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History

A brief history

The first fortification on the site of Newcastle Castle dates back more than 1800 years. The earliest fortification was the Roman fort of Pons Aelius, built to guard the bridge over the River Tyne as part of Hadrian’s Wall. The fort was abandoned and fell into ruin when Roman rule in Britain ended in around the year 400. By the 800s the site of the fort was being used as part of an Anglo-Saxon church with an attached cemetery, which might have belonged to a settlement which chroniclers called Monkchester.

In 1066, the Normans invaded and conquered England, and in 1080 the son of William the Conqueror, Robert C urthose, built the first Castle on the site. This was a timber fort which was called “Novum Castrum Super Tynam”. This was replaced about a century later with a stone Castle on the orders of King Henry II – the Castle Keep which stands today largely dates from this period. Building continued through the reigns of Richard, John and Henry III until the Black Gate was completed in 1250, the last major part of the Castle to be constructed.

The Castle became a major border stronghold during the medieval wars between England and Scotland, but began to decline in importance with the building of Newcastle’s town walls. By the days of Queen Elizabeth I it was described as “old and ruinous”. In the 1600s parts of the Castle were leased out and people began to build houses and shops in what was called the “Castle Garth” – the area within the old walls. This was interrupted by the Siege of Newcastle in 1644 when the Castle again became a defended stronghold, but with the end of the Civil War the building continued.

By the 1800s the Castle Garth was a bustling community full of slum housing, cobblers shops, taverns and a large Presbyterian meeting hall. Most of this was demolished to make way for the building of the railways in the 1840s, gradually revealing the medieval remains from under the later buildings.

In October 2011 the Old Newcastle Project received Lottery funding to renovate and renew the interpretation of the Black Gate and the Castle Keep, and link the two buildings together as one site: Newcastle Castle. The site reopened to the public in 2015.