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Visit to Black Gate - 23rd February 2013

Kate Sussams the Manager of the Old Newcastle Project very kindly showed a group of us around the Black Gate on 23rd February 2013. Really interesting to see somewhere which hasn't really been open much to the public. Also good to see it before internal changes are made as part of the Project.

Will post images floor by floor, on separate days and hopefully they may lead to some discussion?

These are photographs taken on the first floor.




















Images hosted on http://ellwood.fototime.com/Black Gate Visit - 23rd February 2013
 

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Discussion Starter #44
Those former (I assume) "Society of Antiquaries" Library Shelves and other storage shelves and drawers look great . . . exactly what I would like to keep items in and have them easily accessible.

If I had that many items and also had enough space to house the shelving, I might add!

Perhaps I should just move into the third floor of the Black Gate :lol:
 

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Those former (I assume) "Society of Antiquaries" Library Shelves and other storage shelves and drawers look great . . . exactly what I would like to keep items in and have them easily accessible.

If I had that many items and enough space to house the shelving, I might add.

Perhaps I should just move into the third floor of the Black Gate :lol:
Yes they are very nice looking pieces of carpentry and are staying put as they are included with the Grade I Listing.

Indeed they did for many years form the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle (SANT), the books now relocated in the Great North Museum.
 

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Visit to Black Gate - 23rd February 2013

There wasn't really very much to see on the fourth floor it having previously been the caretakers flat - destined to be the new offices for the Project from what I understand.





Jumping back down to the first floor it was interesting to see some early graffiti on two of the wooden supporting columns, fortunately it appears that pencil has been used. Still an interesting historical 'artefact'.

My understanding is that the Project Manager has managed to locate and speak with relatives of Sgt C.F. Easterbrook who wrote his name in 1940.










Images hosted on http://ellwood.fototime.com/Black Gate Visit - 23rd February 2013
 

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Some great pictures and a nice insight before the refurbishment.

Did anyone say when the work will begin?

From the PA the heritage statement was against the installation of the glass lift.
 

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Some great pictures and a nice insight before the refurbishment.

Did anyone say when the work will begin?

From the PA the heritage statement was against the installation of the glass lift.
I did hear that work was expected to commence after Easter and that the area around Black Gate will be fenced off. If you think about it the position of the Black Gate must present a logistical nightmare for the contractor.

The glass lift idea has been replaced by a lift with a wood cladded shaft - glass window only at the top. Evidently the lift shaft will be supported by the building rather than being anchored in the ground. The idea of the glass shaft was jettisoned when it was realised that it could suffer damage from stones etc being thrown at it and also that it would be costly to keep it clean - bird poo etc.
 

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Fascinating exercise for anyone that is interesting,
If you imagine the original square roman fort which would have been present at pons aelius; stone outer walls, N-S-E-W gates with intersecting centre, home to my knowledge of up to 1000 troops, being about 80x80m.

Then look on googlemaps of the site where this fort supposed to have stood, by the castle keep/ moot hall, it becomes apparent the roughly square shaped area of land of similar dimensions as to where the fort would have stood. Draw a line from the SE corner of the moot hall to the SW corner of the bridge hotel, then north to the railway forming the northern wall, and fnally back down from the NE corner of the northumberland hotel.

I myself find that although no actual real physical presence of the fort survives, but the imprint on the topography- the romans i expect would have levelled off this hillock formed by the burn up dean st and quayside to the south, remains to this day. This bit of land engineered to e a defensive spot obviously was advantaged in the medieval times and the hint remains to this day.

When this thread talks about 'old newcastle' that is what i thought it meant, however the map extends to st johns, bigg market etc. which i think dilutes what could be just the square shaped land containing the keep, pub, moot hall, hotel, black gate and maybe throw in the cathedral too.

If this specific area was landscaped to further its identity with perhaps a small visitor centre then it would create a specific node that would better present itself than the current arbitrary mass of land that is currently identified
 

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Fascinating exercise for anyone that is interesting,
If you imagine the original square roman fort which would have been present at pons aelius; stone outer walls, N-S-E-W gates with intersecting centre, home to my knowledge of up to 1000 troops, being about 80x80m.

