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Duchess repeats history by unveiling fountain.

Byline: Tony Henderson Reporter

ALOT of water has flowed under the bridge since the then Duchess of Northumberland unveiled a fountain at a town's newly-built church 153 years ago.

In recent decades the fountain at St Paul's Church in Whitley Bay fell into disrepair but it has now been restored.

And history came full circle as the rededicated fountain was unveiled by the current Duchess.

When Eleanor, the fourth Duchess, performed the ceremony in September 1864, life around the church would have been slowpaced and sedate.

Now the church finds itself at a main gateway to the town and facing a busy traffic intersection, with an estimated 500,000 shoppers and visitors walking past the ruinous fountain annually.

So parishioners and local councillors set about pulling together funding for the restoration. The Duchess said: "I am so pleased to have been invited to unveil the refurbished fountain which was originally dedicated by my predecessor Eleanor in September,1864."

The Duchess was also shown a silver flagon and chalice which had been presented to the church by Eleanor.

Algernon, fourth Duke of Northumberland, had donated the land for the church, engaged the architect Anthony Salvin and paid for the building costs.

The fountain was a gift "to the inhabitants of Whitley Bay" from the builders of the church, George Smith and Co. A newspaper report of the time described how the Duchess, "accompanied by a large number of ladies " walked to the fountain after the service of consecration in the church.

She was invited to drink the first cup from the fountain and remarked that it was indeed "fine water".

Six girls in white dresses stepped forward and the eldest presented the Duchess with a bouquet.

Three cheers were given for the success of the fountain and a photograph was taken of the large group. But research has failed to find a surviving copy of the picture.

Local Whitley Bay councillors Margaret Hall, Sandra Graham and John O'Shea worked to put together funding from North Tyneside Council for the restoration.

Coun Hall said: "This once popular feature of Whitley Bay has been brought back to life after years of neglect.

"It's been estimated that over 500,000 shoppers and visitors a year pass by the forgotten fountain right in the centre of the town. I'm so pleased that the refurbishment is now complete and that the Duchess agreed to unveil the fountain."

Coun Graham said: "It was a shame that the fountain had deteriorated at what is a crossroads into the town."

The work on the fountain was carried out by conservation specialists Team Force Restoration, of Blyth, which has also carried out projects at Seaton Delaval Hall, Lindisfarne Priory, Coquet Island, Marsden lime kilns and the recently-excavated Roman baths at Segedunum fort in Wallsend.

Reverend Gavin Gilchrist, incumbent at St Paul's Church, said: "External lighting has recently been installed in the grounds of St Paul's Church which has illuminated the stonework and windows of the church and significantly improved the streetscape, which is the gateway to Whitley Bay town centre. " | A ROYAL gift given to Helen, Duchess of Northumberland, for a fundraising event in 1948, has been sold for PS600 by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson and Garland.

The 19th Century Sevres porcelain pill box was given by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for sale at the fete in Lesbury in Northumberland in aid of the Red Cross.

According to the vendor, the Queen Mother presented the box to the Duchess, who was a supporter of the Red Cross, for sale at tbe fete.

The Duchess was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, from 1937 to 1964.

Helen Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, who died in 1965, was the grandmother of the present Duke.


The plaque unveiled at the fountain

Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland unveils the rededicated fountain outside St Paul's Church Chris Booth
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 23, 2017
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