Has Jesmond lost its Geordie accent?

Has Jesmond has lost its Geordie character? As footballers, an ever-increasing student population and a host of clinical wine bars move in, is Jesmond now at odds with its Newcastle surroundings? Two JesmondLocal writers, Joshua Shrimpton Dean and Dan Howarth offer their views:

“Everywhere in Newcastle is more or less crap… except Jesmond.” This is the title of a tongue-in-cheek Facebook group which has so far attracted a meagre 23 members.

The group’s administrator amusingly suggests that footballers and students now define a Jesmond which has become a “rah’s paradise”: “The streets are filled with Ugg boots, pyjama bottoms, fly-like sunglasses and messy hair which has actually taken two hours to do.”

I agree.

It seems that Newcastle now has its very own Kensington. And it’s clear to us all that Kensington is not very Geordie. So, Jesmond is most definitely at odds with its surroundings.

Yet somehow, amongst the Chelsea tractors and mini-Moëts, an ever-dwindling core of native residents remains.

This much was plain to see at the recent north and south Jesmond council meetings as a handful of older locals argued passionately for matters which were no doubt of little concern to many of Jesmond’s flamboyant incomers.

Amid a growing sense of provincial pedanticism, it emerged that the student representative hadn’t bothered to show up to one of the meetings. Even a planned appearance by the police didn’t materialise. It’s easy to see how that dwindling core might begin to feel alienated.

But it’s the dilution of the Geordie culture in Jesmond that niggles at me; Newcastle is famous for being a little rough-and-ready around the edges. A hangover of an industrial past is evident across much of the city – and it’s all the better for it.

Take a look along on Osborne road for example. Beer gardens feature plots of pretentious palm trees littered with clusters of fairy lights, enticing passers-by to come in and enjoy a glass of overpriced chardonnay in a cocoon of brushed aluminium and neon.

I’d have a bottle of Brown Ale in Byker over that, any day.

A comment on the Facebook group sums it up for me: “Heaton has always been and will remain the original place for proper students who aren’t afraid of mixing it with the locals, who appreciate that Newcastle is for the locals and that they’re merely visiting for three years.”

Joshua Shrimpton Dean

It’s funny how the bugbears of modern life cast a rose-tinted shadow over the past.

Kids kick a pig’s bladder around the cobbled street whilst mothers look on fondly from their unlatched houses, preparing ham and pease pudding stotties for dinner. Coal-blackened husbands pledge to walk the dog, but sneak down the pub for a pint of Brown Ale.

Yes, legend loves a stereotype. But this isn’t the Jesmond that books remember.

Russian novelist and erstwhile Jesmondite, Yevgeny Zamyatin, tells of sombre, characterless people, far removed from the grime of working-class Newcastle, in his satire The Islanders (1917). “The gentlemen were, of course, manufactured at a factory in Jesmond, and on a Sunday morning thousands of copies appeared on the streets, carrying identical canes and wearing identical top hats…”

Rosamund Lehmann conjures a similar vision in A Note in Music (1930). Clearly, Geordie character was lost on early-20th Century Jesmond.

But what is Geordie character anyway? If we’re talking about that faithful twang, it still holds its own amongst the colourful voices of outsiders. If it’s that warm-welcome policy, then surely Jesmond’s bubbling melting-pot community is testament to its being? And if it’s that tendency to throw decorum to the wind and engage in some smutty banter, then Jesmond is still the birthplace and spiritual homeland of Viz magazine.

As for the points in question, let’s discuss.

If Jesmond had any more than a handful of footballers, their presence might be more than just a quirky trait. It isn’t.

The clinical wine bars are only part of Jesmond’s bustling nightlife. Want local ales in an old school pub? Take your pick.

The stuffy exclusivity of Jesmond’s past is breaking down, and now people from across the city feel at home in its bars and restaurants. Local shops are still a haven for posers, but that goes with the territory of being the region’s most affluent suburb.

And like many university towns, our student population is huge. But funding cuts mean that numbers will settle, if not drop – an unfortunate effect that might just be good for the community. And let’s not forget that it’s students who have brought much of Jesmond’s wealth. At least we can roam the streets in the summer months without a pair of pyjama bottoms in sight…

So really, Jesmond hasn’t lost its Geordie character. If anything, it’s stronger than ever.

The traditionalists take themselves far too seriously. And that’s unlike any proper Geordie I know.

Dan Howarth

But what do you think? Tell us your views and experiences of Jesmond by commenting below.

6 thoughts on “Has Jesmond lost its Geordie accent?”

  1. Sebastian Haff says:

    Ask not what Jesmond can do for you, but what you can do for Jesmond. Pet.

  2. Dan says:

    Hey Haff… You’re stealing my best lines!

  3. Fiona Clarke says:

    Both of these articles are good entertainment value, so I’m surprised nobody has commented yet.

    I’m one of that dwindling band of native Jesmond Geordies, and recognise a grain of truth in each of the descriptions.

    The Jesmond I grew up in was best described as genteel. There were lots of old people living quiet lives, a few toffs in the big houses, and the post-war bulge families in the terraces and Tyneside flats. Jesmond always attracted University types, too. Plenty of West Jesmond School kids had Geordie accents, and there were rough families and children’s homes in the area, but the RGS, Central High, etc. attracted pupils from the county set.

    Families like mine put in their order each week and had their groceries delivered. Although there was a range of small shops providing good service, Jesmond was a suburb without many other distractions. We went into town for coffee bars, clothes shopping, cinemas and other entertainment.

    Of course there was noise, too. The Hoppings didn’t subscribe to any noise abatement policy, there were factory hooters on the riverside, steam trains rattling through the night, and drunks rolling home from the regular dances in the Banquetting Hall.

    Hardly anyone owned a car, so the streets were wide and empty, the bus services frequent, and it was safe for kids to wobble around learning to ride their bikes.

    It’s true there are not many Geordie’s left in Jesmond, and I sometimes feel a freak walking to the match with my Toon scarfe and hat on. But those of us who are left are a hardy lot, and will outlast many more changes to our neighboourhood.

  4. Dan says:

    @Fiona – thanks for the comment! As an adopted Jesmondite of eight years, it’s nice to go back in time and hear about the Jesmond of yesteryear – especially considering the wide-of-the mark historical stereotype I mention above.

    No need to feel like a freak with your Toon scarf on. I always think Jesmond is flooded with black and white stripes on a matchday. And then there’s the faithful roar that echoes all the way from St James’ Park when Newcastle (occasionally) score…

    Long may the Geordies of Jesmond prosper!

  5. MarkSpizer says:

    great post as usual!

  6. David Spinks says:

    I rember West Jesmond From Mildmay Road To Forsyth Road when it was acommunity in itself The shops where you good buy everythind you wanted Brydens fish and chip shop Sammy Nichols Mick the Butcher the Coop THe Bakers( I cant rember his name) and afew more Geordie accents every where That was 65 years ago

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