An extensive part of the Stephenson Quarter of Newcastle City centre has been redeveloped with PCA Durham involved in the redevelopment of Stephenson Square, a public space linked to the Crown Plaza hotel. The Stephenson Quarter was named after George and Robert Stephenson who had their drawing offices and workshops here. Robert Stephenson Company was founded here in 1823 and was the world’s first purpose built locomotive works, including ‘Locomotion’ and the ‘Rocket’ . The offices and workshops remained until the end of the 19th century when the company relocated to Darlington.
Archaeological trial trenches were excavated across the location of two of Stephenson’s workshops shown on the 1862 Ordnance Survey map as a large smithy and small workshop. Structural remains in this area were well preserved just below ground surface. A complex of brick-lined flues and furnaces were exposed with sample excavation revealing a substantial stone building predating these features.
Further excavation occurred ahead of landscaping and drainage works for the construction of the new UTC (technical College). In the 19th century this part of the site was occupied by the White and Brown Iron Foundry which was constructed between 1830 and 1849 and demolished by the early twentieth century. The south-west corner of the foundry was revealed within the excavation area; the external walls and internal divisions were of substantial sandstone construction. An external brick furnace survived along the southern wall and brick-built structures which were heat affected had been added to the internal sandstone partitions.
The Durham team worked through tough conditions to ensure that the archaeological works complied with the development programme.