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Newcastle’s Castle – The Black Gate

Newcastle Castle’s Black Gate is the entrance to the Castle. Unlike the Black Gate from the Lord of the Rings, the gate is not named after all the dark and evil deeds that took place there. In fact it has a much more straightforward reason behind its name. In this blog, we take a closer look at the gate and find out where it got its name.

The Black Gate
The Black Gate is the second gatehouse that the castle has had, the first is a ruin behind it. It’s a barbican – a beautifully designed, fortified gatehouse that enters the castle from the western side. Looking at the Black Gate, it’s clear that the medieval stonework only goes up to a certain point. The building has been added to over the centuries and through on the inside of the gate, there is even some Victorian brickwork. The Black Gate has clearly been adapted to fulfil the changing needs of the castle over the years, as well as catering to the different groups of people living within and around the castle over the centuries. For example, during 19th century, there were reports of up to 60 people living inside the castle! At that time, they would have been living on top of each other in a form of slum housing.

During the medieval period, there would have been what is colloquially known as a drawbridge but is more accurately described as a turning bridge. This would have lifted up to cut the castle off from the outside world, turning it into its own fortified island. Slits for the portcullis can still be seen in the entrance to the Black Gate, which would have been positioned in front of huge wooden doors and protected by murder holes in the ceiling. Murder holes were used to enable defenders of the castle to drop down on any attackers, throw spears at them or, if the films of today are to be believed, pour boiling oil on them. In reality, oil was incredibly expensive so they may have used sand instead. The sand would have been heated up until it was white hot and then dropped that onto the heads of their attackers. Any attackers were probably wearing suits of armour which had taken them a good few minutes to put on. It would therefore take almost as long to take off again and with white hot sand trickling into every hole and crack, it doesn’t bear thinking about the level of pain and discomfort that would take them to. Past the doors are two guard rooms. This is where the garrison would have lived to provide a
defence for the castle.

Through on the inside is another gate house.
How the Black Gate got its name The Black Gate was named after a London-based coal merchant, Patrick Black. The story is that a gentlemen in Newcastle, who had failed in his businesses, approached Patrick
Black, who was also Charles I’s tailor, for a loan. The gentleman later defaulted on the loan after buying a number of pubs and the gate house of Newcastle’s castle. This meant Patrick Black became the owner of the gate house. Mr Black never visited the site but was named on all the papers as the owner and the gate took on his name. When he passed away, his wife took over maintenance of the gate house, creating the link between the Black family name and Newcastle’s Castle in history.

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