Concrete hippos leave their mark

Concrete hippos at Garth 22, off East Bailey, Killingworth.
Concrete hippos at Garth 22, off East Bailey, Killingworth.

A HERD of hippos living in a Killingworth street have been honoured in a national heritage document.

The quartet of unique concrete hippos, found in the Garth estate in the town, feature on the front cover of English Heritage Good Practice Guide for Local Heritage Listing, which helps guides planners across the country.

The hippos are also the centre of a case study focusing on North Tyneside Council’s success in producing a local list identifying the key features that residents feel are key to the character of their community.

Officials at the council are still trying to find the designer of the artwork, installed as part of a local authority housing scheme when the Garth estates were built in the mid-1970s.

When the council appealed for ideas from the public on what features in the borough should be included in the ‘local list’, the hippos were among 240 nominations.

The Good Practice Guide focuses on how the council established a selection panel – including local history, conservation and architecture experts as well as local residents, planners and a local history librarian.

It resulted in 168 of the nominations being added to the borough’s local heritage list, which seeks to ensure the things that contribute to the character of communities are recorded and ideally protected.

Graham Sword, the council’s principal planning officer, said: “The Killingworth hippos are an example of the hidden gems that matter to local people just as much as local landmarks of historic or architectural value.

“I am delighted that they have been used to draw attention to the good practice in North Tyneside to protect the character of our local communities.”

The process of preparing a local heritage list not only allows residents to identify local heritage that they would like recognised and protected, but is also an opportunity for local authorities and communities to work in partnership.

Creating a local heritage list also helps to improve access to clear, comprehensive and current information about the historic environment at the local level through resources such as Historic Environment Records (HERs).