Then look on googlemaps of the site where this fort supposed to have stood, by the castle keep/ moot hall, it becomes apparent the roughly square shaped area of land of similar dimensions as to where the fort would have stood. Draw a line from the SE corner of the moot hall to the SW corner of the bridge hotel, then north to the railway forming the northern wall, and fnally back down from the NE corner of the northumberland hotel.

I myself find that although no actual real physical presence of the fort survives, but the imprint on the topography- the romans i expect would have levelled off this hillock formed by the burn up dean st and quayside to the south, remains to this day. This bit of land engineered to e a defensive spot obviously was advantaged in the medieval times and the hint remains to this day.

When this thread talks about 'old newcastle' that is what i thought it meant, however the map extends to st johns, bigg market etc. which i think dilutes what could be just the square shaped land containing the keep, pub, moot hall, hotel, black gate and maybe throw in the cathedral too.

If this specific area was landscaped to further its identity with perhaps a small visitor centre then it would create a specific node that would better present itself than the current arbitrary mass of land that is currently identified
One of the ‘problems’ when discussing the Roman Fort is the lack of real knowledge about what it exactly looked like due to the later construction of the Norman Castle and Keep and to a degree evidence destroyed by the Victorians during the construction of the rail viaduct. To prove the shape would mean the demolition of the Castle Keep, former Northumberland County Offices, Bridge Hotel, railway viaduct and the Moot Hall, something that isn’t going to happen any time soon. However the latest thoughts on the size of the fort are that it was somewhere in the region of 95m x 67m – as it would have followed the outline of a cohort fort it would have been roughly rectangular in shape, roughly as it still had to fit within the confines of the promontory.

The number of troops accommodated at the fort is also debatable as no barracks have been discovered on the site.

On the matter of the fort’s location is still a matter of conjecture as to whether it was part of Hadrian's Wall, perhaps controlling an access gate.

Of course the name often associated with the fort is Pons Aelius but that in real terms relates to the river crossing over which it guarded, Pons Aelius being translated as ‘Bridge of Hadrian’.

Whilst the promontory looking over the Tyne gave a good defensive position to protect the bridge it was not a site that the Roman military engineers would have immediately chosen as it did not give ready access to deploy the garrison. This was due to the steep cliffs on all but the western side of the site. Thus the ability for troops to pass in and out of the fort was very restricted and thus this idea of the conventional gates associated with a Roman fort was not one found here.

Of course “real physical presence of the fort” does survive, albeit concealed beneath the area of Castle Garth and much of it has been revealed during archaeological digs, the last being in 1996.

Not sure that the Roman army engineers would have needed to do much in the way of having ‘levelled off this hillock’. There was certainly archaeological evidence of ploughing (ardmarks) of the land in the pre-fort period (narrow rig and furrow). Unproved but the site may well have been the site of a settlement prior to the building of the fort.

On the matter of the ‘Old Newcastle Project’, perhaps you are missing the point – this is a specific project dealing only with the area of the Black Gate, Castle Keep and St Nicholas’s Cathedral Church. Worth taking a look at the projects web site @ http://www.oldnewcastle.org.uk/old-newcastle-project

You mention a ‘visitor centre’ well that is one of the functions that Black Gate will perform – this is from the above web site:

Heritage Lottery Funding has been secured to create an accessible, heritage-led education and interpretation centre in the vacant and closed Black Gate, transforming its current lifeless and substantially ignored presence into a hub of heritage activity that will be open and available to the entire community and visitors from near and far. The Black Gate will combine with medieval neighbours, the Castle Keep and St. Nicholas Cathedral to provide an outstanding and dynamic heritage asset that will tell the story of the remarkable history of the City and the ingenuity of countless generations of its inhabitants.
 

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Newcastle upon Tyne Antiquaries - 1813 to 2013

Been to an exhibition today upstairs at the Hancock (Great North) Museum on the history of the Antiquaries Society.

Exhibition on until the 30th of April - Well worth a look!!

