Finishing touches completed on centrepiece of £3.2m South Shields park restoration

A restored South Tyneside park is urn-ing its place in history once again after the finishing touches were made to its newly reconstructed centrepiece.

Historic images of the Grand Promenade Staircase with lions’ heads urns and the recreated landmark at North Marine Park.
Historic images of the Grand Promenade Staircase with lions’ heads urns and the recreated landmark at North Marine Park.

South Tyneside Council has worked with its partners to restore the historic North Marine Park in South Shields back to its original Victorian glory. The £3.2m project – supported with £2.4m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund – has involved reinstating some of the site’s original features as well as introducing new elements.

Now new decorative urns have been mounted on top of the four sandstone plinths at each corner of the striking new Grand Promenade Staircase which opened to the public last winter.

As part of a lengthy process, specialist stonemasons used a section of an original urn to help create a mould to cast the replicas, which feature the ornate terracotta Lions’ heads design. Their positioning now completes the recreation of the park’s new focal point.

Historic images of the Grand Promenade Staircase with lions’ heads urns.

George Mansbridge, the council’s Corporate Director for Regeneration and Environment, said: “The lions’ heads urns were an iconic feature of the Grand Promenade Staircase when the park first opened in 1890.

“It was important to ensure these ornamental elements were replicated as part of the restoration project and in particular the reconstruction of the steps, which act as a fantastic new centrepiece for the park.

“The installation of the urns is like the cherry on the cake for what has been an incredibly exciting restoration project. In eye-catching terracotta, they replicate the originals. They certainly add a splash of colour to the landmark and are sure to be a talking point for residents and visitors.”

The stunning Grand Promenade staircase has been recreated with the design based on photographic records, historic maps and the original Borough engineers’ plans. It helps to link the lower and upper parts of the park, with a new more user-friendly pathway layout.


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The newly installed Lion Urn's on the Grand Staircase, North Marine Park, South Shields.

Other restoration works have included a reconstruction of the park’s original grotto feature, the refurbishment of the bowling clubhouse and green, park pavilion and the Pier Parade and Beacon entrances and decorative new balustrades and stone copings.

New public art installations included a Word Beacon sculpture in recognition of the area’s maritime and shipping heritage as well as a low-level performance backdrop, which has been adorned with details from the ornate ironwork of the park’s former bandstand.

Earlier this year, the new Roman and maritime-themed children’s play area and adult fitness trim trail opened. New historical plaques and information boards have been sited throughout the park. One board marks the site of the park’s former Trinity Towers building, which was built in 1810 and demolished in 1969.


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The project, supported with £2.4m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is a partnership between South Tyneside Council, Esh Construction, Southern Green landscape architects and the Friends of North and South Marine Parks, who have been working closely with the Council’s regeneration team as well as dedicated Parks Officer, Jade Ridley.

David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “This important local landmark, now safeguarded and accessible to local communities and visitors, is particularly significant today as we emphasise the importance of parks and nature for people’s wellbeing.

"South Shields’ North Marine Park with its fantastic facilities is a great example of how the projects we support bring communities and outdoor spaces together through heritage.”

North and South Marine Parks opened in June 1890. The northern park was created on 7.5 hectares of former ballast hills, with more space dedicated to trees, pathways and shrubbery. This park provided a more tranquil space than its southern neighbour, offering gentle pastimes such as bowling.