Saturday, 3 December 2011

Saint James – what’s in a name?

Spelling it out … but is it St James or St James’?

Patrick Comerford

Arriving in Newcastle earlier this morning, I recalled how the Parish Church of Saint Nicholas became a cathedral when the Diocese of Newcastle came into being four years later, on Saint James’ Day, 25 July 1882. And I wondered whether this was how Saint James’ Park got its name?

St James’ Park has been the home ground of Newcastle United since 1892, when it opened. But the site has been used for football since 1880, and from 1886 to 1892 this was the home of Newcastle West End FC, until the unification of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End as Newcastle United.

However, the club says these days that the ground is named after a neighbouring street, St James Street. In any case, I may only be indulging in idle speculation, for earlier last month [10 November 2011]. Newcastle United announced that the club is looking for a sponsor for possible future stadium re-branding.

In other words, they want to re-name the stadium. Until the naming rights are sold, they plan to call this the Sports Direct Arena, but this is merely a temporary measure to “showcase the sponsorship opportunity to interested parties.”

According to the club, the St James’ Park title has been dropped because, they say, it is not “commercially attractive.”

Toon fans are a little more than unhappy

But Newcastle fans are a little more than unhappy with the management’s plan to re-name St James’ Park, and have voiced their anger at owner Mike Ashley’s decision to re-brand the stadium. At recent matches, many have carried placards bearing messages such as: “Stand up for St James’.”

Their chants include: “Get out of our club,” “Newcastle United will never be defeated,” and “If you love St James’, clap your hands,” followed by: “If you hate Mike Ashley clap your hands.” At one match, a banner was unfurled, proclaiming: “St Robson, St Shearer, St James’ Park.” But it was quickly removed.

The club first announced plans to sell the naming rights back in 2009. But there were vocal protests about the possible loss of the name, and an early day motion was tabled in Parliament.

A week later, the club was forced to make it clear that the move would not involve the loss of the name St James’ Park altogether. They gave an example of “ @ StJamesPark” as a potential stadium rights package. A day later, the club announced the stadium would be known as the “ @ St James’ Park Stadium.” But this was only a temporary move until the end of the season, to showcase the idea behind the package, until a new sponsor was announced.

Although the official name of the stadium is currently the Sports Direct Arena, it is still known to Newcastle United fans as St. James’ Park, with “James’” featuring one “S” and an apostrophe mark, as seen on the signs on the St James’ Park steps outside the entrance to the stadium, and on the signs inside the nearby Metro Station.

The use of an apostrophe is in contrast with the name of the Metro station, which is signed as St James Metro station, and with the street signs nearby on both St James Street and St James Terrace.

The use of one “S” and an apostrophe mark differs from the common convention of adding a second “S” to monosyllabic possessives ending in “S.” A well-known example of this in England is St James’s Park in London.

The full stop after the “St” – giving us “St. James’ Park” – is both included and omitted in many places, including the club’s official website.

Match-day programmes printed until the late 1940s gave the name as “St. James’s Park.” The oldest memorabilia in the club museum refer to the ground as being pronounced without a second “S.” However, a match-day programme dating from 1896 and reprinted in a recent match-day programme gave the name of the stadium name as St. James’s Park.

There have been heated debates in recent years about whether the written name should include an apostrophe after the “St James”, and – if it so – whether the official written form should include an extra “S” after the apostrophe.

Even local people and local journalists cannot agree whether the name should be pronounced with a second “S”. Two local newspapers, the Evening Chronicle and the Journal, write the name with a second “S”, reinstating it partially in response to reader complaints after a period of publishing stories without it.

Although Newcastle United says the ground is named after neighbouring St James Street, which predates the ground, the street signs there and on adjacent St James Terrace do not have apostrophes.

The club insists the name is pronounced without a second “S,” but even older fans, in particular, pronounce it with two.

If the name denotes “the park of St James,” then the written form should feature an apostrophe, but the use of an additional “S” after it is optional – and both are correct.

Whatever the official name is – for the present anyway – the stadium is known by its initials SJP (St James’ Park), or the contraction, St James’. And, reflecting the early use of the site, it is also often known as Gallowgate, not to be confused with similarly unofficially named Gallowgate End, the name of the south stand.

As a light-hearted aspect of the rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland, Sunderland supporters sometimes refer to the place as “Sid James’ Park,” in reference to Sid James, the Carry On comic actor.

But then, Sunderland fans have little to laugh about at the moment.

