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British Towns and Cities II: Newcastle-upon-Tyne

A.L. Lloyd pays an historical visit to the capital of north-eastern England.

The British Isles have, I suppose, no city blacker or more passionate than Newcastle. Poets, commercial travellers, local roughnecks, all speak highly of it. To the stranger seeing it from the heights of Gateshead, it looks a good setting for a modern French realistic film, with its fissured cliffs of sooty brickwork rising above the river, its locomotives racing along the iron bridges, high over the roofs, to blot out with their steam what is left of the sun. That is the newcomer’s impression. On closer acquaintance, the dark mystery goes, and you find that in fact, the city is quiet, domestic, rather houseproud, like a collier’s wife who has had a hard life and exults in it, who looks back with a wry smile on a past of siege, famine, cholera, black toil and industrial triumph, and of cold familiarity with the Labour Exchange and the pawnshop.

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