Stuart Forster explains what to expect from climbing Grey’s Monument in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Grey’s Monument, in central Newcastle, stands in memory of the man for whom bergamot-infused Earl Grey tea first was blended. From April to September this most English of landmarks opens on the first Saturday of the month for visits by members of the public.
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Known locally simply as the Monument, Grey’s Monument looks similar to Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square in London. The statues topping both were sculpted by Edward Hodges Baily.
Climbing Grey’s Monument in Newcastle
A lightning strike, during the summer of 1941, knocked the head off Grey’s Monument. As I waited to squeeze through the tiny door leading to the spiral staircase within the column, one of the Newcastle City Guides checking visitors’ tickets at the base of the landmark recounted an anecdote about that event.
Apparently, a local shop owner retrieved what was left of the head and placed it in his window. A sign boasted that his prices were so good that even Earl Grey had come down for a closer look.
In case you’re wondering, the head has been replaced. Ralph Hedley, a local sculptor, crafted the replacement that was placed atop the monument in 1948.
History of Grey’s Monument
An inscription on the base of the Monument, written in gold-painted capital letters, explains why the landmark exists:
This column was erected in 1838 to commemorate the services rendered to this country by Charles Earl Grey, K.C., who during an active political career of nearly half a century was the constant advocate of peace and the fearless and consistent champion of civil and religious liberty
He first directed his efforts to the amendment of the representation of the people in 1792 and was the minister by whose advice, and under whose guidance, the great measure of parliamentary reform was, after an arduous and protracted struggle safely and triumphantly achieved in the year 1832.
Grey, whose family home was Howick Hall in Northumberland, was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1830 and 1834. The Great Reform Act, officially known as the Representation of the People Act of 1832, extended the country’s voting franchise, created new parliamentary seats and abolished so-called ‘rotten boroughs’.
The best view of Newcastle?
It was the prospect of panoramic views over Newcastle, rather than Grey’s political achievements, that made me want to climb the Monument’s 164 steps. The spiral staircase inside the column leads to the compact viewing platform at the top of the city landmark.
Ideally, I’d have climbed Grey’s Monument on a bright day and clipped a series of appealing photos of Newcastle’s skyline. Unfortunately, the April sky was overcast and grey during my visit.
Recent rainfall and springtime snow meant that water was still being pumped from the base of the Monument when I arrived for my allotted 10.00 – 10.30 am timeslot. Those of us wishing to climb the spiral staircase to the top had to plodge through about a centimetre of residual water.
Climbing the spiral staircase
Climbing Grey’s Monument in Newcastle involves clambering up 164 steps of a spiral staircase.
Entering Grey’s Monument for the first time made me realise that the column is perforated by a series of narrow vertical and horizontal slits. Like arrow slits in a medieval castle, they provide views of central Newcastle and enable light to stream into the historic landmark. Despite passing the Monument hundreds of times, I’d never noticed the slits. Now I never fail to see them.
Thankfully the railing on the viewing platform is high, otherwise I’d have felt very shaky while looking down over the city. Over the course of a few minutes, I rotated around the column and admired the view, carefully stepping over the lightning conductor while doing so.
What did I do after climbing Grey’s Monument? Head for a cup of tea, a cup of Earl Grey, of course.
Location of Grey’s Monument
Grey’s Monument is on Grainger Street in Newcastle:
Google Map showing the location of Grey’s Monument in Newcastle.
One of the easiest ways of reaching Grey’s Monument is by using public transport. The Tyne and Wear Metro stops under the landmark. Monument is one of central Newcastle’s Metro stops.
Travel to Newcastle
Newcastle central station is on the UK’s East Coast Main Line. Book seats for travel on trains to Newcastle via the Trainline website.
DFDS Ferries sail between Amsterdam and the Port of Tyne near Newcastle.
Hotels in Newcastle
Planning on visiting North East England? Search for accommodation in or near Newcastle on Booking.com:
Books about Newcastle upon Tyne
Thinking about visiting Newcastle upon Tyne? You may find the following books interesting:
Newcastle Then and Now by Rob Kirkup:
See the Newcastle City Guides website for information on how to book a ticket to climb to the top of Grey’s Monument and guided walking tours on Tyneside. The website lists ticket prices and availability.
The NewcastleGateshead website has information about attractions in both Newcastle and Gateshead. You can also find a post about things to do during a walk in Newcastle here on Go Eat Do.
The Visit England and Visit Britain websites have ideas about things to do and places to visit in Tyne and Wear and beyond.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel writer based in North East England. Make contact via this website to commission travel features, food features or copy for commercial projects.
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A version of this post was first published on Go Eat Do on 13 April 2018.
RoseannaApril 25, 2018 at 09:41
You know, I lived in the North East of England for 16 years and never done this. I really need to start exploring my own doorstep!
Stuart ForsterApril 30, 2018 at 09:41
Opportunities for 2018 sold out quickly, I learnt after posting this story. Keep your eyes peeled and hopefully you’ll get to climb the Monument soon.
Jenna RamirezMay 9, 2018 at 07:57
Newcastle really a wonderful place to visit. All of these pictures inspire us. It’s a historical place, and every traveler wants to see another look of Newcastle. I am a traveler and love to visit those historical places. Now I excited to visit Newcastle. Thanks for sharing this.
Stuart ForsterMay 12, 2018 at 14:56
Thanks for your enthusiasm!