I have a bus going past me, a train going over me and a boat passing under me. Where am I in Newcastle? The answer is found in the painting above. The High Level Bridge was designed by Robert Stephenson (who designed the steam locomotive the Rocket with his father George and Henry Booth) and was built between 1847 and 1849. It is the first major example of a wrought iron tied arch bridge. In 1849 on the 28th September, Queen Victoria officially opened the bridge without a formal ceremony, her train simply coming to a royal halt on the new bridge.
In 2005, the road that runs through the bridge was closed completely to enable essential repairs to be undertaken to a cost of £43 million, about a 100 times more than the bridge originally cost to be built! It re-opened in 2008 but only for south bound buses and taxis to reduce loads on the bridge.
This view of Newcastle’s High Level Bridge is one of my favourite paintings of Newcastle. I first painted it back in 1992 except my first watercolour featured some of the buildings on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne. A few years later I decided to do another version, this time wanting to capture the low level fog and mist that sometimes hangs over the river. The view is taken from the very highest point on Newcastle’s Keep which provides a terrific vantage point for many of the cities famous landmarks.
It’s been one of my more challenging paintings as it’s not easy trying to paint fog in a convincing manner. One has to paint certain elements of the bridge and foreground structures as though there was no fog and then lift them out using a brush and clean water once they are dry. It was also very important to paint the architectural details with great precision, not only of the bridge, but also of the buildings nearby to add to the authenticity of the scene. I was delighted when my art teacher from my middle school days bought one of the prints.