Richardson Dees is a name almost everyone who lives in Wallsend will have heard before. However, with a park and a primary school named after him, what do we actually know about Richardson Dees beyond just a name?
Over 200 years ago, in 1814, Mr Robert Richardson Dees was born in Westgate. The son of Mr Robert Dees of H.M. Customs and Miss Martha Richardson, a daughter of a local corn merchant, he lived a fascinating and respectable life spanning 95 years. Whilst Richardson Dees had a very large family, being one of ten siblings, he never had his own family, and never married, preferring to devote his life to his work and his role in the community.
In his early years, he went to school at Dr Bruce’s Percy Street Academy in Newcastle city centre, going on to study at Glasgow University. He qualified as a solicitor in 1836, and after working in London for a time, he returned to his home of Wallsend to set up his own practice. He bought Wallsend Hall and it’s estate in 1856, and upon taking residence there, he quickly rose to prominence as one of the most respected gentleman of the town. Richardson Dees was an extremely intelligent man and spanned an impressive career. Whilst being an excellent lawyer, he was also President of the Law Society in Newcastle, a long-standing member of the Literary and Philosophical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
He was incredibly passionate about his community, generously donating fourteen acres of his land in 1897 for use as a public park. The park offered the residents a welcome space of greenery, where they could socialise and exercise, away from the noise and pollution of the heavily industrial town. This was celebrated and greatly appreciated by the residents, so much so that it was named after Richardson Dees out of respect. His charitable character was further shown by the fact that he would always offer his grounds for use for local occasions and celebrations.
Whilst Wallsend Hall was his home for over fifty years, upon his death in 1908, having no children of his own, he left his estate to his nephew, Robert Irwin Dees, then Mayor of Wallsend, to carry on his kind and generous work in the community.