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After the Romans withdrew from Britain, Newcastle became part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. After a number of conflicts with invaders such as the Danes and Normans, the city was all but destroyed by 1080. Based on its location, Robert Curthose (son of William The Conqueror, King of England) erected a wooden castle, and the city became known as
Novum Castellum or Newcastle. During the middle ages, Newcastle was known as England’s “northern fortress"; a stone wall was built around the city to defend it from future invaders (parts of the wall are still standing today). Later in the 14th century, King Charles gave Newcastle its coal-trading rights, allowing the city to prosper. During 17th century, the city exported human urine to North Yorkshire to be used in the production of the dye fixative, alum. It is believed that the urine was collected from public urinals in the city.
The 18th century and beyond saw the city become England’s second largest print center next to London. Newcastle also became one of the largest glass producers in the world. In the second half of the 20th century, heavy equipment engineering and coal-shipping began to decline, and office and retail became city’s main source of employment.
An excellent timeline of the history of Newcastle can be viewed on the University of Newcastle’s Web site: