We're on a road to nowhere: SCOTSWOOD ROAD, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE

Times change and few things mark the passing of people, fashions and ways of life so eloquently as once thriving city thoroughfares
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The Independent Culture
"Oh me lads ye shud a seen us gannin'

Passin the foaks upon the road just as they were stannin'.

Thor we lots of lads an lasses there aal wi smilin faces

Gannin along the Scotswood Road tho see the Blaydon Races."

The chorus of Newcastle's most famous song have made Scotswood Road its most famous street. The song's outdated, though: there are no lads and lasses there aal wi smiling faces, and to get to Blaydon it's quicker to take the bypass.

It wasn't always so. Before 1960 Scotswood Road brimmed with life. It acted as a boundary, a tarmac strip between work and home. Armament factories and shipyards were crammed between it and the Tyne for the three miles that it traced the river's path. Across it were the terraced streets that housed the people who made the guns and tanks.

These streets tumbled down the hill and into Scotswood Road like veins to a one-sided artery. Most had a pub at the end. At one time Scotswood Road boasted 44 of them, many named after whichever part of the Vickers- Armstrong factory lay opposite. The Hydraulic Crane and Forge Hammer Inn remain. What they were named after do not.

Industry still flourishes on the riverside. It is now an Enterprise area, tempting highly skilled workers to hi-tech jobs. Tanks continue to roll out of Armstrong's pristine factory, built by a workforce of a few hundred where once it was 25,000.

It is the other side of the street that betrays the death of Scotswood Road's soul, strangled by a mixture of recession, disarmament and council planning. Swathes of wasteland stand between the road and high-rise flats and boxy houses that replaced the terraces, left to packs of helmetless youths on buzzing motorbikes.

Annie Percy, aged 88, saw it all from her home in Atkinson Road, one of the terraced streets that ran down the hill from Benwell. "There was never any pride in saying you were from Scotswood Road. People used to say that they belonged in Benwell or Elswick, as the roads ended up there. Nobody let on that they were from the bottom of the hill."

The bulldozers of the Sixties failed to remove this stigma. "Those that got moved to Noble Street flats couldn't get work just because of where they lived - it was that bad. They ended up pulling them down."

Those who now live here don't see Scotswood Road as anything except a place to catch the 31 bus. Their chances of filling the new jobs in the new factories are virtually nil. The people who fill the vacancies drive to their secure parking spaces in the morning and out again at night. One day they may venture across the road, turn the Hydraulic Crane into a wine bar and rename it the Apple Mac.

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