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John Dobson's Central Station

View of Central Station, Newcastle, from the top of the steps of A. W. N. Pugin's St Mary's Cathedral.

Designed by John Dobson (1787-1865), the station was officially opened by Queen Victoria on 29 August 1850. The original design, and accompanying model, won a Medal of Honor for Dobson in Paris in 1855. As Carol Meeks explains, Thomas Prosser later designed the long "stone-built façade" — 600 feet long and 40 feet high — "interrupted by a colossal porte-cochere [a porch large enough for a carriage to pass through] which projects boldly from it" (59). Prosser also substituted pilasters here, for Dobson's original columns, as can be seen by comparing the present station with the engraving of 1850, below.

John Dobson's Central Station

The Great Central Railway Station at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Source: Illustrated London News, 10 August 1850, p. 113.

Such was the pride in the newly built station that Robert Stephenson himself was entertained there at a public dinner before the official opening. In its report of this, the Illustrated London News described the "picturesque" station as the ideal venue for it: "Its lofty open arches, its coupled bold Roman-Doric columns and stylobate, and its cleverly panelled attic (where it is proposed to place colossal statues) are very effective features of this grand architectural composition by Mr. Dobson" (113). In fact the station marked a milestone in the history of railway station design — again acccording to Meeks, it was "the last monumental one-sided station . . . and with this dinosaur, the type became extinct in England" (31). Even then it had its critics, but, despite relegating it to the past, Meeks herself praises it as "one of the Dobson's finest works and one of the most imposing stations of the period" (59-60). Not unexpectedly, it is a Grade I listed building.

Station Interior

Left: Columns and ceiling, entrance lobby. Right: Concourse, showing ramps and footbridges to further platforms. The station clock is suspended over the concourse.

Left: The tracks curving through and out of the station. Jack Simmons describes the train-shed here as "beautiful and innovative" (52). Right: Plaque affixed to an internal wall in 1987, celebrating Dobson's bicentenary — and not forgetting to mention Thomas Prosser's important addition to the exterior.

Centurion Bar

Left to right: (a) Highly, if sombrely decorated spandrels over the entrance to the Centurion bar. (b) Similarly ornate fireplace, now sporting some small pieces of antique luggage on the mantelpiece.

John Dobson's Central Station

The bar, with heavily decorated columns, coffered ceiling etc.

The internal rooms, off the main concourse, would have been expected to serve the wealthy industrialists of the north, and other well-heeled travellers. The Centurion bar was fitted out as a waiting lounge, and was richly appointed, like rooms in the gentlemen's clubs of the era and the big station hotels, with particularly lavish decor: "Burmantofts faience decoration, in Baroque style, covering walls and ceilings" (listing text). After a period of neglect, it was meticulously restored in 2000. It is worth adding here that this was the first station to get electric lighting (Meeks 78).

Related Material


Central Railway Station; passenger buildings and train shed with platforms. Historic England. Web. 9 August 2021.

"The Great Central Railway station at Newcastle-upon-Tyne." Illustration above a report of "Public Dinner to Robert Stephenson, Esq., M.P." The Illustrated London News. Vol. 17 (July-December 1850): 113-114.

Meeks, Carol L. V. The Victorian Railroad Station: An Architectural History. New Haven: Yale UP, 1956.

Simmons, Jack. The Victorian Railway. Corrected ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Last modified 9 August 2021