Park Future Now Secure; Lottery Cash Will See Archaeology Work Carried Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

APARK spanning a past of at least 600 years sees its future secured today with an award of pounds 2.2m.

The money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund goes to Northumberland Park on the border of North Shields and Tynemouth. Last year 130 volunteers took part in a community archaeology investigation in the park which uncovered building remains and burials which are believed to be the legacy of the medieval St Leonard's Hospital.

The findings from the digs, along with a range of reports on everything from trees to birds and butterfly species in the park, went to lottery officials to back the bid.

The award will allow a full-scale dig to take place and plans to be drawn up as to how the history of the park's medieval heritage can be marked.

After last year's dig Jennifer Morrison, Tyne and Wear archaeology officer, said: "We were looking for evidence of the hospital and its graveyard and we have found it. That makes the park a special place."

The money will also store lost features including cast iron railings, a bandstand, historic planting schemes, fountains and park furniture; provide essential new visitor facilities to support the park's long-term future, which will include a cafe, toilets, community room and terrace within the formal gardens; and improve management and maintenance regime, access to the park and to its unique history and features which include a pet cemetery which was in use from the 1930s-70s.

The award is a triumph for 64-year-old Michael Coates, who has campaigned for more than 30 years to halt the decline of the park.

Michael lived as a child in the adjacent Park Avenue and both sets of grandparents were members of the park bowling club.

"The award is fantastic and what we have been working for all these years," said Michael, who is chairman of the New Friends of Northumberland Park and a member of North Tyneside Council's park project board.

"The park used to have a full-time staff who took pride in the place but they were withdrawn and in the 1980s contractors just whipped in and out to cut the grass. …

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