History & Heritage

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History & Heritage

We're commissioning experts to share their thoughts on the importance of heritage in Creative Central NCL.

Here, Tim Wickens (Northumberland and Newcastle Society) looks at the importance of Heritage-led Place-Making within Creative Central NCL.

A Great City

Newcastle upon Tyne is one of the world’s great cities. Its long history is Integral to its qualities, stemming back to its strategic importance to the Romans as the River Tyne’s lowest bridging point and later as one of the principal cradles of the Industrial Revolution, with a rich history of innovation in technology and the humanities. The tangible and intangible heritage remains central to the city today, benefitting citizens, visitors and businesses alike. Newcastle’s heritage assets accentuate its status as a place of makers and innovators who have led global social and technical advances throughout its living history. Heritage is not just about nostalgia; it is vital to Newcastle’s future prosperity and sustainability.


Heritage and Creative Central NCL

Substance and style go hand in hand in North East England, a place that looks with confidence to the future, learning from the wisdom of its wealth of past experience. The North East’s heritage symbolises its spirit of endeavour, triumph over adversity, and world-leading achievement. As the North East’s principal city, Newcastle upon Tyne is a place loved by its people, with a unique character and boundless civic pride; it is home to diverse, creative flair that is a hallmark of this wonderful region of England.

For me, Creative Central NCL embodies the collective ambition to harness all these strengths, empowering people and communities to understand, enable and celebrate Newcastle’s world-class cultural and heritage offer.


Why is built heritage important?

Creative Central NCL includes much of Newcastle’s Grainger Town, globally renowned for heritage-led regeneration around the millennium, a project that recognises the colossal potential heritage that has to engage and inspire the creative spirit in this and future generations.
‘No country has a greater diversity of historic places. They delight and intrigue. They are sources of prosperity and well-being, and heritage lies at their heart. Time and again, historic buildings, town and cityscapes, landscapes and our archaeological inheritance are the focus of a dramatic transformation for the better.

The Creative Central NCL partnership aspiration to champion heritage as a critical resource is at the heart of place-making and regeneration. I fervently believe in this collaboration model as a means of concentrating partners’ energy to make a real difference to the people and communities of our fantastic city.

Celebrated heritage assets abound in Creative Central NCL; these are just a sample:

  • Blackfriars
  • City Walls
  • The Common Room
  • Discovery Museum
  • Grainger Market
  • Hadrian’s Wall
  • Lit and Phil
  • Tyne Theatre and Opera House

Each one of these assets has a remarkable storyline that embodies Newcastle’s status as a place of sanctuary, learning, social improvement, and world-leading technological advancement.

Against this backdrop of excellent heritage-led schemes, it is evident from experience in my other roles that, geographically, Creative Central NCL sees significantly less interest in regeneration than other areas of the city despite an abundance of outstanding architecture. This reduced interest reflects generic challenges urban-based businesses face but also demonstrates the levels of vacant and economically inactive property in what could and should be a vibrant area. There is also a delicate balance in delivering ‘contested public space’ whilst avoiding gentrification that can be seen as exclusive. NE1’s Bigg Market project is an excellent example of connecting public realm improvements and targeted renovation of heritage assets with the contribution of individual building owners.


Cultivating potential

Cultivating the potential of Creative Central NCL as a place for independent artists, creative professionals and cultural organisations to thrive in central Newcastle is really attractive from a built heritage perspective as it brings immediate beneficial occupancy to vacant buildings with minimal interventions to historic fabric. Equally, this opportunity to establish a ‘critical mass’ of these partners can draw wider sustainable regeneration interest into the area, including residential and commercial development. Many of the area’s vacant buildings were initially constructed as dwellings and, therefore, could substantially contribute to Newcastle’s affordable housing needs; it would be great to see imaginative schemes that transform unoccupied heritage assets into desirable homes. 

The Northumberland and Newcastle Society is delighted to be part of Creative Central NCL to reinforce existing heritage efforts and help remove barriers preventing progress in heritage projects by encouraging, motivating and giving confidence to people taking on these schemes.

With plenty of under-utilised buildings of significance within the area, this is a great opportunity to consolidate culture, heritage, innovation and regeneration, making a real difference to the lives of people in this Great City.