Post Pic: Lord Armstrong’s Banqueting Hall – Jesus Mound – like a horror writer’s Marsten House

David J Rodger gazes up at the Banqueting Hall that has occupied his life since childhood

Lord Armstrongs Banqueting Hall Jesmond Dene like the Marsten House for British cyberpunk horror writer David J Rodger

David J Rodger and Lord Armstrong’s Banqueting Hall – England

At the age of nine (1979),  I moved from the part of the city I’d grown up in, Newcastle Upon Tyne, in England, to another part. Jesus Mound. Tucked away within winding streets and the lush greenery of encroaching woodland. The house had a huge back garden that stretched down to the edge of a wooded gorge called The Dene. The land all around, including the mile or so long Dene, belonged with the wealthy industrialist Lord William Armstrong.  One of those Victorians whose talent was only matched by his energy to utilise it. Inventor, arms manufacturer, shipping magnate and philanthropist. The man-made and left and incredible mark upon the North East of England. Scattered along the length and breadth of the densely wooded gorge were fantastical structures of stone. The Banqueting Hall is one of them.  In the mid-80s a friend of mine ran a home-brew scenario for Call of Cthulhu,  based right here. It was spooky as hell. 1920s horror. Like Agatha Christie with monsters.  That single scenario left an indelible thumb-print against the soft flesh of my young brain. So now every time I return to Newcastle, and wander through old childhood haunts, I always come back to this building and gaze up with fictional memories that feel as real today as they were back in 1985.  Strange, eh? But then that’s the amazing feature of role-playing games. The emotional charge creates real memories.

The Dene is beautiful during the day; but after sunset there’s a palpable shift in the atmosphere – much like any graveyard of significant age – as if the realm of spirits and elementals has come sliding into metaphysical view. Human reality does not blend well with such planes. The mind is vulnerable to pokes from corrupted energy.

I later used the Banqueting Hall in my cyberpunk thriller: Iron Man Project, where a mercenary working for Jean-Luc Korda, coldly efficient (but emotionally flawed) head of security for the global corporate Carthew Family, has to perform an unpleasant task. Whether he goes through with it or not defines the order of conscience versus command.  It was great to be able to weave a real-place, and one with such resonance for me, into a work of fiction.

If you’re ever in Newcastle you should definitely check out Jesus Mound, walk alongside the trickling river beneath horseshoe-shaped bridges made of ancient stone, and enjoy the many buildings left behind (and now lovingly restored) by Lord William Armstrong.


Iron Man Project a science fiction cyberpunk thriller by David J Rodger

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