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Newcastle_SightSeeing_Tour_transcript

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					Logo – RNIB supporting blind and partially sighted people




              RNIB Newcastle Sight Seeing Tour
              Transcript 11/05/10

              Hello, I’m Marcus Bentley, you probably know me as the voice of
              Big Brother. Welcome to the RNIB Sight Seeing tour of Newcastle.
              The tour will take you on a journey of the city and some of its most
              famous landmarks, streets and sights but this tour will also
              highlight some of the ways in which someone with partial sight loss
              experiences the world around them, touching on the other senses
              they might use.

              With 100 more people each day beginning to lose their sight it’s a
              very real issue for all of us to consider.

              Newcastle has a great heritage in coal, shipbuilding and
              engineering. It’s also known for its passion for sport, particularly
              football. The tour will certainly reflect these things but will also
              reveal Newcastle’s interesting history – much of which is still
              visible, including a fantastic array of buildings.

              Your starting point is Grainger Town.

              The tour starts in the area now known as Grainger Town and will
              take you down through the city to the Quayside area by the River
              Tyne. Grainger Town takes its name from a local man, Richard
              Grainger, who was born in humble circumstances only yards from
              where we now stand. Grainger would transform Newcastle and
              make it unique among British cities – a city centre of the first half of
              the 19th Century built in a Classical style of architecture.

              Around you, you will see the results of Grainger’s work – a
              wonderful collection of fine streets and impressive buildings, all
              completed in an astonishing six years. The building material is
              warm local sandstone, seen to beautiful effect on a sunny day, the
              official name for the finely cut, smooth stones is polished ashlar.

Royal National Institute of Blind People
Chair – Kevin Carey
Chief Executive – Lesley-Anne Alexander
Registered address – RNIB, 105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE. 020 7388
1266. rnib.org.uk
Incorporated by Royal Charter. Registered charity number 226227.
VAT registration number 524 4558 45.
Grainger had only a few years of education and started his working
life as a jobbing builder. But a £2,000 dowry received on marrying
allowed him to begin a career as what we would now call a
property developer. He employed talented local architects – John
Dobson, John and Benjamin Green, and his in house architects
George Walker and John Wardle.

Please press pause and walk towards
Anderson Palace, located near
Grainger Market and Anderson Place
You will be standing in what were the grounds of an Elizabethan
mansion called Anderson Place, located near Grainger market.

Anderson Place encompassed the land of the former nunnery of
St. Bartholomew’s and a former Franciscan friary. Grainger paid
£50,000 for the property and his plan was accepted by the local
authorities – as Newcastle wasn’t a city until 1882 – and he
demolished Anderson Place.

Close your eyes and listen to the bustle of the busy streets and
roads around you. In six short years Grainger built nine new
streets, 300 shops and houses, a new theatre, a huge covered
market and numerous inns and pubs.

Please follow these instructions to
reach the next stopping point
Now walk to the junction of two of the finest Newcastle Streets –
Grey Street and Grainger Street.

The focus of the two streets is Grey’s Monument of 1838.
Please press pause and walk towards
Grey’s Monument
If you were partially sighted you would not be able to see Grey’s
Monument in full and would need much more of a description to
bring it to life.

It is a 135 feet tall column; it has a statue of Earl Grey on the top
by E. H. Bailey, the same man responsible for Nelson’s statue on
top of the famous London column. This local noble – one of only
two men from the North East to be Prime Minister – is the Grey of
Earl Grey tea fame.

The inscription at the foot of the statue tells you that Grey was “a
champion of civil and religious liberty” and he was responsible for
the “great measure of parliamentary reform”, also known as the
Great Reform Act of 1832. There are railings round the top of the
statue, stopping you plunging to your doom if you ascend the
internal spiral staircase of 164 steps to enjoy the magnificent views
out over Newcastle.

