During the recession of the 1880s, Tynemouth alderman John Foster-Spence approached the Duke of Northumberland requesting that a piece of land be made available which would be suitable to be laid out as a park.
Accordingly, Henry George Percy, the 7th Duke of Northumberland, provided a large area of land between Spital Dene and Tynemouth Road and, following a design by the borough surveyor Mr Gomozinski, landscaping began soon afterwards in order to lay out the new park, including the erection of greenhouses, summer houses, aviaries, shelters, a bandstand and a pond, which were set amongst woodland, formal gardens and bowling greens.
The park, which lies between Tynemouth and North Shields, was opened in 1885 by the Duke himself, and named accordingly in his honour. A delightful summary in a guidebook dated 1923 described the park as: “A perfect paradise, with shady trees, rustic bridges, tasteful flower beds, smooth patches of turf, fragrant shrubs, well kept paths, banks on whose sides are a mass of colour in the Spring and Summer, cosy arbours, pretty ornamental lakes, and a plentiful supply of seats. There are a number of bowling greens and band performances which add to the floral attractions of this sweet spot”.
Over the years, the park has fallen into a state of neglect – however, a grant of £2.2 million has been awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund which will secure the park for future generations. This funding will allow the reinstatement and restoration of lost features such as a pavilion, a fountain and street furniture, as well as creating essential new visitor facilities to support the park’s long-term future. Work is imminent, and should be completed by late 2015.
A more detailed account and history of the park is given in a new book written and compiled by Mike Coates who has had an interest and a fascination with Northumberland Park since childhood. (Mike is also Chairman of the New Friends of Northumberland Park). Although primarily focused on Northumberland Park, this well illustrated book also includes many historical facts relating to Spital Dene and the Pow Burn with interesting references to St Leonard’s Hospital, Whitley Waggonway, Tynemouth Mill and the Golf Club as well as the nearby Master Mariners’ Homes. Apart from the historical aspect, there is an interesting section which covers much of the natural history of the area including trees, flora, fauna and wildlife.
Published by Summerhill books at a cost of £8.50, it is available from local libraries and most local booksellers.
by Charlie Steel © 2012
Local historian and writer Charlie Steel has lived in Monkseaton for most of his life.
His published books include ‘Monkseaton Village Vol. 1’, ‘Monkseaton Village Vol. 2’, ‘Monkseaton & Hillheads’ and ‘Inns and Taverns of North Shields’, all of which are available from most local booksellers.