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The Black Gate and Castle Keep are the last remaining parts of the city’s medieval castle. The client’s brief was to develop the buildings as a hub for historic interpretation and education, opening the buildings to the public for the first time.

The Castle Keep, built for King Henry II between 1172 and 1178, was the centre of the Royal Castle at Newcastle upon Tyne. The Black Gate was the barbican added between 1247 and 1250 on the orders of King Henry III.

In the 19th century, the buildings were saved and renovated by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne who, until recently, used the Black Gate as their office and library.

With funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Newcastle City Council commissioned Purcell to oversee the conservation and renovation of the buildings. Our philosophy was to carefully record the building fabric, minimise any removals and undertake like for like repairs. Reversible modern additions were designed to contrast with the historic building. 

The new external lift and walkways for the Black Gate has made it accessible to all for the first time in its history. It serves as an educational hub and gateway to explore Newcastle’s history in the surroundings of two of its oldest buildings.

The Black Gate’s new external lift and walkways complement its structure. A simple palette of traditional materials, including oak, lead and local sandstone, sits sympathetically alongside modern materials, such as zinc and galvanised steel.

To the rear of the Black Gate, a dilapidated oak bridge was repaired by a specialist joiner. Each piece of timber was planed to remove damaged surfaces and reinstated - over 90% of the original oak was reused.

To avoid damage to the site’s archaeology, we designed pad and raft type foundations set above the archaeology on a protective bed of sand. The lift shaft sits on steel stilts with a raised lift pit to avoid disruption.

The top floor has a picture window with a view of the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, reinforcing the link between medieval castle and church.

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