Spital Tongues

Last updated

Chimney Mill, 2006. Spitaltongues01.jpg
Chimney Mill, 2006.
Belle Grove Terrace, 2006. Spitaltongues02.jpg
Belle Grove Terrace, 2006.

Spital Tongues is a historic area of Newcastle upon Tyne, located north-west of the Central Newcastle. Today, it is a popular area for students of Newcastle University, predominately owing to a large number of university-owned halls in the area.



Its unusual name is believed to be derived from spital – a corruption of the word hospital that is quite commonly found in British place names (for example Spitalfields) - and tongues, meaning outlying pieces of land. [1] Edward I gave two such tongues of land to the St Mary Magdalene Hospital.

Buildings and structures of note

Fenham Barracks

Fenham Barracks was constructed in Spital Tongues in 1806. Several buildings are the site are listed grade II structures.  The barracks has been repurposed as student accommodation. [2] The barracks were home to the Northumberland Fusiliers during the second world war. [3] The Queen's Own Yeomanry currently has a presence on the site. [4]

BBC Broadcasting Centre

One of the most recent additions to Spital Tongues, occupying the prominent site on the corner of Hunters Road and Barrack Road, is the BBC Broadcasting Centre, affectionately known as the 'Pink Palace'. [5] [6] Opened in 1986, it brought together the BBC's TV and radio operations in the North East from a range of city centre locations, notably the former Lying-In Hospital building in New Bridge Street that now forms part of the Newcastle Building Society headquarters.

Huntsmoor House

Huntsmoor House, Hunters Road, was built as a soldiers' home in 1899 to meet the social needs of those soldiers stationed at Fenham Barracks. [7] During the fifties large steam presses were installed for finishing tailored garments. Many of the operators of the presses were adults with learning difficulties. They congregated in the centre of Newcastle each morning and were then walked to Huntsmoor House to begin their work. Occasionally, one of the workers would lean out of a window to call over children playing in the backlane between Hunter's Road and Ancrum Street to send them on an errand for sweets to Jenny Proctors sweet shop. A small twist of Victory V lozenges was a favourite purchase and the child running the errand would be rewarded with half a lozenge on their return. Later, Huntsmoor House was used as a warehouse by the Newcastle bookseller Thornes [8] before being turned into student accommodation. A three-storey red brick structure, the design of Huntsmoor House is unusual, topped with a crenellated tower featuring carved shields and a flagpole. The central section is flanked by two arched windows that rise through two storeys, with a Tudor style exposed beam gable above.

Chimney Mill

Chimney Mill, Newcastle upon Tyne Chimney Mill, Newcastle.jpg
Chimney Mill, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Chimney Mill was constructed in 1782 in Claremont Road, [9] replacing a previous windmill on the site. Grade II listed, it is significant on a number of levels – as the only surviving smock mill in the region; as the first 5-sailed smock mill in Britain; and for being designed by the civil engineer John Smeaton, [10] the man responsible for the third Eddystone Lighthouse (later dismantled and rebuilt as Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Hoe).

The Chimney Mill was powered by wind until 1891, decommissioned in 1892 and later converted into the clubhouse for Newcastle City Golf Club. The Club transferred to Gosforth in 1907, [10] after which the windmill's sails and fantail were removed (in 1924 and 1933 respectively), with the windshaft and cap being dismantled and replaced by modern boarding in 1951. [11]

In the mid-1970s the property was bought and restored by the architect Thomas Falconer. His conversion created a design studio on the top floor, an architect's studio on the first floor and space for rent on the ground floor. The building has been used as offices for the fashion design company Nigel Cabourn Ltd since 1983. In September 2006, the property was being marketed for sale at a price of £775,000.

Victoria Tunnel

The Victoria Tunnel was built to transport coal from Spital Tongues Colliery, opened in 1836, to the river Tyne. 2+12 mi (4 km) long and up to 85 ft (26 m) deep, the tunnel was built by 200 men between 1839 and 1842, and came about as a result of the owners, Latimer and Porter, being refused permission to build a surface wagonway across the moor and city. Its Spital Tongues entrance was close to what is now the junction of Belle Grove West and Ancrum Street.

The tunnel ceased to be used in 1860, and remained unused for the next eighty years, except for a brief period from 1928 to 1929 when Thomas Moore, a Gateshead entrepreneur, attempted to farm mushrooms in the tunnel. [12] It was reopened for use as an air raid shelter during World War II, with £37,000 spent on alterations and new entrances in order to provide seating capacity for 9,000 people. [12] Though no longer used, some of these entrances remain very visible today, notably the entrance in Claremont Road next to the Hancock Museum. The northernmost (Spital Tongues) entrance was filled in when Belle Grove West was built in the 1870s and is therefore not accessible.

At the end of the war, most of the fittings were removed and all of the entrances except Ouse Street were closed. This entrance had been built on private land: the garden of number 14 Ouse Street. Luckily, it was left open and it is now possible to step into the Victoria Tunnel and explore Newcastle's hidden heritage. Guided tours are available most days each week throughout the year and these can be booked via www.ouseburntrust.org.uk.


