Milburn House

Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom | C.1905

Photo Credit: Leah Pattem

In 1900, a catastrophic fire engulfed a block of office buildings located on one of the city’s last remaining medieval-era streets, “…and everything burned with appalling fierceness.” But among the ashes, the Milburn House was built, and still stands today.

Instead of covering a destructive blaze, The Newcastle Chronicle (TNC) reported on “…an extensive scheme for an imposing set of new commercial premises…being undertaken by Mr. J.D. Milburn” – member of the industrious Milburn family, who made their fortune in shipping and coal. It’s said that at the height of their success, they owned the fifth largest shipping fleet…in the world.

After purchasing the site, Milburn commissioned the architecture firm Oliver, Leeson, and Wood to design the Milburn House with “the well-known contractor, Mr. Stephen Easton” at the helm. The firm designed the office building to pay homage to the Milburn’s maritime legacy, in the style of an ocean-liner, complete with the floors labelled deck-style: A at the top and G on the ground floor.

But all was not calm on the real estate development waters. The Milburn House was set to be built on the former worksite of beloved 18th century wood-engraver and author, Thomas Bewick, and some were not pleased. Nevertheless, construction commenced.

Once completed, the Milburn House was a design and commercial success, at one point housing 185 businesses “while the upper floors [were] made into suites of offices.” Certainly, a phoenix-like rise for a headline-making office building created in the wake of disaster.

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