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Ye Olde Tyne Bridge
Old Tyne Bridge of 1771 (from Brand's History)

Remembering The Old Tyne Bridge in 1887

Queen Victoria's Jubilee Exhibition of 1887
(The Royal Jubilee Exhibition was held in 1887 and proved a tremendous success; attracting an estimated 2,000,000 visitors)
As at recent Exhibitions at South Kensington and Edinburgh the ghosts of "Old London" and "Auld Reekie" revisited the glimpses of the moon, so, on Newcastle Town Moor next May, when the Royal Jubilee Exhibition opens, we may expect to find the " counterfeit presentment" of Old Tyne Bridge spanning the still waters of Lodge's Reservoir, or what is left of it, as the original did the swirling stream of coaly Tyne in days gone by.

Remembering The Old Tyne Bridge
It will be a notable and a cheering spectacle in the eyes of those of antiquarian taste, as affording a rare example of what Mackenzie calls the "improving spirit of the age" diverted from its usual channel of destruction into the opposite one, the revival of old things. It would perhaps have been going too far back to have attempted to show the similitude of the Roman bridge of A.D. 110, which Hadrian threw across the Tyne, and which, as far as we know, though doubtless with many patchings and repairings, seems to have lasted for 1,130 years. But in the reproduction of the edifice which succeeded this and lasted up to 1771, we can look with more sympathising eyes, as being nearer our own epoch, and we may say almost linked to it by memory; for are there not men now living who have known and conversed with those who were familiar with, and perhaps even lived on, Old Tyne Bridge!

From the fire of 1248; A New Tyne Bridge
The original and its copy are, in a certain way, linked together by a curious coincidence; for the one was erected during the reign of the first English monarch who saw the jubilee year of his accession, as the other will be, if all goes well, during the reign of the last who has enjoyed a similar rare experience. It was in 1250, in the reign of Henry III,that Old Tyne Bridge was built of stone, on the site of its predecessor, which, as recorded by Matthew Paris, was destroyed by fire in 1248. What a wealth of romantic incident and historic association is there not bound up with the story of the old bridge which stretched across the Tyne, and formed part of the high road between North and South for over five hundred years commencing on the eve of the summoning of England's first representative Parliament, and ending on the eve of the American War of Independence!

A Model of The Old Bridge Brings Back Memories

Model of The Old Tyne Bridge in Exhibition Park
A Replica of The Old Tyne Bridge in Exhibition Park

When we look on its restored form, what pictures could not be conjured up from the dark recesses of the past of the structure and its fortunes and changes, and of the succeeding generations which have in turn passed over it and out of ken (forgotten), save for the glimpses we catch of them now and again by the faint and uncertain light of the torch of history!
Link: Bird's Tower on Tyne Bridge

View from The Exhibition
Street View From The Bridge Built for the Exhibition

Imagining The Tyne Bridge
The bridge itself we may see, in our mind's eye, in process of evolution into a hanging street houses being added and extended, altered and rebuilt, as the years passed on. We may see the massive tower near the centre, with its portcullis and frowning arch, degenerating from a military work into a house of detention for thieves and vagabonds. We may see its lonely hermit in his cell, praying, as enjoined,for the soul of that Newcastle worthy of worthies, old Roger Thornton. We may see the gateway built at the south end, where was once a drawbridge, and the rising of the magazine gate at the north end, where was set up by loyal hands and pulled down by the Parliamentarians the statue of King James I, and where, after the Restoration, was placed the statue of the Merry Monarch now to be seen in our Guildhall

Sir William Wallace and A Warning to Others
We may see,too, on occasion, spectacles gruesome enough in all conscience, evidences of barbarous ages at one time the severed right arm of Scotland's betrayed champion, Sir William Wallace, displayed upon the battlement of the Bridge Tower : at another, and that as late as the reign of Elizabeth, the head of Edward Waterson, a seminary priest who suffered in Newcastle, elevated on a spike on the same place; many a time and oft such common sights as the heads of a few Tynedale mosstroopers bleaching there in the wind and rain "for the encouragement of the others"

Tales of The Tyne Bridge
But we may see a more cheering sight, the gorgeous pageant of the nuptial procession of Margaret of England, daughter of Henry VII, pass over the bridge on its way north, where the fair princess was to wed the King of Scots who afterwards fell on Flodden Field. We may, still in imagination, hear the doleful scream of that poor servant maid of Dr. James Oliphant, who, one mid day in 1764, leaped from her master's cellar window, to find her death in the deep waters of the Tyne. (The four-storey house of Dr. Oliphant stood over the southernmost arch of the bridge the cellar, so called, hanging below the arch, its floor very little above the level of the stream). We may see the changing crowds passing and re-passing along the narrow roadway of the bridge, with the timbered houses towering high above and almost meeting overhead. We may see them stopping, perhaps, to cheapen the goods in the shops of milliners', mercers', hardwaremen's, booksellers', cheesemongers' which line the bridge on either side

