The birth and regeneration of
In 1890, Stockton Council had identified the need for a public park in the town. They had identified a site at Hartburn Fields but they could not find the finance.
The news of this problem reached the wife of Major Robert Ropner. She persuaded her husband to pay for this piece of land and to offer it to the people of Stockton. He agreed and this gift was accepted by the Park Committee in June 1890 with the proviso that the local council would lay it out tastefully and keep it for ever. Just over 3 years later, on 4th October 1893, the park was officially opened by the then Duke & Duchess of York .
The first sod was cut by Mrs. Ropner on 25th. July 1891. She was presesnted with a “magnificent large silver spade with an ebonised shaft.”
Major Ropner was awarded the freedom of the borough on Thursday 5th. February 1891.
Aided by a heritage lottery fund grant of over £2.65m. Stockton Council have been able to restore the park to what it was originally, a typical Victorian park
The lake has been drained and restored, and the fountain is now in working order. A new bandstand has been built to a design recognisable the world over. An adventure playground is enjoyed by families and tennis courts are in place for the energetic. Nearby is a new pavilion which houses the cafe, which is run by the Friends of Ropner Park and is open every day.
The new, restored Ropner Park has proved to be very popular, having something to please visitors of all ages.
Apart from the first complete lockdown in 2020, the Ropner Park cafe was open. Initially there was no seating inside, but the cafe staff arranged outside seating arrangements. People quickly realised that they had somewhere pleasant to visit and even in the worst weather there was a constant stream of visitors. At this time many people found Ropner Park for the first time and they are continuing to return regularly.
Stockton Council regard Ropner Park as showpiece for the borough. The flower beds are kept to a very high standard while the Friends of Ropner park and other organisations provide entertainments, especially in the summer months.
Sir Robert Ropner
Colonel Sir Robert Ropner Bt., M.P., V.D., J.P., was the son of John Henry Ropner of Magdeburg, Prussia. As a child in Germany the young Robert avidly read books about the sea and seafaring, these fed his dreams of ocean travel, even though he had never seen the sea. His dreams were however to be shattered; after travelling to Hamburg and stowing away on a British ship the young Robert Ropner suffered through a rough journey to West Hartlepool in the North East of England, this put paid to all his ideas of a life at sea.
He settled in England, finding a job and a wife. As an ambitious young man working for a firm of coal exporters, he very soon understood that if he and his partners where to make any real money they needed to own their own ships. In 1868 the ‘Amy’ was built by a local shipyard the first of a growing fleet. Ropner used his German origins to build the business by trading with ports around the Baltic.
The Ropner Family
The Friends of Ropner Park have been in contact with the Ropner Family since FoRP was formed.
Sir John Ropner became their patron and continued in that role until he died after a short illness in February 2016.
His son Sir Henry Ropner has taken over the role of patron and visited Ropner Park in September 2016.
The Ropner Family have restored and nurtured the Arboretum at Thorpe Perrow near Bedale and live in a splendid house within the grounds.
Sir Henry Ropner is pictured in Ropner Park with Vicki, June and Barbara, volunteer members of the Friends of Ropner Park committee.