One of the most common sight loss conditions is Age-Related
Macular Degeneration (AMD). Those who have this condition
experience their vision slowly deteriorating, causing central blurring
– if someone with AMD were looking at this Monument they would
be likely to only see a small amount of the statue, with the colours
faded like those of an old photograph. The statue may well be
obscured around the middle by a blurred dark spot.

Please follow these instructions to
reach the next stopping point
Now head down the hill from the Monument and walk down the
wonderful Grey Street, voted the finest street in the country by
Radio 4 listeners in recent years.
Please press pause and walk down
Grey Street
Famous writers like Sir John Betjeman and Sir Nikolas Pevsner
have also praised this street. What is so special about it? On either
side of you are buildings all built in classical style but you can see
variety here – different architects designed different buildings. You
will be able to see lots of columns, triangular pediments, urns but
variously arranged; and there are sticky out bits – pavilions, the
architectural writers call them; so the street front is not
monotonous.

In recent years the shop fronts – windows and fascias - have been
tastefully restored, with the stone also cleaned. Grey Street
probably now looks better than it has done for 150 years.

But I also think what makes the street special is that it descends
the hill and also curves to the right so new views are constantly
unfolding. At the apex of the curve is the marvellous Theatre
Royal, completed remarkably, in about nine months in 1837 – 38.

It is a very special place and most Tynesider’s are rightly proud of
it.

Please follow these instructions to
reach the next stopping point
You should now move from the spacious elegance of Grey Street
into an older, Medieval part of Newcastle and a street called High
Bridge.

Please press pause and walk to High
Bridge Street
Here you will find narrow streets, the sites of the medieval markets
and one of the town’s medieval churches and the Castle. This
“narrow stinking lane” so described about 1800 was the primary
east – west communication until the 1780s.

Over to your left is the Duke of Wellington pub where you can find
a good selection of real ales, however, its main claim to fame is
that William Campbell was the landlord there. For many years
Campbell featured in the Guinness Book of Records as Britain’s
heaviest man. He was 6 ft 4 inches tall and measured the same
around his chest - 76 inches. He weighed 54 stone. Campbell died
in 1878 aged only 22, in the upstairs of the pub. To get his body to
the hearse, an upstairs window had to be taken out and a derrick
set up to lower him. One of the windows is noticeably larger than
all the others.

Please follow these instructions to
reach the next stopping point
You should now move down to Cloth Market, one of the two
narrow offshoots of the Bigg Market (the other is called Groat
Market where a type of oats was sold).

Please press pause and walk to Cloth
Market
On your left is the tall narrow entrance to the cobbled yard and
stables of the Old George pub. Remarkably in a modern industrial
city we have a 17th Century coaching inn – you feel transported to
an old English country town. Legend has it that Charles I had a pint
here – he was a prisoner of the Scots here for nine months at the
end of Civil War under a form of house arrest.

On your left now is a pub called Balmbra’s, once a music hall.
Every Geordie has to pay homage here, because it was here in
1862 that Geordie Ridley first sang his own composition, the
Geordie anthem The Blaydon Races.

On the anniversary of the race in the song, a horse race takes
place. On 9th June every year, a run takes place from here to
Blaydon. The song begins with the words “’Twas on the ninth of
June eighteen hundred and sixty two”.

The length of the race is currently 5.9 miles. It is very popular with
a mix of serious and fun runners. 4,000 runners usually take part.
Runners set off from outside Balmbra’s, set on their way by the
ringing of Jackie Broon’s bell which is mentioned in the 1862 song;
the bell is carefully conveyed from its normal home in the city’s
Discovery Museum.

Moving on, now head towards Mosley Street.

Please press pause and walk towards
Mosley Street
This street replaced High Bridge as Newcastle’s main east – west
thoroughfare in the 1780s. With the adjacent Dean Street, it
represents the first instance of town planning in Newcastle. Some
of the nicely proportioned original Georgian houses can still be
identified in the two streets. But most of the buildings date from the
late 19th Century and you should be able to see the bold carving of
the names of leading financial organisations of the time.

