Newcastle Civic Centre

Melanie Xu
Newcastle civic centre
Illustration by Daniel Russell

Newcastle’s Civic Centre – the city’s modernist governmental hub and symbol of post-war idealism.

In the centre of Newcastle, twelve bronze seahorse heads sit proudly above a brilliant copper green tower. These semi-equine forms are a signal to visitors; they lead to the heart of the city’s history and spirit.

As one of the few surviving examples of 1960s architecture in Newcastle, the Civic Centre crystallizes the cultural and social ambition of that era. Built during the hopeful post-war regeneration of Britain, it’s clear that the architecture was driven by idealistic values as well as aesthetics. A huge budget gave G W Kenyon, the city’s architect, the resources to capture Newcastle’s cultural identity through a new modernist lens. The use of Portland stone, also chosen for Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral, is an indication of the statement that Kenyon wanted to make in a city full of sandstone and brick; one of the original stones selected by Wren for St Paul’s is inset into the southern wall.

Combining a twenty-five bell carillon on the top of an office block, an elliptical council chamber on stilts and a courtyard, the Civic Centre was unlike any other building in Newcastle in the 1960s and remains unique to this day. As well as being visually striking, there is also a strong sense of social inclusiveness. For example, the tranquil courtyard, officially named “The Garth”, invites the public into the heart of the building via two specially commissioned David Wynne sculptures; a huge Bronze River God and five Scandinavian swans. On a sunny day, the friendliness of the Civic Centre is evident as the grounds fill up with picnicking families, teenaged skateboarders and even a few rabbits.

Civic Centre was unlike any other building in Newcastle in the 1960s and remains unique to this day

Long before the Newcastle-Gateshead “City of Culture” bid in 2002, the Civic Centre was already championing the arts and this translated into a playful approach to motifs and symbolism. The seahorses, which are borrowed from Newcastle’s coat of arms, act as a reminder of the city’s seaport history. They are everywhere – appearing in various forms including crystal chandeliers and carpets. A large tapestry in the Banquet Hall, designed by John Piper, mimics the shapes and colours found in Northumberland. More subtly, clean Scandinavian lines and walls of Norwegian Otta slate acknowledge Newcastle’s previous cultural and economic links with Norway (which may soon continue; there are regular rumours that the direct ferry between Bergen and Newcastle will be re-established).

Like the city and its inhabitants, the Civic Centre is welcoming, striking and full of stories. Formal tours of the Civic Centre can be arranged and are free for groups with fewer than five people. There’s no better introduction to Newcastle.

Barras BridgeNewcastle upon TyneNE1 7RS View map
Telephone: 0191 278 7878 Visit Now

Opening Hours

  • Monday9:00am - 4:30pm
  • Tuesday9:00am - 4:30pm
  • Wednesday9:00am - 4:30pm
  • Thursday9:00am - 4:30pm
  • Friday9:00am - 4:30pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

Culture Guides


There's no rest for the art lover - this month brings outdoor sculpture, musings on water, political drawings and Liverpool Biennial 2023!


We look towards a summer filled with quality festivals, from cultural behemoths to grassroots gems.

Winnie the Pooh at Manchester Opera House

The sun has finally got his hat on! Enjoy our top picks of family-friendly events and activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Classical Music

Summer's classical music calendar is filling up nicely! Read our top picks of concerts happening in Manchester and the North.

Gerry Potter (credit Lee Baxter)

Books are big this summer, with festival readings, poetry slams, creative writing activities and famous faces all putting in an appearance.

Food and Drink

All signs point toward June being a scorcher of a month, so let’s take a look at all things summery food and drink.

Tours and Activities

From literary activities to brilliant independent shops, keep your minds and homes filled with the good stuff this month.

Theatre in Manchester

Check out our updated guide for lively theatre festivals, rip-roaring rooftop circus and dreamy outdoor shows.