The castle at Newcastle is situated on a steep sided promontory overlooking the River Tyne.
It is a naturally defensible site, which archaeological excavations show has been occupied for nearly 2000 years. Flint flakes and a stone axe head hint at prehistoric activity, and the grooves left by early ploughs – ard marks – have been found in the clay subsoil.
From the mid-2nd century until the beginning of the 5th century a Roman fort – Pons Aelius – stood here, guarding the river crossing below. The name refers to the Roman bridge (pons) across the River Tyne, and to its builder, the Emperor Hadrian, whose family name was Aelius. The site of the bridge was probably close to the present Swing Bridge.
The castle keep as we see it today is the product of a number of restorations over the years:
Despite these changes the keep remains one of the best examples of its type in the country. The names used for the rooms in the keep in the medieval period are unknown: those used today were given by antiquarians in the 19th century. The keep has been open as a ‘curiosity’ or visitor attraction since 1812*
*Information from Newcastle Castle guidebook (Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne).