The little sketch here printed shows an interesting bit of old Newcastle. Known as Union Street, the group of ancient houses occupied the site of the Bigg Market end of the Town Hall. Our engraving is made from an original drawing which was long in the possession of a venerable lady, Mrs. Humble, who resided in one of the houses.
Union Street is mainly notable for the fact that the Newcastle Chronicle was first printed there. The paper was established by Mr. Thomas Slack* in 1764. Mr. Slack was an enterprising man, and in addition to printing the Chronicle, and carrying on the business of a general printer, he was the publisher of a large number of school books. In this work he was greatly assisted by his wife. From Mr. Slack’s printing establishment a large number of the books in circulation among schools in the North of England were issued. Amongst the best remembered, perhaps, is Tinwell’s Arithmetic, although several of the works compiled by Mr. and Mrs. Slack was for many years very popular. One of the earliest and most distinguished contributors to the Chronicle was Mr. John Cunningham, the poet, of whom a memoir and portrait appeared in the Monthly Chronicle Vol 1, page 277. Mr. Slack’s daughter married Mr. Solomon Hodgson, and Mr. Hodgson conducted the paper with great enterprise and success from the death of Mr. Slack in 1784 to 1800. After Mr. Hodgson’s death, in the latter year, the publication of the Chronicle was continued by his widow, Mrs. Sarah Hodgson, until her decease in 1822. The paper then became the property of her sons, Thomas and James Hodgson, Thomas taking charge of the editorial department, and James that of the commercial department. The Chronicle remained in their hands until the beginning of 1850, when it was sold to Mr. Mark William Lambert, Mr. Thomas Bourne, and Mr. John Bailey Langhome (Town Clerk of Richmond, Yorkshire). The printing office was removed, on the 24th of May in that year, from Union Street to Mr. Lambert and Partners’ establishment in Grey Street. The machinery was driven by hydraulic power erected by W. G. Armstrong and Co., now the great Elswick firm. Mr. Lambert and Partners owned the paper from 1850 until 1860, when it passed into the hands of the present proprietor. The office was removed in 1863 to St Nicholas’ Buildings, near the High Level Bridge. These premises being found to be too small, the Chronicle establishment was removed in 1866 to the present premises in Westgate Road.
The first house which is shown on the right of our sketch, and which stood nearly opposite Pudding Chare, was in the occupation of Thomas Humble, basket maker, whose widow was living till within the last few years. Next to Mr. Humble’s was the Bee Hive Inn, carried on half a century ago by a man named Coulson, but afterwards by Thomas Grearson, who was for many years a porter in the Chronicle Office. A barber named Todd and a plasterer named Wallace (related in some way to the late Town Surveyor of that name) were the tenants of the next two shops. Further down the street, one of the tall houses seen in our sketch was the original Chronicle Office. The site it occupied fronted the present shop of Mr. Pumphrey, grocer, Cloth Market, the premises extending back to the Groat Market, opposite what was known as Hell’s Kitchen. Towering over the old buildings is seen the beautiful lantern of St. Nicholas. Among the other persons who had business premises in Union Street were Joseph Stappard, innkeeper; J. A. Weir, chemist; Henry Kichardson, grocer; Timothy Oliver, grocer; Daniel Oliver, grocer; Alex. Bertram, cheesemonger; John Bell, land surveyor; Archer, hairdresser; Jacob Yellowley, fruiterer; Thomas Robinson (late Mayor), wine merchant; and Ward and Company, tobacco manufacturers.
*This may be a miss spelling as Wikipedia states Mr. Thomas Stack.