“Leazes” means “meadowlands” and the tract of land on which the park is built has a history going back to the 13th century when King John gave the land to the townsmen of Newcastle to be used for grazing their cattle. The area includes Castle Leazes and the adjacent Town Moor which are also preserved as valuable green spaces in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.
In 1857, Newcastle City Council was presented with a petition signed by nearly 3,000 of the 'working men of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its vicinity' that they should be granted 'ready access to some open ground for the purpose of health and recreation'. Then began the long process of choosing the site and the design of the proposed 'people's park'. From inception to completion it was 16 years before the park was opened to the public on 23 December 1873.
The creation of Leazes Park was supported by Charles F Hammond, councillor, barrister and later alderman, MP and knight. In 1861 he proposed a vast scheme for improvement and change to the whole town moor area. John Hancock, the celebrated naturalist whose early collections formed the basis for the exhibits in the nearby Great North Museum, was first choice to design the new park; however his ideas were thought too grand for the project.
John Laing, the newly retired Steward to Lord Armstrong, also provided suggestions but the final plan, accepted by the City Council, was a compromise between Hancock and Laing's designs with modifications by Mr Fulton, the Town Surveyor, which reduced costs to an acceptable level of £2,750. In 1875 an ornamental bandstand was commissioned and this attraction proved extremely popular, drawing large crowds on Sundays to enjoy the free musical entertainment. There have been many changes to the design of the park through the years, with improvements taking place throughout its history but Leazes Park has maintained the essential character envisaged by Charles Hammond all those years ago.
More recently funding of £3.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund was secured in 2000 to restore this Grade II listed park to its original condition. The restoration project involved repairing and replacing key historical features using specialist and original suppliers whilst still meeting the needs of a modern community.
Since reopening in 2004 the number of visitors to the park continues to rise. The park has provided a platform for art exhibitions, outdoor cinema and fairs as well as being home to The Green Festival, the North East’s largest free environmental festival. In recent years the park has played host to the annual Newcastle Garden and Allotment Show, a celebration of home grown produce from around the city.
During the Covid pandemic of 2020/2021 this green space at the heart of the city has been more valuable and popular than ever and The Friends of Leazes Park remain committed to its conservation and development.