Before Grey Street and his Monument



This is part of a map of Newcastle upon Tyne, showing (one wants to write shewing) the city centre in the early nineteenth century before the grand streets were built. But not before they were conceived – you can see the markups of numerous ‘intended street’ on the plan. Those who know the city may find the absences of Grey Street, Grainger Street and the Grainger Market, quite interesting.

Only a generation later a chap would be able to say to his children “I remember when this was all fields”. Eldon Square’s there though. And Stowell Street (but without Chinatown). The blank area to the east of Newgate Street (here labelled Nun’s Field) pre-shadows the clearance, demolition and remolition which would happen two hundred years later. Most of the place is still quite recognisable though.

This is one of John Wood’s maps. He was an Edinburgh surveyor who produced 52 plans of Scottish towns and and nearly 60 (known) plans of English and Welsh ones. The Newcastle map was published in 1826 or 1827.

For Sale: Collapsed Bank

There’s an odd bit of business going on at Gateshead Council. As we can all see when we cross the bridge by Metro, the bit of riverbank which collapsed into the river Tyne in mid January 2011 has been left broken and untended for nearly two years now. It’s nearly impossible to find out anything about it on their website though as none of the obvious search terms turn up anything at all on the matter. So as regards what’s currently happening, I’ve no idea. That would take an FOI request and about a month.

I blogged about it last year. It has interrupted a national cycle path and nobody seems to care about it. Who is responsible for fixing it? Probably, one would think, the landowners. Who is that? The Council, again, you’d think.

But no. At least not yet.

As it happens, that particular little bit of the once delightful Pipewellgate is owned by Nexus, the very folk who carry you over the bridge by Metro. Apparently, thirty-odd years ago when they were building the bridge, they needed a couple of bits of land either side, so they bought the necessary. Well that’s not quite true – the bridge was built for the original Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, before the mass privatisation of all our local services. Nexus just ‘kind of inherited’ the land. All these years later, it’s still theirs. And now they would like very much for the Council to own it back.

Now they are – as responsible landowners providing right-of-way to public cycle-pathers – going to fix the damage. That’s underway, apparently, despite any visible evidence. And this will be to the satisfaction (whatever that means) of GMBC before the title deeds are transferred to the council. So that’s OK then. But they’d also like “to receive a percentage (to be agreed) of any future sale/development value“.A gift that is, as yet, both unlimited and eternal. Wow. Nice.

As the report (Agenda Item 22, dated 24 November 2011, page 119 of 156 in the PDF, their page 117) says, “The area has little potential for development due to its current use as highway and footpath/cyclepath and also its location and topography.” So I don’t quite know why that ‘consideration’ is being proposed without raised eyebrows. Once they’ve got the land back to the council, why would they expect to have or deserve any further interest in it?

Like I said. An odd bit of business.



In the issue of The Engineer dated 2 February 1917 are pictures – on pages 110 and 125, of the Pyrmont Bridge. This is a swing bridge over the Darling Harbour at Sydney. Sydney has, of course, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built by the same people who had put up a similar structure over the River Tyne at Newcastle in 1926. And Newcastle also has Armstrong’s Swing Bridge of 1876. It’s almost as if the Australians are copycatting the Geordies.


19171109newquebecbridge1024A bridge, the longest cantilever in the world, finally crossed the St Lawrence in August 1917, The photo is from The Engineer, the 9 November 1917 issue, page 403.

Although no Tacoma Narrows, its place in bridgy history is significant. It’s largely due to the two previous failed attempts that we now have professional institutes of engineers, designed to protect both the body municipal and the engineers themselves from those who don’t know what they’re doing or who don’t care how they build.

Not that this seems to have helped Italian Seismologists.


Not too many places on the High Street where you can pop in for a bag of bridges. The Motherwell Bridge Company is, today, quite a large concern. This is an advert from 1917, found amongst all the adverts piled in at the back of the volume containing all of the issues of the journal The Engineer for that year.

This one’s from a Bristol company, Llewellins (an unusual spelling), also still around after 95 years – which is good to see. The great pile of worm and spur reduction gears in the ad is impressive, but there’s no sense of scale. They feel big though.

To get a sense of scale, there’s nothing quite like putting a working engineer in the picture, standing next to the product. Let’s see the ad for one of our very own Steel casters, John Spencer of Newcastle upon Tyne at Newburn.

