The little piece of Sunderland tranquility - cows and all

West Park side of Middle Herrington Park.
West Park side of Middle Herrington Park.
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Fifty years ago, a Wearside park became the centre of the public’s attention - and so did the cows who graze there.

It was the day when Middle Herrington Park - and its resident animals - were the topic of talks to protect them from boundary changes which would come into effect in Sunderland 48 hours later.

Middle Herrington Park.

Middle Herrington Park.

Councillors gathered at the park gates to talk over the issue and in one fell swoop, they came up with a plan to ensure the future for the whole of the park.

We are indebted to Douglas Smith, who is the chairman of the Herrington Heritage Group, for providing us with the background to the 50th anniversary of that day.

“The reason for the gathering in 1967 of the local Rural District Councillors that day,” said the heritage group’s report, “was to declare not just the top part but the whole park as a place of recreation for the people of Herrington in perpetuity.”

They also agreed that a farmer’s cows - which had been allowed to graze on the land - would be able to do so for as long as required after which that area would revert back to join the rest of the park.

“The cows, untroubled by the later main road, have contributed to the peaceful scene ever since,” said Mr Smith.

Back in 1967, the official opening was a poignant occasion.

Coun F. Shaw did the honours and said: “It was a lovely place for mothers and children for leisure and pleasure during the summer.”

He hoped that in time since there was plenty of room, there might be tennis courts and perhaps even a miniature golf course. Councillors wanted the plans to go ahead before the merger with the Borough.

Mr Smith added: “Since that day in 1967 the park and surrounding countryside, this green oasis in the midst of Sunderland, has provided a delight to the people of Herrington both for recreation, for walks and for the sheer beauty of the open spaces. A precious gift indeed to the people of Herrington to be resolutely defended.”

But let’s take a look back to how it all started.

“The park was once part of the estate of Herrington Hall, a Georgian mansion whose cellars went back to the time of Henry VIII,” said Mr Smith in his letter to the Echo.

“Indeed when there is a light covering of snow over the fields it is possible to see what are perhaps traces of the strip farming of mediaeval days.”

The Hall had been occupied throughout its history by local gentry and Lambton agents.

In the early 1900s, it was the home of Colonel Vaux and latterly by Mr Harry Bell, a builder who was the last tenant to live there.

Then the NCB acquired the Hall with a view to establish a convalescent home, but the plans came to naught and it was demolished in 1958.

Mr Smith added: “Nevertheless it has been a source of constant regret ever since – what an ideal care home it might have made today!

“The estate is surrounded by an ancient wall still so attractive a feature of the village, bordered by fine trees with a burn running through the park.

“Many will remember happy Sunday School outings, picnics and sporting events in its grounds as well as the County Show which was twice held there.”

In the 1950s the top part of the park was opened in a ceremony by Lord Luke, Member of the Countryside Alliance, as a sports field.

He presented a telegram on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh, President of the Playing Fields Association. It was to offer his congratulations on the event.

Following the official opening, a cricket ball provided by Lord Londonderry, was presented to the farmer - a Mr Greenshields - and a match took place which was overseen by the Reverend Fisk and local GP Dr Jones.

We would love your own memories of the park, or any other aspect of Sunderland history - whether it’s a chance to look back on yur favourite year, restaurant, shop or school, or some detail on your own family tree.

To tell us more of your story, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk