Under Cover

Sat. 19th Aug., 2000

During the early 1970s the central heart was ripped out of the commercial part of the city and the Eldon Square shopping mall was constructed. This has been absorbed into the everyday life of Newcastle folk; I don't suppose there are many who have vivd memories of what was here before.

Here is the central square, with its flying doughnut restaurant. This area lies over the bus station and escalators lead down to the departure platforms.

The bus station is built on a portion of what was to be a dual carriageway  linking the west and the only recently constructed Western Boulevard and the Central Motorway. The construction was chopped when T. Dan Smith's grand plans for the regeneration of the city came under government scrutiny. He became a scapegoat for the political correctness of the day, and Newcastle was the poorer for the unecessary witch hunt.

The Queen  visited the city during her jubilee year, 1977, and this clock commemorates that visit. Maybe she popped into nearby Boots for some Crown Polish, or even some Regal Remedy.

There were parties in the streets, and we were treated to a special holiday. I hope we get another holiday after her 50th year on the throne in 2002.

At first the walkways were all gloomy. Once inside one became rather disoriented due to the lack of natural light. This was remedied by the turn of the 1980 by glazed atria.

Here visitors are caught in the light pouring in at Earls Way.

An additional piece, Eldon Gardens, was added during the late 1980s. This spreads across Percy Street into the location of the old Handisides arcade, a Victorian cast iron rectangular two storey shopping centre with a central quadrangle and a glazed roof.

The modern version is tightly patrolled, contains rather expensive and esoteric shops, and has the antiseptic feel of Emergency Ward 10!

Here is the escalator linking the old and the new, relatively speaking.

Below is the area called Blackettbridge, it spans Blackett Street to the right, and it contains a rather nice restaurant and snack bar called Juicy Lucy.

Here is the view of Blackett Street form the bridge. Note that Earl Grey is surrounded by scaffolding pending repair work to his column. It is possible to climb to the top of the Monument by stairs inside, and I am informed that access will be granted to the public again after the current repairs. Watch out for spectacular rooftop views when it is eventually opened again. The regular Saturday morning openings were stopped some years ago.

Below is the reverse view, taken from a point where that double deck bus stands today. The picture was taken in 1974 when the shopping mall was under construction. Note the hoardings to the left, and the bare bones of the framework to the right of the road. Blackettbridge is just a builders' access at this time.

The place was opened for business during 1975, just in time for the Christmas rush. During the following year this bronze statue of a man with some pigeons was donated by the property development company responsible for the whole thing. It was crafted by André Wallace

I felt quite patronised by this at the time. Where are his whippets and flat cap? Thankfully, this statue is tucked away in the administration office entrance.

The development included a renewed Greenmarket, an airy market area for fruit and vegetables and other garden produce on the lower level and specialist shops on the gallery around the edge.

At the centre of the complex is a Leisure centre, including a gymnasium, sauna, and a meeting area. The resources of the old YMCA building, demolished to make way for Eldon Square, come to mind with its rubber mounted gymnasium to prevent sound transmission. See more.

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