Gallery · Newcastle and North East

The Lost Buildings of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

eldon square

Why did Newcastle lose one quarter to a third of its architectural heritage in the post-war years?

A simple answer is often given: T. Dan Smith, Labour leader of the City Council (1960-1965), not only destroyed significant portions of our architectural heritage for political reasons but did so while lining his own pockets.

But as I tried to show in Four Visions of T. Dan Smith the answer to this question is much more complex than conventional wisdom has often suggested (and I will refrain from investigating it here).

Newcastle, however, still lives in the shadow of Smith. The monuments to progress erected throughout and following his reign continue to wound our civic pride. Or perhaps, throughout our journeys over the Swan House Roundabout, past the City Library and Pearl on New Bridge Street, towards Eldon Square, we may in fact be unaware that fine buildings once existed in their place, years before reinforced concrete became architecturally fashionable.

Here is a collection of “Now and Then” images which will be updated in small doses as I discover new material. (If any readers have any pictures that they wish to share please comment and send away.)

The Royal Arcade (1832) and Swan House Roundabout (1969)





The Old Town Hall (1863) and No. 1 Cathedral Square (Jobcentre Plus) (1973)


Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 16.21.16

The Pearl Assurance House (19th Century, 1971)

008267:Northumberland Street/Pilgrim Street Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown 1912

Pearl today

Kelmsley House, Westgate House (1972) and Vita Student Newcastle (2016)



vita student.jpg

Newcastle City Library (19th Century, 1968, 2009)

central library 1.jpg

central library 2.jpg

central library 3

YMCA Building (1900) and Eldon Square Shopping Centre Entrance (2016)


eldon square entrance

Old Eldon Square (1840) and Eldon Square (1976)



At least we still have Grey Street (1836).

grey street 2

grey st


5 thoughts on “The Lost Buildings of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

  1. The council (still Labour) are continuing to lay waste to our architectural heritage. Look at what is happening to New Bridge Street and the Odeon cinema site. Look at all the buildings being either demolished or refitted to provide housing for students whilst locals are unable to access social housing!

  2. A very useful set of images: I hadn’t seen most of the ‘before’ pictures previously.
    On the general theme of building loss and the sixties’ enthusiasm for concrete, it is easy to overlook the contempt with which victorian architecture was held in the early and middle twentieth centuries, nationally as well as locally. When The Victorian Society (the preservation society for victorian and edwardian buildings) was founded around 1960, it was very much a minority view that 19th century buildings had any kind of merit. Reading the early history of the society is sobering: it is astonishing – to us – to see how close St Pancras came to demolition.
    And it wasn’t just planners, councillors and contractors who had it in for victorian buildings. Victorian houses were gutted of much of their ornamentation to provide clean, modern spaces: fireplaces were taken out, coving and picture rails removed, doors boarded over.
    Finally, we should note that valuing heritage is as much a cultural phenomenon as wanting to replace old buildings with new ones.

  3. You probably know this but it was T Dan Smith who saved the former Lloyds bank (on Grey Street) by having it rebuilt exactly as it was after being hit by a bomb. Had he not, the belief is that Grey street would have been lost gradually to concrete. Newcastle vandals also built rail road across the site of a medieval castle in the nineteenth century.

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