Tyne & Wear (Inc. Newcastle)
The two mighty industrial centres located around the Rivers Tyne and Wear are very ancient sites steeped in the history of the country. Layer upon historic layer are in evidence, starting from the Roman occupation with Hadrian's Wall and assorted fortifications and roads; the ‘Dark Ages' with their Anglo-Saxon churches and monasteries; the Viking ‘Sea Wolves' who as settlers left us many place names still in use today; the Norman conquerors who built their castles and cathedrals here, as elsewhere in the UK. The principal city and heart of the county is Newcastle upon Tyne, a vital modern city that stands upon centuries of history. The formidable Norman ‘New Castle' was built on the site of a Roman fort and the original Norman Keep remains to us today. Medieval Newcastle accrued much wealth along with its affluent merchant classes, becoming an important shipping and trading centre through the following centuries. Coal and wool dominated until the 19 th century when the city developed into a major shipbuilding centre.
A famously visual feature of Newcastle is the group of six distinctive bridges spanning the River Tyne, most especially the pleasing arch of the Tyne Bridge (George V). Jarrow is the historic home of the Venerable Bede (7 th century) and was an important centre of English Learning and Christianity; Bede was the first historian of England. This vital period in English history stands in stark contrast to the high technology and low cultural values of our own 21 st century. Here too was where the Vikings made their first forays into Britain, initially as raiders but later as settlers.
Modernday Sunderland grew wealthy on coal and shipbuilding based on the River Wear, shadowing Newcastle's own path to prosperity on the River Tyne; like Newcastle too it has much to offer historically. During the Norman period there were extensive hunting forests in the area, most particularly around Gateshead. Tyne and Wear is also justly renowned for its long stretches of beach and coastline, many of which are designated as ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. Marking the gateway to Tyneside from the South, stands Britain's largest and most impressive modern sculpture - the 20-metre high ‘Angel of the North'.