Secrets of park to be unearthed

A PARK’S medieval secrets will be unearthed by archaeologists over the coming weeks.

Up to seven trenches are to be dug in Northumberland Park, lying between Tynemouth and North Shields, in a bid to find the site of the old St Leonard’s Hospital.

The dig follows a survey of the park by 30 volunteers over three weekends last month after being trained by professional archaeologist Alan Biggins.

The excavation is being supported by the New Friends of Northumberland Park group and North Tyneside Council.

Michael Coates, chairman of the friends’ group, 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.”

Between five and seven small trenches will be dug, depending on what is found.

Four or five of the trenches will be dug around the known hospital remains, and one will be on the site of buildings shown on early 19th century maps near the Spittal Bridge.

A further trench will be dug on the site of the former Park Cottage, built in the 1880s and demolished in the early 1960s, in the hope of finding traces of a medieval herb garden.

The excavation will take place in three stages, all starting on Wednesdays and lasting for five days.

The first takes place next week, followed by others beginning on June 29 and July 6.

The trenches will all be dug by hand.

Any discoveries made will be taken into account during the drawing up of restoration plans as part of the council’s application for £2.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to revamp the park.

The council will work with volunteers and the New Friends of Northumberland Park on ideas for telling the history of St Leonard’s to park visitors.

They could include the planting of a medieval-style herb garden, producing information boards and visitor guides or staging historical drama events in the park.