Mosley Street will forever be in the history books. It was the first
street in the world to be lit by the modern electric light. A local man,
Joseph Swan invented the modern light bulb at about the same
time as the American, Thomas Edison.

His early experiments were carried out above the chemist’s shop
where he was a partner. Its site is to the right, up towards that
large 1960s block at the end of the street, the roundabout which
surrounds it is called the Swan Roundabout in his honour.
The next stop is St Nicholas Cathedral.

Please follow these instructions to
reach the next stopping point
Cross Mosley Street by this two stage junction and go around the
other side of the Cathedral where it is quieter and the cathedral
can be seen to better effect.

Please press pause and walk towards
St Nicholas Cathedral
Standing on a stretch of cobbled street, with your back to the
Castle, you will have the magnificent St. Nicholas Cathedral in
front of you. You should be able to take in the great view, however,
let’s take a moment to think about how someone who experiences
the common sight condition glaucoma would view this scene. They
would probably be experiencing severe tunnel vision, meaning that
the view would be surrounded by a dark haze and only the central
part of the view would be visible.

St Nicholas’ was one of four medieval parish churches of the town
– there were other religious establishments, a nunnery and several
friaries. St Nicholas was the largest; in fact it was the fourth largest
parish church in all of England. It became a cathedral in 1882, one
of the smallest in the country.

It dates from the 12th Century but most of what is visible is from the
14th and 15th Centuries. What is most impressive is the great crown
spire. It is very unusual and only 3 others were ever built in the UK,
the best known is St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

On top of a tall square tower are 4 remarkable flying buttresses
which soar towards the sky, leaning towards each other and
holding up a tall square lantern tower. At the very top is an
octagonal spire. There are four gilded biblical figures and
numerous golden weather vanes. Seen from south of the
cathedral, on a sunny day, with a framing of blue sky, the sight is
truly wonderful.

Next you will move on to the Castle itself.

Please press pause and walk towards
the castle
The Normans built a castle here in 1080. The Romans had built a
fort here in the 2nd Century and so the new fortification was the
“new castle”. Nothing remains of the 1080 castle; it was probably a
motte and bailey castle of earth and wood.

What is visible today are buildings of the 12th and 13th Centuries,
separated by the railway viaduct which runs slap bang through the
middle of the castle enclosure. Firstly, you will arrive at the Black
Gate. Does this get its name from dark dastardly deeds done here
in ancient times? Sadly, the very ordinary explanation is that a man
named Black rented the tower in the 17th century and the gateway
tower has had that name since then.

Henry III had constructed this building in 1247 to 1250 as a new,
stronger gatehouse of the barbican type i.e. it projects from the
castle walls so it can provide flanking fire. As you pass over the
deep ditch by the (modern) bridge, visible below is the supporting
stonework of the original drawbridge. Going through the archway
there are guardrooms with arrow slots either side and a slot for a
portcullis above you. Various stone walls of varying heights can
next be seen and a short stretch of outer castle wall, still quite
high. You should next go through the arch of the viaduct and come
across some cobbles laid out to represent part of the Roman fort
which lies beneath the pavement and the castle keep.
Keep walking until you have arrived at the castle keep, a
remarkable, and fortunate survival – the Victorian railway
engineers had wanted to knock it down.

Please press pause and walk towards
the castle keep
What we have here is a late Norman keep - its plan is roughly
square, it has projecting corner towers and a forebuilding tower
protecting the entrance stairs and castle doorway. It is topped by
restored battlements.

The castle was a royal one built by Henry II between 1168 and
1178. Remarkably we know the exact cost - £1144! We know the
name of the actual builder – Maurice Caementarius as he was
recorded in royal records as being paid in 1174 – 75. A Maurice
the Engineer was paid for work on Dover during the same reign
and there are similarities between the two castles.

