The Society's seal and three photographs

The Society's History

The Black Gate

The Black Gate before its 19th century restoration

The Black Gate was the last part of the defences of the castle of Newcastle upon Tyne, added 1247-1250, and formed an additional, projecting, gateway or barbican to the earlier north gate of the castle. The barbican consisted of a gatehouse flanked by two half-drum towers with a narrow high-walled passage to the rear, placed at an angle to the castle curtain walls thus making it vulnerable to fire from the defenders. There was a drawbridge to the front (west) and another to the rear, both now replaced by wooden footbridges. The gatehouse passage could be sealed by a portcullis, the grooves for which are still visible, and a double gate.

The height of the medieval building is unknown; the present upper floors, roof and false arch over the gateway were added in the early 17th century when the gatehouse was rebuilt by Alexander Stephenson, a court favourite of James I who was granted a lease of the whole castle. Later it was occupied by Patrick Black, a London merchant, and Barbara his wife. From whom the gatehouse acquired its present name.

In the 17th century houses were built along both sides of the defended passageway. A public house was opened in part of the Black Gate, run by John Pickells whose name and the date 1636, can still be seen high up on the south-west wall.

By the early 19th century the Black Gate had become a slum tenement, at one time housing 60 people and including a public house. After considerable lobbying to prevent its demolition, SANT took on the lease, and with the help of architect R J Johnston restored it between 1883 and 1885. They then occupied the building as a meeting place, museum and library until moving in 2009 to the new Great North Museum: Hancock. The extensive collection of other items in the Black Gate was dispersed; a large number of items went into the Castle Keep, while others went to museums or heritage centres around the region, while less important items were sold. The building is now being extensively refurbished, and an external lift added, for its new use as a visitor centre for the Old Newcastle Project.

Download the Society's 1980s leaflet on the Black Gate - now superseded by Castle guidebook.



In the future, don’t forget your past