Richard Grainger was born in 1797 in High Friar Lane, son of a Quayside porter. He was apprenticed to a local carpenter and set up a building business with his brother in 1816. His first large contract was Higham Place 1819-20, in 1824 he worked on houses in the newly widened Blackett Street, this development was designed by Thomas Oliver. In 1825 Grainger started work on Eldon Square using John Dobson's designs by 1829 he had begun another development, Leazes Terrace, with Oliver as architect, three storeys of Ashlar stretched around a rectangle to create a huge hollow block.
In May 1834, supported by John Clayton, the Town Clerk, Grainger presented his plan for the wholesale redevelopment of the town centre to the town council. It offered new streets in particular Grey Street to connect the Quayside with the town centre. The first building completed was the Grainger Market opened in October 1835. The Classical elevations of Grey Street were mostly created by two architects, John Wardle and George Walker. John Dobson designed the stretch on the east side between Shakespeare Street and Mosley Street, while John and Benjamin Green were responsible for the Shakespeare Street to Market Street section, which included their main contribution to the Great Plan - the new Theatre Royal, opened in February 1837. The Theatre Royal has a monumental Corinthian portico through which patrons passed through into the auditorium.
At the intersection of Grey Street, Blackett Street and Grainger Street Benjamin Green was commissioned to design a column. The 134 foot coarse gritstone Roman Doric column supports a 13 foot Portland Stone statue of Earl Grey in robes, sculpted by Edward Hodges Baily, (Baily was responsible for the figure of Nelson on Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square 1839-41). The statue stands on a pedestal above a balcony reached by 164 steps within the column, the column itself was built by Joseph Welch, the foundation stone ws laid in September 1837 and the statue placed in position in August 1838.
By 1839, Grainger had built the Markets, the Monument, the Theatre Royal, Grey Street, Grainger Street and several cross streets. His wide ranging plan was never completed. But, his aims of improving access and providing a new centre for Newcastle had been achieved. Richard Grainger died in 1861 and is buried in St. James' Church, Benwell. It can be said of him that he found Newcastle of bricks and timber and left it in stone, stone that still stands today.
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