From 1760 onwards Newcastle began to feel the pressure of growth. The strongly built gates and confines of the old walled borough became an increasing nuisance and danger owing to congestion of traffic. Complaints were voiced that the Close Gate was narrow and awkward and that wagons were frequently stuck in the archway causing great confusion. Pilgrim Street Gate caused similar problems being especially low, while the vast number of carriages passing in and out of the Sand Gate made the streets on either side extremely dangerous to foot passengers. [Middlebrook, S. Newcastle upon Tyne; its growth and achievement]
The walls and gates near the riverside were the first to go starting in 1763. Between 1795 and 1798 Pandon Gate, Close Gate and Sand Gate were demolished, with the Pilgrim Street Gate, the postern gate and West Gate following close behind. Newgate survived till 1823. The town walls and towers in which the gates had stood survived for some time after the demolition of the gates, Pink Tower, Plummer Tower, Wall Knoll Tower and others surviving well into the nineteenth century. [Middlebrook, S. Newcastle upon Tyne; its growth and achievement] Carliol Tower was demolished in 1880 and like the destruction of New Gate prompted a wave of protest. This is one of a number of songs written throughout the nineteenth century in response to town improvements in Newcastle.
The author of this song, Matthew C. James, began life as an apprentice draughtsman at Mitchell's shipyard in Low Walker. In 1892, after serving with firms such as R. Stephenson and Co., James was appointed naval architect and surveyor of the Prince Line, and was responsible for the design of a large number of steamers for the line. James remained with Prince Line until 1897 when he rose to the position of manager of the Mercantile Dry Dock at Jarrow.
This song forms part of a collection of songs reprinted from local publications by Andrew Reid and Co. in 1898. Many of the songs deal with the topics of the day such as 'The Carliol Tower', 'The Quay on Sunday morning' and 'The Stivvison centennery', whilst others such as 'Oot iv a job', touch on working and domestic life. All of the songs in this collection are written in local dialect.