New & Improved

St. Nicholas Street
Sat. 12th May, 2001

The recent building work has been completed in this short street, running from the foot of Groat Market and the northern end of the High Level Bridge.

It runs alongside the Anglican cathedral and the castle.

The building on the left here is St. Nicholas' Chambers. The fašade has been retained with certain alterations, whilst the body of the building has been totally rebuilt. It is now being advertised as prestigious office accommodation with full air conditioning and modern services. The interior benefits from cantilever technology allowing uncluttered spaces.

The central entrance has been enlarged and that fashionable semicircular canopy is new. In its previous incarnation it was the home to a colourful company called Yorkshire Reprographics. The proprietors and workers were sent to prison when it was discovered that a side line to the business was printing money!

The new owners demanded that an unobtrusive structure on the opposite side of the street be removed before their investment, and hence the local taxes gathered, would go ahead.

Another view of this area is contained in my
Castle picures.

St. Nicholas' Street looking north
St. Nicholas' Building
Doric House - 1925

© 1999 Tyne & Wear Archives Service

This is Doric House, a shop premises built around 1920 on a steep bank side to the adjacent road. It was a steel frame covered in terrazzo and marble chips set in fine cement and highly polished. It was removed during the early 1970s and its floor then formed the flat roof of the public conveniences beneath. It was this facility to which the new St. Nicholas' Chambers developer objected. His prestigious customers must not be reminded of bodily functions when leaving his palace of probity! The city council acquiesced and the area is now a little paved terrace with seats that never catches a single sunbeam.

Side and Milburn House
Bridge Hotel

Here, from the site of that little shop, is a view along Side. Majestic Milburn House, completed in 1905, is on the left. Behind its somewhat austere fašade is a fary-tale interior tiled in deep yellow and green in a grand sweep of Art Nouveau. Its being built on a severe slope causes the unwary visitor to loose track of their vertical position within its floors and halls. Areas are identified with letters rather than numbers, and spacious atria and halls surprise the visitor at each turn.

The buildings on the right have recently been demolished; an electricity substation and storage for Otis Lifts, being shored up with massive diagonal beams for many years.

Here at the northern end of the High Level Bridge is the Bridge Hotel, favourite with supporters of live music. It replaced an earlier two storey version in 1895 locally known as Paddy Foley's Bar.

The High level Bridge was finished in 1849 and carries rail traffic over the top of the  road deck. That gallery above the road entrance used to be the home for Stephenson's "Billy" or Locomotion No. 1 that was used at Killingworth Colliery. It is now housed at the Stephenson Museum at Middle Engine Lane.

Below is the view of the scene in the 1920s. Note the two wooden huts, one next to the hotel, and the other near the walking man. These are the toll booths, used until tolls were abolished in May 1937.

© 1999 Geoff Philips

1920s - entrance to High Level Bridge
Railway arches

Here the rail arches are given over to second hand motor car retail. To the right is Queen's Lane and access to steps to the Quayside, and a series of terraced walkways, now lamentably bereft of the shubbery that made this small tranquil oasis so alluring. In the background the historic Turnbull's Warehouse is undergoing conversion and repairs.

Old Post Office

Near the junction with Collingwood Street is the main city Post Office building, vacated recently in an asset stripping exercise.

This building has been repaired and cleaned and its pink and grey sandstone, brought from distant parts, shines in the morning sunshine. For years it had been blackened by generations of soot.

It is now the home to big business, its once public yellow tiled and classically decorated hall is denied to the general visitor.

It was erected in 1874 by James Williams of the Office of Works.

Clavering House on the right
Clavering Square

Around the corner from St. Nicholas' Street is Clavering Place.

This was once the location for grand houses for the wealthy, predating the advent of the railway. Some remnants of the Georgian splendour are still visible, however the building use has changed to industrial and mercantile.

Additional building was erected around the turn of the 20th century. A nearby section of town wall has prevented building in what is now a car park, but part of the Post Office sorting office site is now a casino, built in the style of massive Dutch barn, complete with corrugated tin roof!

© 2000 John Alexander

1926 view from the castle roof

The 1926 view from the castle keep contrasts interestingly with the more recent picture that I took in June last year.

Doric House has gone, of course, as have the trams, and the original street frontage of St. Nicholas Chambers, ditched for that "modern" entrance can be seen. The practice of retaining older fašades whilst erecting attractive modern buildings behind has to be preferred to the wholesale demolition of serviceable structures characteristic during the 1960s.

The rail approach to the High Level bridge is glimpsed from the terraced gardens at the foot of Queen's Lane. Let us hope that the money saved by the closing of those public conveniences can be used to plant some more bushes here.

Queens Lane

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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