A bid to restore Chase Park in Whickham!

Posted: 14/03/2014

A lottery funding bid could help towards the refurbishment of Chase Park in Whickham. This historic park has been an outright feature of the village for vast periods but has now taken a turn for the worst. The park is situated in Whickham, Gateshead and inhabits a listed windmill as one of its main features. Since the 12th Century Whickham village has been recorded as a village and a mill has been revealed in various documents throughout the years including 1307, 1567 and 1720. The key feature of the once private estate happens to be the eye catching mansion named, Whickham House. This house had been occupied from the 18th century up until 1864 by a family under the name of Leaton. The property is included in maps from the 19th century showing a beautiful entrance lodge along with wooded grounds, an orchard and a corn mill. A manufacturer of mineral water, Mr J Wilkinson who was the last owner of the home to date had re named the house as ‘The chase’ because he was a very keen hunter. In 1937 Mr Wilkinson had sold the site for £7000 and although the house had been demolished shortly after in 1960, some main features of the site are still present such as the ornamental gardens and stable block.

A section of the land had been developed for recreation during the 1930s having been part of the ‘Field Foundation Initiative’ led by the current king at the time, King George. The fields are a mass of open space and are open to the public. These areas of land are devoted to the memory of King George V, who sadly died back in 1936. The park can now be enjoyed by generations to come thanks to the recent funding.

Officials have started a quest to try and persuade the Heritage Lottery Fund to distribute almost £1 million to hopefully renovate and upgrade the park which at some point had been part of a private estate. £66,000 has already been awarded to both Gateshead Council and a group called ‘Friends’ so that plans could be drawn up in order to produce detailed ideas. Previous plans that had been created where assisted by Southern Green Ltd and Tyne & Wear Play Association, both award winning local landscape architects and these designs will provide the root of an application to obtain a complete grant of £930,000 in the coming months.

Known features of the park such as paths, entrances, walls and the windmill are all included in the proposal in a bid to restore the park. Other procedures to be completed are the planting of many flowers like wildflower meadow as well as the complete re-creation of the parks gardens. Along with the above, the funding will allow facilities to be updated such as play areas; sports fields and the number of activities held within the park will also be increased.

The group known as ‘Friends’ had been set up in 2009 and have constantly kept a watchful eye upon the park and have since been awarded a National Flora Award.. The chairman of the group had stated; “We are delighted to have been awarded this money for the development of our master plan to improve our local park for the whole community. We’ve got this far due to the tremendous effort and commitment of local residents and businesses, volunteering their time and services to support our activity and look forward to working with Gateshead Council to deliver the second round application for the full grant”.

Following on from this the vice chairman, Kathryn Malone also contributed towards this by stating that, at its current level the park is looking a tad desolate and tired, meaning it needs reviving and bringing back to its true colours in order for it to be placed back into the heart of the community as a place for members of the public to enjoy. Ms Malone also added; “There is a real community spirit in Wickham and we want to make the park a part of that”.

Gateshead Councils cabinet member for culture, Linda Green had added to the discussion by admitting that the funding the park had originally been receiving courtesy of the Government had been decreasing with each coming year. The Councils aptitude to invest in the surrounding community had also been abruptly reduced but the council are constantly on the prowl to uncover new ways in which they can efficiently maintain their assets. This includes areas such as Gateshead’s public parks as well as strongly encouraging the community to be a part of the project in safeguarding these features in the coming future. She also added; “We’re delighted to be working with the Friends on what will be an exciting development of an important community asset”. 

Nicole Cran, Pali Ltd


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