of a graveyard. There is a nice bookshop, an exhibition space, café, and free restrooms. Looking across the river, I was able to capture a great shot of All Saints. Leaving, my choice was up to walk the Tyne Bridge, or down to the riverside, which is the way I went. A short walk later, I came to the Swing Bridge, where I returned to the Newcastle side. Climbing through pathways off The Close, I passed a student housing building before getting back to St Nicholas Square. While there would be no choir (summer break), I planned to return for Evening Prayer. With some time, I walked up and down Mosley, trying to find a pub. Nothing really appealed, so I walked into Revolution and had a Goose Midway Session IPA while I filled two pages I my journal.
No visiting choir either, so Prayer was simply a chaplain leading another fellow and me in a 30-minute series of psalm readings, with her reading the Bible lessons. These were from the story of Samson, “the little children” and the “eye of the needle” parables. First time for me to be such an active participant. When I left, I headed towards the hotel, stopping at The Head of Steam for a pint of Strong Arm, from Cameron, with a packet of crisps. My further notes include that I’d exhausted the camera battery although with the turning weather I didn’t expect too many more pictures. I had found the “American” stained-glass window while at Evening Prayer of the oil derricks and US shield, but it wasn’t in good focus.
I heard from an Asian American I’d talked with while on the tower at Durham. I replied to her email, and noted I’d have to stay in touch. I guess this is why I keep notes, as I’ve been slack. [I just checked out some of her blog. And I’ll be in contact again.] While scribbling, a threesome sat next to me at the bench. All three work together in auditing for the government, have 2 kids, and 2 live in Durham. We talked for an hour, covering lots of personal stories and adventures. And, yes, I had another round.
At 8pm, I left and walked next door to Newcastle Tap for pizza. Ordering a stout, my pizza had the fantastical label “Hello, is it meat you’re looking for?” It consisted of mozzarella, Cajun chicken, cotto ham, pepperoni and mixed peppers. [I noted it was my fourth pint for the day, and needed to find a banana for the morning.] It was a pizza with pizzazz. I added a bit of parmesan cheese, but the thin crust had a good chewy flavor. Staff checked (that’s how I got the parmesan) and we both agreed blue cheese would push it to seventh heaven. A German couple asked me to join them, and I agreed after I finished my pizza and there would be enough room.
Taking my salad to join the couple from Braunschweig, I found out he was an architect and she was retired from radiology. There was lots of talk of buildings, architects. Pleasant folks, I wound up spending over two hours at the restaurant. Splitting, I crossed the alley and entered the hotel. Wisely, I made a pit stop before taking the lift, as I found my key didn’t work when I reached the door. After a return trip to the ground floor, I entered and began my Internet process. For some strange reason, the Nikon cable wasn’t charging the camera, and I needed a working camera to download. Plus I had another battery to charge. Some juggling around, and it all got back underway. Fortunately, there were enough plugs in the room to get everything topped off overnight. The room had no apparent temperature control, but it was comfortable, and the window looked out to an air shaft. After throwing out a broken set of sunglasses (which had seen no recent use) and my favorite (now dead) ballpoint pen, I set clothes out, cleaned my face and teeth, and slipped into the twin bed.