Lower Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle
Designated as a conservation area in October 2000, the Lower Ouseburn Valley sits on the edge of Newcastle city centre and is adjacent to the East Quayside development.
The valley was largely agricultural prior to the industrial revolution. Then the coal, glass and pottery industries played a critical role in shaping the character of the area. The converted and restored historic industrial buildings of the valley are now home to a wide range of art, music, design and print studios plus a community farm, the National Centre for Children’s Books and the Toffee Factory.
One of the first industrial suburbs in Newcastle, the area’s history is linked to the Ouseburn River. Industrial development began with glass and pottery manufacture in the 17th century. In the 19th century it expanded to include other activities that benefitted from the transport offered by the river and the region’s natural resources.
By the mid-19th century a dense mix of industrial buildings lined the river bank and while the river’s importance to industry declined with the building of the railways, the banks of the river remained an important industrial area. However, by the end of the Second World War the area’s traditional industries were in decline, and the local population was subsequently largely re-housed. By around 2000, most of the valley’s historic buildings had been demolished including, notably, the Ice Factory.
New commercial use of the historic area
Nonetheless, some of the large 19th century industrial buildings remained; two are listed and most are identified as making a positive contribution to the conservation area.
Between 2002 and 2007, an area-based grant (Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme) in the Lower Ouseburn Valley supported the repair and restoration of a number of historic buildings within the conservation area, including the Centre for Children’s Books on Lime Street and the Wood’s Pottery building on Stepney Bank.
The open space in front of The Cluny warehouse, a successful bar and music venue, was also enhanced to provide outdoor seating and an attractive focal point. This has been instrumental in changing the way in which this area is used and has encouraged other businesses to refurbish and update their offer, for example the Ship Inn.
More recently, there have been plans to redevelop the Woods Pottery site and for a container café and creative hub at Lime Street. There are also plans for the development of Lower Steenbergs’ Yard.
Today the Lower Ouseburn Valley is one of Newcastle’s prime regeneration areas.