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Newcastle upon Tyne is the most populous city in the North East of England and Tyneside the seventh most populous conurbation in the United Kingdom.  The city developed around a Roman settlement and was named after the castle built in 1080.  The city grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the 14th century, and later became a major coal mining area.  The port developed in the 16th century and, along with the shipyards lower down the River Tyne, was amongst the world's largest shipbuilding and ship-repairing centres.

The first recorded settlement in what is now Newcastle was Pons Aelius, a Roman fort and bridge across the River Tyne.  It was given the family name of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who founded it in the 2nd century AD.  This rare honour suggests that Hadrian may have visited the site and instituted the bridge on his tour of Britain.  Fragments of Hadrian's Wall are still visible in parts of Newcastle, particularly along the West Road.  After the Roman departure from Britain, completed in 410, Newcastle became part of the powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, and became known throughout this period as Monkchester.  A series of conflicts with the Danes in 876 left the river Tyne and its settlements in ruin.  After the conflicts with the Danes, and following the 1088 rebellion against the Normans, Monkchester was all but destroyed by Odo of Bayeux.  Because of its strategic position, Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror, erected a wooden castle there in the year 1080 and the town was henceforth known as Novum Castellum or New Castle.  The wooden structure was replaced by a stone castle in 1087 and the castle was rebuilt again in 1172 during the reign of Henry II.

In large parts, Newcastle still retains a medieval street layout.  Narrow alleys or 'chares', most of which can only be traversed by foot, still exist in abundance, particularly around the riverside.  Stairs from the riverside to higher parts of the city centre and the extant Castle Keep, originally recorded in the 14th century, remain intact in places.  Close, Sandhill and Quayside contain modern buildings as well as structures dating from the 15th-18th centuries.  The city has an extensive neoclassical centre largely developed in the 1830s by Richard Grainger and John Dobson, and recently extensively restored.  Pevsner describes Grey Street as one of the finest streets in England - the street curves down from Grey's Monument towards the valley of the River Tyne and was voted England's finest street in 2005 in a survey of BBC Radio 4 listeners.






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