Glimpse history through old images of Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England.
Back in Norman times, Elswick was owned by Tynemouth Priory. They had a mansion there, on a site which was used to build Elswick Hall in the early 1800s. The Hall’s grounds became Elwick Park in 1881. Elswick Hall was demolished for the new swimming pool and leisure facilities, which opened in 1970.
The Elswick Works
Elswick in the West End of Newcastle was once home to Lord Arstrong’s Elswick works, a hub of industry in the Industrial Age. With the death of manufacturing during the 20th century, the inhabitants of this area of the city generally missed out on the increasing prosperity enjoyed by communities across England.
Low rents attracted new immigrants, at first from Ireland and later further afield, but housing conditions were poor and poverty persisted.
Mitchell and Kenyon visited locations across the country, filming busy areas and screening the edited film at a nearby venue, usually the same night. In the year 1900, they filmed the crowds of workers coming out of the factory gates at Lord Armstrong’s Elswick works.
Lord Armstrong’s Elswick Works, Newcastle (1900) – BFI on YouTube
In 1927, Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Company and Vickers Limited merged their engineering companies, creating Vickers-Armstrongs Limited.
In 1939, before rearmament, Vickers-Armstrongs was the third-largest manufacturing employer in Britain, behind Unilever and ICI.
Silent footage shows a tour of the different departments of Vickers-Armstrongs, showcasing different machines and workers activities.
Vickers-Armstrongs (engineers) Ltd. (Tour) – archiveforchange on YouTube
As Britain prepared for war in 1939, Elwick’s military manufacturing site at Vickers-Armstrongs was of key significance to the nation. King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother), toured the factory on 23rd February 1939.
They then enjoyed lunch at the City Hall.
King and Queen in Newcastle – British Movietone
Old West End Newcastle
Elswick in the 1960s & ’70s
Attempts to reinvigorate the area often failed. The Noble Street flats, are one such example. Built in the 1960s the flats became notorious for poor living conditions and social problems, and were demolished by the 1980s.
Tish Murtha (Early 1980s)
The late Tish Murtha grew up in Elswick. She was the third of 10 children of Irish descent. Despite studying at the Newport College of Art in South Wales, by 1980 she was back in Elswick on a job training scheme for the unemployed.
Picking up her camera in her spare time, she wandered around the neighbourhood taking pictures of the local community, capturing images of poorly dressed children playing in streets full of derelict and crumbling buildings.
Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991 at the Photographers’ Gallery – The Photographers’ Gallery on YouTube
Self Portraits (1981)
In the summer of 1981, the council ran a six week playscheme at Hodgkin Park.
Andy Armstrong set up a self portrait booth there, made out of white sheets hung from the ceiling of a park building. Andy would invite subjects in, and explain how he would wait outside as they took their picture by squeezing a rubber bulb connected to the camera’s shutter realease.
The Elswick Self Portraits – Andy Armstrong on YouTube
Elswick Riots (1991)
Elswick’s residents were plagued by crime and disorder in the early 1990s.
On 12st September 1991, a group of youths firebombed a pub and several derelict houses in the area.
Tyneside Riots Elswick 1991 – Radio Jonophone on YouTube
Snow in Elswick (2011)
Elswick Park Newcastle Upon Tyne England – homeboy29032001 on YouTube