Gateshead has a long history, being mentioned by Bede (as ad caput caprae, 'at the headland of the goats') but has always been overshadowed by its northern neighbour. Newcastle's lordship over the River Tyne up to 1850 curtailed the ability of other riverside settlements, including Gateshead, to grow.
The town began to expand in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The main industries were the mining of coal, the manufacture of rope (for shipping and mining purposes), chemicals manufacture, and the manufacture and maintenance of railway locomotives at the North Eastern Railway's works. In the early twentieth century the NER works was transferred to Darlington and local mining was in sharp decline. Gateshead entered upon a century of economic depression.
In his 1934 work English Journey J.B. Priestley described Gateshead: "If there is any town of like size on the continent of Europe that can show a similar lack of civic dignity and all the evidence of an urban civilization, I should like to know its name and quality. No true civilization could have produced such a town, which is nothing better than a huge dingy dormitory".
In 1986 the MetroCentre, Britain's first large out-of-town shopping mall on the American model, was opened on the outskirts of Gateshead on the site of a former cokeworks. Although it further damaged the town centre economy of Gateshead, it has become an imoprtant employment and retail centre on Tyneside and has served as the model for several other large centres around British cities.
In 1992 the second of a series of Garden Festivals promoted by the Conservative government minister Michael Heseltine and intended to stimulate regeneration was held at Gateshead (the first was in Liverpool; others were held at Stoke on Trent and Merthyr Tydfil). Although enjoyed by large crowds, it failed to have the intended long term catalytic effect.
Gateshead Council has for many years pursued a policy of Culture-led regeneration. This policy culminated in recent years with the opening of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in a converted grain warehouse, and the Sage Music Centre, on its formerly run-down quayside. The arts complex is surrounded by expensive apartments and is connected to the cafes, bars and hotels of Newcastle's quayside by a landmark opening pedestrian/cycle bridge, likened to an opening eye. Britain's largest sculpture, the Angel of the North, by Antony Gormley is located in Gateshead.
Regeneration of the town centre is likely to involve the imminent demolition of its most prominent landmark, a large brutalist multi-storey car park (1964-69), designed by Owen Luder and made famous by the film Get Carter
Gateshead International Stadium has hosted many major international athletics meetings, and is also home to Gateshead Thunder Rugby League team. The annual Great North Run between Newcastle upon Tyne and South Shields passes through Gateshead.
- http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/Leisure and Culture/bridge/Background.aspx
J.B. Priestley, English Journey (1934)