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.

What's on near Newcastle Civic Centre

a large mansion house surrounded by three blocks of colour
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Colours Uncovered at Harewood House

Explore colour through an amazing range of artefacts at ‘Colours Uncovered’, a new exhibition at Harewood House, from colour theory and pigment to classical painting and contemporary textiles. from £12.00

Where to go near Newcastle Civic Centre

Northern Stage
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Northern Stage (previously the Newcastle Playhouse) is a vibrant theatre to the north of Newcastle’s city centre.

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Hatton Gallery

The diverse collection includes over 3,000 works from the 14th – 20th centuries, available through Newcastle University grounds.

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North East Art Collective

Inside Eldon Square shopping centre, within the Eldon Garden wing, you will be able to find the North East Art Collective. Founded in 2010, the North East Art Collective is a fantastic venue for discovering local art on any trip to Newcastle or the North East.

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Fenwick

Walking down Northumberland Street, the main shopping street in Newcastle, you will eventually pass Fenwick’s. Fenwick is Newcastle’s famous and home-grown department store and a fantastic retailer to visit on your trip to Newcastle.

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In the city centre of Newcastle you can find the Tyneside Cinema. The Tyneside is one of the most loved cinemas in the North East of England, from its iconic Art Deco interior (best shown off in the Classic Screen) through to the wonderful range of world films and amazing community.

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Following the closure of Stack, a hugely popular food, drink and entertainment pop up in Newcastle’s Stephenson Quarter, plans are full steam ahead for a permanent location at Worswick Chambers.

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Newcastle Theatre Royal

In 2011 the theatre was refurbished for six months back to the 1901 interior designed by Frank Matcham, ready for the 175th birthday of the theatre. The theatre is also proud to be one of nine grade one listed theatres in the United Kingdom, an honour it truly deserves.

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Pleased to Meet You

Starting at its bar – which was also where Pleased to Meet You’s story began – you can enjoy some of the best drinks available in Newcastle. From locally produced gins, provided by the glass or bucket depending on the occasion, to real ales, the bar has what you need before you sit down for your meal.

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The Grainger Market

In the heart of Newcastle on Grainger Street can be found the Grainger Market. This covered market was the largest covered market in the world when it was built and still holds a special place in the heart of many in Newcastle.

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