Tag Archives: Heritage Lottery Fund

Excavation of forgotten WW1 camp

Archaeologists have been unearthing military marvels at a forgotten First World War training camp  in the North-East.

Dozens of volunteers have been helping a week-long excavation of Cocken Hall camp, near Durham – and what they have found could change the history books forever.

Today, the centuries-old hall is no more and the site is feet deep in nettles and bushes. But 100 years ago, it was home to up to 1,100 military men preparing for battle on the  Western Front.

Enthusiasts from archaeology outfit No Man’s Land travelled from across the country for this week’s dig, the first since the camp was abandoned near the end of the war.

They have unearthed foundations and artefacts from the military camp – and their work around the original hall suggests the site may have been inhabited well before the previous 17th century estimate.

Project director Alastair Fraser said:

“We’ve been able to establish the arrangements of the camp and we now know much more about the house – we’ve realised it was probably older than we thought.

“We’ve had 3D scanners on site and we now hope to produce a 3D model, which we should be able to render – because we have photographs from the time.”

 Cocken Hall dates from at least the 17th century, possibly earlier. Volunteers have found 16th and 17th century wall painting this week.

In the late 18th century, it was known for its ornamental gardens; while in the 19th century it was a convent, then a private home.

It was acquired by the Lambtons, the family of the Earls of Durham, around the 1870s.

Following an early 20th century modernisation, it was to be let again but sadly the prospective tenant died, meaning that at the outbreak of war in 1914 it was unoccupied.

The Earl handed the hall to the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and it became the training base for the 18th battalion, known as the Durham Pals – men who enlisted with their friends and workmates.

The hall proved too small to accommodate all the men, so a barracks, bath house, rifle range, canteen and recreation room were built. Trenches were also dug, to simulate the brutal warfare the men could expect on the Continent.

 The 18th left for France in May 1915, but Cocken was later used by other DLI battalions, the York and Lancaster Regiment and the forerunner of the Home Guard.

The camp was demolished after the war and the hall, which was in a poor state, followed around 1928 – taking its secrets with it, until now.

Findings will go into a major exhibition on Durham and the Somme marking the centenary of the famous battle next year and Mr Fraser hopes to take a team to excavate part of the Somme where the DLI fought in 2018.

Source – Northern Echo, 26 June 2015

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Marsden White Horse revamp ‘leaves a bad taste’

COUNCIL bosses have been challenged over the future upkeep of a historic local landmark.

South Tyneside Council came under fire after it restored the White Horse, which was painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs in the 19th century – but decided did not to tell anyone about the revamp.

Now local resident Kevin Flett is demanding to know who is going to going to look after the iconic landmark which he and other people in the community had been taking care of over the years.

Council bosses say they want to work with local people to maintain the site.

Mr Flett said:

“The way it was handled has left quite a bad taste in the mouths of those of us who have been looking after the horse for a number of years now.

“We have all worked hard to maintain the area, seeking donations of paint and going on a regular basis to remove graffiti.

“Then along comes the council who just disregard everything we have done.

“They have managed to get rid of all the layers of history which had culminated over the years. You are never going to get that back.

“I know people who have volunteered their time to look after such an important part of the history of South Shields, but are very much reluctant to stay involved now the council has just steamrollered ahead with this.

“There has been no consultation about any of this work, and I would like to know now if the council are going to taking care of the upkeep of The White Horse in the future.”

Residents are also concerned that the work involved the entire crag face being scoured and that the horse is not so easily seen.

The background limestone turned black over the centuries – creating a stark contrast with the white horse. It is now a white horse on a light grey background.

South Tyneside Council said the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said:

“The White Horse is a landmark of significant local interest which holds a special place in the hearts of the people of South Tyneside.

“We have spoken to the community group, and a countryside officer will be meeting with them in the next few weeks.

“We would like to work with them, and any other interested groups, to agree a co-ordinated approach to protect and enhance the area of the Marsden Old Quarry Local Nature Reserve for both local people and visitors.

“We are carrying out further work in the area, such as repairs to fencing and litter picks.

“Any volunteers who would like to help to preserve the area are asked to contact the council. “

Source – Shields Gazette, 18 Sept 2014

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Marsden White Horse – local council under fire over revamp of landmark

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Council bosses have come under under fire after leaving residents scratching their heads over the revamp of a South Tyneside landmark.

People were stunned last week when the White Horse, which has been painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs since  the 19th century, disappeared.

It later emerged that the landmark was being restored by South Tyneside Council – which had decided not to tell anyone about the revamp.

The painting is thought to date back to at least 1887, and has regularly been repainted and cared for by local people.

Janice Collinson, 59, from Buckingham Close, Whitburn, said:

“I saw the horse had gone, and I was very shocked. I was just sad.

“It is such an iconic symbol of South Shields and I think it is a shame the community wasn’t consulted.”

South Tyneside Council says the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesperson said:

“We are delighted to have been able to secure funding from Limestone Landscapes partnership – a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – to have the White Horse re-painted.

“The restoration involved the removal of the existing paint and graffiti. Work started on Monday using a needle gun to remove the paint.

“The removal of the paint was completed yesterday.

“The horse has been repainted by a qualified artist, who works as a sign-writer for South Tyneside Homes and is the same man who has repainted it in the past.

“The council didn’t want to highlight the proposed works, as this may have attracted additional graffiti, which would have delayed the restoration.”

Some residents are still concerned that the history surrounding the painting has been ignored – and have vowed to examine the new version closely to make sure it is up to standard.

Jim Robertson, 65, from Boldon Colliery, said:

“It was repainted about a year ago. In the past, the people have over-painted so you could see the layers of paint and the history of it.

“What this council seem to do very well is wipe history away like it never existed. There is now no way you can see the history behind it, as there will be just one layer of paint.

“I am disappointed. In my opinion it was totally unnecessary.

“There was no consultation about this whatsoever, and I think it has been handled very badly.

“I will be comparing photographs to see how the new one compares to the old one.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Sept 2014

By coincidence I was in the vicinity a couple of days before the story broke and, as I usually do, payed a visit to the White Horse. Work had evidently started, tools were lying around, but no-one was in attendence. To be fair, they were probably on their lunch break.

I took this photo –

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The workmen appear to have removed the black painted background and retouched the Horse, which is now white on natural limestone – not the greatest of contrasts.

This secretive revamping seems to have got a lot of backs up – I wouldn’t be particularly suprised if at some stage the black background  reappears, no doubt the work of fairies.

Of course, the Horse does change from time to time. Here’s a photo I took…well, its undated, but I think probably in the 1990s –

Marsden White Horse4

For more on the history of the Marsden White Horse, see –

http://spiritofplace.weebly.com/marsden-white-horse.html

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North East parks are our ‘Natural Health Service’

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It’s called the Natural Health Service – and sums up the therapeutic benefits flowing from green spaces and contact with wildlife.

Nature is good for us. This is something that we intuitively know, and for which there is mounting evidence,” says Northumberland Wildlife Trust chief executive Mike Pratt.

Stroll through a nature reserve, or just watch wildlife from your window – all contribute to our physical, mental and emotional well being.”

For many urban dwellers, it is parks which offer a link to the natural world.

Many people talk about “the other NHS” – the alternative and preventative health benefits that nature provided for free,” says Mike.

After all, we are animals and are intrinsically linked to the ecosystem and life support provided through the surrounding environment.

“So it’s no surprise that we feel better when we interact with wildlife, and enjoy…

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