Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Summing Up a Square Which Mr Darcy Would Have Liked; Heritage

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Summing Up a Square Which Mr Darcy Would Have Liked; Heritage

Article excerpt


RE?CREATING the world of Jane Austen just over three years ago in the unlikely surrounds of North Shields' 1970s library was one of the more successful events to be staged at the venue.

Young actor Oliver Ashworth, playing Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, appeared fully clothed in the fashion of the times and enticed a packed female audience by gradually removing each item of dress while its function was explained.

But immediately outside the glass and concrete library is a scene with which Mr Darcy would have been entirely familiar.

For Northumberland Square, which the library borders, is the most complete Georgian square on Tyneside.

Indeed, according to a new report, it is the nearest example Tyneside has to the celebrated Georgian squares of London, Bath, Edinburgh and Dublin.

Work began on Northumberland Square in 1810, just three years before Pride and Prejudice appeared.

It predates Grainger Town in Newcastle and, with Howard Street which forms the main approach to the square, was a flagship development of the "new town" of North Shields.

A 17th Century map shows the town crowded along the riverfront, with the land above devoid of buildings.

But in 1763, building began on land owned by the Reverend Thomas Dockwray, vicar of Stamfordham in Northumberland.

Dockwray Square was the first development of the 'top town' and lasted for 150 years before being demolished in 1960.

Howard Street, with its listed buildings by architect John Dobson followed, so called from the family name of the landowner the Earl of Carlisle.

Unlike Dockr-wa y Square, Northumberland Square has survived, although was forced to battle it out with 1960s and 1970s concrete creations around its edges.

A character appraisal of the Northunberland Square conservation area has been carried out by North Tyneside Council and its partner Capita. Such an exercise is key to any future approach for heritage funding for restoration works in the conservation area.

With development hampered by a railway tunnel running under the southern fringe of the site, the southwest of the square was not complete until the building of the 1970s library. …

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