A lot of their archive is at Woodhorn but would like to think there will be some artifacts well worth seeing at the Black Gate once it is opened.
 

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One of the ‘problems’ when discussing the Roman Fort is the lack of real knowledge about what it exactly looked like due to the later construction of the Norman Castle and Keep and to a degree evidence destroyed by the Victorians during the construction of the rail viaduct. To prove the shape would mean the demolition of the Castle Keep, former Northumberland County Offices, Bridge Hotel, railway viaduct and the Moot Hall, something that isn’t going to happen any time soon. However the latest thoughts on the size of the fort are that it was somewhere in the region of 95m x 67m – as it would have followed the outline of a cohort fort it would have been roughly rectangular in shape, roughly as it still had to fit within the confines of the promontory.

The number of troops accommodated at the fort is also debatable as no barracks have been discovered on the site.

On the matter of the fort’s location is still a matter of conjecture as to whether it was part of Hadrian's Wall, perhaps controlling an access gate.

Of course the name often associated with the fort is Pons Aelius but that in real terms relates to the river crossing over which it guarded, Pons Aelius being translated as ‘Bridge of Hadrian’.

Whilst the promontory looking over the Tyne gave a good defensive position to protect the bridge it was not a site that the Roman military engineers would have immediately chosen as it did not give ready access to deploy the garrison. This was due to the steep cliffs on all but the western side of the site. Thus the ability for troops to pass in and out of the fort was very restricted and thus this idea of the conventional gates associated with a Roman fort was not one found here.

Of course “real physical presence of the fort” does survive, albeit concealed beneath the area of Castle Garth and much of it has been revealed during archaeological digs, the last being in 1996.

Not sure that the Roman army engineers would have needed to do much in the way of having ‘levelled off this hillock’. There was certainly archaeological evidence of ploughing (ardmarks) of the land in the pre-fort period (narrow rig and furrow). Unproved but the site may well have been the site of a settlement prior to the building of the fort.

On the matter of the ‘Old Newcastle Project’, perhaps you are missing the point – this is a specific project dealing only with the area of the Black Gate, Castle Keep and St Nicholas’s Cathedral Church. Worth taking a look at the projects web site @ http://www.oldnewcastle.org.uk/old-newcastle-project

You mention a ‘visitor centre’ well that is one of the functions that Black Gate will perform – this is from the above web site:

Heritage Lottery Funding has been secured to create an accessible, heritage-led education and interpretation centre in the vacant and closed Black Gate, transforming its current lifeless and substantially ignored presence into a hub of heritage activity that will be open and available to the entire community and visitors from near and far. The Black Gate will combine with medieval neighbours, the Castle Keep and St. Nicholas Cathedral to provide an outstanding and dynamic heritage asset that will tell the story of the remarkable history of the City and the ingenuity of countless generations of its inhabitants.
Post #30 seems to indicate the area was wider than you state, including the lit and phil, St. Johns etc. clearly worthy of praise yes, but keeping 'old Newcastle' as specific to the probable location of the fort would be more defining.

I understand my observations are entirely conjectural. But it does seem to fit. One benefit of the Romans to us folk is that they did standardise a lot of their forts and buildings and so if indeed their was a fort, then we can infer as to its proportions and form etc. from other similar forts.

As for establishing the existence of the fort i would say it is nigh on irrefutable. Nevermind it being named in the Notitia Dignitatum, circumstantial evidence seems to co-oberate this. As hadrians wall originally terminated at pons aelius then it does seem to suggest there would have been a military presence. As the wall extended later the fort would probably not have been as important but it does seem unlikely they would have left the furthest east tyne crossing undefended. As for restricted access yes, but as many chares negotiate the steep slope- they aren't cliffs then secondary access would have been possible

I do not for a second recommend demolishing the castle etc! That would be a tad stupid, although i'm sure the victorians did try. What i think is that the area could be better defined through the landscaping, thats all. As hopefully it might! Good news for the black gate, although i think a custom built heritage visitor centre- of modest scale would be cheaper, maybe like the St. Pauls tourist information centre. Maybe not that design but the same scale.

