Abandoned Newcastle: 10 Forgotten Landmarks of The Toon

Urban exploration of the abandoned buildings of Newcastle (Image: Stephen Veitch (Photostream); abandoned Newcastle bus station on Worswick Street)

The last great northern English city before you hit Scotland, Newcastle upon Tyne has always been a town unlike any other. The greatest habitation of the North East, buffeted by storms rolling in off the North Sea, it is simultaneously northern and English and something else entirely. A place of cool summers, chilly winters and vast grey skies, it’s beautiful, imposing and perplexing all at once. And that’s before we even get onto the abandonments. Scattered around the city – which lies at the heart of a great shipbuilding region that gave the world liners like RMS Carpathia and Mauretania – lie grand monuments to times passed. Here are 10 abandoned Newcastle relics of days gone by.

Abandoned Newcastle Odeon Cinema, Pilgrim Street

Newcastle's abandoned Odeon Cinema on Pilgrim Street (Image: via Google Maps; the imposing facade of the abandoned Odeon cinema)

Inside the abandoned Newcastle Odeon Cinema on Pilgrim Street

The Newcastle Odeon's silent auditorium (Images: Ian Grundy (top, bottom); abandoned Newcastle Odeon on Pilgrim Street)

Although the Jesmond Cinema may get all the publicity, there’s been room for more than one abandoned cinema in Newcastle. Out on Pilgrim Street, the old Odeon is falling into glorious disrepair. Opened in 1931 and fitted with a glamorous Art Deco-cum-baroque interior, it was once the last word in opulence. Over 500 paintings and reliefs were applied directly to the walls. Ornamental columns of plaster graced corners. The stage itself was an angular, Art Deco masterpiece. Supposedly, the whole thing was a carbon copy of a Paramount cinema in Illinois.

Today, those heady wonders have long since been confined to the past. Seen from outside, though undeniably grand, the Odeon looks like any other abandoned building of the period, its empty marquee a truly forlorn sight. Given Listed status in 1999, it was de-Listed following an Odeon campaign, despite English Heritage praising its “well composed facade and rich interior with Lalique glass fittings.” Apparently Odeon were hoping its resale value would shoot up without the listing. Yet when they moved on in 2002, no-one bought it. It still stands empty today, unlisted and unloved.

‘The Boat’: Tuxedo Princess & Tuxedo Royale (Removed)

The abandoned Tuxedo Princess nightclub, aka The Boat, while still moored on the Tyne

The derelict hulk of the Tuxedo Royale nightclub boat in Middlesborough (Images: Thunderchild7; Adam Slater; Tuxedo Princess and Tuxedo Royale)

The abandoned Tuxedo Royale, once known as the TSS Dover.

abandoned-tuxedo-royale-the-boat-2

abandoned-tuxedo-royale-the-boat-3 (Images: Conrad is sober; abandoned Tuxedo Royale on Teesside)

Ahh… the Boat. Once a mainstay of the Newcastle clubbing scene (moored up on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne), the Boat was (as its name implies) a decommissioned vessel that had been turned into a floating nightclub.

Two different ships have been used as nightclubs on the Tyne over the years – the Tuxedo Royale and Tuxedo Princess – but it was the latter that ultimately captured the public imagination and garnered the legendary local nickname. A former car ferry, the Tuxedo Princess first opened her renovated doors to clubbers in 1983 while moored up on the Newcastle side of the river. But a lack of planning consent meant the ship was soon moved across the Tyne to the Gateshead waterfront, where it remained until 2008.

Her towing was said to mark the end of an era and, in 2008, this icon of the Tyne was scrapped in Turkey. Her sister ship the Tuxedo Royale, meanwhile, was moored up on the River Tees at Middlesborough, the once-proud vessel soon subject to vandalism and general decay. As the years rolled on, the toll of neglect only grew, to the point that the former ferry now looks utterly derelict. A hulking wreck waiting to be dragged off to the scrapyards and broken up.

abandoned-newcastle-tuxedo-royale-2 (Image: Kev’s.Pix; abandoned Newcastle nightclub half-sunk on Teesside)

However, the end is not necessarily in sight for this local icon. The owner has been trying to have the vessel listed as a historic ship and restored.

