Andrew McKegney
By Andrew McKegney

Senior Staff Writer

24 February 2021

| | 2 min read

Ancient building on the market

A building that’s been part of Newcastle’s maritime history for more than 300 years is up for sale. 

The Keelmen's Hospital
The Keelmen's Hospital

The Keelmen’s Hospital on City Road, Sandgate, is being offered to market for joint sale with the adjacent Men’s Palace.

As owners, Newcastle City Council would like the hospital and the Men’s Palace - owned by the Salvation Army – to be purchased together and have raised the option of linking the two buildings subject to planning permission. However, they remain open minded about the future of the site, and the buildings are available to be purchased individually.

Possible new uses for the Hospital and/or both buildings include a hotel, residential home, housing or a building for learning or community use.

Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture, Cllr Ged Bell, said: “This is a great opportunity to purchase one of Newcastle’s most significant buildings.

“The Hospital opened in 1701 and was funded by the Keelmen themselves which is quite unusual. It was originally used as an alms house for sick and elderly keelmen and their families.

“It was converted into student accommodation but since 2009 has stood empty. Efforts to bring it back into use have not been forthcoming so we’ve decided to put it on the market to test developer interest.

“Along with the Men’s Palace next door, it’s a large site with great potential. It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone with imagination and creativity.”

The Grade II-star listed building is in the top 50% of historic buildings in the country.

Although it is wind and water-tight it was placed on Historic England’s at-risk register when students vacated it in 2009.

In 2015 there was a feasibility study to explore future uses for the building including an ethical hotel.

Features include an elevated position with partial river views, a domed tower, 50 chambers and views inwards onto an impressive garden courtyard.

Both buildings are up for sale together or separately through Sanderson Weatherall. The closing date for offers is Friday, April 30. For further details visit or contact Sanderson Weatherall on 0191 2612681.

The 1,600 keelmen of Newcastle carried coal from the banks of the Tyne to flat bottomed boats or keels on the Tyne. They loaded the coal from the keels onto coal ships or colliers which sailed to the east coast of London.

They decided to build the Hospital in 1699 and it opened two years later at a cost of £2,000. It was funded by the keelmen agreeing to pay one penny a tide from the wages of each keel crew. The land was given by Newcastle Corporation.

Keelmen were described as "a close group of aggressive hard drinking men" though others praised their good humour, work ethic and sense of community. It was stated one keelman could drink out three pitmen. They lived mainly in the narrow alleyways outside of the city’s walls and rarely worked into their 40s such was the arduous demands of their jobs hauling coal all day long and often at night.