Writer Has History at Heart; Writer Rob Kirkup Is Better Known for His Books about His Paranormal Investigations. However His Latest Work Conjures Up Spirits of a Different Kind -Those of the Past Cityscape of Newcastle to See How It Has Changed over the Years. MIKE KELLY Spoke to Him

The Journal (Newcastle, England), March 18, 2013 | Go to article overview

Writer Has History at Heart; Writer Rob Kirkup Is Better Known for His Books about His Paranormal Investigations. However His Latest Work Conjures Up Spirits of a Different Kind -Those of the Past Cityscape of Newcastle to See How It Has Changed over the Years. MIKE KELLY Spoke to Him


Byline: MIKE KELLY

AS a lad Rob Kirkup said he wasn't too bothered about history. At least the history he was taught at school. "It was all about the Second World War or foreign countries," he said. "I just couldn't relate to it."

However, now 34, he is well-known in the world of paranormal investigation - of which history is a part. And his latest book, about his beloved Newcastle, is more of a traditional history book, seeing how the city has changed over time.

"I like to look into the history of where I live and the cities I have visited."

The book is called Newcastle Then & Now, in which pictures from the past of well-known places are set beside modern-day snaps to see how it has changed. One of the interesting things is how much of the old city remains in a very recognisable form, the only difference being the black and white to colour format, and of course, the fashion of those residents populating the pictures. But there are some noticeable changes.

Rob said: "In all I chose 45 places from in and around the city centre. I got hold of archive photos, some dating as far back as 1860s, and took a comparison photo of the same spot from the same vantage point today.

"It took probably over a year in total to research. I drew up a wish list of 80 places and whittled it down to 45. The big thing was searching for the archive photos. I had to find really interesting photos from back in the day."

The places chosen include street scenes, churches, parks, the city's bridges and historic buildings. Rob said: "Most of the spots are really well known. With Newcastle I was spoilt for choice. Places like Northumberland Street, Grey Street, Grainger Street. Then there's the Laing Art Gallery and Jesmond Dene."

Rob, of Hadrian Park, North Tyneside, had worried about getting hold of the pictures, but a visit to the Newcastle Library photograph archives soon put paid to any concerns he had about illustrating the book. "It turned out to be a onestop shop," he said. "I managed to get all the 45 photos from them."

Of course, pride of place in any book about Newcastle must go to the castle from which the city gets its name. The most prominent remaining structures on the site are the Castle Keep, the castle's main fortified stone tower, and the Black Gate, its fortified gatehouse. Use of the site for defensive purposes dates from Roman times, when it housed a fort and settlement called Pons Aelius, guarding a bridge over the River Tyne. In 1080, a wooden motte and bailey-style castle was built on the site of the Roman fort, which was the 'New Castle upon Tyne'.

The Castle Keep was built between 1172 and 1177 and the Black Gate between 1247 and 1250. By the 17th and 18th Century it was being let out to tenants resulting in houses being built and attached to it, as well as a pub. By the early part of the 19th Century, the Black Gate had become a slum tenement, housing up to 60 people. Rob added: "I'd read about that and was intrigued but just couldn't imagine it. Then I got a picture of it from the archives. …

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Writer Has History at Heart; Writer Rob Kirkup Is Better Known for His Books about His Paranormal Investigations. However His Latest Work Conjures Up Spirits of a Different Kind -Those of the Past Cityscape of Newcastle to See How It Has Changed over the Years. MIKE KELLY Spoke to Him
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