Opening up the ground for landscaping could present an opportunity for an intensive archeological investigation of the area and maybe answer some of our questions. It is a mixed blessing that Newcastle has been continuously occupied for so long, from pre roman as you state, that evidence of past eras seem to disappear over the centuries.
 

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Post #30 seems to indicate the area was wider than you state, including the lit and phil, St. Johns etc. clearly worthy of praise yes, but keeping 'old Newcastle' as specific to the probable location of the fort would be more defining.

I understand my observations are entirely conjectural. But it does seem to fit. One benefit of the Romans to us folk is that they did standardise a lot of their forts and buildings and so if indeed their was a fort, then we can infer as to its proportions and form etc. from other similar forts.

As for establishing the existence of the fort i would say it is nigh on irrefutable. Nevermind it being named in the Notitia Dignitatum, circumstantial evidence seems to co-oberate this. As hadrians wall originally terminated at pons aelius then it does seem to suggest there would have been a military presence. As the wall extended later the fort would probably not have been as important but it does seem unlikely they would have left the furthest east tyne crossing undefended. As for restricted access yes, but as many chares negotiate the steep slope- they aren't cliffs then secondary access would have been possible

I do not for a second recommend demolishing the castle etc! That would be a tad stupid, although i'm sure the victorians did try. What i think is that the area could be better defined through the landscaping, thats all. As hopefully it might! Good news for the black gate, although i think a custom built heritage visitor centre- of modest scale would be cheaper, maybe like the St. Pauls tourist information centre. Maybe not that design but the same scale.

Opening up the ground for landscaping could present an opportunity for an intensive archeological investigation of the area and maybe answer some of our questions. It is a mixed blessing that Newcastle has been continuously occupied for so long, from pre roman as you state, that evidence of past eras seem to disappear over the centuries.
I think the pamphlet at #30 pre-dates the Old Newcastle Project as such and thus the confusion, the Project being a spin off as it were.

Indeed the standardisation of Roman forts does allow for various 'educated guesses' to be made but I'm sure that in the case of Pons Aelius the shape of the available land meant that some restrictions in size of buildings and slight alignments had to be changed from the 'norm'.

"As for establishing the existence of the fort I would say it is nigh on irrefutable." - I don't think anyone doubts the existence of the Roman fort, various digs over the years have proved this, so not sure as to the meaning of your comment?

Yes if the Victorians had been permitted they would have demolished the Castle Keep so that they could place their railway viaduct slightly to the south of its present position. (an American tourist was overheard to say, "why did they build the Castle Keep so close to the railway viaduct?". Advances in technology will hopefully mean that at some stage in the future, radar type ground penetration devices may be able to see under standing buildings and questions answered, but not in my life time.

What areas are you suggesting for landscaping?
 

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I think the pamphlet at #30 pre-dates the Old Newcastle Project as such and thus the confusion, the Project being a spin off as it were.

Indeed the standardisation of Roman forts does allow for various 'educated guesses' to be made but I'm sure that in the case of Pons Aelius the shape of the available land meant that some restrictions in size of buildings and slight alignments had to be changed from the 'norm'.

"As for establishing the existence of the fort I would say it is nigh on irrefutable." - I don't think anyone doubts the existence of the Roman fort, various digs over the years have proved this, so not sure as to the meaning of your comment?

Yes if the Victorians had been permitted they would have demolished the Castle Keep so that they could place their railway viaduct slightly to the south of its present position. (an American tourist was overheard to say, "why did they build the Castle Keep so close to the railway viaduct?". Advances in technology will hopefully mean that at some stage in the future, radar type ground penetration devices may be able to see under standing buildings and questions answered, but not in my life time.

What areas are you suggesting for landscaping?
Sorry, i thought you implied the fort was not proven to be in existence, when in fact you were just referring to not having its exact location and dimensions pinned down. Apologies!

I don't think it will be too long before they 'radar' or use advanced underground devices. In fact, maybe the Old Newcastle project should try to link with the local universities and actually commision another major archeological operation. Any new evidence uncovered may promote the tourist and educational aspect of the new exhibition facilities- creating a buzz and publicity to boost its openings.