Finally, still in 1917, there’s this Ferodo ad. The brake-pad people. They are still around but I’m wondering if they are now so embedded into the infrastructure that nobody needs to mention them any more. Last I heard their name was on some small pieces of plastic scenery adorning a scalextric set. And that was when I was a youngster.


The First World War has been going for three years and it’s September 1917. As an editorial in a February issue of The Engineer pointed out, time works differently in a war. Events like New Year, Christmas, Easter etc are no longer landmarks in a repeating cycle. Instead they’re just barely noticed punctuations in – as it was then – thirty months of continuous struggle. There’s no year, there’s only a long one-thing-after-anotherness. January doesn’t come around again, as usual, but is succeeded by another January, then another one. This happens, Then this happens. Then this. But already there’s a sense that it can end, and that life may soon return to the normal sense and season.

And this is a bunch of photographs from a supplement to The Engineer, the 21st of September in 1917, a couple of foldouts near page 262. Somewhere in England there’s a factory turning out aircraft, with the familiar red white and blue British roundels (in monochrome).

An English Aeroplane Factory


Building-up Wing Framework


Assembling Wing Frames


Covering the Wings

Just before we get to the last one – have a look at that one above a bit more closely. What’s going on against the back wall of the room? Three women on the right with their hands up, as if dancing a highland reel, and on the left a few chaps in suits just standing around and looking forwards. In fact most of the folk in the room look as if they’re visitors rather than habituées. Anyway – to the last fabulous picture with the bloke in the front, bottom left, looking into the camera and inspiring such confidence and knowhow. The engineer’s moustache, that’s what it is. He must be Northern.


Building up Wings etc.

Everyone in there looks so busy and alive. Hard to believe there’s nobody in it who’s still around.

Swan Hunter Shark

H.M. Torpedo-Boat Destroyer Shark

Swan, Hunter, and Wigham Richardson, Limited, Wallsend on Tyne, Builders

One of Twenty

Picture from The Engineer, 8 November 1912 issue, page 501. It was accompanied by the article below. Which comes across as a bit of a memory test about which they would be asking questions later to test your comprehension. The  third paragraph is a bit sub-par however, as it seems to suggest that the crew will comprise men equipped with fittings.

The Shark would be a casualty, four years later, in the battle of Jutland, one of those cases where the captain went down with his ship.

H.M.S. Shark

The Naval Programme of 1911–1912 included twenty ocean-going torpedo-boat destroyers of what is known as the Acasta class. Of these the first to run her trials at sea is the Shark, of which, by the courtesy of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Limited, who built her, we are enabled to give the accompanying illustration. This firm is building two other boats of the same class, the Sparrowhawk and the Spitfire, the former of which was launched in October last. The other vessels of the class are being built by John Brown and Co., Limited, three, the Acasta, Achates, and Ambuscade; Messrs. Denny, one, the Ardent; Hawthorn Leslie and Co., Limited, three, the Christopher, Cockatrice, and Contest; the Fairfield Company, one, the Fortune; The Parsons company, one, the Garland; the London and Glasgow Company, three, the Lynx, the Midge, and the Owl; and Messrs. Thorneycroft, five, the Hardy, the Paragon, the Porpoise, the Unity, and Victor. The first of these, the Hardy, is being fitted with Diesel engines for cruising purposes.

All the vessels of the class are to be of approximately the same displacement, namely, 935 tons, and to have the same or approximately the same horse-power, namely, 24,500, the trial speed varying from 31 to 32 knots.

The dimensions vary slightly, the length from 257ft. to 260ft.; the beam from 26½ft. to 27ft.; and the draught from 8ft. to 8.3ft. The armament is the same in every case, namely, three 4in. guns and two torpedo tubes, and each vessel will carry a complement of 100 men. It is understood all of them will have water-tube boilers, and all be fitted for burning oil fuel.

The Shark herself is, like her sister vessels the Sparrowhawk and Spitfire, 260ft. long by 26ft. beam, and has a draught of 8.3 ft. She is propelled by three screws, as are to be the Acasta, Achates, Ambuscade, Christopher, Cockatrice, Contest, Lynx, Midge, and Owl, while the Ardent, Fortune, Garland, Paragon, Porpoise, Unity, and Victor are only to have two propellors.

We understand that the Sparrowhawk and Spitfire are in a forward state of construction, and that their builders have two other similar torpedo-boat destroyers in hand, namely, H.M.SS. Sarpedon and Ulysses.