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My old job is history , I'm retiring; The man who brought the past to life is moving on.

Byline: LINDA RICHARDS

A HERITAGE education officer who brought history to life for thousands of Tynesiders is retiring.

In the past three years, Richard Stephenson has made history fun for around 70,000 people young and old.

The dad-of-one has dressed as Henry VIII to tell folk about the Tudors and allowed himself to be mockingly burned and hacked to death in a re-enactment of the killing of Norman Bishop William Walcher.

He's also walked for miles, reenacting an ancient ceremony of walking the boundaries of the parish of Gateshead to give children an insight into days gone by. Now Richard, 33, is leaving Gateshead Heritage@St Mary's for pastures new.

In September he takes up a teaching post at Gateshead's Bill Quay Primary School.

"The history of the North East is wonderful and Gateshead's is very colourful and varied. I have loved my time at St Mary's making history an enjoyable experience for people," said Richard, who lives in Marley Hill.

Born in Kibblesworth, near Gateshead, he is passionate about the region and has shared that passion with schoolchildren, visitors to St Mary's, WI groups, teachers and university students.

And working in the former St Mary's church, right next to the Tyne Bridge, has been a pleasure for Richard.

It is close to the spot where an historic event took place in Norman times when the Bishop of Durham was killed by a baying mob in 1080.

It also made the history books when it was hit by canon fire from Royalists in Newcastle bombarding Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarians on Gateshead's Windmill Hills in 1644.

Richard, who worked for five years as an education officer at Beamish Museum before going to St Mary's, said: "I always try to give children and adults a sense of pride in where they come from. And Gateshead has a history to be proud of."

Gateshead Council group director of community based services David Bunce said: "Richard has brought history to life for hundreds of Gateshead children.

"His knowledge about Gateshead's past is truly extraordinary and his ability to keep young people enthralled with stories and goings on in the borough is second to none.

"From the Normans to the Victorians, and everything in between, Richard has found unusual ways to make our past exciting today."

CAPTION(S):

HISTORY BUFF Richard Stephenson is leaving St Mary's Heritage Centre, in Gateshead, to become a teacher; left, Richard in Tudor and Norman guises
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 7, 2011
Words:406
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