North East heritage projects boosted by £90m-worth of grants

Heritage Lottery Fund cash spent on regenerating historic shopping street, digitising archive collections and more

In front of the restored shop are, left to right, Linda Green, Janice and Rabbi Hyman Shein
In front of the restored shop are, left to right, Linda Green, Janice and Rabbi Hyman Shein

The spotlight this week will be firmly on the one millionth competitor to take part in the Great North Run.

But another cause for celebration is the near-£90m worth of heritage projects along the route from Newcastle through Gateshead to South Tyneside.

Backed by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, they include a £1.4m HLF contribution towards a £1.9m scheme which aims to transform one of Tyneside’s long-established shopping streets.

Specialist grocery store Dansky’s Kosher delicatessen has become the first shop on Coatsworth Road in Gateshead to undergo restoration as part of the project to revitalise the area.

One of the first shopping streets in Gateshead, the majority of Coatsworth Road is a conservation area due to its Victorian features.

Dansky’s has had its modern façade replaced with windows and doors much more in keeping with its early 20th Century heritage.

Unsightly external steel roller shutters have been removed with new shutters placed inside. Original stained glass has been re-used, and the original advertising board above the shop is sign painted, by hand, by a local artist.

Dansky’s is the first of 30 properties on the street that could benefit from funding as part of the Coatsworth Road Townscape Heritage Initiative, which is expected to take around four years.

Now that work at Dansky’s is completed, the project will move on to other shops.

The Coatsworth Road of yesteryear
Coatsworth Road, Gateshead of yesteryear

Gateshead Council cabinet member for historic environment, Linda Green, said: “Dansky’s is a really prominent building on Coatsworth Road. But its importance in the street had been lost over the years as the building was adapted and windows lost behind modern additions.

“While this project is very much about restoring part of the community’s heritage, it is also going to vastly improve the appearance of Coatsworth Road and its appeal to shoppers.

“The best possible way to preserve a historic shopping street is to ensure that it survives and flourishes, that’s exactly what this project will do.”

Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “ THI schemes can really help turn around local economies, not only by improving how they look and feel, but by prompting business start-ups and creating new jobs and training opportunities.”

Owners of Dansky’s, Janice and Rabbi Hyman Shein, said: “We were already looking at ways to improve our shop when we heard about the initiative. Being involved has been a very positive experience. The new shop front is very pleasant and lots of people have mentioned how good it looks.”

In June the HLF awarded £1.2m to a project which focuses on the Newcastle-based Amber documentary film and photographic archive.

The collection tells the stories of working class and marginalised North East communities – from the impact of the decline of industry along the Tyne to the life of County Durham mining families.

As well as transforming the listed Amber headquarters which house the archive, the project will see the collection catalogued, digitised and conserved.

The three year programme of work includes:

  • the capital redevelopment of Side Gallery, delivering full access, increased and enhanced exhibition space; a study centre with digital access to the collection and a library; improved work, exhibition development and conservation facilities;
  • a major exhibition at Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery opening in June 2015, while Side Gallery is closed, exploring the rich narrative of the collection
  • a programme of volunteer involvement that will help to digitise over 7,000 images, 2,000 minutes of film and video as well as audio tapes and documents
  • the redesign and rebuild of Amber-Online, delivering access to the digitised collection
  • 18 projects working with the collection and the possibilities of documentary with primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, community groups and individuals - particularly in the communities whose histories have been captured in Amber / Side Gallery’s documentary works

Founded by the filmmaker Murray Martin, the Amber collective came to the North East in 1969 “to collect documents of working class culture”.

The work accelerated after it opened Side Gallery in 1977. In 2011, the interlinked narrative of Amber’s films and the photography of collective member Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen was inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World UK register.

Collective member Graeme Rigby said: “This is a hugely important award for us. Amber has created a living archive over the past 45 years. This gives us the opportunity to work with the collection and let people know just how beautiful and extraordinary it is.”

Ivor Crowther said: “Documenting the lives of working class and marginalised communities in the North East over the last 40 years, the AmberSide collection is of significant local, national and international importance.”

Other heritage projects along the run route include two major awards in Newcastle - £2.4m to restore Exhibition Park and £8.75m to turn the former Hancock Museum into the Great North Museum.

The Great North Museum’s offer now ranges from a planetarium and bio-wall displaying the diversity of life on Earth, to a life-size replica T.Rex skeleton, mummies from Ancient Egypt, a large scale model of Hadrian’s Wall and a display of many of its treasures, and a superb collection of ancient Greek art and archaeology.

Also in Newcastle, £37,600 went to the North East Circus Development Trust’s Five Ring Circus - aka Family La Bonche.

A group of young people worked with the North East Circus Development Trust to discover the region’s circus identity. The young enthusiasts researched local archives, visited circus venues, interviewed older circus performers and created a book and an exhibition.

The Old Newcastle project benefited from an HLF award of £1.4m to revitalise the 13th Century Black Gate, a Grade I listed Scheduled Ancient Monument. The vacant building will become a fully accessible heritage, education and community resource reconnecting with its medieval neighbours, the Castle Keep and Cathedral Church of St Nicholas.

Newcastle’s story will be told using innovative digital displays and learning activities.

Ivor Crowther said: “By restoring the Black Gate to its place in Newcastle’s medieval heart, this Heritage Lottery Fund grant will help connect the Newcastle of the 21st Century with that of the 13th. The funding will help ensure the city’s great heritage is a living and working part our economy.”

In Jarrow Bede’s World has received £311.700 for its Animating the Visitor Experience project.

This seeks to reinterpret and enhance the museum’s permanent exhibition through the use of new technologies; the creation of a grandstand and stage, two workshops and a children’s activity area, props in existing buildings on the Anglo-Saxon demonstration farm; and a programme of events, traditional skills courses and a volunteering scheme.

In South Shields, the restoration of South Marine Park, opened in 1886, was awarded £3.8m.

Support also went to First World War ventures.

The Wor Women on the Home Front project was given £9,900. The project will focus on supporting service users of Tyneside Women’s Health to explore the impact of the First World War on women and their families.

Another £43,900 went to the South Shields branch of the Durham Light Infantry’s Victoria Cross project.

The South Shields branch set out to collect and bring the stories of the regiment, past and present, together into an online resource.

The DLI traditionally recruited from the old County of Durham which included South Tyneside.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer