SIR John Hall and his wife Lady Hall were awarded the Freedom of Gateshead yesterday in recognition of their services to the borough.
The Halls were honoured during a ceremony at the Shipley Art Gallery for their services to retail, regeneration, business and leisure.
Also receiving the town’s top honour were former Tyne Bridge MP David Clelland, children’s author David Almond and community worker Ezriel Salomon.
Sir John said it was “fabulous” that his wife had been bestowed as she “thoroughly deserved it”.
He said: “I have received lots of awards in my time and Mae has been there as my shoulder and my shadow every step of the way.”
“Without her I would never have achieved what I have.
The former Newcastle United chairman created Europe’s biggest indoor shopping centre when he built the Metrocentre in 1986. Lady Hall grew up in Gateshead having moved there aged one. The Halls were married in 1956.
Lady Hall said: “Today is a very special day for me. Building the Metrocentre was a lot of hard work but the night before it opened John said to me ‘the people of the North East will come here in their thousands’.
The leader of Gateshead Council Coun Mick Henry said the complex now had a working population of 7,000 and attracted 23 million yearly visitors. The Metrocentre celebrates its 25th anniversary later this year.
Coun Henry said: “The couple’s passion and pride for Gateshead and the North East is evident.
“Sir John has had a massive impact on sport in the region taking Newcastle United into the Premier League and Europe. “He redeveloped St James’ Park into one of the finest stadiums in Europe.”
Sir John was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and Coun Henry said the tycoon would not have been able to approach his diagnosis with as much determination if it was not for the support of Lady Hall and his family.
Coun Henry said: “They have achieved more together than they would have apart and they have both helped to put Gateshead on the map.”
The couple’s plan for a large rose garden attraction at the Wynyard Hall estate is progressing well and Sir John said it would be their “last legacy”.
Author David Almond was honoured for his services to literature. The former hotel porter, postman and teacher grew up in Felling and is now an internationally-acclaimed children’s writer.
His debut book Skellig sold out within four days of going on sale on both sides of the Atlantic.
He said: “It’s an incredible honour. All my work is based here. I go to places like Japan and people ask ‘is that what it’s really like in Felling?’”
“The middle of the earth to me is still that little house in Felling where I grew up.”
Labour politician David Clelland is a former Gateshead Council leader and MP for Tyne Bridge. Mr Clelland said it had been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of Gateshead.
He said: “I have been lucky enough to travel to many places but Gateshead has always been my home and the place I have wanted to come back to. I am proud to have been part of its renaissance.”
Ezriel Salomon was honoured for his services to education, community and international relations.
A former headteacher, Mr Salomon was a founding member of Jewish Family Services and the Jewish Community Council in Gateshead.
He said: “I am deeply humbled by this honour. I was privileged to be part of the process of fostering relations between the council and our local community.”
The five received a scroll recording their admission as Honorary Freemen of the Borough and a gift individually designed by local artist Jane Charles.