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Newcastle Castle re-opens, unlocking the door to Newcastle’s medieval heart

17th April 2015

Categories: Convention Bureau latest news

Newcastle’s original landmark attraction re-opened to the public last month following a £1.67m refurbishment. Equipped with new interpretation and exhibitions, Newcastle Castle – which is made up of the newly renovated Black Gate and upgraded Castle Keep – will allow visitors to delve further than ever before into the city's colourful and rich history.

Newcastle Castle

Kate Sussams, Project Manager at the Old Newcastle Project, said: “The journey we have undertaken over the last two years has been truly fascinating and a real time-hop. The stories we’ve uncovered have made us smile and wince in equal measure. Highlights include prisoners being hung, drawn and quartered, stories of rogue sheriffs, tales from the Civil War and even a local merchant’s attempt to make a donkey fly from the top of the Castle Keep! There are so many interesting stories of the people who lived and worked in the Castle buildings and in the surrounding Castle Garth.”

“We’re delighted we can now open our doors to the public once again... Newcastle Castle, is after all, the city’s original visitor attraction!”

Newcastle Castle offers a unique setting for a meeting, event, dinner or drinks reception. As well as the Castle’s Great Hall or the Black Gate’s Harbottle Room, the Keep’s roof also makes a stunning setting for a drinks reception, with its panoramic views of the city and River Tyne.

The Castle Keep – a Scheduled Ancient Monument – has long been an iconic symbol of the region's past – being all that remains of the stone medieval stronghold built in the 1170s by Henry II. Thanks to the refurbishment, the cellar, formerly the county prison, and upper-floor Great Hall now boast state of the art audio-visual installations, relaying key events from the city's past. The same stunning views of the cityscape will be available to view from the rooftop and now those visitors with mobility difficulties can enjoy a virtual tour thanks to a new Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enabled oak floor, ensuring accessibility for all – despite hundreds of stairs!

The second building to make-up Newcastle Castle is the Black Gate, which was the ancient barbican, or 'fortified gateway', for the Castle, built in 1247. Previously the headquarters for the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, this often overlooked landmark closed to the public for almost two decades. The renovation has seen it fitted with an external lift, clad in wood to merge with the centuries-old architecture, allowing access to three levels of the building, including a new exhibition space, a reception area, gift-shop and toilets.

Black Gate

From the 17th century through until the late 19th, the area between the buildings, the Castle Garth, was rife with slum tenements and taverns of ill-repute. The third floor of the Black Gate will recreate some of the sights and sounds of this infamous area, including revealing exactly why the building is called the Black Gate.

Aided by a £1.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the Old Newcastle Project has worked hard to enhance the existing buildings and create a gateway into the City's incredible past.

Ivor Crowther, Head of the HLF North East, said: “Inspiring people by supporting the vibrancy and diversity of our cultural heritage is a key aim of the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as increasing access into these amazing buildings for as many people as possible. The renovation of Newcastle Castle is one we are proud to support. The team has transformed the site into an accessible and exciting attraction that animates the many diverse, often gruesome, and truly fascinating stories to have been born here, bringing them to life for visitors and residents for years to come.”

Chris Dalliston, Dean of Newcastle and Chair of the Heart of the City Partnership which now runs Newcastle Castle, said: “To see new life breathed into Newcastle Castle is truly wonderful. Together with the Cathedral, the Castle buildings form the area known as Old Newcastle – where the story of the Newcastle really began. The team at the Old Newcastle project have done a fantastic job of bringing together a range of new features and attractions to help uncover the city’s extremely varied and vibrant past.”

“The project, could not have been achieved however without the help of Heritage Lottery Funding and I’d like to thank them for their support in helping to make the renovation of the Black Gate and the Keep a reality and animating these important city landmarks for future generations to enjoy.”

In Roman times the site of Newcastle Castle was known as Pons Aelius, a fort and settlement. In 1080, the first (timber) castle was built there by Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, before the Keep as it is seen today was built in the 1170s. It was so good that Henry II (who commissioned the stone keep) ordered the head stone mason, Maurice, to build an almost exact replica at Dover!

Functioning as a fascinating glimpse into the past, both for Tyneside residents and for visitors from further afield, Newcastle Castle will host a varied series of events throughout the year, including a programme of medieval family fun during the Easter school holidays.

The Black Gate and Castle Keep come together to form Newcastle Castle, with a single ticket allowing entry into to both sites. Adult £6.50 / Child £3.90 / Concessions £5.50 / Family ticket £15.90.

For more information go to: www.newcastlecastle.co.uk, like on Facebook, or follow on Twitter; @NewcastleCastle.

If you’d let to enquire about using this venue for your next event, please get in touch with our convention bureau team.

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