Institute for Ageing & Health

History of the Campus for Ageing and Vitality

From Workhouse to World Class Research Institute

Newcastle University is committed to the development of the Institute for Ageing and Health as a world class research institute, and the growing 'Campus for Ageing and Vitality' on the former Newcastle General Hospital site is a key part of this strategy. It is interesting to reflect on the historic origins of these developments.

The Workhouse and Hospital

The Newcastle Union Workhouse was opened in 1839 to bring together all the existing local workhouses onto one site. A hospital block for inmates was added in 1870. Upon the abolition of the workhouse system in 1930, control passed to Newcastle City Council when the complex was renamed the Wingrove Hospital, and then upon the establishment of the NHS in 1948 it became the Newcastle General Hospital.

Traces of the workhouse still remain, although much has been demolished. The entrance to the former 'Vagrants Ward' is still marked on gate posts in the lane bounding the west side of the site. 

Science on the NGH site

Much of the pioneering work which has led to the present day understanding of Alzheimer's Disease as the most common cause of dementia in the elderly was performed in Newcastle at NGH in the 1960s by Bernard Tomlinson, David Kay, Martin Roth and Gary Blessed (See Old Age Psychiatrist, IPA Bulletin, page 4).

The Medical Research Council built a research unit here in 1968 as the new premises for the MRC Demyelinating Diseases Unit (previously at Framlington Place). This subsequently became the MRC Neuroendocrinology Unit, then the MRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit, which continued the work on Alzheimer's Disease and other degenerative conditions. Neurodegenerative Disease is still a major research theme of the IAH. The MRC building was demolished in 2006 and in its place is the Edwardson Building, part of the IAH Ageing Research Laboratories, named after Professor Jim Edwardson who was MRC Unit director here for 25 years.

More recent developments have included the building of the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre, the Clinical Ageing Research Unit and the Newcastle Biomedical Research Building. In 2010, the last of the acute hospital departments relocated to the RVI and Freeman Hospitals as part of the' Transforming the Newcastle Hospitals' project, and the site was renamed the Campus for Ageing and Vitality.

 Further Reading

  • The History of Newcastle General Hospital by George Hurrell, published by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital Management Committee, 1967
  • Do the patients know they are in the workhouse? by Margaret Young, North Magazine, February 1973 pp 26-27

(both available in Newcastle Central Library local studies collection)

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