Illegal poo to flying donkeys, here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Newcastle Castle.

Newcastle is a city rich in history and heritage dating back centuries. Many of the visitor attractions in Newcastle and Gateshead tell the story of the North East's varied heritage and all add to the region's diverse cultural offer. There are lots of things to do in Newcastle and Gateshead and one such popular, family-friendly attraction in the heart of Newcastle is Newcastle Castle.

Steeped in history, Newcastle Castle - which is open daily throughout the year - is a grim but fascinating reminder of Newcastle’s dark and gruelling past, but how much do you actually know about the historic landmark which gave the city its name?

  • Newcastle Castle started its life in 122AD as a wooden Roman fort named Pons Aelius. It wasn’t until the Normans conquered England in 1066 that it was re-named Novus Castellum meaning New Castle.
  • When the Normans landed in the North East, with them came Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s son. He re-structured the Roman fort into a motte and bailey castle in 1080. He was nicknamed ‘shorty pants’ due to the meaning of his surname and most probably his lack of height.
    • The stone castle we know and love today in Newcastle was completed in 1178. It took 10 years to build and cost £1,100 which is roughly £2.5 million today.
    • In 1400 Newcastle became its own county, however the Garth, the yard within the castle walls, remained part of the County of Northumberland.
    • In the 1550s the castle's outer walls started to collapse as a result of large amounts of poo being illegally dumped by people of the city.
    • After an execution, it was common practice for body parts to be put on display outside of the Castle Keep, acting as a warning to anyone thinking about committing a crime.
    • In 1733, a showman attempted the 'world's first flight' from the roof of the Castle Keep. According to the Newcastle Courant at the time, he launched himself from the roof via a rope into the Castle Garth. Feeling confident he did the same with his donkey…unfortunately the donkey’s descent resulted in several injuries and the fatality of an unassuming young girl.
    • After the Middle Ages, the castle was used as the county jail of Northumberland. In the 1770's it was described as the worst gaol in all the land due to the awful and inhumane conditions - quite a feat for the time.
    • In 2011 the castle site was renovated after the Old Newcastle Project received Lottery funding to renew the interpretation of the Black Gate and Castle Keep. It took four years to complete the huge project and reopened to the public in 2015.

    This blog was first written in 2019 in collaboration with Newcastle Castle as part of a promotion.

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