The house now called Whiteknights was originally known as New House [13] prior to being opened as a lunatic asylum in 1766. At this time the property was renamed St. Luke's, before changing its name to Belle Grove Retreat in 1795. The property went on to give its name to the various other streets and buildings built in Spital Tongues from the 1850s, such as Belle Grove Terrace, Belle Grove Villas, Belle Grove West and the Belle Grove public house. The Belle Grove Retreat reverted to use as a private house in 1857, and assumed its current name in 1900. It is Grade II listed. [13]

Belle Grove public house

On the corner of Belle Grove Terrace and Ancrum Street, the Belle Grove was a public house dating from 1857 until its closure in 2008. The adjacent house at No. 19, now part of the pub, was once the home of the artist Ralph Hedley until his death in 1913, a connection marked by a commemorative plaque. [14] It was incorporated into the pub in 1923. [15]

Belle Grove Terrace

No. 13 Belle Grove Terrace was also once home to T. Dan Smith, the leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960 to 1965, and the man behind the intended reinvention of Newcastle as the 'Brasilia of the North'. The 15-storey Mill House tower block in Spital Tongues is one of many such residential towers erected across Newcastle during Smith's leadership; he lived there in an upper-storey flat from the early 1980s until his death in 1993.

Actor Alun Armstrong was Smith's neighbour whilst studying Fine Art at Newcastle University. [16]

George Arrowsmith's

Though of little architectural significance, the shop on the corner of Belle Grove West and Hunter's Road has historical interest as the site of George Arrowsmith's general store. Opened in 1903, the shop was owned by the Arrowsmiths – one of Spital Tongues' most well-known families - until 1940. George and his wife Margaret had fifteen children following their marriage in 1882, and members of the Arrowsmith family continue to live in Spital Tongues today.

The former Arrowsmith shop has remained in continual retail use, and is now one of only a handful of shops in the village. It represents a sharp decline from the Co-operative store and 27 other retailers that Spital Tongues boasted in the 1920s.

Benson Memorial Church

The Benson Memorial Church in Ancrum Street was opened as a Sunday school in 1867, recognising the role of John Benson in setting up the school in temporary premises in 1845. Today, the building continues to serve a community function as the home of the Apostolic Church. [17]

Moorbank Botanic Garden

Moorbank Botanic Gardens is located on Hunters Moor, at the top of Claremont Road. The Gardens were opened in 1923 as a plant research station for Newcastle University. Although not open to the public every day, access is granted to booked groups and on Open Days linked to the National Gardens Scheme. The garden had also received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. [18] In 2012, Newcastle University announced its intention to withdraw its support for the facility [19]

Related Research Articles

Newcastle upon Tyne City and metropolitan borough in England

Newcastle upon Tyne, often simply Newcastle, is the most populous city and metropolitan borough in North East England. It forms the core of the Tyneside conurbation, the eighth most populous urban area in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Tyne's northern bank, approximately 8.5 mi (13.7 km) from the North Sea.

BBC Radio Newcastle BBC local radio station for Tyne and Wear, England

BBC Radio Newcastle is the BBC's local radio station serving Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

Fenham Human settlement in England

Fenham is an area of the west-end of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It lies to the west of the city centre, and is bounded on the north and east by a large area of open land known as the Town Moor. To the south lies Benwell, West Denton lies to the west, Blakelaw and Cowgate to the north, and Arthur's Hill and Spital Tongues to the east.

Newcastle upon Tyne Central (UK Parliament constituency)

Newcastle upon Tyne Central is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Chi Onwurah of the Labour Party. As with all constituencies, the constituency elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election at least every five years. At the 2017 and 2019 general elections, the constituency was the first to officially declare its result. It narrowly beat Houghton and Sunderland South, which had declared first in 2010 and 2015 (as did its predecessor Sunderland South in the four preceding general elections.

History of Newcastle upon Tyne

The history of Newcastle upon Tyne dates back almost 2,000 years, during which it has been controlled by the Romans, the Angles and the Norsemen amongst others. Originally known by its Roman name Pons Aelius, the name "Newcastle" has been used since the Norman conquest of England. Due to its prime location on the River Tyne, the town developed greatly during the Middle Ages and it was to play a major role in the Industrial Revolution, being granted city status in 1882. Today, the city is a major retail, commercial and cultural centre.

Smock mill

The smock mill is a type of windmill that consists of a sloping, horizontally weatherboarded, thatched, or shingled tower, usually with six or eight sides. It is topped with a roof or cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. This type of windmill got its name from its resemblance to smocks worn by farmers in an earlier period.

Newcastle City Council

Newcastle City Council is the local government authority for the city and metropolitan borough of Newcastle upon Tyne. The council consists of 78 councillors, three for each of the city's 26 wards. It is currently controlled by the Labour Party, led by Councillor Nick Forbes. Councillor David Cook serves as the Lord Mayor and Councillor Habib Rahman serves as Deputy Lord Mayor and Sheriff. The council is a member of the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Byker Human settlement in England

Byker is a district and electoral ward in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, located in the east of the city. Byker is home to the Byker Wall estate, made famous by TV series Byker Grove. The population of the ward was recorded at 12,206 in the 2011 Census, which represented approximately 4.4% of the metropolitan borough of Newcastle upon Tyne. Byker is bordered by Heaton to the North and by Shieldfield to the North-East.

