VISITORS will be winging their way to one of the smallest attractions in a regional heritage extravaganza.
A record 187 properties, tours and happenings will be on offer in this year’s Tyne Wear Heritage Open Days event from September 6-9.
And one of the new draws will be the only listed pigeon cree in Britain.
The wooden cree at the Back Ryhope Street allotment site in Sunderland was built in 1955 by Maurice Surtees and his late brother, William.
Maurice, 75, now operates the cree with his pigeon partner Lewis Llewellyn, 65.
They will welcome visitors to the cree and its 80 birds on Thursday, September 6.
Maurice, who has been flying pigeons since 1949, said: “We are over the moon about taking part in the heritage open days. We have an old-fashioned stove and we’ll have the kettle on for visitors.”
Lewis said: “Keeping and racing pigeons is a 24/7, 52 weeks of the year full-time activity. It’s a brilliant hobby and I would like people to learn what it is all about.”
The cree was listed eight years ago in the face of threats to redevelop the site.
The event aims to give free access to properties which are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.
Five years ago there were 84 participating buildings, tours and events, which attracted 19,500 visits. By last year this had grown to 181 with 40,300 visits.
“Heritage has really become important to people in the North-East and there is much greater awareness about the local heritage on people’s doorsteps,” said Newcastle City Council heritage officer Fiona Cullen.
“This is a once in a year chance to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a range of events and activities which bring life to local history and culture.”
Highlights of the open days event include:
SUNDERLAND: A geologist-guided walk looking at the stones used in buildings in Monkwearmouth; Houghton Hillside Cemetery with its newly-discovered graves and vaults; the Victorian St Mary’s Church in South Hylton with its stained glass windows to local shipbuilders; Sunderland High School at Langham Tower; hearing the only manual nine-rank Compton organ in the North-East, from the Regal/Odeon in Sunderland, at Ryhope Community Association.
GATESHEAD: Birtley Masonic Hall; Bill Quay School; fiddle music and a tour by sculptor Peter Coates to the new artwork to fiddler James Hill opposite the Hilton Hotel; the 1690s Winlaton Cottage Forge; St Mary the Virgin Grade I listed Norman church in Whickham, rebuilt in 1860.
NEWCASTLE: Central Square office complexes; Fern Avenue Masonic Hall; Friends Meeting House, Jesmond; Dialect Day at Morden Tower; St Dominic’s Priory in New Bridge Street; Stepney Bank Stables; Stephenson’s Works tour.
St Mary’s Island shipwreck walk; Wallsend Civic Hall and grounds;
Wallsend Masonic Hall; exhibition at Dial Cottage, Killingworth.
SOUTH TYNESIDE: Bede’s World farmers’ market; Old Town Hall, South Shields Market Place; Westovian theatre, South Shields. Booklets available in libraries, museums and tourist information centres.
Funding call for buildings
LIBERAL Democrats in Tyne and Wear have called on the Government to act to save the region’s heritage buildings.
Gateshead councillor Jonathan Wallace made the call following the publication of the 2007 Buildings at Risk Register by English Heritage, which showed that the region had the highest percentage of Grade I and II-star buildings under threat.
He said: “These buildings are important to our local heritage. Their loss would be a big blow and my fear is that with funding so limited to prevent further decay, restoring them in the future will be even more expensive.
“English Heritage have suffered a big drop in the amount of money the Government provides to support our heritage.
“In 1999, the cash available for these building’s was £6.6m. Last year that dropped to £4.4m.
“One measure the Government can take is to lower the VAT charged on renovating or extending homes and buildings.”