A Bridge With 3 Towers
The admirable model of which is now one of the great attractions at the Jubilee Exhibition in Newcastle (Queen Victoria's Jubilee Exhibition was held in 1887), had three towers or gates: the Magazine Gate at the north end, the Tower on the Bridge further south, and a third at the Gateshead end. We have here an engraving of the Tower on the Bridge, printed years ago in Sykes's "Local Records". The block is now the property of Mr. Richard Welford, who has kindly loaned it to us for reproduction in the Monthly Chronicle. The cut, as Sykes explained, was taken from an original drawing in the possession of Miss Hornby, daughter of Alderman Hornby, a well-known antiquary of a past generation. According to Grey's manuscripts, as we read in Richardson's Reprints, "the Tower on the Bridg was builded by G. Bird, mayor of this town: the Bird coots of Armes was upon it". As George Bird was Mayor of Newcastle at various times from 1493 to 1511, in which year he died, the structure must have been erected about the close of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century.
A Temporary Prison
The Tower was a temporary place of confinement for disorderly persons. It was also at the same time a storehouse for malt. The biographer of Ambrose Barnes, the famous Puritan Alderman, tells a well-known story. The alderman had committed to the Tower one Henry Wallis, a master shipwright, for drunkenness. Seeing in the grain the source of his trouble, Wallis cast the whole heap into the river, "merrily reflecting upon himself and saying" as he did so:
- O base malt !
- Thou didst this fault,
- And into Tyne thou shalt.
A Mysterious Occupant
While the workmen were taking down the ruins of the bridge, after the flood of 1771, they found in the pier on which the Tower formerly stood, four or five feet below the pavement, the bones of a human skeleton and an empty stone coffin without an inscription; relics of the past of which nothing further is or ever will be known
from an article published June 1887
News Entry Dated 4 July 1775
The workmen employed in taking down the ruins of Tyne-bridge, at Newcastle, found in the east corner of the pillar on which the tower on the bridge stood, the bones of a human skeleton. And about eighteen inches lower was discovered a stone coffin, about six feet three inches in length, entirely empty. There was no inscription upon it. There were on this bridge, besides many houses and shops, three towers or gates, each formerly having had a portcullis : One at the north end, called the "Magazine-gate" a second called the "Tower on the bridge" and the third, at the south end, in Gateshead. Near this last had been a draw-bridge. The Magazine-gate had been pulled down a short time before the fall of the bridge to widen its north entrance. On the front of the tower adjoining Gateshead, were the arms, cut in stone, of Nathaniel Lord Crewe, bishop of Durham. This stone was preserved by the late Hugh Hornby, esq., alderman of Newcastle, and placed in his garden wall, in Pilgrim-street
The tower on the bridge was a place of temporary confinement for disorderly persons. There was a stone with the town's arms on it, placed on the south front, with the motto "Fortiter defendit triumphans, 1646" This stone was also preserved by Alderman Hornby, and placed in his garden-wall. The house and garden is, now the property of Anthony Clapham, esq., who has paid every attention to the preservation of these relics of the old bridge; having built upon the garden ground, the stones are placed in the wall over two office doors. The above cut is taken from an original drawing, in the possession of Miss Hornby, daughter of the late Alderman Hornby
As there appears to have been a hermitage on Tyne-bridge, could this have been the skeleton of an anchorite who had been buried in his cell ?