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Digging up history and heritage at Newham Grange

Restrictions are starting to ease, but you must still remember: Hands. Face. Space. Fresh air. Check the current rules.

A brand new arts and heritage project is up and running at a popular Middlesbrough leisure attraction.

Visitors young and old are being inspired to find out more about Newham Grange Farm's amazing history.

Artists Suzie Devey and Carol Newmarch have been meeting the animals on the farm and the staff who have been looking after them during the coronavirus pandemic.

They have been amazed at the local history of the farm and the wider area, with mention of the land being documented as far back as the Domesday Book.

And they're in search of stories, objects and memories of the farm that people would be willing to share as part of the Reconnecting Communities project.

They have already started to uncover relics from days gone by with the help of the volunteers who have been setting up the allotments before lockdown.

Fascinating finds include a beautifully decorated late 19th century clay pipe, apparently bearing the castle and anchor emblem of neighbouring Stockton-on-Tees.

19th century clay pipe unearthed at Newham Grange FarmCarol and Suzie are already devising creative ideas to incorporate more of the history of the farm into their artwork for all visitors to see.

Carol said: "The land has been farmed since medieval times, and you can still see evidence of medieval farming today in some areas of the farm.

"It's only been since the birth of Middlesbrough that the suburban areas have sprung up around the farm.

"It only ceased to be a working farm in 1976 when the land was cut in half by the building of the A174.

"Throughout this time, the land has been farmed by many generations of the Hopper family.

"We are really keen to share our skills and our art to create a sense of place and identity in the area surrounding the farm."

Suzie added: "We are so excited to find out about the local history of this area, but with the lockdown in place it is a challenge to reach out to community groups who may be interested in supporting this project."

Reconnecting Communities is a Great Place Tees Valley project which aims to help Tees Valley cultural destinations rebuild and strengthen connections with local communities.

Great Places Tees Valley - funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England - is a partnership involving Tees Valley Combined Authority, Teesside University and all five local authorities and local cultural organisations.

Councillor Mieka Smiles, Middlesbrough Council's Executive member for Communities & Education, said: "The farm is always a big hit with families and we can't wait to get it open again.

"But many visitors won't realise just how old it is, and how that heritage fits in with the growth of Middlesbrough and the surrounding area.

"This amazing project is already unearthing some fascinating history, and I can't wait to hear people's memories of Newham Grange down the years."

Anyone who would like to get involved with project, who as memories of the farm and the immediate area can contact farmartistsuk@gmail.com or visit the Farm Artists Facebook page