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Newcastle’s Grainger Town – a brief history

Grainger Town in Newcastle Upon Tyne is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in Britain today. Built during the 1830s, it is one of the largest urban centres to be named after a single person – Richard Grainger.

Richard Grainger’s young life

Ramsay, James; Richard Grainger (1797-1861); Laing Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/richard-grainger-17971861-36822

Richard Grainger was born in 1797, in the area that would one day be known as the Grainger Town. He came from a very humble family; his father was a quayside porter and would carry good from the quayside to the upper parts of town, to the markets and his mother was a seamstress, making clothes for residents of the Newcastle.

The youngest of six children, Richard Grainger was lucky enough to be found a carpentry apprenticeship by his parents. He was only 12 at the time.

Unfortunately, Richard’s father died of exhaustion when Richard was still quite young, so his mother had to step up her business to provide for her young family.

While Richard was doing his apprenticeship in carpentry, his master noted his amazing art skills. As a result, he was fast-tracked onto an architecture course. Once he’d qualified, he joined together with his brother to form a building company. Their first project was to redevelop their family home and make sure their brothers and sisters had nice homes too.

Richard’s skills were soon noticed by the Quaker and Methodist Elite of Newcastle and was commissioned by William Batson to build Higham Place, a residential street in the heart of the city.

His marriage and subsequent career

Richard Grainger married into a powerful Newcastle family, the Arundales. His wife, Rachel, came with a dowry of £5,000 which enabled him to expand and develop his business.

The development of Grainger Town in 1834 was Grainger’s biggest project to date and was founded on two key relationships: Richard Grainger’s friendship with John Clayton and his relationship with John Dobson, the North East’s best architect of the time. With Dobson developing and designing the town and Clayton financing and providing political contacts, the Grainger town was a huge success.

John Clayton – Graingers Business partner

Grainger Town incorporates the Grainger Market which, at the time, was the largest market in Western Europe and was revolutionary in bringing so many different traders under one roof.

The Grainger Town was remarkable in that it had a purpose-designed sewer and toilet system built into it, effectively eliminating many of the diseases common during that time, in that area of the city – a great step forward.

When Richard Grainger died in 1861, his estate was only worth £17,000 with a debt of around £128,000. Thanks to the sale of land in his home estate, those debts were paid off and within 40 years of his death, the Grainger estate was worth £1.2million in old money.

Grainger Town’s recent history

Grey Street is a part of the Grainger Town

Over the course of history, as industrialisation occurred and with the amount of pollution there was in the city, the Grainger Town became quite dilapidated with many of the buildings falling into a poor state of repair.

During the 1990s the city raised £153million worth of Lottery funded money to refurbish every building in the Town. Looking around the modern-day Grainger Town, you’ll see how many of the buildings now house businesses and shops – a great success in revitalisation.

Click here to watch the video about Grainger Town.

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