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Gateshead, Prince Consort Road, James Renforth Memorial




Commemorative Monument




1871 by George Burn. Monument to rower, James Renforth, who died aged 29. He was World Sculling Champion in 1868. His last race was on the River Kennebacassis in New Brunswick, Canada in August 1871 where he died due to 'congestion of the lungs'. The Canadians named a small town Renforth in his honour. The Renforth monument shows the rower dying in the arms of his friend and crew member Henry Kelly. It originally stood in Gateshead's East Cemetery where Renforth was laid to rest, but following vandalism in the 1980s it was moved into storage and then reinstated in 1992 outside the Shipley Art Gallery {2}. This extraordinary, theatrical memorial was erected to the famous local rower James Renforth, who died at the age of 29 during an international boat race on the St John regatta course on the Kennebecasis river in Canada. Local people, keen to recognise their hero, had raised over £500 to be used for a memorial, funeral expenses, and to provide for Renforth’s widow. Sculpted by George Burn of Newcastle in good quality Prudham stone, it depicts the moment of death, when Renforth was held by his colleague and friend, Harry Kelly. It is over 11 feet high and 8 feet long, and weighs about 14 tons, and consists of a 3 course basement, surmounted by a wreath-draped sarcophagus. The bay and oak wreaths represent victory, and feature medallions of James Percy and Robert Chambers (other colleagues) The basement features 3 rampant lions representing England, 7 stars to represent the American crew, and a memorial inscription on a large die.. A ribbon scroll on the sarcophagus states: ‘In the midst of life we are in death’. The memorial was clearly of great significance at the time, and though it is unusual and rather dramatic to the modern eye, it has great character and a certain earnestness to it. It is now in a prominent location adjacent to the Shipley Art Gallery, having been moved from St Edmunds Cemetery in the 1980s. Another memorial was erected at St Mary’s. MATERIALS Prudham sandstone DESIGNER George Burn (Neville Arcade, Newcastle) DATES 28/10/1872 (unveiling) 1992 (restoration) LOCAL LIST




Gateshead Council Local List X20/LL/197; Paul Usherwood, Jeremy Beach and Catherine Morris, 2000, Public Sculpture of North-East England, p 63-64; Ian Whitehead, 2002, Sporting Tyne: A History of Professional Rowing; Ian Whitehead, 2004, James Renforth of Gateshead - Champion Sculler of the World; Lynn Pearson, 2010, Played in Tyne and Wear - Charting the heritage of people at play, p 158-159

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