Landscape In Wallsend, Tyne And Wear
A series of linked public parks in Wallsend comprising Richardson Dees Park, the Hall Grounds and Arboretum.
Wallsend Parks consist of 3 adjacent areas of public open space and parkland comprising Richardson Dees Park, Wallsend Hall grounds (the Hall grounds) and an area known as the Arboretum. All three spaces are closely linked to the social and physical heritage of Wallsend. The parks are located to the north of Wallsend town centre providing large areas of public open space and woodlands in the urban core of the Borough.
Just adjacent to the Parks lies "The Green" which was the location of the original Wallsend Village which was founded as a medieval settlement in the form of two rows of houses either side of a wide green. This village plan was largely unaltered until the 19th Century!
In 1856, solicitor Robert Richardson Dees bought the Hall and in 1897, he gave 14 acres of land (the site of a disused mine) to the Urban District Council for use as a park. The park opened on 4th June 1900 with the name Wallsend Park; this has since changed to Richardson Dees Park. It was opened by G. B. Hunter, managing partner of Swan Hunter Shipyard and one time Mayor of Wallsend. In 1914 Hunter bought Wallsend Hall and donated a further 9.75 acres of its land to the council for use of the public. This became the area known as the Hall Grounds.
Richardson Dees Park contains two natural burns (one from the west, one from the north-west) that meet in a small man-made lake with island. The burn from the west delineates the character of the park, to the north a more natural wooded area and to the south more formal parkland and facilities typical of a Victorian Park. These include 3 bowling greens, 8 tennis courts and built structures such as lodge, pavilion, bandstand and bothy. The south east corner of the park also marks the site of the former Wallsend C Pit which was used during rescue operations in the 1835 Church Pit disaster, the worst in Tyneside's history. C Pit operated between 1786 and 1854. The area around the shaft has been landscaped now and all that is visible is a slight mound.
Within the Hall grounds is Wallsend Hall, which was part Sir G.B. Hunter Memorial Hospital and part Civic Hall, used for civic events and special functions. The building was listed as Grade II on 18th August 1947. There has been a 'Hall' for around 400 years on this site and the current building dates from the early 19th century.
There is a designed relationship between the Hall and the Hall Grounds, and they still appear to be linked today. Sir G.B. Hunter presented the whole property to the Borough and it was transferred to the Mayor and Corporation on 11th January 1916 under the agreement that it be used for public purposes (museum, picture gallery, library, lecture hall, classrooms, municipal committee rooms and reception rooms). A new agreement was reached in 1925 that the Hall could be used as a hospital. The Hall has had many important residents over the years including a number of Mayors of Wallsend. It is now a privately owned wedding venue and conference location.
The Arboretum to the north west of Richardson Dees Park was built on land also donated by Robert Richardson Dees to provide a public park for the community of Wallsend and was opened in 1937. The Arboretum is the most informal area within the parks and is managed with wildlife in mind.
Richardson Dees Park and the Hall Grounds are important because of their close association with the social history of Tyneside and the industries of shipbuilding and mining and their local heritage, age and close links to the local community and important people.
The parks have served and continue to serve the needs of local people following a restoration funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This saw large areas of the parks restored and previously lost features reinstated such as the Duffy Memorial Fountain. A new play area was built on the site of one of the disused bowling greens, the bandstand was restored and a new café created in Richardson Dees Park while in the Hall Grounds a section of the culverted watercourse was opened up, an orchard was planted and the wall to the former vinery was restored. This is a rare example of a Georgian flued, hot wall which would have been heated with fires to support vines and soft fruits. A Victorian Fernery is also incorporated in its construction.
One interesting element now found in the Hall Grounds are the columns that used to stand at the entrance to nearby Burnside School, which were purchased from a local architectural salvage yard to create a feature along the promenade to the frontage of the Hall.
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Turn right out of the car park and walk past the Library onto Hawthorn Grove. Continue along Hawthorn Grove until you reach Park Road and turn left again heading north along Park Road. This will bring you to the Richardson Dees Park entrance.
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There is the possibility of on street parking near to the park but this is not guaranteed so it is better to park in the car park at the Forum Shopping Centre in Wallsend town centre and walk up.
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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