As for landscaping, it is my hope they will try to define the area and give it a general tidy-up. It seems currently to be a neglected back space, with signs dotted around, arbitrary car parking, bins, poorly maintained surfaces, railings etc.
What could work as a concept would be to reinforce the thresholds to the site by using the (perhaps) NSEW orientation of the original fort openings;
NORTH; the black gate being a principle threshold with the (scrap my old idea for visitor centre) learning, exhibition centre based here;
WEST; the current open side between the bridge hotel and keep, with a better defined surface treatment, some planting.
SOUTH, the castle steps from quayside
EAST; i've yet to work that one out!!

To further milk the fort metaphor, it would be great to allow a walk around the 'cliff' top around the moot hall, perhaps a temporary raised accessible platform to give people a sense of what the fort would have been like to walk around its perimeter walls?
There does seem an urban infill gap between the top of the castle steps and the bridge hotel, but looking again at it to put in a new building here would obscure and diminish the keeps impact on the tyne gorge vista so again, a little undecided!

All in all, basically i think the old newcastle project would best showcase and boost its endeavour in looking again at the history of the site through investigative archeology, but also to redefine this mini area of the city centre. To do with its own unique expression, throughout some of its history the castle keep, walls and associated castle complex buildings would have been a defined area seperate from the sprawl of the medieval town. Why not subtlety revisit this? But instead of it being for the medieval elite, it is for educational and touristic purposes
 

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There does seem an urban infill gap between the top of the castle steps and the bridge hotel, but looking again at it to put in a new building here would obscure and diminish the keeps impact on the tyne gorge vista so again, a little undecided!
Where the private park is? - problem there would be the visual restriction on the curtain wall of the castle on the river side of that plot of land.

I'm sure you will know but archaeology is an expensive business these days and I'm not sure there are any available areas that haven't been excavated. That said the road area hasn't been given a great deal of attention but the restriction here is the historical road surface of cobbles/sets.

The Old Newcastle Project's revamp of the Black Gate also includes renewal of the wooden walkways/bridges and perhaps other improvements to the landscaping - time will tell but I understand that work is shortly to commence which will make the walkway through Black Gate off limits.
 

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Where the private park is? - problem there would be the visual restriction on the curtain wall of the castle on the river side of that plot of land.

At the car park adjacent to the bridge hotel yes. Like I said, a building would be visually obtrusive so i wouldnt say it would be a great idea, but the blank elevation of the bridge hotel does seem a little dour in view of the historic nature of the site. Maybe remove the car park and extend that garden to include some soft landscaping which would integrate with the garden areas behind the quayside buildings. Or a raised deck viewing area linked with my idea of of a walkway around the moot hall that could hold temporary structures for a programme of events relating to the old newcastle project.

Im sure the cobbles could be returned- not that i personally am a fan of them in the present state, but reordered they could be a lot better.

Here are a few landscaping precedents i think give a taste of what i am thinking, nothing too extreme, but along the lines of the cathedral external work or durhams new marketplace...

http://www.landezine.com/index.php/2010/10/church-square-pradamano/landscape_architecture_pradamano_square_di_dato_meninno_architetti_associati_06/

http://www.landezine.com/index.php/2010/06/plaza-del-torico/

http://www.landezine.com/index.php/2011/02/choorstraat-papenhulst-by-buro-lubbers/

Oh, and for my previous analogy of NSEW, the east entrance can be dog leap steps.

I look forward to visiting the black gate when its completed many distant weeks into the future when i can return home!

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Something happening at The Black Gate that I noticed this evening. Not sure if it's generic restoration / repair, or something connected with the installation of the lift?





 

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Something happening at The Black Gate that I noticed this evening. Not sure if it's generic restoration / repair, or something connected with the installation of the lift?





I would imagine as the material seems to be a temporary ply, that this is some kind of work to temporarily seal the internal environment, for evaluating general air tightness for formulation of a ventilation strategy to the upgrading works. But thats just a guess.
 
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