The two new artworks causing a stir in South Shields' North Marine Park
A new maritime-inspired piece of public art installed on a prominent beauty spot is already getting families talking about South Tyneside’s lost shipping industry, borough leaders say.
The project, by South Tyneside Council, aims to restore the park to its Victorian splendour.
Work, which is nearing completion, has involved reinstating some of the site’s original features as well as introducing new elements, including new public art.
The Beacon sculpture, made from weathering corten steel, highlights interesting words and occupations associated with the Borough’s once thriving maritime and shipping industries.
Job titles such as Shields Pilot, Rigger, Dockmaster and Seaman, are welded onto the main part of the Beacon, with thought-provoking words laser cut from the top half, which will be illuminated at night. The words were generated as part of a remote community project involving community groups and schoolchildren.
The structure takes inspiration from the original Lawe Top beacons built in 1832 and will be visible on the approach from Sea Road and the foreshore.
Councillor John Anglin, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy at South Tyneside Council, said: “The Beacon is a real statement piece. It not only celebrates the people of South Shields with words inspired by our rich maritime and shipping heritage, but is perfectly positioned in the Lawe Top area, which played a key role in the borough’s military defences with its incredible views over the mouth of the river and wider harbour.
"I’m sure it will be a great talking point for people visiting the park in future.”
He added: “Public Art is an important component in our work to restore North Marine Park. This project gave us an opportunity to create an installation that would reflect the park’s long-standing association with navigation.”
Another new art installation has also been created close to where the former park bandstand once stood. Details from the original ornate ironwork have been cast into a new low-level feature wall, which acts as a decorative backdrop to a new performance space sited near the reconstructed grotto.
Sculptor Andrew Mckeown, who created the Word Beacon and bandstand interpretation, said: “It’s been great to be part of the restoration of such a historic park. The new Beacon and feature wall were designed to be talking points, to inspire conversations about South Shields martime history and heritage.
“Even while we were installing the Beacon, a grandad was explaining to his grandson what a Foyboatman was. This was exactly what I intended and I hope these conversations continue and both of my new artworks become important landmarks in the newly restored park.”
In further recognition of the park’s heritage and maritime past, new historical plaques and information boards will be 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.
Trinity Towers was originally built as a watchtower for pilots and later used as the park gardener’s home and a radar training station for the students of South Shields Marine and Technical College.
Other key highlights of the North Marine Park transformation include the reconstruction of the iconic Grand Promenade staircase, as well as the original grotto, and the refurbishment of the bowling clubhouse and green, park pavilion and Pier Parade and Beacon entrances.
A new play area will also reflect South Tyneside’s maritime links and Roman heritage.
Other features include a new adult fitness trim trail, new balustrades and copings as well as improved street lighting, seating, footpaths and open spaces.
The project, supported with £2.4million 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.
Councillor John Anglin, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy, said: “After many years of planning, designing and securing the funding needed to restore the park, it’s been really exciting to watch our vision for the park come to fruition and for visitors to see the transformation before their eyes with the site remaining open throughout.
“With the key features of the park now in place, we are getting very close to completion. We’re just putting the finishing touches to the site and can’t wait for people to see it in its entirety. The transformation will ensure the park remains a firm favourite among residents and visitors alike for many more years to come.”
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.
For further information about the restoration of North Marine Park visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/northmarinepark or email the project team at [email protected]