River God Tyne

Statue Newcastle City Centre Tyne And Wear

River God Tyne

Statue In Newcastle City Centre, Tyne And Wear

A bronze sculpture of the River God Tyne found on the side of the Civic Centre building.

The River God Tyne can be found on the side of the Civic Centre, Newcastle. Newcastle City Council commissioned the sculpture and David Wynne completed it in 1968. It is cast from bronze and was originally a darker colour, though the running water has now turned the sculpture green and brown. Originally a stream of water was supposed to trickle downwards from his raised right arm, but that has seemingly been stopped. With a height of 4.8m and a weight of 2880kg, the sculpture was said to be the largest bronze figure in the UK at the time of installation.

He is not the first representation of the Tyne as a River God. When Somerset House in London was rebuilt in 1786, nine 'masks' were placed along the Strand front. Sir William Chamber designed them to represent the Sea and eight English rivers. One of these was the Tyne, and the mask featured mining motifs which link to the north-east being a powerhouse for coal mining at the time. The importance of the Tyne to the coal industry explains its inclusion on Somerset House. At the time, Somerset House contained the tax office, stamp office, and many more public offices.

The mining associations are missing from the 1960s sculpture on the Civic Centre. Instead, it draws more clearly from the wilder, more mythical history of the region.

The River God Tyne sculpture oddly hides the face, the sculptor covering it with the hair that falls forward around his head. David Wynne felt that his twisting pose should contrast with the modern architecture of the Civic Centre. 

The Romans believed that all rivers were home to a deity that blessed the local community and they had altars to Neptune and Oceanus on the bridge connecting their Pons Aelius (the Roman name for Newcastle) settlement with the south.

The Romans called such deities a genius loci, or protective spirit of a place. The Romans of the Western Empire dedicated many altars to specific genii loci. In some places, these genii loci even received sacrifices. Over the centuries, the meaning of the word changed. Alexander Pope even introduced the concept of the genius loci into landscape design. Some now consider it to be the atmosphere of a place, rather than a specific spirit.

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Where Is River God Tyne

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54.979045, -1.611636
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Leave the car park and walk around the Civic Centre to the Barras Bridge side of the building where the sculpture can be found on the south side of the rotunda that projects over the pond.

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54.979531, -1.610508

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Parking can be found nearby at the rear of the Civic Centre and in multiple other places in the city centre.

Andrew Gardner

Place contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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