The Fire and Flood of 1771 - Tyne Bridge Destroyed
We may see, perchance, the fire which destroyed the shop of "upright, downright, honest" Martin Bryson, bookseller, and friend of Allan Ramsey. And, last scene of all, we may see the destruction of the whole quaint fabric in 1771. On Saturday morning, the 16th of November in that year, the bridge stood perfect, presenting the aspect we see in the copy of an etching by T. M. Richardson, made from an ideal sketch by his son George. At night, the river, swollen by the recent rains in the west country, rose to an extraordinary height, and, as darkness fell, was heard rushing with fierce violence through the arches, so that the bridge quivered and shook in an alarming way. Before daybreak next morning Old Tyne Bridge was no more

The Swing Bridge of 1876
The story of its fall, of the tragic fate of some of its dwellers, and of the exciting adventures of others fortunate enough to escape, has often been told. The other view we give, which is taken from a plate in Brand's "History of Newcastle," will convey some idea of the ruins as they appeared a few days after the catastrophe. Soon a sturdy successor arose from the ruins the Tyne Bridge which most of us remember well, and which was replaced in 1876 by the present Swing Bridge

R. J. C.

A Contemporary account of the bridge collapse in 1771

Saturday November 6th 1771
On Saturday morn, Nov. 16th, 1771, when I came down to breakfast, I never remember so dark and dull a day, attended with a mizling kind of rain which rather encreased: I passed the evening with some friends at the coffee-house on the Sandhill, from whom I parted after 11 o'clock, and in coming home heard the Watchman call the hour without any observation about a high tide

Warning Given
At 4 o'clock in the morn I was suddenly awakened by a loud rap at the door: starting from my bed, Mr Joseph Robinson called out in the street pray arise, Sir, for the River is swell'd prodigiously and encreasmg very fast: glad to know it was not a fire which I apprehended, I came downstairs, and having got half-a-dozen of the workmen together, with each of us a candle, we came into the room with the bow-window, where the water had rose to about our knees: as it had been the same height in 1763 and I had no idea of its rising higher and hurting my library &c.

Sandhill Still Sleeping
I only removed upstairs my violin and the Family Bible, and resolving on walking along the Close and alarming some of my friends, I perceived ere I came to the Gate that the River was so high in the street as to render this step impracticable; on this I took a servant with a lanthorn went up the Forth Banks and down the Side to the Sandhill and to my astonishment found very few people in the streets, and even on the Sandhill not above a dozen were stirring

The Bridge Collapses
I called on Mr Wallis and some other wine merchants and was glad to know they had taken precautions in time: as the water continued rising I returned home between 5 and 6 o'clock, and when I was at the Forth Banks my ears were alarmed with the falling of the Bridge which gave me the most shocking sensations imaginable

Terrible Reflections
The idea of the sleeping inhabitants rushing in a moment into eternity, the rending of the houses, with the crush and noise made by their falling, added to the dreadful gloom and darkness of the night created most terrible reflections, and brought to my mind all the horrors which must have attended the earthquake at Lisbon

Furnaces Flooded
On my return home I found the water was upwards of 5 feet high in my rooms next the River, that it had broke all the pots in the Bottle-house furnace, and as it continued to rise the White-house furnace was in danger

The Rise Abates
At eight o'clock it was on a level with the second step of front door to the street: and now watching it with eager attention I perceived with great joy that it abated: on this I returned again to the Sandhill, which was covered with water, and hearing that some friends were pent up at the King's Head Tavern on the Keyside I rowed over the Sandhill to their relief

Ships Torn From Their Mooring
In going hither two ships broke from their moorings and were carried by the Torrent down the River: the water was dashing impetuously over the Battlements of the remaining Arches and exhibited a scene of horror and wild uproar, while every dismayed countenance indicated their apprehensions of the great calamity and loss of life and property to many of the Inhabitants of the banks of the Tyne, which were but too fatally confirmed in a few days

Six Dead
Six persons perished when the Bridge fell, and several others up the water were drown'd

Untold Damage
it was Monday morn before the water abated, and left in mine and every house near the River an immense quantity of mud and ooze. Our loss by it in the works was upwards of £300. Mr Fenwick of Bywell was a great sufferer; and as several poor people had lost their all, a subscription was opened for their relief

Crossing The River By Boat
For several months the River was crossed in Boats and Ferrys till the temporary Bridge was compleated; application was made by the Corporation to Parliament to assist them in the rebuilding the Bridge, but it was refused

Roman Find
This Bridge had stood near 500 years. Accounts mention it to have been originally made of wood: The stone piers I conclude must have been built in the time of the Romans, as in pulling down the old piers several coins of the Emperor Antoninus and Faustina were found

The Old Tyne Bridge

Ye Olde Tyne Bridge

This account was published in 1887 preceding the opening of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition for Queen Victoria
The Old Bridge Over The Tyne at Newcastle

The Castle Keep

The Castle Keep 1784

Could the Castle at Newcastle have served ice cold beer in Summer or become a windmill for baking floor?
The Castle Keep at Newcastle

The Black Gate of Newcastle

The Black Gate 1845

From majestic defence of Newcastle to a bunch of tenement slums; the Black Gate has had mixed fortunes
Discover Newcastle's Black Gate