Clues to the streetscape of central Newcastle during the First World War come in many forms. A few buildings have the same occupant – Lloyd’s Bank and the Theatre Royal on Grey Street; Reid’s jewelers on Blackett Street; Central Station and the County Hotel on Neville Street. Others have similar occupants – Central Arcade and Grainger Market. On Grey Street again prestigious buildings such as the Bank of England (now Barluga) and the Royal Turk’s Head Hotel (closing the view down Shakespeare Street) are distinguished by their facades.
Some buildings have obvious signs of their former use on their faces – the Savings Bank on the corner of Westgate and Grainger Street West, or the original building names on some of the other blocks along Grainger Street West. Isaak Walton’s outfitters put their name in mosaic in one of the entrances to the Butcher (Grainger) Market that flanked their large shop. Some signs are less obvious – the monograms on what were the facades of Tilley’s Cafe and T. & G. Allan’s stationers on Blackett Street, opposite Reid’s; or on High Bridge marking the extension of the Turk’s Head in 1901 by its owners J.H. Graham; the pineapples on the former pub and grill room on the corner of Nun and Grainger Streets.
For more clues we must leave the street for the library. The 1894 large scale Ordnance Survey map (the Lit & Phil has a full set) gives us a framework. The smaller scale 1919 map (surveyed in 1914) brings us up to date. These maps can be peopled using the annual trades directories (the Lit & Phil has a full set of Ward’s).
For the actual look of the streets we have the City Library’s Local Studies extensive collection of old photographs. Some have already been used in popular publications. A selection are in an album on Flickr and can be accessed via the Library’s website.
These show streets dominated by horse drawn vehicles and trams with their rails and overhead wires. People in hats throng below shop awnings. Advertising signs crowd Mr. Grainger’s elegant facades. Only from photos can we know that the adjacent tea dealers had models of tea pickers, a mandarin and a pagoda over one of the entrances to the Butcher Market. Only they can bring back to life the three cinemas on Grey Street and Grainger Street, all opened in the year preceding the outbreak of war.