Memories of Stewart Park.
Friends of Stewart Park.
For those of us interested in Captain Cook, Stewart Park is doubly important. It is the site of Cook's birth, and the location of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, which commemorates that event. But if you mention Stewart Park to people who live in and around Middlesbrough they will tell you of many different, happy memories.
This book was devised by the Friends of the Stewart Park to collect and preserve those memories. The compiler of the book states that it is not a formal history of the Park, but a people's history, so is largely a collection of personal reminiscences.
This large format book contains 212 pages, most of them being lavishly illustrated in colour. The story of the park is told in fifteen chapters. The first chapters recount the history of the park and its links with James Cook and Henry Bolckow. It tells of the generous action of Thomas Dormand Stewart, who purchased Marton Hall and surrounding parkland in 1923 for the sum of £25,000, and then presented it to Middlesbrough Council for public use. The park was formally opened to the public in May 1928.
The first recollections in the book are from people now in their 80s, who describe the Park and its attractions shortly after it was opened. There are over 200 contributors. Their memories are arranged in a chronological sequence, so that as you read the book you progress through the evolution of the park.
Chapter 9 tells the story of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, from its humble origins in one of the park's gatehouses, to the official opening of this purpose-built museum in 1978. The museum's visitors' book shows the panoply of distinguished guests who have visited over the years, including Prince Michael of Kent, Lady Mountbatten, Sir Richard Attenborough and a host of television celebrities.
Most people reading this book will see Stewart Park in a totally different light. It certainly opened my eyes to the important role that the park has played in the social and cultural life of the town since it opened.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 43, volume 33, number 3 (2010).