The dramatic frontage of Student’s Union building was built around 1924, designed by local Architect Robert Burns Dick who also designed the towers of the famous Tyne Bridge. The coats of arms over the main entrance are for three separate organisations; Armstrong College, Durham University and Newcastle College of Medicine, which reflect the separate institutions which went on to become Newcastle University. Until at least the 1950s, the Union was split into separate organisations for women and men, each with their own offices and common rooms, and even separate entrances. A bricked up door on King’s Road is likely the old women’s entrance.
The original building was created for a student population of only 800 but by 1948, numbers had risen to 3200. The Student’s Union building had suffered from poor adaptations, heavily used furnishings and, as one commentator put it, ‘injudicious attempts at fashionable décor’. The solution was renovations and an extension to the Union building designed by Sir William Whitfield. The new facilities were opened in 1964. The British Modernist construction included a debating chamber, dance hall and a refectory featuring coffee lounges, bar facilities and improved catering. The enlarged Student’s Union Building has since hosted hundreds of gigs, including Fleetwood Mac, Blur and George Ezra.
Learn more about student life on campus in this series of blogs exploring the history of the student publication The Courier.
Concert Archives (2021) Newcastle University Students Union’s Concert History. Available at: https://www.concertarchives.org/venues/newcastle-university-students-union–5
Ernest Marsden Bettenson. (1971) The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne: a historical introduction, 1834-1971. Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Historic England (2021) Students’ Union. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1355263
McCord, Norman (2006) Newcastle University Past, Present and Future. Newcastle: Third Millennium Publishing.
Opening of the Refectory and Students’ Union Extension, 7th March 1964, NUA 16/7/1/20, Newcastle University Archives, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186
Want to learn more about the history of Newcastle University campus? Why not explore all the articles in our Campus Tour blog series.