Victoria Tunnel: Abandoned Subterranean Wagonway

Victoria Tunnel, an abandoned Newcastle wagonway

victoria-tunnel-newcastle-abandoned-3

The subterranean Victoria Tunnel wagonway is now open to visitors.

victoria-tunnel-newcastle-abandoned (Images: Kona; Peter Maddison (1, 2); abandoned Newcastle’s silent Victoria Tunnel)

Even many Geordies are unaware of the haunting 2.4 mile Victoria Tunnel running directly beneath their hometown. Originally built in 1842 as a way of avoiding road tax, the old tunnel was used for transporting coal from the Leazes Main Colliery. Even today, its narrow, dark and gloomy passages are still scattered with rusted wheels left behind over a century and a half ago; eerie fragments of a past long-since forgotten.

Although it closed in 1860, the story of the abandoned wagonway doesn’t end there. Partially demolished in 1878, it was repurposed as a failed mushroom farm in the 1920s, before finally finding a new lease of life as an air raid shelter during the Blitz. Up to 9,000 people were kept safe here from Hitler’s bombs. In fact, the tunnel did the job so well that in the 1950s it was considered as a potential nuclear shelter. Instead, it was simply abandoned. Fast forward to the present and it remains empty, a gloomy secret hidden far beneath Newcastle’s streets. For those who know it’s there, tours can be booked.

Abandoned Newcastle City Heliport

The abandoned Newcastle City Heliport

abandoned-newcastle-city-heliport-2

abandoned-newcastle-city-heliport-3 (Images: Peter McDermott; Bing Maps; abandoned Newcastle Heliport on old gas works site)

A once bustling heliport built on a former gasworks, the Newcastle City Heliport fell into disuse a few years ago when most of the traffic shuffled across the river to the Gateshead equivalent. In its wake was left a vast wasteland that seemed ripe for redevelopment. Which is exactly what MB European Ltd planned to do, turning it into an area for 280 new homes. Until, that is, a rare type of butterfly was found living in the abandoned heliport’s remains. Now it looks like the area will remain derelict for years to come.

This is sad news for residents fed up of the desolate concrete desert left behind, but good news for fans of urban decay and wildlife. The remains of the abandoned Newcastle City Heliport are like a blank space right in the heart of the city; a place where only weeds grow, little life takes hold, and nothing new arrives to replace what’s left. The whole area appears to be in stasis, waiting for something to happen to it. Seen at the right time, it can appear like a preview of the apocalypse; a dead wasteland that’s almost eerily beautiful.

Abandoned Worswick Street Bus Station

Newcastle urbex: the derelict Worswick Street bus station

abandoned-newcastle-worswick-street-bus-station-2

The old Worswick Street bus station is one of many derelict places in The Toon

abandoned-newcastle-worswick-street-bus-station-4 (Images: Google Maps; Newcastle’s abadoned Worswick Street bus station)

Although you wouldn’t think so to look at it today, Worswick Street was once one of the main bus terminals operating in the North East. Fleets of buses bound for Gateshead and County Durham would pass out of its bays every morning, connecting Newcastle to the rest of the region. It wasn’t until the 1980s that its use began to decline, following the deregulation of bus services. Yet even then it managed to cling on until 1996, a living piece of local transport history.

Seen in 2016, this abandoned Newcastle bus station looks forlorn in the extreme. Paint is peeling from the outsides, the walls are caked with grime and the sign has long since vanished, leaving only a handful of faded letters amid the decay, spelling out the word ‘Northern’. As the developers have yet to move in, old features like the pavilion and understated ironwork still remain, adding a dash of faded grandeur to the gritty scenery.

Abandoned Spillers Flour Mill (Demolished)

The derelict form of Spillers Flour Mill before demolition (Image: Chris Leithead (Boom Creative); Newcastle’s abandoned Spillers Tyne Mill)

It looked like it belonged in another country. A vast, angular white cube stretching up into the leaden skies above Spillers Wharf. With its porthole windows and sheer face, you would be forgiven for assuming this was a Communist throwback from Eastern Europe, one built in that brief period of grand construction projects undertaken before Stalin seized power. Yet Spillers Flour Mill was defiantly English and defiantly Geordie. At one point, it provided the flour for one in ten of all British loaves.

abandoned-newcastle-spillers-mill (Image: Peter McDermott; the abandoned Spillers Mill prior to demolition)

Sadly, you can no longer see this icon of the Newcastle skyline. In 2011, four years after flour production ceased, the mill was flattened. Today, only rubble and wasteland – soon to be redeveloped – remains.

This is a real shame, as the the abandoned Newcastle mill was a local landmark, capable of perhaps becoming a kind of Tate Modern of the north. Yet, this was not meant to be. After roughly 80 years dominating the wharf, Spillers Flour Mill finally fell. Thankfully, however, the Gateshead side of the river still features the superb Baltic.

