I had a change of scene the last time I was in Newcastle, for the Collingwood Society talk – instead of my usual route to Broad Chare past St Nicholas’s and down the Side, I went down to the castle and the Castle Stairs, another interesting way of cutting through places older than the elegant Grainger town.
The usual way is for a reason, though, and was one of my first ever bits of Age of Sail exploration – it was in a house at the top of the Side that Collingwood was born and grew up, close to the quayside and the Tyne, and in a street at that time “from one end to the other filled with shops of merchants, goldsmiths, milliners, upholsterers, &c.”.
The building on the site now is Edwardian, but it’s marked with a commemorative plaque and bust.
Although the buildings are much grander than they would have been in the 18th century, the setting of the street is still very distinctive, pushing up from the river to the upper town in a way that would have been even more obvious before the great bridges were built to fill the gaps.
The lower part is now dwarfed by a railway bridge. Dean Street, branching off halfway up, was built in the late 18th century to give an easier route than the steep, narrow top of the Side – there’s more history of the area in this article
Not far from the bottom of the Side are two much older houses, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and now known as Bessie Surtees’ House after a later inhabitant.
John Scott was a schoolmate of Collingwood’s at the Newcastle Grammar School, although a few years younger.
At the top of the street is the church of St Nicholas, now the cathedral of Newcastle, which in the 18th century was still part of the Diocese of Durham.
This is where Collingwood was baptised and married, and although he was buried in London a monument was erected to him here.
And running from the cathedral back towards the station is Collingwood Street – probably the only city where this is more prominent than its Nelson Street!