Probably our Maurice the Mason built both. Inside the castle you
get a good feel for what a Norman castle was like – a Great Hall,
private chambers, toilets (en suite facilities 800 years before the
rest of us!) narrow passageways, spiral staircases, a chapel, a
ground floor room used as a prison for Northumberland prisoners
for 400 years. As suggested earlier it is rather marvellous to find
something like this in a large, industrial/commercial city. Again, if
you were experiencing partial sight loss you could use other
senses such as touch to get a feel of what the building is like,
particularly the stone walls.

Your next stop and highlight is Sandhill.

Please press pause and walk to
Sandhill
This was once literally a “hill of naked sand” where the Lort Burn
met the tidal Tyne. This triangular area was once at Newcastle’s
commercial and administrative heart. Across from you is the
Guildhall, seat of town government, judicial activities and, until the
1960s, where the trade of the river was controlled. The present
building was built in the 1650s although there has been a guild hall
here since at least 1400. The present Georgian façade appeared
in the 1790s and early 1800s. Upstairs is the Mayor’s parlour,
unchanged since the 1650s.

You can also find the very imposing Merchant Adventurers’ Court,
testimony to the power and wealth of Tyneside merchants down
the centuries. The largest room is the Court Room with its original
chequered marble floor and its striking courtroom of the late 18th
century or early 19th century - very atmospheric with shackles and
vicious looking inward curving spikes around the prisoners’ areas.
You can easily imagine poor unfortunates being sentenced to
transportation to Australia or to public execution on the Town
Moor. Hopefully, whether you are fully sighted or even if you had a
form of sight loss you would get a sense of the imposing
atmosphere of the room.

Opposite the Guildhall are the houses of the merchants who
dominated Newcastle’s trade. Here, for example, you will see the
amazing half timbered Bessie Surtees house with its great range of
windows. It’s as if an Elizabethan country mansion has appeared
in an urban setting.

Moving down the narrow Watergate alley, you will arrive on the
Quayside for what is a truly “wow” moment.

Please press pause and walk to the
Quayside
As we get to the river’s edge, look to the right and left and see the
unique collection of the Tyne Bridges. A Times writer a year or two
back called this one of the great riverscapes of Europe You have
seven bridges in close proximity of different eras, of differing styles
and materials, at different heights above the river. It is very
dramatic.

To the left, downriver, is the latest bridge, the Millennium Bridge
with its unique tilting mechanism. Nearer is the spectacular Tyne
Bridge, a Tyneside icon, always a symbol of home for returning
Geordies. This is a really iconic landmark. If you had AMD you
would probably experience a dark blurring, it would most likely be
at the centre of the bridges arch so not all of it will be visible to you.

Next, you have the low level Swing Bridge. It was built by Sir
William Armstrong to allow access to his famous factories a few
miles upstream at Elswick; opened in 1876 it still has its original
hydraulic machinery in working order, though the bridge is rarely
opened these days. In its heyday 6000 ships a year sailed up and
down the river requiring the bridge to be opened.

Further to the right is that wonder of Victorian engineering, Robert
Stephenson’s High Level Bridge of 1849. It is a two level bridge,
rail above and road beneath, the first of its kind when built.

Looking again downriver you should be able to see a scene which
typifies modern Newcastle: regeneration. Twenty years ago the
Quayside was derelict. Now it has been transformed and there is a
vibrant mix of leisure, cultural and employment opportunities.

The tall brick building is the Baltic. Once a flour mill, now an
internationally famous Centre for Contemporary Art. Nearer is The
Sage Gateshead, the Norman Foster designed glass and steel
structure which is strikingly futuristic. Here, the local Northern
Symphony Orchestra has its home, performing regularly in the
1700 seat main hall. There are a further two performance halls and
a variety of other facilities. A huge range of musical events take
place here.

You have now come to the end of the tour of some of the most
iconic sights of Newcastle.
I hope you have not only enjoyed your own experience but also
been able to think about how someone with sight loss might have
experienced elements of the tour.

To find out more about RNIB and how you can become involved
with their work supporting blind and partially sighted people, log
onto www.rnib.org.uk

				
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