A BENCH seat has been dedicated to the memory of a former parish council chairman and much-loved community figure.

Graham Batey, who was a former chairman of Bellingham Parish Council, died last November aged 92.

The council has now dedicated the bench, placed close to his home between Fountain Terrace and Fountain Cottage, to his memory.

Mr Batey was born and lived all his life in Bellingham, apart from when he called up for national service.

As well as serving on the parish council for many years, he also played a major role in other aspects of Bellingham life.

He took over his family's building business following the death of his father, and worked all over the North East, making J.G. Batey and Sons one of the biggest employers in the North Tyne.

During power cuts, he would send teams round with generators to save freezer contents and lent his wagon to convey Santa on his rounds through the North Tyne and Redesdale on Christmas Eve for decades.

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He was also a long-serving member of the town hall committee, spending many years as chairman.

It was Mr Batey who persuaded fellow members of the town hall committee that the wooden clock tower of the hall should be painted royal purple to match the colour of the Queen’s Rolls Royce in which she passed through the village on her way to officially open Kielder Water in 1982.

Mr Batry was also a firefighter with the Bellingham retained crew for many years.

"He truly was a great character and a great ambassador for Bellingham," said Coun. Brian Tilley.

"If a stranger came into the Rose and Crown, Graham would make a point of including him or her in the conversation, and making them feel at home."

He and his widow Helen had been married for 64 years and he also leaves son John, daughter Susan, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

His funeral was one of the biggest the village had seen in many years.