Hidden Newcastle: The Art at the Civic Centre

March 25, 2015

If you live in Newcastle Upon Tyne you will be familiar with the Civic Centre. Found near the Haymarket the tower with twelve seahorses is easily visible from a distance. It is the administrative centre for the city, I got my son’s birth certificate here and you can often see weddings taking place in the grounds.  Seahorses on top of the civic centreThe building was completed in 1967 and was formerly opened by King Olav of Norway in 1968. In days gone past council meetings were announced by the town crier, ringing his bell and huge barrels of tar were lit along the front of the building to bring in the crowds. The design of the Civic Centre took in this tradition with nine huge flambeaux spanning the entrance. These can be lit when required and there are bells in the tower which can be rung to mark the start of an event.  Civici CentreThe grounds are lovely with plenty of green and water where ducks paddle. It is a perfect place to sit and relax away from the rush of the city on a summer day. If you wander around the grounds you will come across a number of hidden artworks. Attached 5m up the wall on the outside of the Civic Centre is a statue of the River God Tyne. River God TyneIt is a bronze statue by David Wynne. Over the years it has changed colour from dark brown to green and brown due to running water. The figure has an outstretched hand from which water is meant to be dripping over his head and across his torso. His face is hidden from view by his wet hair, unless you stand underneath and look up. River God TyneThis reveals a wise looking face weighed down by the knowledge of ages. It is an impressive looking statue and worth taking a moment to contemplate.

Across the road from the Civic Centre is a Weatherspoons bar named The Five Swans. It has only appeared in recent times, it used to be Luckies bar when I first came to Newcastle. It is named after the five swans of the Civic Centre. If you are like me then you may start to wonder how they manage to ensure they always have five swans at the Civic Centre. How can they stop them flying away or prevent new ones appearing? If you walk around the corner all is revealed. The five swans are actually another statue, Swans in Flight by David Wynne. It depicts five swans taking off from a rectangular pool. Swans in flight Swans in flightSwans in flightEach of the swans are 2m in length and the sculpture is certainly effective. The swans are graceful and elegant and you can imagine them flying off into the sky. The sculpture is based on the poem The Swans of the North by  Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pederson. Each swan represents a Scandinavian country, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Finland and the links between these countries and Newcastle.

I have passed the Civic Centre many times and never seen these sculptures. I love discovering hidden parts of Newcastle like the Vampire Rabbit. Do you know of any hidden parts of the city? I would love to hear about them.

Read more: Amazing Newcastle buildings to visit during Heritage Open Days.

9 responses to “Hidden Newcastle: The Art at the Civic Centre”

  1. I live discovering hidden parts of Manchester too. There is so much that I haven’t seen and still need to explore.

  2. Rebecca Vose says:

    Fantastic post! thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Oh I think it might be a little scary standing under that man and looking up – or maybe I’m a wuss! Thanks for linking to #lovenortheast – I’ve added this post to our #lovenortheast pinterest board 😀

  4. Eats says:

    I’ve been past the Civic Centre so many times and I’ve never seen these sculptures before! I definitely need to check these out sometime! Especially the River God Tyne one!

    Eats x

    PS: Used to walk past Luckies every day on my way to uni (In fairness, I was often running as the bus was always late!)…

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