Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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The character of the inhabitants of Newcastle is modified by a variety of circumstances peculiar to the town; but they are such as are favourable to the extension of useful knowledge, and the formation of moral habits. In large manufacturing towns, the children of the poor are very early set to work, and pushed prematurely into the class of men; while the continual crowd and bustle in which they are involved, and the monotony of their employments, are inimical to the growth of intellect, though a kind of automatical activity, with an air of forwardness, are thereby acquired. They move in crowds; and hence, when they suffer any temporary distress or deprivation, they easily receive the impulse given by bustling or designing individuals, and readily become infatuated by the arts of theological or political demagogues. Females also, by early and long confinement in large manufactories, generally lose that retiring modesty, and those cleanly, neat, domestic habits, which conduce so much to the production of virtue and happiness. In Newcastle the case is very different. Here boys pass through their various degrees more gradually, and seldom associate except in small parties. Their health is not destroyed, nor their spirits broken, by early confinement or sickening employments. Their characters when men therefore display much individuality; and though rather heavy and dull in appearance, their intellectual powers are usually solid and extensive. In public they are calm and dignified, and scarcely ever express their resentment in acts of riotous violence. Indeed, they seldom display their political opinions or prejudices in any public form; but, when roused, their conduct is temperate, firm, and imposing. This singular exemption from political agitation may, in a great measure, be attributed to the wise moderation of the magistracy, who permit the utmost freedom of discussion, and resist the arts of weak and designing alarmists. During the frenzy that prevailed at the commencement of the French revolution, and the more recent movements of the Parliamentary Reformers, the numerous political enthusiasts of this town were never betrayed into any act either illegal or unbecoming; because the municipal body, instead of attempting to control the public effervescence, suffered it gradually to subside, and generally avoided the agitation of political questions, but wisely confined their courtly addresses to their own body.
The general steadiness of the trade of this town is likewise peculiarly favourable to the morals of the working classes. The sober and the industrious may always obtain employment; and wages never fluctuate as in manufacturing districts. The cheapness of fuel also contributes to render the poor man's home comfortable, and to bind the domestic circle; while the easy access which all the poor have to the means of instruction tends to spread an intellectual light over the family board. Nor are the social relations of the inhabitants much disturbed by those religious antipathies which prevail in other places. This harmony is greatly promoted by the ministers of the Established Church, who are distinguished for liberality and affability of manners. Perhaps in no town where Dissenters are so numerous, and where religious zeal is so fervent, does there exist more of that genuine charity which "condemneth not in others what we allow in ourselves."
The richer classes in Newcastle consist of the descendants of ancient and distinguished mercantile families, or of those who have accumulated a fortune by a long exercise of superior knowledge and industry. They are therefore well-informed, polite, and unostentatious; and to the influence of their manners may the respectful demeanour of the other classes be mainly attributed. Few can make a rapid fortune in Newcastle. Hence, the insolent, vulgar, purse-proud upstarts, that swarm in some places, are almost unknown here. The gentry in Newcastle, it must be confessed, are not exempt from those political and religious antipathies which disturb the peace and sour the comforts of society; but the general concerns of trade, and the infrequency of electioneering contests, diminish their inveteracy. When differences between the enemies and the friends of innovation do occur, they are speedily terminated without attracting much attention. In acts of benevolence they cordially unite, as the flourishing state of our numerous charities testify; and in real patriotism there is no difference, as was evinced by the general zeal for the internal defence of the country during the late war.
Strangers from London often remark on the number of tall men in Newcastle, the elegance and chasteness of the ladies' dresses, and the tasteful arrangements exhibited by the shopkeepers. (fn. 1) The two latter circumstances may perhaps arise from the constant and extensive intercourse that exists between Newcastle and London. There are, it is believed, more people in proportion in Newcastle who have visited the me tropolis, than in many towns two hundred miles nearer to it. Hence even our mechanics excel in their different avocations, and are not inferior to any workmen in England. A town enjoying so many advantages might be expected to produce writers, statesmen, and artists, calculated to reflect honour on the British name. To prove that this is actually the case, it is only necessary to peruse the biographical notices scattered through the preceding pages. (fn. 2)
In the accounts of the capitation tax, granted by parliament to Richard II. in 1377, for the payment of four-pence for every lay-person of either sex above 14 years of age, the whole population of Newcastle was estimated at 3970 souls, of whom 2647 were taxable. In 1781, according to the books of the window-cess, Newcastle contained 2389 houses, and, by Hutton's calculation, 30,000 inhabitants. By the returns in 1801, there were 3141 inhabited houses, 6847 families, and 28,294 inhabitants. The following is a statement of the parliamentary returns for the years 1811 and 1821 :— POPULATION.
From the preceding returns, it appears that the town of Newcastle, in 1821, contained 4031 inhabited houses, and 35,181 inhabitants; but if the townships of Westgate, Elswick, Benwell, Jesmond, Fenham, Heaton, and Byker, be included, then the four parishes of the town contained 5144 inhabited houses, and 43,177 inhabitants; and, by adding Gateshead parish, the whole five parishes then contained 6742 inhabited houses, and 54,944 inhabitants.
The tables of marriages, baptisms, and deaths, afford much curious data to persons who are curious in calculations relating to human life. They are, however, necessarily defective; for the births of infants born of parents who are Quakers, Baptists, or belong to some other sects, are not registered. The number of children baptized in the Roman Catholic chapel was 105 in 1824, 95 in 1825, and 120 in 1826. Many marriages of the inhabitants are solemnized in the adjoining parishes. We may, however, safely infer the important fact, that the period of human life at Newcastle, as well as at other places, is extending; (fn. 3) for notwithstanding the great increase of population during the last 26 years, the number of deaths have not materially increased. (fn. 4) This favourable change may be, in a great measure, attributed to increased temperance, cleanliness, and improved medical skill. By the returns in 1821, there were, in Newcastle and Gateshead, 3912 more females than males.
In 1814, the assessed taxes for Newcastle produced £19,568, 0s. 4½d.
The amount of cash received as county-rate within the town and county of Newcastle, on an average of five years, from 1818 to 1822 inclusive, was £2220 per annum. The following is the treasurer's account for the year ending at the Epiphany sessions, 1827:—