Throwback: Trinity House Newcastle


I’m in Trinity House fairly often, as it’s where most of the Collingwood Society meetings are held – just not often in daylight, as most of the talks are winter evenings! So I took a chance last summer to take a few photos, as it’s an amazing place, accessed through a little archway from Broad Chare in among a muddle of modern buildings, and then opening up behind into a range of buildings round a main courtyard.

Trinity House was set up in 1505 as a charity to support local seafarers, and soon became involved in improving navigation, first building marks and lights at the mouth of the Tyne and eventually becoming responsible for marks between Berwick and Whitby, and licensing masters and pilots, all paid for by dues on ships coming into their rivers. These powers have generally passed on to modern bodies, and the dues abolished,but they’re still active in various ways including licensing pilots.

The bulk of the buildings visible now are Georgian, although sometimes copying an earlier style, but there was a building on the site when Trinity House took it over in 1505, and their chapel was added in the 16th century.

The main room of the building, and the place where the talks are held, is the Banqueting Hall on the south side of the main courtyard.

Banqueting Hall

There are plaques on just about everything to tell you when it was built or rebuilt, and who was responsible for it – Trinity House seem to be very proud of their work!

Building the hall

Inside it’s decorated in a very nautical fashion. There’s a good description here of the various paintings on the walls – I generally sit and look at Quiberon Bay, and get muddled about the others.

The ceiling is painted with a sailing ship in the middle, and an optical illusion is supposed to mean that the sails swell regardless of where you’re looking at them from.

Banqueting Hall ceiling

At the foot of the entrance stairs as you come into the courtyard are two anchors, one from the Armada, and one far more recent. How either of them got to be here, I don’t know!

Armada anchor

(On the other side of the stairs for a long time was the model of a new Collingwood monument they were hoping to build, but both the model and the idea seem to have vanished.)

The main entrance is more obviously Georgian, rebuilt in 1800 in the style of the time.

The entrance

Another courtyard is visible from my usual shortcut round the back of the theatre, although it’s also accessible through an arch from the main courtyard, holding almhouses and the old school building, originally intended for the children of brethren, and later teaching navgation.

Almshouse courtyard

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