Stadium Gates Return To St. James' Park
Written by Newcastle Utd
Newcastle United FC
The iron gates which adorned St. James' Park's between 1989 and 1999 have been unveiled as a monument at the stadium
The huge wrought iron gates which adorned St. James' Park's between 1989 and 1999 have been officially unveiled as a monument at the stadium following a donation from Newcastle United sponsors Wonga.com.
The digital finance company's donation has enabled the gates to be lifted from secluded farmland, fully restored and reintroduced to a new site on Barrack Road in Newcastle city centre after they were removed when the ground was expanded to a capacity of 52,000 at the turn of the millennium.
The gates were originally taken down and transported to farmland at Woolsington Hall in Northumberland by former Newcastle United owner Sir John Hall, with the intention of erecting them at a proposed new club training centre on the property's estate.
When planning permission was denied and the club eventually changed hands, the gates remained hidden away beneath dense undergrowth until almost two years ago, when a project involving supporters group NUFC Fans United and Sir John's Magpie Group led to discussions with club officials.
After Wonga stepped in to provide the funding required to resurrect the gates in June 2013, the gates were lifted and refurbished by Tyneside firm Just Signs and Lighting Limited and will now stand in front of the Milburn Stand as a symbol of the strong bond between the club and all supporters.
The gates were officially unveiled at 11am on Saturday, ahead of United's first home game of the 2013/14 season against West Ham United by Sir John Hall and eight year-old Junior Magpies supporters' club member Finley McGhie, who won a competition to take part in the ceremony.
They will be joined by supporters and representatives from NUFC Fans United, the Magpie Group, Newcastle United and Wonga, as well as James Douglas Lumley, who designed the gates for M Aynsley & Sons at the firm's Heber Street works, which operated close to the stadium until 1994.
Steve Hastie of NUFC Fans United, said: "This marks the culmination of almost two years of hard work and demonstrates how communication between supporters and the club can produce positive outcomes.
"From the moment the historic ground name St. James' Park was removed, we made it our aim to do something that preserved the name in the city. This monument does exactly that and we are delighted that our perseverance paid off."
Malcolm Dix, on behalf of Sir John Hall and the Magpie Group, added: "It is wonderful that after almost two years, the gates have returned to St. James' Park. When Sir John first showed them to the Magpie Group in the undergrowth at Woolsington Hall, we were determined to see them return to their rightful place.
"We have had great cooperation with NUFC Fans United, everyone at Newcastle United and their sponsors Wonga. This is an example of what can be achieved by working together and long may it continue between the club and the supporters. Sir John and the Magpie Group are delighted to have played our part."
Damian Peachey, spokesperson for Wonga, said: "It's great to see the gates reinstated at St. James' Park to restore another tradition to this great football club.
"It's been an exciting time for us working in partnership with the club, NUFC Fans United, Sir John Hall and the Magpie Group to bring the gates home. Let's hope they bring the team luck for the season ahead."
John Irving, finance director at Newcastle United, said: "We are very pleased to see the gates back at St. James' Park and, on behalf of all supporters, we extend our thanks to NUFC Fans United and the Magpie Group for their hard work in driving the project from its infancy.
"We are also delighted to see Wonga making such a contribution. It is important to the club that we not only have a sponsor which benefits the club on a commercial footing, but one which also demonstrates its commitment to working closely with fans to benefit the community. We look forward to building on our partnership."
Since announcing its four-year sponsorship of the club from the 2013/14 season in October 2012, Wonga has already restored the St. James' Park title after purchasing the stadium naming rights, as well as removing branding from the Gallowgate roof and returning it to its original state.
The Wonga Codemakers scheme, which was launched in August to provide local youngsters with the skills needed to become the next generation of internet entrepreneurs, also followed hot on the heels of the digital finance company's donation to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle's Wish Sports campaign, which is transforming grassroots sports clubs in the North East.