Ornate gates return after seven-decade absence

Ornate iron gates are once again standing proudly at the entrance of Middlesbrough’s historic Avenue of Trees after a seven-decade absence.

The original gates at the site, which leads from Acklam Road to Acklam Hall, were removed as part of the Second World War effort and replaced by low-lying gates and reduced size pillars.

However, thanks to a bequest from Acklam resident Alan Hunter to the Acklam 2020 community group, of which he was treasurer, new gates have been installed, having been designed using an old photograph uncovered by members of Acklam 2020.

The image, researched by Middlesbrough Council’s conservation officer, depicts the gate prior to the war effort, including a small Talbot hunting dog from the Hustler family crest.

Marilyn Wood, secretary of Acklam 2020, said: “I feel very proud and I think it is a responsibility spending someone else’s money and doing it justice.

“Acklam Hall and the surrounding areas were Alan’s joy and he was a lifelong resident and educated at Acklam Grammar School located in Acklam Hall.

“We are so grateful for his generous bequest to the group and the residents of our area.

“It is a fitting choice of project to remember him by, as the history and ecology of the area were his passion.

“I think we have done something that is quite honourable in his memory and very appropriate.”

Work for the project, which has included raising the stone gate pillars to their original height, began late last year and is now complete.

A plaque commemorating the memory of Mr Hunter who enabled the restoration of a piece of local history was produced by one of Middlesbrough’s oldest businesses, William Lane Foundry, the plaque reads simply “Bequeathed to the people of Acklam by Alan Hunter of Acklam 2020”.

In a commitment to deliver the project with the greatest heritage sympathy possible, specialist Historic England approved masonry contractor, Classic Masonry delivered and coordinated the management of the project and sub-contracting of John Aynsley Architectural Metalwork.

Arborcut Tree Services and Billinghurst George and Partners also carried out work in connection with the project.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the gates to mark the occasion, and was attended by those involved in the works, Acklam 2020 members, Middlesbrough councillors and officers, members of the Acklam community and others with an interest in the project.

Cllr Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “This is a fantastic piece of restoration, bringing back an important part of Middlesbrough’s history which links perfectly with the restoration and opening up of Acklam Hall at the other end of the Avenue of Trees.

“I would like to commend the work of Marilyn, everyone at Acklam 2020, Middlesbrough Council officers and all the partners who have worked together to make this a reality.

“Mr Hunter was clearly a man who loved his community and his surroundings in Acklam, his generosity has given Middlesbrough a piece of its history back and I am pleased the Acklam 2020 group have ensured his name will be remembered.”