North East History: A Timeline of Tradition, Culture and Memorabilia

Newcastle’s Bigg Market in the early 20th century
The Bigg Market, Newcastle, in the early 20th century

It’s no secret that us Geordies are proud of our identity. Whether we’re flocking to St James’ Park to support The Magpies or proudly drinking Broon when we’re relaxing abroad, the locals in our region wear their identity like a badge of honour – exactly as it should be. Outside of the city, the wider North East is home to stunning countryside, friendly communities and a rich history chocked full of conquerors, customs and traditions.

In today’s post, we’re bringing the past into the present, giving you a guided history of the North East – from the age of Roman rule through to the modern day.


Humans have lived up here for between 6-10,000 years, starting hunter-gatherer communities along our splendid coastline. As these communities grew and later thrived with the introduction of farming, the various settlements started to develop their own unique traditions and a routine way of life – although much of what we know is informed speculation at this point, based off of artefacts found in this region and beyond.

Roman rulers and Viking crusaders

the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall

The Roman presence up here in the North is as clear as day – with Segedunum and Hadrian’s Wall offering historical reminders of the Empire’s control of this region. If you’re yet to visit this impressively well-preserved fort, or walk in the footsteps of the Romans’ guards by walking atop the frontier, then you’re missing out. A trip here is essential, no matter if you’re a local or just visiting for the weekend – so be sure to add this historic place to your weekend or holiday itinerary if it’s not on there already!

When the Vikings arrived in the 9th century, there were well established kingdoms dotted all over the country – with the Northumbrian rulers somewhat in control of the North. Their influence is apparent in many of the towns and cities up here, most notably in York (Jorvik) and Durham (Dunholm), where they settled, built-up and integrated with the locals.

Up here in Newcastle and modern-day Northumberland, a number of monasteries were pillaged by the Vikings. Before then, the Kingdom of Northumbria was a beacon of culture and learning, giving birth to precious artefacts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Did you know?

The site of Newcastle at this time is believed to have been called ‘Monkchester’ – though historians are unsure whether this is because of the actual number of monks and nuns that called it home.

Medieval society

Life in Medieval England was grim for pretty much everyone, unless you were born into privilege. Even then, there was always a chance you’d get your head lopped off if you upset the peasantry or your overlords – not a walk in the park by any means! This period saw a series of bloody wars take place, the infamous Black Death sweep the nation and the North East switch hands a number of times between the Normans, the Scottish and the English.

On the upside, it’s also when York Minster and Durham Cathedral were constructed – both of which are now iconic landmarks in the North East’s landscape, with the latter also listed as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Did you know?

Newcastle Castle was built by the Normans in 1178, and is one of the country’s greatest and well-preserved examples of Norman architecture.

The Industrial Revolution

blended old-new photo of Grey Street in Newcastle
Grey Street, Newcastle

This period saw Newcastle grow in wealth and size, with some of our favourite streets seeing construction – including Grey Street. The city’s historic ship-building prowess is well-known to this day, and it’s during this time that it developed and grew. Newcastle’s city status was made official in 1882, with an influx of money fueling its development – and the locals enjoying their newly found affluent lifestyles.

Did you know?

The name ‘Geordies’ comes from the fact that Newcastle supported George I in the early 18th century, while the rest of the North East mainly supported the Jacobites – thus our longstanding and affectionate local nickname was born.

An Age of War

a bombed Hartlepool home in December 1914
Hartlepool, December 1914

The 20th century saw England plunged into two of the deadliest wars in human history – and the North East was no exception. With ship building on the decline, and the wars taking their toll on our workforce and industry, the North East experienced hardships – but that didn’t dampen our tough spirits. In true Geordie fashion, we – and much of the North East – turned things around, switching traditional industries for future-facing sectors and avenues, regenerating Newcastle into the incredible cultural landmark that stands today.

Did you know?

Hartlepool was one of the first places in the North East to be bombed during WW1, targeted for its armament facilities and strategic seaside location.

Buy local memorabilia at our North East auctions

At Featonby’s, we see our fair share of local trinkets, antiques and collectibles pass through our doors. Whether we’re auctioning off rare regional paintings, collections of timeless photographs from days gone by or well-preserved sporting memorabilia from games and matches that seem like a lifetime ago (or are literally from a lifetime ago), we’re experts when it comes to valuing and selling goods from Newcastle, Whitley Bay, Morpeth, Northumberland and beyond.

Visit our auction house based in North Shields, Tyne & Wear, every Thursday at 10am to bet on a range of different lots – from musical instruments to second-hand cars. You can also place advanced bids or bid live from anywhere in the world at the click of a button.


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