Waterloo Street

Not the 1815 show
Sat. 4th May, 2002

The old King George III lay blind and incapable from porphyria, and it was the period of the Regency when Napoleon was finally routed at a Belgian field near the village of Waterloo. This victory over what the propaganda machine of the day dubbed megalomania and evil was celebrated in street names all over Britain.

Newcastle's Waterloo Street has undergone a number of sweeping changes since the early 19th century, and is poised on the brink of yet another. Here a rare monument to
Richard Grainger sits beside a plaque celebrating Tom Collins, once Mayor and activist for the quality of the built environment.

Grainger and Tom Collins celebrated here
0730 Sunday 19th April, 1970

 ©2000 John Alexander

Thornton Street looking towards Waterloo Street

This 1970 view of Waterloo street shows the Charlton Bonded warehouse on the right, and the 1930s Alfred Douglas House behind. On the left of the street is the warehouse and office properties standing on a narrow plot between Waterloo street seen here, and Thornton Street branching left like a tuning fork just to the left of this picture.

To the left of Thornton Street was the rear of The Crown Hotel, whose face was on Clayton Street West.

During the 1970s the frontage of the old hotel was preserved and all behind up to and including the buildings here on the left were demolished to be superceded by a housing development.

The new development has provided a welcome influx of inner city residency, and despite what one might think about the previous building, its fabric and internal structure did not allow this new use.

The new apartments are cunningly slotted together, yet offer spacious and uncluttered aspects, with airy views.

The local architect, Barnett & Winskill, decided on a proclamation of modernity here in Waterloo Street, the creation of a central Plaza in the old Thornton Street, and a preservation of the old in the Clayton Street aspect. The contractors were Brims & Co., and it was opened for business during 1982.

Here is the southern end of Thornton Street, and a fragment of the previous building use has been preserved.

The 1919 Western Dairies Company offices stood in the renewed structure, and an adjacent mews housed the horse and cart and latterly electric float transport. By the time of the housing development it had been disused for many years, and its rebuild and new windows make it look more splendid than it had been for more than half a century.

The new housing includes ground and basement car parking, and entrances can be seen here. The sunny central Plaza can be glimpsed to the extreme left.

South end of Thornton Street
Alfred Wilson House

Alfred Wilson House was conceived in the 1920s as a steel girder structure with brick facing and galvanised metal window frames. It was a Co-op commission

Its chic utilitarian design was a bold statement of space and height. There are few thick pillars as in previous designs, and the internal space was open instead of being honeycombed with load bearing walls.

The ground and basement floors, previously massive storage areas, have been put to use as variously cinemas (Studios 1-2-3-4), night-clubs (Scamps, Rockshots, Powerhouse, Scotland Yard), pubs (Hofbrauhaus, Village), and a strange shoot 'em up in the dark called Laser Quest. It is currently being dismantled and a hotel and leisure complex is planned.

Condemned block
Sunderland Srteet
Waterloo street looking north from Westmorland Road
Thornton Street looking north

The upper shot here shows the southern end of Waterloo Street to its junction with Westmorland Road and the continuation into Marlborough Crescent. That low block with the "Happy Chip" on the corner is due for demolition under the new plans.

The junction closest to the camera is that with Sunderland Street and the next picture shows the current view. The property on the right will be flattened, and the second hand car sales businesses have been largely cleared away.

The scene on the left is from Westmorland Road looking north. Look closely and you may spot the turret of Charlton's Bonded Warehouse. Soon this will be the only older building in the street.

North of the bonded warehouse, until recently the Newcastle Lighting Centre, lies the Newcastle College Dance and Performing Arts Centre, occupying a further Victorian warehouse. This fits around the back of the Stoll theatre, built by Joseph Cowen in 1867.

The street north of the corner of the Charlton building, erected in 1885, is Thornton Street to its junction with Westgate Road, and the route continues north up Bath Lane to the Newcastle Brewery, but no longer for vehicular traffic.

The view below, from Cross Street, would not have been possible before 1991 as the corner site was occupied by the Cannon cinema (previously Essoldo, Classic and ABC). It was closed when a new Warner multiplex was opened in Manors.

Thornton Street from Cross Street looking across Westgate Road
Essoldo Cinema, Westgate Road, November, 1938

 ©1990 City of Newcastle Libraries

The Essoldo cinema was opened in 1938, and this picture of that year shows the use of sandstone to contrast with the red brick. This application of line reduced the boxy appearance of the building, and it faced up the hill making its size become more impressive the nearer one approached. Those modern letters were cast in bright blue enamel.

Internally it was a riot of "vitriolite" glass panels and engraved mirrors with the main auditorium side panels an adventurous swirl of concealed lighting.

Its first manager was Hugh le Mournier, it was converted to twin screens in 1971 and at its close in November 1989 its manager was an acquaintance of mine, Andrew Charnock, who transferred to Darlington. The last lights were for "Back to the Future" and "Shirley Valentine".

Bath Lane looking south towards Westgate Road
West Walls and Morden Tower

Bath Lane has recently been converted into this grassy traffic free area to show off the walls to good effect. The small buildings at the far end are on the site of the Westgate, demolished around the time of Waterloo, and the edge of Durham Tower is visible at the top. The new building on the right is the Newcastle Foyer. This innovative project for youth housing and employment is on the site of the previous Casablanca and later Speakeasy nightclub, the latter owned by Bob Monkhouse.

The view on the left is looking from the Blackfriars postern towards Morden Tower, the location of the poetry meetings started in the 1960s by local poet Tom Pickard, and his wife, Connie, who continued them for many years after his departure in the early 1970s.

Mayday parade swings around Clayton Street
Local Government in Darlington requires white boiler suits!

Finally, today was the occasion of the Trades Union Mayday march and rally. The tuneful and colourful crowd, not as large as in past years, brought welcome relief from the industrial strength shopping that was feverishly in progress.

Here the procession rounds the corner of Clayton Street and Newgate Street before passing along Blackett Street and John Dobson Street.

Seen by some as a leftover from an earlier era, or by others as at best an irrelevance or at worst an irritant, it is without doubt that the Trades Union movement has brought about much reduction in worker exploitation, set a lasting political agenda, and has been a welcome home for the vigorous political passion of youth.

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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