Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Families Gather to Celebrate Park Life; A Bright Future Lies Ahead as 125th Anniversary Is Marked in Style

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Families Gather to Celebrate Park Life; A Bright Future Lies Ahead as 125th Anniversary Is Marked in Style

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

FAMILIES rolled up to celebrate a milestone anniversary at a park with a medieval past.

It was 125 years ago yesterday that the crowds turned out for the opening of Northumberland Park, on the border between Tynemouth and North Shields.

The ceremony was performed by the Duke of Northumberland, who had donated the land at Spital Dene.

During the creation of the park, stone coffins, grave slabs and the foundations of what is believed to be the medieval St Leonard's Leper Hospital were uncovered and are still on display.

It is planned to hold a community archaeological dig on the hospital site in the next 18 months.

Last month the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded pounds 109,000 to North Tyneside Council so it can develop final specifications for the revitalisation of Northumberland Park ahead of a pounds 2.2m HLF funding application.

If the bid is successful it will see original features of the park restored.

The park includes the track bed of an old railway, a pond which is now home to two "dumped" terrapins, and a pets' cemetery used from the 1930-70s.

The cemetery contains a headstone erected by the RSPCA to "Pop, for faithful war service, 1939-45" and to "Trixie Fox, Rescued Normandy beaches, 1944." There is also a collection of trees planted to commemorate events such as the oak planted by the Duke on the opening day, trees to mark the end of the two world wars, and the coronation of King George VI.

At yesterday's family fun day, council parks manager Jerry Dronsfield said: "The park and its heritage have served people for 125 years and we want that to continue for another 125 years."

The Friends of Northumberland Park group has been revived and Mr Dronsfield said: "The response from people wanting to become involved has been phenomenal."

Yesterday's occasion was extra special for 62-year-old Michael Coates, who grew up living next to the park and used it daily. Over the years he has logged a total of 111 bird species, 19 species of butterfly, and 47 tree species in the park, which is a site of nature conservation importance and was recently included in an extension of Tynemouth Conservation Area. …

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