Historic find during restoration at the Castle Keep in Newcastle

A North East landmark's history has been illuminated by finds during a restoration project

The Castle Keep in Newcastle
The Castle Keep in Newcastle

A North East landmark's history has been illuminated by finds during a restoration project.

Left forgotten behind a kitchen cupboard for almost a hundred years, items discovered include magazines, a hair clip, and a collection of pins, at the Castle Keep in Newcastle city centre.

A souvenir photograph of the 1906 Newcastle United Football Club line-up was among possessions the inhabitant of the caretaker’s flat at the top of the Black Gate appears to have accidentally discarded.

A letter from a man named Lawrence Johnston and addressed to the Society of Antiquaries was also lost, sent from the Black Sea.

He was reassuring his friends that he was safe and was soon to move on to the Italian city of Naples.

Many magazines from around the First World War were found, including one which told of the exploits of Sexton Blake, sometimes called ‘the poor man’s Sherlock Holmes’.

The Black Gate had a live-in caretaker employed by the Society of Antiquaries during the period the items can be dated to, roughly 1909-1920.

Perhaps the most intriguing item was what at first seemed to be a discarded cigarette packet, but contained a burnt note which may refer to a court case.

The note is charred around the edges and was clearly intended to be destroyed, but much of it remains legible.

The project manager of the restoration work, Kate Sussams, said: “We have a lot of information about the past of the Keep but it’s really interesting to find more modern items, to find a snapshot of life.”

Although it is not known which caretaker owned these items, there are several possibilities.

Up to 1915, it was a man named John Gibson, and from 1917-1941 the caretaker was John Teague, who lived in the Black Gate with his wife, who took over after his death.

Lindsay Allason-Jones, President of the Society of Antiquaries, said: “Mrs Teague was famous for the teas which she provided for ‘the gentlemen’, i.e. the members of the Society’s Council, all of whom were men at that time!”

Earlier this year, a copy of the Bayeux tapestry was found by workmen behind a bookshelf during restoration work.

The restoration is due to be finished in May 2014, and will feature an interpretation which will tell the story of the historic core of the city.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer