Up to seven trenches are about to dug within Northumberland Park, which lies between Tynemouth and North Shields, as part of work to rediscover the medieval hospital of St Leonard’s. It follows work by around 30 volunteers who surveyed the area during three weekends last month.
The volunteers were trained by Alan Biggins, a professional archaeological surveyor, supported by the New Friends of Northumberland Park and North Tyneside Council.
Michael Coates, chairman of the News Friends of Northumberland Park, said, “The project is at a very exciting stage. Nothing like this has happened before so there’s a lot of interest locally. Personally, for over 50 years I’ve wondered what’s buried there.”
In May, volunteers laid out grids in Northumberland Park using an electronic distance meter before surveying the site using a magnetometer and resistance meter.
Between five and seven small trenches will be dug, depending on the complexity of archaeology found. There will be four or five trenches around the known hospital remains and one on buildings known from early 19th century maps near the Spittal Bridge.
There will be a further trench on the site of the former Park Cottage, built in the 1880s and demolished in the early 1960s. It is hoped that a medieval herb garden will also be found at this location.
The archaeological dig will take place in three stages: June 22-26; June 29-July 3; and July 6-10. The trenches will all be dug by hand so not to disturb the grass by using machines. Three or four will be opened initially.
The results will be used to inform restoration plans as part of North Tyneside Council’s application for £2.2million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to make the park more accessible, and improve what it offers visitors.
Northumberland Park opened in 1885 and is comprised of woodland areas, formal flowerbeds, pond, two bowling greens and a playsite. Unfortunately, many of its historic features have been lost, however it does contain other interesting and unique features including a pet cemetery and the medieval remains of St Leonard’s Hospital. The council wants to ensure they are better protected, preserved and interpreted.
The council will work with local volunteers and the New Friends of Northumberland Park to look for ideas to interpret the history of St Leonard’s for today’s park visitors. This could include the planting of a medieval herb garden, producing information boards, visitor guides or historic drama events in the park.
Source: North Tyneside Council