Building of the Month July 2021: Keelmen's Hospital, City Road, Newcastle

Eveleigh Photography

The Keelmen of Newcastle operated the flat bottomed boats, known as Keels, necessary to carry coals on the shallow rivers Tyne and Wear. Originating in the 16th century, the Keelmen were a tight knit community, working in physically demanding conditions and with unpredictable employment. They lived in one particular area of the city, Sandgate, and wore distinctive attire, recognisable even when in their Sunday clothes. At the end of the 17th century, the community raised the money (by a levy of a penny a tide) to build almshouses for the Keelmen and Keelmen’s widows in the Sandgate area.

The Hospital was built in 1701 and takes the form of four ranges around a courtyard. The ranges are 2 storeys and built of red brick. The front has 9 irregular bays with a central tower with a clock under a shallow dome and a boat wind vane. The central tower is rendered and has pilasters on 3 storeys. The ranges have small shaped gables with header coping continuing as a scrolled pattern and central lozenges also picked out in protruding header bricks.

The hospital has most recently served as student accommodation but this use ceased and the building has stood empty for over 10 years in a gradually deteriorating state.  It has now been put up for sale and needs an owner who appreciates its importance to the history of the city of Newcastle.