|A view of Newcastle from the banks of the Tyne|
Newcastle was the capital of John Uskglass's kingdom of Northern England. During the time of the king it was a great city, well-fortified and excellently defended. Its four magical, man-eating woods, - Great Tom, Asmody's Citadel, Petty Egypt and Serlo's Blessing - are famous to this day. After the king's strange departure and the transfer of the seat of government to southern England, however, Newcastle naturally fell into decline, although to this day it is graced by many fine buildings of an ancient character.
Newcastle came into being because it commands a crossing of the river which marked the boundary between the Roman empire in Britain - roughly speaking, England - and the savage tribes beyond (i.e. Scotland). This river is called the Tyne, and so the town is properly called "Newcastle-upon -Tyne". This name dates back no earlier than the Conquest, for in Roman times the town was known as Pons Aelius* and during the Dark Ages it was called "Monkchester". Soon after England fell to Duke William the Bastard, however, his half-brother - the wretched Bishop Odo of Bayeux, one of the most unprincipled men ever to wear a mitre - campaigned so vigorously thereabouts that Monkchester was well-nigh destroyed.
The building of a Norman castle in 1080 gave the town its new name, and happily Newcastle's fortunes improved thereafter, for the conquest of John Uskglass saw it transformed into a seat of government and a peaceful place of learning.
- After a splendid bridge built there and named in honour of the emperor Hadrian, whose family name was Aelius.