The Bruce Building
Description of the Bruce Building in a Newcastle newspaper summer 1900. This quote and much of the text on the following pages is taken from Bennison & Merrison, 1990, A Centenary History of the Newcastle Breweries.
The SINE Project is based in the Bruce Building on Percy Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.
The building was designed by local architect Joseph Oswald for Newcastle Breweries and was erected between 1896 and 1900. A bricklayers' strike during its construction added to the time it took to complete.
It is an imposing, three storey building constructed of red Dumfriesshire sandstone and red bricks from Commondale, North Yorkshire, on a grey granite plinth. It is described in Pevsner's Buildings of England as having 'much Jacobean carved ornament, first floor oriels and a corbelled corner turret with copper fishscale dome'.
As well as housing offices the Bruce Building and surrounding brewery complex contained a mineral water works, beer-bottling plant and wine and spirit stores in the basement. There was also a stable for 36 horses, a blacksmith's forge and coopers' and joiners' shops. An engine and boiler house provided enough current to light the entire premises, work the hoists, operate ventilators and run all the equipment in the mineral water factory. Under the stable yard were cellars which were reached via the brewery's bonded warehouse in nearby St Thomas' Street.
The building has a monumental interior with oak floors, mahogany doors and panelling, a marble staircase, stained glass windows and decorative tiling.
As large and comprehensive as the new complex was, it could not accommodate the other department of the brewery's business that was seeking extra capacity. The brewing of ginger beer needed space and this requirement could only be met by constructing a separate building across the Haymarket in Prudhoe Place. This picture shows the ginger beer works in August 1973 when they were part of a pub called the Farmer's Rest. The building was demolished in the early 1990s. The Bruce Building can be seen in the background.
In the 1950s the Bruce Building was compulsorily purchased from the brewery for the extension to King's College, part of the University of Durham. King's College became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1963 and the Bruce Building is still occupied by University departments. Its use as a higher education establishment brings the story of the Bruce Building full circle as the site was formally occupied by the Percy Street Academy, Newcastle's first college founded in 1806 by John Bruce. Among its 'old boys' are the engineer Robert Stephenson and allegedly, the artist William Henry Charlton. A collection of local drawings by Charlton has been digitised by the SINE Project.