A major North East tourist attraction ushered in a new era today and welcomed hundreds of visitors as it reopened for business.
Past, present and future came together as Jarrow Hall, Anglo-Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum threw open its doors to the public.
A packed launch day celebration programme saw stunning historical re-enactments, vivid storytelling and music, and combat demonstrations.
Also opened were the site’s reconstructed 7th century settlement, a farm housing rare breed animals, and a museum which highlights the life of the Venerable Bede, renowned as the father of English history.
Its star attraction is a replica of the Codex Amiatinus, the world’s earliest surviving Latin Bible, and one of only two copies of the only surviving original in existence.
An autumn craft and food fayre, which was filled with more than 30 stalls from local artists, crafts people and artisan foodmakers, was also held.
The opening of the Church Bank venue, previously known as Bede’s World, marked part of first stage redevelopment by communities’ charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN).
Andrew Watts, Chief Executive of Groundwork STAN, said: “It’s wonderful to see a site of such great historical and cultural importance open again.
“It is also fantastic that so many visitors are here to join us in this very special day, and to see them enjoying themselves so much.
“The fact that so many people have come to Jarrow Hall today shows just how much it is valued by the people of the North East.
“A lot of hard work has gone into preparing for today’s launch, and we are hugely grateful to everyone who has helped us get to this stage.
“But for Groundwork and our many supporters, this is just the start of what I believe will be an incredible journey of success for Jarrow Hall over the coming years.”
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, with responsibility for culture and leisure, added: "The opening of Jarrow Hall marks an important milestone in the redevelopment of this site.
“By working handing hand with our partner Groundwork we have been able to secure Jarrow Hall’s future as an important site for education, training and community use.
“I’d encourage people to come down to Jarrow Hall and see what is new. It is a fantastic facility that will undoubtedly go from strength to strength.”
First through the doors were Jan Lawson, 75, her grandchildren Rebecca, 10, Jack, eight, and Joshua, six, and their parents Tom Lawson and Joanne Hawke-Lawson, 37.
Mrs Lawson, a retired computer programmer, from Washington, said: “I came here many times when it was Bede’s World and I wanted to come again to take a look.
“It’s a place where all the family can come, and there’s so much to see and do that you can spend all day here. I’m very pleased it’s open again.”
Council worker Tom, 35, added: “It’s excellent to see Jarrow Hall open, as it’s such an important venue to this region.
“It’s a great place for the children to come to because there’s lots of hands-on things to do and get involved with, it’s ideal really.”
Craft fayre stallholder Deborah Alexandra-Hern, 46, from Boldon, South Tyneside, owner of specialist vintage jewellery firm Dazzle by Deborah, said: “This is a fabulous venue to bring my business to.
“The fayre has been really well organised and there’s some excellent specialist local business here.
“I’d love to come back here again, and so I hope that Groundwork make a great success of Jarrow Hall - it’s such a good attraction.”
Helping launch Jarrow Hall were the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Alan Smith, and Coun Moira Smith, and Coun Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council.
Extended Jarrow Hall Unlimited passes, which are valid until April 2018, are £15 for adults and £10 for children, and day admission also available at a specially-reduced rate and free to carers and children under four and under.
The venue will be open throughout the half-term holidays. For details on opening times and admission prices, visit www.jarrowhall.org.uk
Jarrow Hall’s opening comes a day after that of The Word, South Tyneside’s new library and digital media centre, which is expected to attract an estimated 500,000 visitors a year,.