<i>BBC Look North</i> (North East and Cumbria)

BBC Look North is the BBC's regional television news service for North East England, Cumbria and parts of North Yorkshire. The service is produced and broadcast from the BBC Broadcasting Centre on Barrack Road in Newcastle upon Tyne with district newsrooms based in Carlisle, Durham, Middlesbrough and York.

Benwell District

Benwell is an area in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Cleadon Human settlement in England

Cleadon is a suburban village in South Tyneside, North East England in the county of Tyne and Wear, and the historic County Durham. In 2001 the population of Cleadon was 4,795, increasing for the South Tyneside ward of Cleadon and Boldon at the 2011 Census to 8,457. Nearby villages or population centres include East Boldon, Whitburn, and Jarrow. The village is around 5 miles from the city of Sunderland and 10 miles from the city of Newcastle.

Arthurs Hill Human settlement in England

Arthur's Hill is an area of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, North East England. It lies approximately 1 mile west of Newcastle City Centre. It is bordered by Fenham to the West, Elswick to the South, and Spital Tongues to the North. It gives name to a Newcastle City Council electoral ward with a population of 14,507.

Wingrove, Newcastle upon Tyne Ward in England

Wingrove is an electoral ward of Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England, roughly 2 miles west of Newcastle City Centre. The population of the ward as of mid-2018 was 12,773.

Ralph Hedley

Ralph Hedley was a realist painter, woodcarver and illustrator, best known for his paintings portraying scenes of everyday life in the North East of England.

BBC North East and Cumbria

BBC North East and Cumbria is the BBC English Region covering County Durham, Northumberland, Teesside, Tyne and Wear, Cumbria and parts of North Yorkshire.

Victoria Tunnel (Newcastle)

The Victoria Tunnel is a subterranean waggonway that runs under Newcastle upon Tyne, England, from the Town Moor down to the River Tyne. It was built between 1839 and 1842 to transport coal from Leazes Main Colliery in Spital Tongues to riverside staithes (jetties) ready for loading onto boats for export.

The Moorbank Botanic Garden was a university botanical garden in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It occupied a 3 hectares site on Claremont Road to the west of the main Newcastle University campus, and was developed in the 1920s. Moorbank was leased from the Freemen of Newcastle until 2013, when the lease was not renewed and gardens were closed.

Newcastle City Centre

Newcastle City Centre, is the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Newcastle city centre is the historical heart of the city and the main cultural and commercial centre of North East England. Along with nearby Gateshead town centre, which lies on the opposite side of the River Tyne, the city centre forms the central core of the Tyneside conurbation.

Newcastle Corporation Tramways

Newcastle Corporation Tramways operated a tramway service in Newcastle upon Tyne between 1901 and 1950.


  1. "Historic Wingrove- Spital Tongues". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  2. "FORMER OFFICERS' MESS, FENHAM BARRACKS, Newcastle upon Tyne - 1186173 | Historic England". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  3. "BBC - WW2 People's War - A Prisoner of War Story". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  4. "BBC - WW2 People's War - A Prisoner of War Story". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  5. "BBC Shows and Tours - Tours - BBC Newcastle".[ dead link ]
  6. Bus team win top award October 2003 www.bbc.co.uk, accessed 10 December 2019
  7. Tyne and Wear HER(7882): Spital Tongues, Hunter's Road, Huntsmoor House - Details www.twsitelines.info, accessed 10 December 2019
  8. Goulden, R. J. (1991). "Reviews". The Library. s6-13 (4): 374–378. doi:10.1093/library/s6-13.4.374.
  9. "Chimney Mill and Mill House, Wingrove, Newcastle upon Tyne". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  10. 1 2 "Leading designer waves farewell". www.chroniclelive.co.uk. 8 July 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  11. SINE Project (2004), Structure Details for Chimney Mill. Archived 13 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  12. 1 2 "Newcastle Victoria Tunnel tourist attraction hits visitor milestone of 25,000 visitors". www.chroniclelive.co.uk. 20 January 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  13. 1 2 Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1186234)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  14. Newcastle City Council (2005), Local List of Buildings, Structures, Parks and Gardens of Special Local Architectural or Historic Interest in the City of Newcastle upon Tyne: Draft Local List - Wingrove Ward. Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Tyne and Wear HER(9948): Spital Tongues, Belle Grove Terrace, Belle Grove Public House - Details www.twsitelines.info, accessed 10 December 2019
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. Tyne and Wear HER(7879): Spital Tongues, Ancrum Street, Benson Memorial Church - Details www.twsitelines.info, accessed 10 December 2019
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-17164472
  19. "Newcastle University botanic garden set to close - the Journal". www.journallive.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2019.

Coordinates: 54°59′06″N1°37′46″W / 54.98500°N 1.62944°W / 54.98500; -1.62944