Visiting Newcastle and its cathedral

Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle, dates back hundreds of years, although the diocese was formed only in the late 19th century

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a second visit, and staying in the cultural heart of this northern city on the Quayside, with great views over the River Tyne and of its magnificent bridges.

I am here for a football match at Saint James’ Park and to visit Newcastle Cathedral, but the cultural attractions along the Quayside include the Sage and Baltic arts centres and the bridges that are architectural masterpieces spanning the Victorian to the modern age. Nearby are the Laing Art Gallery, science centres and museums, a 17th century Guildhall and elegant classical buildings lining the streets of the commercial centre.

Newcastle Cathedral, above the Black Gate and close to the

The Diocese of Newcastle is the most northerly diocese in the Church of England, and includes the historic county of Northumberland and the northern part of Tyne and Wear, stretching from the River Tyne as far north as Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border and as far west as Alston Moor in Cumbria. The Diocese includes 200 parishes and churches, the largest of which is the magnificent cathedral in the centre of Newcastle (, which is close to the hotel where I’m staying this weekend.

Saint Nicholas Church almost became a cathedral in 1553, when there were proposals to form a City of Newcastle, incorporating neighbouring Gateshead and to create a bishopric. But the plans fell through when the legislation was reversed after the accession of Queen Mary. And so, until 1882, the area now forming the Diocese of Newcastle remained part of the larger Diocese of Durham.

In a legislative attempt to respond to the rapidly expanding industrial areas in the North of England, the 1878 Bishoprics Act formed four new dioceses, with Newcastle shaped from a large area that was once part of the Diocese of Durham. The Parish Church of Saint Nicholas became the cathedral when the Diocese of Newcastle came into being four years later, on Saint James’ Day, 25 July 1882 – I wonder is that where Saint James’ Park got its name?

The Sage at Gateshead … one of the many exciting arts centres on the banks of the Tyne

The first Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Ernest Wilberforce, was a son of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of Oxford and Winchester, and a grandson of William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery campaigner. Bishop Wilberforce drew attention to the squalid conditions of the working class and the slum dwellers of Newcastle, and became known as the “poor man’s bishop.”

Newcastle Cathedral is named after Saint Nicholas – the patron of sailors and seafarers but affectionately regarded as Santa Claus. The seafaring tradition has another link through the cathedral’s most notable and distinguishing feature, the unusual Lantern Tower, which was built in 1448.

Despite Newcastle’s many modern buildings and bridges, the Lantern Tower remains the most daring architectural structure in the city. This tower, with its Crown Spire and clock, has been a prominent landmark for over 500 years, serving as a navigation point for ships on the Tyne.

Unlike other northern cathedrals, such as Durham and Carlisle, Newcastle never had either a monastic cloister or a cathedral close separating it from the town around it. Instead, for most of its history, Saint Nicholas’s was a simple parish church in the Diocese of Durham – albeit the fourth largest parish church in England.

The first church was built on this site in 1091, and the first reference to its dedication to Saint Nicholas dates from 1194. This early church was twice damaged by fire in the 13th century, and the church was rebuilt in 1359.

The oldest surviving mediaeval memorial in the cathedral is a 13th or 14th century cross-legged effigy in the south wall of an unknown knight. The monument was rescued by a verger in 1783, when many tombs and monuments were being cleared out, broken up and sold as building material.

Saint Margaret’s Chapel contains the only known fragment of mediaeval stained glass in the cathedral – a 15th century roundel showing the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Christ Child at her breast.

The “Thornton Brass” is a memorial to Roger Thornton, who is known as the Dick Whittington of Newcastle. He was very poor when he arrived in the city but became a successful merchant, was Mayor of Newcastle three times, and was MP for Newcastle for ten years.

The parish church of Saint Nicholas became a cathedral in 1882. The high altar depicts Christ in Majesty and the Four Evangelists, each with their special symbol. In the Chapel of the Incarnation, the Great East Window shows the church in heaven populated by saints, prophets and people around the Cross, all above a fine representation of the Last Supper. In Saint George’s Chapel, a window commemorating Andrew Laing (1856-1931), the shipbuilder, includes a depiction of the SS Mauretania.

Today, Saint Nicholas Cathedral continues to tell the story of Newcastle in stone, wood and glass. Its monuments and art work bear witness to the great and good of the city. The cathedral is not simply a monument to the past: it also serves as a spiritual “symbol of hope for the future … a place where the Christian faith is lived out, in work and worship, in quiet and in joyful splendour, in song and silent prayer.”

The Millennium Bridge in tilt mode over the River Tyne