At 1,000 Acres, or 400 hectares, Newcastle’s Town Moor is larger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath combined. The freemen of the city have the right to graze their cattle there. This is a right that extends back to the Magna Carta of the thirteenth century and the principle of freedom. The belief, that this is common land and that nothing has changed since the 1774 act of Parliament, with the 1988 amendment to the Town Moor Bill, just does not begin to tell the history and value of this green space in the heart of Newcastle.
There were local MPs at the time, who argued that the new Bill amendment, should protect the right of access to the land and that it should include safeguards to prevent land being sold off for property development. The council owns the freehold, although the freemen hold the lease in perpetuity. The idea that freemasonry, rather than freemen held sway over the fate of the Moor was voiced in the Hansard-recorded debate by none other than Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover. Whatever the truth of the matter is it seemingly by good fortune that we have the space at all?
Essential to preserve our green space
At a time when the focus is on the reduction of inner city pollution by reducing the volume of polluting traffic using the central motorway and Tyne Bridge, it is essential that this city centre green space, be preserved and managed for the safe passage of the walking, running and cycling public and those routes that connect to it.
Blog by Dr Rachel Hammersley
A total of four rare urban commons have been studied by Dr Rachel Hammersley of Newcastle University, and include Norwich, Bristol and Brighton. Rachel publishes an excellent Blog, and includes a detailed history of our own Town Moor that will leave you wanting to find out more; it’s not just a festival space, there’s so much more history vital to the freedoms that we seek to sustain today. The Chartist movement, the need for a public space for meetings that influenced the vote for men and woman is just one aspect covered.
Sadly, bereaved by the passing of her husband, the author and historian John Gurney, the blog started in 2016, also celebrates his books on the 17th century Diggers, sustaining his authoritative-historical legacy. At a time when the ‘levelling up’ agenda, mocks the ideals of the Diggers and Levellers from centuries ago, as the cellophane-thin policies of today promise little substance to nourish the innovation required to promote wealth in this region, it seems as though the public space known as the Town Moor has much to reveal to us.
It is a folk history of the ‘Toon’, it was the space where armies gathered, public executions shocked, horses raced, planes flew, coal mining-spoil was piled, and the diseased were housed in isolation. It’s now where people meet for fun and recreation, whilst the herd wanders and ruminates over the pastoral reminder that looks towards the drovers’ route to Cowgate. The Town Moor is full of buried treasure, who knows, but the hopeful detectorist?