Best Street? Grey Street

Sarah Davis walks down the ‘Best Street in Britain’ and ponders on why people love it so much

2nd November 2015

Grey Street - our historical jewel in the British crown has been voted the best street in Britain by BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme!

As I stand by the beloved Earl Grey monument (‘The Monument’) on a clear, cold October evening I have no doubts as to why this would be the case.

Classical ridges mixed with 19th century stonework combined with floral ironwork cascading down the sides of buildings, and erected in the form of streetlights, transports me to a world of Georgian grandeur. On rare cloudless mornings and evenings it gains a glittering, incandescent haze exhibiting a surreal beauty.


Be sure to take a second glance on a peaceful autumn evening when the sun just so happens to create a warm glow on the west side of the street. It produces a powerful image. Built in 1830 by Newcastle-born Richard Grainger, Grey Street displays a historical sensitivity, re-enacting a small centre of commerce. While modern day chain cafes and restaurants now occupy Grey Street, the classical building blocks of late 18th century and early 19th century architecture still remain. Having wandered down the infamous Northumberland Street experiencing the hustle and bustle to reach the head of Grey Street, the stark contrast between the two blocks is staggering.

At the head of the street is Earl Grey’s monument, which is considered the most obvious meeting place among many. Commemorating The Great Reform Act 1834 the statue subtly hints towards the city’s radical political history. The street descends from here down to the Tyne River. With respect to the sinuosity of the street no one puts it more beautifully than Sir John Betjeman who notes: “As for the curve of Grey Street, I shall never forget seeing it to perfection, traffic-less on a misty Sunday morning. Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that descending subtle curve.”

With the ability to see all the way across the Tyne to Gateshead, I am reminded why this is the city I adore. Not only is Newcastle a part of the Northern powerhouse and has been for centuries, it is steeped in local history, which is embraced and celebrated. Unlike many industrial cities, where buildings have been destroyed and manufactured into modern townscapes, Newcastle has remained rooted to its traditional architecture. Year upon year, decade upon decade, local councils have so often considered 18th and 19th century buildings to have drained monetary pots, only for them to be demolished and for concrete jungles to be erected in their place.


With the Rugby World Cup 2015 attracting thousands of visitors from across the globe to the heart of our city centre, I have often heard visitor’s amazement at the rich magnificence that Grey Street has to offer. As a history student I am optimistic that Grey Street will continue to attract tourists from across the world, host fairy-light filled Christmas festivities and continue to be the centre for what happens to be the greatest city in England.

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