Last Thursday spent around two and half hours walked around the city centre. Had an hour plus meeting before that and i need a little short break from my work. So i went back home and took my camera and off to the city centre. Stopped at the Eldon Square Bus Station adjacent to the Eldon Square, a small park in the middle of the city between the Monument and Eldon Square Shopping Mall. This park has just opened to the public after refurbished since last winter. A little history of Eldon Square, which now one of the meeting and relaxing spot in the city centre.
Eldon Square got its name from John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751 – 1838). Lord Eldon or John Scott, as Eldon was formerly known, was born in Newcastle. Whilst he had originally intended to enter the Church his famed elopement with Bessie Surtees (the daughter of a wealthy alderman) forced him to reconsider and embark upon a career in law. After setting up in the law practice Eldon became King’s Counsel then a Member of Parliament. He was later appointed Attorney General and eventually the Lord High Chancellor. Lord Eldon drafted the Regency Bill of 1788 and in 1821 he was elevated to the House of Lords as Viscount Encombe and Earl of Eldon. Lord Eldon was a dominant figure in Georgian public life and ranks amongst the most important Lord Chancellors in the long history of the office. John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon died in 1838 at the age of 86.
...this is one of the lamp posts with bronze plaques inscribed
with the history of Eldon Square...
At the turn of the 17th century the area now known as Eldon Square lay on the northern agricultural boundary of the fortified town wall, near the site of Bertram Monbucher (Mumboucher) Tower. The tower was named after its founder, Sir Bertram Monboucher, who was High Sheriff of the County of Northumberland and Knight of the Shire. The line of the northern part of the old town wall runs along present-day Blackett Street. To the southeast, between Pilgrim Street and Newgate Street, just inside the town walls, a 12-acre estate known initially as Newe House and then Anderson Place occupied part of the original grounds of St. Bartholomew’s nunnery and Greyfriars. In 1646 King Charles I of England was held captive in the Newe House for ten months following his surrender to the Scots.
The Newe House, constructed near here in 1580 by Robert Anderson, was sold in 1675 to Sir William Blackett who extended the property. In 1782 his descendant Sir Thomas Blackett sold it to George Anderson, a successful local builder. On George Anderson’s death the property passed to his son Major Anderson who renamed it ‘Anderson Place’. To the south west of what is now Eldon Square lay St. Andrew’s Church, one of the oldest existing churches in Newcastle, and the White Cross, a marker point for the town market. The site of the White Cross is believed, from historical maps, to be on Newgate Street at the junction with Low Friar Street. Prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, there were known to be communities of Blackfriars and Greyfriars, as well as St. Bartholomew’s Nunnery all within the immediate vicinity of what is now Eldon Square. Much of Blackfriars still exists today.
Until 1824, the northern boundary of Newcastle was the town wall that stretched from Newgate Street to Pilgrim Street. After a square was proposed as part of the laying out of Blackett Street, the Corporation bought the site and in 1825 – 26 work began on the construction of Eldon Square with the remains of the town wall being dismantled. This was the birth of Eldon Square. Designed by Thomas Oliver with influence from John Dobson, Eldon Square originally consisted of 26 high-class terraced stone houses, built in Palladian style with smooth stone fronts and first-floor cast iron balconies surrounding a private, central garden. Richard Grainger built all but 4 of the houses in Eldon Square. The remaining east side gives you an idea of the grand architecture of the original Eldon Square.
At the same time as developing Eldon Square, Richard Grainger was involved in building 41 or Blackett Street or The Northern Academy of Arts for T.M.Richradson and H.T.Parker, both celebrated local artists. Built at a cost of £2000, raised mainly by the public subscription, The Northern Academy of Arts opened in 1828 creating a Victorian fusion between the merging arts and grand architecture of Newcastle and offering the opportunity to see the works of local, national and international artists. Exhibitions included artists such as the North East’s John Wilson Carmichael as well as Old Masters. In contrast the Academy also hosted ‘Uncle Toby’s Exhibition’ that saw 20,000 visitors through its doors to view an exhibition of toys donated by the public for distribution to the poor and sick children of the areas. ‘Uncle Toby’ of the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle organized the exhibition and the toys were given out on Christmas day 1888.
A monument for the centre of Eldon Square had been proposed at the same time the square was planned. A statue of Lord Eldon was considered but nothing was ever erected. Photographs of the square at the turn of the century show a central stone pedestal topped with an ornate lamp. At the end of the First World War, a number of ideas for a war memorial were considered before Councillor Sir Arthur Sutherland started the ‘Shilling Fund’ with a donation of 20,000 shillings (£15,000) and funded the erection of the War and Peace Memorial that now proudly stands in the centre of the square. Designed by Charles Hartwell the memorial, which unveiled by Field Marshall Earl Haig on 26th September 1923 in front of over one thousand people who had taken part in the official ‘pilgrimage of homage’.
Between the First and Second World Wars Eldon Square became known as ‘the place to meet’ in Newcastle and provided a welcome area of public space in the city centre. Close by, the city centre was expanding with large stores such as Bainbridge and Fenwick. Bainbridge was the country’s first department store, and Thomas Bainbridge, the son of its founder, was a great benefactor of the ‘Poor Childrens Holiday Association’ who had their headquarters in nearby Percy Street. During the Second World War large water tanks were placed in the square as part of the air raid precautions. These water tanks ensured that water supplies to the Fire Brigade always available. In the recent years that followed the memorial and surrounding Eldon Square again became a well-respected meeting place, a place of relaxation as well as a place of remembrance.
From the early part of the 20th century (1920 - present) Eldon Square and Blackett Street formed part of the main shopping area, Blackett Street being one of the main thoroughfares across the city and a major bus and tram route. By the 1960s many of the fine Grainger and Oliver buildings had fallen into disrepair. Concurrently, in 1973, the northern and western facades of Eldon Square were demolished. The demolished buildings made way for Eldon Square Shopping Centre which, when it opened, was the largest development of its kind in Europe. Many of the mall names reflect the history of the area such as Eldon Way, Whitecross Way, Chevy Chase and High Friars. In 2008 the square was refurbished by Newcastle City Council and Capital Shopping Centres, recreating the original setting for the war memorial whilst maintaining a safe and welcoming green haven for all the people of Newcastle.