Zoe’s Guide to Newcastle: Bottle Bank

Addled mostly happens in Newcastle, but the story begins on the other side of the river in Gateshead. Zoe Popper marches down Bottle Bank to cross the Tyne, before entering the Pitcher & Piano bar where the action kicks off.

The top of Bottle Bank leading down to the Tyne beside the bridge
The top of Bottle Bank leading down to the Tyne beside the bridge

The word bottle is Saxon and means a house or habitation, which shows that Bottle Bank forms part of the earliest settlement in Gateshead. The road wasn’t paved until 1633 when Charles I passed through Gateshead on his way to Scotland to get crowned. And until 1790 it was the only road that took you to the bridge, so everyone had to trudge up this steep hill to get over the Tyne. I walked up this bank every day on my way to work for ten years – great exercise!

Shadows over the Tyne Bridge
Shadows over the Tyne Bridge

On my way I passed a sculpture of a giant violin. This was created by Peter Coates to celebrate the life and works of James Hill, one of the most talented fiddle players of the 19th century. The sculpture includes a six foot fiddle and is inscribed with some of his song titles, such as Beeswing, Bottle Bank, and The Hawk. The violin is carved from the same stone as the wall of the Tyne Bridge behind it and the dedication reads:

“James Hill. World renowned fiddle player and composer of tunes. Finest exponent of Newcastle hornpipe style. Most active 1842-1852”

James Hill lived on Bottle Bank near the ‘Hawk Pub’ where he composed most of his tunes, many of which are still played today. He’s often called the ‘Paganini of hornpipe players’ and his best known tune, The High Level Hornpipe, is seen as a test piece around the world.

  • You can find out more about James Hill here
  • Or read the sheet music and listen to the High Level Hornpipe here