Gosforth-Tyne and Wear

PUBLISHED: 16:29 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:49 20 February 2013

The parade ring at Newcastle Racecourse, set attractively alongside golf and leisure clubs in High Gosforth Park Picture courtesy of Newcastle Racecourse

The parade ring at Newcastle Racecourse, set attractively alongside golf and leisure clubs in High Gosforth Park Picture courtesy of Newcastle Racecourse

Model railways that are ceiling high,it's own version of Monopoly, art galleries and up-market restaurants - Gosforth's renaissance continues apace<br/><br/>WORDS AND PICTURES BY STEVE NEWMAN

Gosforth is one of the largest of Newcastle's suburbs and it is still growing. It has an upmarket reputation and it is looked up to by even the mighty 'Toon' - well, if you're looking up the old Great North Road that is.

Gosforth is served by five Metro stations and the control centre for the Metro system is located at South Gosforth station, with the main depot and car sheds nearby. Old Gosforth really stretches to the east of the Great North Road from the leafy mansions of South Gosforth up to the Metro depot. In fact, Garden Village was developed on 'garden suburb' lines in the 1920s to house workers for the Metro depot, which was then the electric train depot for the old London North Eastern Railway.

Several of Gosforth's areas are suffixed with name 'park' and the latest expansion of Gosforth, stretching the urban conurbation to the north west, is called Newcastle Great Park. This 'park' is four years into a ten-year building project which will eventually extend to Kingston Park.

The origin of Gosforth's name is thought to have come from the Old English Gese Ford, meaning "the ford over the Ouse", referring to a crossing over the local River Ouse. However, others think that it comes from the Old English Gosaford meaning a ford where the geese dwell, and it is first mentioned as Goseford in 1166. The names of North and South Gosforth are thought to have come from the communities north and south of the River Ouse.

The township of Gosforth was held for the crown by the Surtees family from 1100 to 1509, when it passed by marriage to Robert Brandling. And the Brandlings have left their mark on modern Gosforth in no uncertain terms but more of that later.

Many businesses have offices in the Regent Centre, near the High Street. Not many of people working in their airconditioned comfort today will realise that this was the site of Coxlodge colliery, one of two that flourished in Gosforth in the 19th century. The other, Gosforth Colliery, opened in 1820 and was nearer to modern-day South Gosforth.When the colliery opened, 300 dancers performed at a ball held 1,100 feet below ground.

The 1805 register of St Nicholas Parish Church, Gosforth, shows the marriage of Edward Barrett to Mary Graham Clarke. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married the poet Robert Browning. Thus the wedding in Gosforth eventually led to the all the drama and tyranny in Wimpole Street and the acclaimed film.

Gosforth's Trinity Church is at the heart of a 3.25 million development known as Trinity Centre. It was formed in 2000 when the three congregations on Gosforth High Street amalgamated and is believed to be one of the largest expansions of a church in the country offering first class community facilities and caf.

Gosforth is also bordered on the south by the limits of the Town Moor. This vast expanse of green once hosted horse racing, with the first Northumberland Plate being held in 1833, and continued to do so until the race was transferred to Gosforth's most famous 'park', High Gosforth Park, in 1881, when the Brandling Estate was purchased for 60,000. The Brandlings' fine house of grey stone was built in 1760 by James Price, the architect of Richmond Bridge and now forms part of the grandstand at the racecourse. Over the years their estate, however, has meant many things to Newcastle people besides the racing.

Many of the North East's beavers, cubs and scouts have spent their first night under canvas on the Scout camp and birdwatchers have spent long afternoons in the nature reserve around the lake. In fact, George Stephenson would come to the lake at night and fish with a lamp that burned underwater. He did this for the amusement of the Brandling family who, as a result, later gave him financial backing for his safety lamp.

The racecourse had fallen into some decay over the years and was bought in 1994 by Sir Stanley Clarke's Northern Racing. Since then, the estate has seen an investment of 11 million for sporting and business events, with new facilities, stands, parade rings and a straight mile track.

The Town Moor helped spawn Gosforth's Northumberland Golf Club, formed in 1898 when the middle classes began to tire of the footballers and pitmen bowlers on the Moor and moved to the racecourse.With the extension of the tram service from Newcastle to John Dobson's gates at the entrance of the estate in 1879, the clubhouse was built within easy reach of the terminus.

Other sports abound in Gosforth, most famously today with the Newcastle Falcons rugby club located in the town. Other professional sport, however, hasn't fared so well. The greyhound stadium flourished until the late 1980s and in a previous incarnation had been a speedway track from 1929 to 30. If you're wondering why it can't be seen today it's because it is buried under the present ASDA store.

The new prosperity running through Gosforth can be clearly seen on the High Street. Many restaurants are now springing up and hybrid pub/winebars, such as The Brandling Arms, are bringing a touch of sophistication to the area. Popular with all ages, the Brandling also has its own version of Monopoly, with Gosforth's businesses featured around the perimeter of the board. Upmarket restaurant chains such as Loch Fyne Seafood and fine art galleries with cafes are using the once-redundant church halls and buildings to the benefit of the town.

To many people, however, the jewel in Gosforth's crown is Thorpes, the closest thing to a traditional ironmonger you can find these days. Traditional stiff brooms in chimney pots vie for space with woodburning stoves and shovels, while above you a large model railway chugs around the shop just below the ceiling. Long may this fascinating mixture of traditional and modern continue to enthrall us.

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