Abandoned Bank of England Building (Demolished)

Brutalist Newcastle: the abandoned Bank of England building before demolition

abandoned-newcastle-bank-of-england-building (Images: Allan Clark; the abandoned Newcastle Bank of England building, now demolished)

Built in 1971, the Bank of England branch in Newcastle was either a masterpiece of cutting-edge brutalism, or the ugliest building you ever laid eyes on, depending on your architectural preferences. Looking not entirely unlike Kosovo’s famously brash Pristina Library, it was breathtaking in its sheer audacity (whether or not that was a good thing is for you to decide). If it was still standing, we’d probably be writing a paean to its bold experimentalism. But it’s not. In 2014, this one-of-a-kind building was knocked down. In its place was left… nothing.

The empty wasteland that occupied its place was abandoned. As far as we can tell, it still is. In 2015, the Chronicle named it one of Newcastle’s greatest eyesores. However, things may yet change. The group that owns the land are apparently in talks with the council to build something in its place, possibly accommodation or maybe a sports venue. Whatever eventually makes its home there, it’s unlikely to be as brutally distinctive as the building that once stood in its place.

Dead Mall: Abandoned Royal Arcade (Demolished)

The grand Royal Arcade, a demolished Newcastle Dead Mall (Images: ©Tim Pickford-Jones; abandoned Newcastle’s lost Victoria Arcade)

Built in the 1830s, Newcastle’s old Royal Arcade was a marble masterwork. One of the last grand Georgian-style designs to make a significant impact on the city, its interior was a long, pillared corridor seemingly designed to make visitors feel like they were walking into heaven itself. Surprisingly, though, the place was a financial failure. Ignored and unloved, it was swept aside during the 1960s, and replaced with a brutalist behemoth.

site-of-former-royal-arcade (Image: Google Maps; Swan House, site of the abandoned Newcastle Royal Arcade)

The building that took its place, Swan House, has remained controversial ever since, although there’s no denying that it has its fans. Interestingly, the interior of the Royal Arcade was recreated on its ground floor in a bizarre wood-and-plaster pastiche of what the Arcade might have looked like if it was simply abandoned. Legend has it that the Arcade itself was meant to be reassembled there. Sadly, its stones were numbered with chalk then left outside. By the time anyone thought to rebuild it, the numbers had long-since washed off in the rain. The Royal Arcade was thus lost forever.

Abandoned Newcastle Metro Overrun Tunnel Beyond St James Station

The disused Newcastle Metro overrun tunnel beyond St James station. (Image: Thomas Bowman; abandoned Newcastle Metro tunnel beyond St James station)

When the Newcastle Metro was first floated in the 1970s, the city had grand plans for it. Long, sweeping platforms would allow multi-carriage trains to shunt from station to station. The metro itself would grow and grow and keep on growing, until it serviced the entire metropolitan area and beyond. The future was bright, and it was booming.

Except, of course, it wasn’t – at least in a financial sense. Budget constraints kept the trains down to only three carriages each, while the extended metro system was never built. This scaling back did leave one oddity, though. The St James overrun tunnel was intended to be the start of the next section of the project. When the St James station became the end of the line it was left to gather dust. An unfinished and unused branch of tunnel deep beneath the city. In 2015, it passed into the hands of company Nexus. What becomes of it (if anything) remains to be seen.

Abandoned Ponteland Royal Observer Corps Post

Many historic derelict places can also be found outside the Newcastle city limits, including the abandoned Ponteland Royal Observer Corps Post

abandoned-ponteland-roc-post-2 (Images: Andrew Curtis; Peter Maddison; Ponteland’s abandoned R.O.C. post)

This one is technically outside the city of Newcastle proper. However, it is undeniably linked with the city’s past, and properly abandoned to boot. A former outpost of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC), this little underground lair was once responsible for monitoring enemy planes attacking the industrial heartland of the North East or nuclear fallout drifting through the skies above Britain. At the end of the Cold War, it finally closed for good, leaving little more than an empty shell.

As late as 2008, you could still wander down there and find old maps tacked to the walls, coffee cups left out and paperwork still sitting on desks. Sadly, recent posts on urbex forums indicate that the inside has since been torched by vandals, and its walls daubed with graffiti slogans. Today, it likely exists in a state of grim disrepair, a sad ending to an intriguing slice of local history from one of the city’s most turbulent and tense periods.

Related – Explore 10 Haunting Abandoned Places in Manchester

 

About the author: Morris M

 

 

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