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It was 1972 and the future of Gateshead’s Trinity Square complex looked bright UK News

The rapid rise and fall of Trinity Square, built in the 1960s in Gateshead, is well known.

But when this image was captured 50 years ago, hopes were still high for the newly built mall and its adjoining multi-storey car park. As it happens, the complex failed to prosper and the decline came quite quickly.

In some ways, the region’s demise seemed almost perfectly suited to the pessimistic narrative that had long surrounded Gateshead. Historically, the city had had its detractors. The famous Dr Johnson in the 18th century dismissed it as “a dirty road to Newcastle”. Two centuries later, in 1934, writer JB Priestley wrote that “no true civilization could have produced such a city”, adding that it seemed to have been designed “by an enemy of the human race”.

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Nevertheless, in 1972, when our picture was taken, the Chronicle reported how Gateshead was ‘acquiring a town center it hadn’t really had before’, and that previously its shops had ‘been placed inappropriately along West Street and High Street.”

Looking at our main image, on the left, we can pretty much see what the popular Shephards department store used to be. (It will eventually stop trading to become Shopping City in 1980 – and the building will be demolished in 1986). On the right are the shops and outlets of Trinity Square, which included a Rediffusion, a Currys, a Coral betting shop and a Midland Bank among others. The controversial parking lot, which opened in 1967, towers in the background. It was, in our opinion, “one of Tyneside’s most aggressive pieces of architecture”.

The new look of Trinity Square in Gateshead opened in 2013 on the site of the demolished car park and shopping center
The new look of Trinity Square in Gateshead opened in 2013 on the site of the demolished car park and shopping center

The plan was to encourage commerce in the center of Gateshead. Trinity Square would soon have a Presto supermarket and a new market hall – and there would be a new 30,000 square foot Tesco supermarket opening opposite the precinct in the summer of 1972.

Unfortunately, the expected economic take-off never materialized. The new Metro system which began rolling in 1980 took shoppers from Tyneside straight to Newcastle, while the Metrocentre complex, which opened in 1986, drew even more shoppers away from Gateshead town centre.

The Trinity Square car park gradually fell into disuse and shops struggled to move. In July 2010 the bulldozers arrived and the whole place was demolished in early October. It had only lasted a little over 40 years.

Over the past decade, the area has been transformed and the hopes, dreams and concrete architecture of 1960s city planners have been consigned to history.

In 2013, a new, rebuilt Trinity Square complex opened in the heart of Gateshead’s rejuvenated shopping area, with top retailers, major chain restaurants and the state-of-the-art Vue cinema.

Alongside the ongoing major revitalization of Gateshead Quays, this was another major step in the right direction for the city.


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