A gift of 1,600 books from the Reverend Dr. Robert Thomlinson prompted the building of a new Palladian block to house a library and a vestry at the eastern end of the south side of the medieval parish church (now the Cathedral) of St Nicholas (Fig. 1). Sometime later, Dr. Thomlinson (died 1748), who was rector of Whickham, a prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral and one of the Lecturers at St Nicholas, explained to the Bishop of London:
I turn’d my thoughts upon geting a Library Erected for my Books in ye town of Newcastle. After some fruitless attempts my worthy and generous friend Mr. [later Sir] Walter Blackett undertook it, and at his own expence Built a Beautiful Fabrick against ye south wall of ye gt church [of] St. Nicolas where ye old vestry stood. The Front makes a Handsome appearance, it consists of three storys in height and above 17 yards in length.