Newcastle upon Tyne

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Newcastle's iconic Tyne Bridge

Newcastle upon Tyne (usually referred to simply as Newcastle or locally as 'Toon') is a city in the northeast of England, 280 miles north of London and located on the main railway and road between London and Edinburgh. It has many interesting bridges across the River Tyne. It has a population of 270,000, and has existed since being founded by the Roman emperor Hadrian. The people of Newcastle are known as "Geordies" and have a distinctive accent.

The New Castle for which the city was named was first established in 1080 at a strategic crossing-point of the River Tyne and a medieval borough was chartered to serve the castle. In 1400 Newcastle became 'the town and county of Newcastle upon Tyne' - that is, it was removed from the authority of the Sheriff of Northumberland and became a county in its own right. It became a city in 1882, and St Nicholas's church was elevated to become a cathedral in 1906, when the diocese of Newcastle was formed from the diocese of Durham.

Newcastle's prosperity was at first based upon the castle and on the export of hides, but from the early modern period coal mining and coal export grew to become a massive part of the local economy; glass-manufacture, chemicals , iron smelting, armaments manufacture and shipbuilding followed (all industries making use of the regional coal reserves).

The essentially medieval streetscape of Newcastle was radically altered in the 1830s when the developer Richard Grainger (1797-1861) purchased the house and extensive grounds of Anderson Place, in the heart of the city, and there constructed several imposing modern streets in a severe classical idiom, with markets, Theatre Royal and Exchange. The architects John Dobson and John and Benjamin Green were associated with the redevelopments (the Greens designing the Theatre Royal). The two main streets, Grey Street and Grainger Street, converge on a large monument celebrating Earl Grey and the 1832 Reform Act. This district is today known as 'Grainger Town' as was the subject of an extensive refurbishment plan in the 1990s. It has the greatest concentration of listed buildings (or architectural or historical interest) of any English provincial city apart from Bath.

Further planned city centre redevelopment took place in the 1960s and 1970s as part of a plan devised by the regional political leader T. Dan Smith and Newcastle's head of planning, Wilfred Burns. The intent was to create in Newcastle a 'regional capital', and, with some foresight, encouraging arts, tourism and education as economic drivers. The brutalist architecture of the period has llkeft its mark on areas of the city, notably the Central Motorway (which Burns sought to celebrate as a visual feature, rather than hide) and an area of multi-level development, segregating pedestrians from traffic, around the central library. Much of this latter area has since been cleared. A more valued legacy from the period is Newcastle Civic Centre, the council chamber of which was built large enough to serve as the location of a Northern regional assembly.

In 1980 a rapid transit system, the Tyne and Wear Metro, was opened linking the urban centres of Tyneside. This runs through the heart of the city, with five underground stations in the city centre.

Since the 1990s the Quayside area, originally the commercial heart of the city but subject to increasing dereliction, has been subject to an extensive redevelopment. It is now an area of popular recreation, with prestige offices, promenades, hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes and riverside apartments, and is linked by a new bridge to the Baltic Contemporary Arts Centre and the Sage Music Centre in Gateshead.

Heavy industry is now a thing of the past (with the exception of turbine manufacture, a technology invented in Newcastle by Sir Charles Algernon Parsons of Turbinia fame). The economy is based on public administration (the Department of Work & Pensions offices on the edge of the city are the biggest concentration of civil servants outside London), local government, food manufacture, education (the city has two higher education institutions, Northumbria University and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne), retailing, and leisure & tourism. Newcastle has a thriving night life, based on clubs and bars in the Bigg Market and Quayside areas.

Sport plays an important role in Newcastle, principally the local football team, Newcastle United Football Club, who play at St James' Park in the city centre. There is also a successful rugby union team, the Newcastle Falcons, and basketball and speedway teams. Horse racing takes place at Gosforth Park, and greyhound racing and speedway at Brough Park in Byker. Newcastle is the starting point for the world's largest road race, the Great North Run. Every year in the early autumn tens of thousands of people run this half-marathon along public roads between Newcastle and South Shields.

Major suburbs of Newcastle include Benwell Byker, Elswick, Fenham, Gosforth, Heaton, Jesmond, Walker, and Westerhope.

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