During our trip to Stoke-on-Trent we walked over to Newcastle-under-Lyme, the adjoining town, before walking back to do another section of Stoke, so this is what we got up to…
Status: Newcastle District, Staffordshire, Town, England
Travel: Virgin Trains (Manchester Piccadilly – Stoke-on-Trent), Walking (Stoke-on-Trent – Newcastle)
Eating & Sleeping: Caffe Nero
Attractions: Newcastle Guildhall, Market Square, Market Cross, Grosvenor Gardens, Queens Gardens, Museum & Art Gallery, St Giles Church, St Georges Church, War Memorial, Roebuck Shopping Centre etc
The signs welcoming you to Newcastle and Stoke face each other, as you step directly out of the city into the town. We had walked a few miles from Stoke-on-Trent city centre so it was nice to finally enter Newcastle. Newcastle isn’t just the name of the town, it lends itself to the whole district that includes areas outside of the town.
Check out the map of our walk from today here, which covered about 10 miles through the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and into Newcastle and back.
We entered the main section of the town and came to a large roundabout, with a pedestrian subway leading underneath to the far side, so we took this route and came out next to Queen’s Gardens. We had bought lunch back in Stoke but hadn’t had chance to eat it yet so we sat down on one of the benches around the outside to enjoy the perfectly laid out gardens with lunch.
It’s quite a wide open space, with beautiful flower beds filling up the majority of the gardens. The land was bought in 1897 which was also the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, so it became Queens Park to start with. The gardens were laid out in 1899 and they stood in front of the Municipal Hall (now the Library), and the park was renamed Queens Gardens. The original railings around the outside of the park along with the brick wall they accompanied were removed in 1935 to make it more open.
At the far end is a local bar, and a bandstand can be found on the left outside the bar. The original bandstand was constructed in the 20th century, but was replaced in 2002 after it fell into a state of disrepair.
As the name suggests, it was a Jubilee Park in recognition of Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne, so it is fitting that a statue of her was placed in the park after her death in 1901. It is one of various similar statues we have seen all over the UK, including in Southport, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Dundee, Hull, Reading etc. We stayed here for a while, just relaxing in the sunshine after our long walk to get here. Eventually we pushed on into the very heart of Newcastle to see what else the town has to offer.
Just across from the gardens is the Library, which also contains the Tourist Information Office so we nipped in to see if they had a map of the town. As we had a look round, we spotted something of interest in the corner. An old clock mechanism was on show, and a plaque in front of it identified it:
“This clock mechanism was originally installed in the tower of the Municipal Hall which was demolished in 1967. The hall was opened in 1890 by Mr Edward Turner, who also donated the clock which he started at 12 Noon on Tuesday 19th August 1890. The mechanism was renovated by the Rotary Club of Newcastle-under-Lyme to mark the occasion of the Octo Centenary of the Borough and the clock was adapted by John Smith and Sons of Derby.”
It’s a beautiful piece of Engineering, and still in working order. It’s a shame the original building is no longer here to house it but at least the clock survived so we can enjoy it today.
Moving back onto the pedestrianised sections that of the town that encompass most of the main attractions, we were struck by how pleasant the town is, and the quality of the buildings is superb. The fronts of the various pubs and shops all have an old feel about them and look very neat and tidy, and we enjoyed wandering around and exploring the different streets.
At the end of the main street we turned right and found the War Memorial, at the meeting place of Church Street and High Street. The inscription reads “They died for our freedom”.
Behind it, you can see the Church of St Giles, from 1873. This is the fourth or fifth church building on the site, and the marks of previous roofs can be seen on the tower wall showing how often the main building has been rebuilt. The tower itself has survived through the centuries, and is the oldest structure in the whole town, from the 14th century.
The current building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (who designed various buildings in Stoke-on-Trent as well as St Pancras Station in London). The church is a lovely terracotta colour, and the mini spires at the edge of the tower and the main portion of the building are nice little touches.
There are a number of churches in the town, and on the way in we passed the Congregational Church from 1859 and is quite interesting architecturally with the slim chimney like tower at one end at the star shaped window at the front. It is situated on the A52 leading out of Newcastle towards Stoke.
The building I most wanted to see in the town is the Guildhall, so we started heading towards it, passing the Roebuck Shopping Centre, at the end of the main pedestrianised street where it meets the pedestrianised high street.
We finally arrived in the Market Square where the Guildhall and the Market Cross are situated. On the left you can see the cross, which was moved here from it’s original position further up the high street outside the Ironmarket. Newcastle was well known for making Iron Castings so the name comes from the Iron Trade from centuries ago.
Markets have been held in the town for over 800 years, from 1173, including the Ironmarket (which is the present day name of the main pedestrianised street leading from Queens Gardens to the Shopping Centre, where the market was originally held).
I was certainly not disappointed when I saw the Guildhall as it is a truly magnificent little building sat in the middle of the square.
From the front it is even more beautiful, with the clock tower rising up above the market square. We picked a good day to go as the market was on, although I think by this time of the day it was winding down a bit but it’s nice to see the tradition still alive.
The Guildhall itself is a remodel of the original building from 1713, that was carried out in 1861. The roof was plain tiled and the walls were lined with Red Brick. Council functions are carried out in the Guildhall, along with the Town Hall in the nearby town of Kidsgrove that is also in the Newcastle district.
From here we moved back up to Ironmarket street, and stopped in Caffe Nero for a well deserved break with some cake and tea! From there we then started the long walk back to the train station via Stoke Town Hall, and on the way out of the town we passed one last church…
At the edge of the main roundabout heading out of the town sits St George’s Church, the entrance to which is marked by the lovely old stone arch that leads out onto the pavement. The church was completed in 1828, and took control of half the town when it was annexed to St George’s in 1844.
It fits in so well with the other churches we have seen in Newcastle (St Giles) as well as Stoke (The Minster and Holy Trinity Church) as they are all built out of the same coloured materials and are a great addition to the local landscape. This was the end to our Newcastle adventure and not far up the road we re-entered the boundaries of Stoke-on-Trent. You can find out about our Stoke-on-Trent explorations in my post here.
Elsewhere in the town, you can find Grosvenor Gardens in the centre of one of the main roundabouts, as well as Brampton Park which contains the Museum and Art Gallery.
Newcastle is a very pleasant town and a worthy addition to the list of towns we have visited. There are no train stations in the town but the nearby mainline station in Stoke-on-Trent provides onward travel to Manchester, Derby, London, Bournemouth, Birmingham etc and local buses connect the city to Newcastle, and if you fancy a pleasant walk its only a few miles between the station and the town.
I would certainly recommend Newcastle, there are old buildings, cheerful streets, beautiful churches and of course the historic Market to enjoy…