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Heritage Open Days.

The rich history of Blyth Valley came alive during the borough's first heritage open days last September.

The public were given access to 15 venues, offering guided walks, concerts, exhibitions and vintage bus rides. The successful project, supported by a pounds 24,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will be followed up this year with another imaginative programme, opening up buildings like Blyth Harbour Commission offices, the 12th Century Church of Our Lady, Delaval Hall and Roberts Battery.

Gordon Smith, Blyth Local History Society archivist, was among 100 volunteers who helped run the free open days. He says: "Blyth was famous for the Bedlington Ironworks, and Italy bought railway track and its first two engines from there in 1837.

"It also has a proud shipbuilding heritage. Recorded shipbuilding in Blyth goes back to 1745 and the first aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was built in Blyth in 1914. The port of Blyth was also a major submarine base in the two World Wars and the coastal defence battery remains."

Blyth was a small fishing village until the Earl of Derwentwater, who owned the surrounding land, was executed following the 1715 Jacobite rising. Two merchants, Matthew White and Richard Ridley extended their land possessions and the modern town of Blyth developed in the 18th Century based on the coal trade.

Mark Robinson, of BVBC, says: "Blyth Valley is blessed with members of the community who have worked tirelessly for years to promote the heritage of their community.

"The Blyth Valley Heritage Network brings these local champions together and gives them a platform from which to reach as wide an audience as possible. The enthusiasm and energy of the volunteers that make up the network is both infectious and inspirational."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2007
Words:289
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