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A brief history of Castle Leazes

We look back at the life and times of Castle Leazes since its opening in 1968.

4 July 2024

Castle Leazes is an iconic staple of student life here at Newcastle University with tens of thousands of students calling it home over the last 56 years.  

While the accommodation provided around 1,250 beds, the pressing shortage of student housing in the city and the need to update the facilities to meet modern standards have become significant concerns. 

The demolition of the block is scheduled to begin in the summer, at the end of the 2023/24 academic year, and - subject to planning permission - the new accommodation is expected to open in 2027. As Castle Leazes holds a special place in the hearts of many graduates, we have decided to reflect on some of the cherished memories shared there.  

Castle Leazes over the years

The importance of student halls in shaping the university experience cannot be overstated. These spaces are where memories are forged, and lifelong friendships begin.  

Over the years, Castle Leazes has undergone significant changes. In 1968, it became the first mixed-gender student accommodation, though genders were still segregated by floor. These early halls were catered, and students were required to wear gowns at mealtimes. 

Despite its evolution, Castle Leazes has maintained some of its unique traditions. The legend of the cow navigating the paternoster lift is still shared among students. If you lived in Castle Leazes, you’ll be no stranger to dodging cows on Leazes Moor (apart from in 2001 when the foot and mouth disease forced students to take the long route to lectures!) and may recall watching helicopters land. The cows remain on the Moor, but the RVI now has its own helipad. 

Amazingly, in 1972, students at Castle Leazes experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when Paul McCartney's band Wings, featuring Linda McCartney, Henry McCullough, and Denny Laine, performed an impromptu concert at Havelock Hall for an audience of 400 astonished students. 

Castle Leazes also introduced a "sweat shop," an exercise room equipped with modern gym equipment for the time, including a rowing machine and exercise bikes, available to residents for a £2.50 termly subscription. 

The most recent expansion occurred in 2010 with the addition of a new block, Castle Court.

Students at the Dining Hall
Castle Leazes Student Room

Castle Leazes has remained a cornerstone of student life despite predictions that it would be overshadowed by more modern accommodation options. It's strong sense of community has made it a place where countless students have created lasting memories over the years. 

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We spoke with alumnus Richard Holme (Food and Human Nutrition BSc, 1994) who recalls his time at Castle Leazes fondly.

“The news of Castle Leazes' redevelopment brought back fond memories for a group of friends who met there in 1994. It was 30 years ago - this October - that we were dropped off and began our time as undergraduate students at Newcastle University. We have fond memories of our time there, such as the excellent cooked breakfasts including seemingly endless supply of hash browns and playing pool and drinking pints in the Junior Common Room after dinner. 
Things were very different then, including having to wait for a pay phone to call home - reversing the charges of course - and having to watch our favourite shows live in the TV room choosing from one of only four channels. There was no gaming in our rooms and certainly not on a mobile phone. Instead, we played some strange golf themed arcade game, for hours, and we loved every minute. The closest we had to social media was collecting our post delivered via snail mail from something called a pigeonhole. 


Some of our best memories include (and we know now this is NOT recommended), after a night out at Planet Earth night club, taking a late-night dip in Leazes lake, and squelching through the Castle Leazes reception, much to the annoyance of the porters. We also regularly played football on Leazes moor, under the shadow of St James' Park trying to emulate the stars of the time.” 

Why the redevelopment?

The Castle Leazes redevelopment is being undertaken to meet the standards of modern day student accomodation ensuring students have the facilities they need to thrive at university. The anticipated increase in the student population over the coming years is expected to lead to a shortage of available spaces for new students.

How the redevelopment might appear when viewed from Leazes Moor
CGI impression of how the redeveloped site might look alongside Leazes Moor

Do you have any special memories of Castles Leazes that you would like to share with our alumni community?

Get in touch so we share them with your fellow Newcastle alumni!

Castle Leazes Common Room
Castle Leazes Student Room