While its proximity to Hadrian’s Wall guarantees a wealth of Roman remains to explore, Tyne and Wear is also home to a range of outstanding historic attractions.
Washington Old hall permits perspectives of the family history of the first American President, while visitors can explore early English history at St Peter’s Church and the Jarrow Hall Museum. Tynemouth itself is home to the Collingwood Monument and the impressive ruins of its grand priory.
Here are 10 of the best historic sites in Tyne and Wear.
1. Penshaw Monument
Overlooking Herrington County Park in Sunderland, the Penshaw Monument honours John George Lambton, the first Earl of Durham. Built in 1844, it is a half-size replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
The monument has been in the care of the National Trust since 1939. It is 30 metres long, 16 metres wide and 20 metres high. The views from the top of Penshaw Hill are exceptional.
2. Newcastle Castle
Newcastle Castle in Newcastle upon Tyne is a partially restored Norman fortification and one of the best preserved of its kind in Britain. As the ‘castle’ that gave Newcastle its name, it has seen over 800 years of history and today provides an exciting walk through Britain’s medieval past.
As well as exploring the castle’s remains, including those of the former prison chambers, excavated elements of the Roman fort, Pons Aelius, are visible close to Newcastle Castle.
3. Segedunum Roman Fort
Segedunum Roman Fort was one of the ancient Roman wall forts of Hadrian’s Wall, the iconic UNESCO-listed barrier built under Emperor Hadrian from 122 AD. As the most excavated fort along the wall, Segedunum is an excellent place to explore the history of Roman Britain.
The interactive museum at Segedunum Roman Fort displays a range of finds excavated at the site, including armour and weaponry. It also houses everyday items from the fort and settlement that grew up around it, including one very unique object: the only known Roman British stone toilet seat.
4. Washington Old Hall
The family name of George Washington, first President of the United States, originated here at Washington Old Hall, Tyne and Wear. Washington Old Hall incorporates a large part of a medieval manor which was home to the Washington family, descendents of William de Hertburn, who in 1180 exchanged his holding near Stockton for Washington, assuming “de Wessyngton” as his surname in the process.
The hall was used as a residence until the 19th century, and in the 20th century it underwent restoration. The National Trust is responsible for the care of the building, a role they have had since 1957.
5. Prudhoe Castle
On the south bank of the River Tyne in the town of Prudhoe sits Prudhoe Castle, a ruined medieval castle which was continuously occupied for over nine centuries. Founded after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Prudhoe Castle features the remains of a keep, great hall and towered walls. The site is also home to a 19th-century manor house, which contains a visitor’s shop and exhibitions.
6. Tynemouth Castle and Priory
Overlooking the North Sea from England’s northeast coast is Tynemouth Castle and Priory, once one of the most fortified areas of the country. The medieval priory once stood proud within a circuit of walls and towers, but was suppressed during the reign of Henry VIII.
Until 1956, the headland of Tynemouth remained a coastal fortress due to its strategic location at the point the Tyne spills into the North Sea. Today, the site is protected by English Heritage and is a preferred spot for picnics and sea views.
7. St Peter's Church
St Peter’s Church was founded in the late 7th century AD and is today a Grade I listed building. It originally belonged to the Benedictine monastery of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, and has remained a site of Christian worship for over 1,000 years.
Only the west wall and porch survive of the original building ordered by Benedict Biscop, and over the following centuries numerous features including a second storey were added to the building. St Peter’s Church is perhaps most famous for its association with the Venerable Bede, author of the momentous Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
8. Jarrow Hall Museum
Jarrow Hall Museum is a living history museum in Jarrow, South Tyneside, which tells the story of Anglo-Saxon life in Northumbria and the life and times of the famous Anglo-Saxon writer Bede.
It was here that the Anglo-Saxon monk Bede lived, wrote, and died, giving rise to the fame and historical intrigue of the area. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People established him as the leading historical authority in England during his lifetime, and today he is often referred to as ‘The Father of English History’.
Seizing upon this famous figure’s legacy and the wealth of fascinating history in the area, in 1993 the first attraction at the Jarrow Hall Museum site was opened. Operating at first as ‘Bede’s World’, the site was reopened in 2017 in the form it is found today.
9. Collingwood Monument
The Grade II listed Collingwood Monument in Tynemouth is dedicated to the Napoleonic-era admiral who was second-in-command to Lord Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar. The monument was erected by public subscription to commemorate Collingwood and his connection with North Shields and can be seen from the Tyne.
Admiral Lord Collingwood was born in Newcastle in 1748. The four guns on the monument belonged to Collingwood’s ship the “Royal Sovereign”.
10. Newcastle Cathedral
For over 900 years, Newcastle Cathedral has been at the centre of the city’s religious and civic life. The eary 14th-century construction has dominated the skyline since the construction of its lantern tower in the 15th century, one of the finest in the country.
The cathedral also contains one of the largest collections of monuments and ledger stones in northern England. Visitors can also observe medieval heraldic bosses and elaborate Gothic design.