Sir Robert Ropner, who died exactly 100 years ago this month, arrived in the North East as a penniless stowaway from Prussia but rose to become such a successful multi-millionaire ship-builder that he was able to present Stockton with the public park which still bears his name.

The other major gift to the area by Sir Robert and his wife Mary was the Ropner Convalescent Home in Middleton St George.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sir Robert Ropner, 1838-1924

In the 1890s, Teesside organisations including the Stockton and Thornaby District Nursing Association and the Hartlepool Hospital Governors rented Pemberton Hall in the shadow of St Laurence’s Church in Middleton St George as a place where workers injured in industrial accidents could recuperate.

Rent was £2-a-week, and there was room for 154 patients. The big firms of Teesside paid for its upkeep and, from November 1894, the workmen of Stockton and Thornaby each subscribed a farthing a week to it. A committee, including Robert, was set up to oversee their contributions.

Pemberton House belonged to the village landowner, Squire Henry Cocks, who died in 1894. In his will, he suggested that it be turned into a Cocks Memorial Home, offering long-term accommodation for the needy of the district. This, though, was against the interests of the Stockton and Thornaby workmen who came to Middleton to convalesce for a couple of weeks.

The Teesside committee wanted the house for themselves, and on February 13, 1897, Mr Ropner wrote: "I will give the necessary £2,000 to buy Pemberton House etc. at Middleton and present it for the above purpose to the towns of Stockton and Thornaby in commemoration of the 60th year of the glorious reign of our beloved Queen."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Echo memories - The Ropner Convalescent Home, Middleton St George - D02/03/04STAFFThe Ropner Convalescent Home, Middleton St George

Darlington and Stockton Times: Echo memories - The plaque on the Ropner Convalescent Home in Middleton St George, which is visible today

Pemberton House was renamed the Ropner Convalescent Home and reopened on July 3, 1897. With an extension in 1900, there was room for 70 patients. Naturally, male and female guests were strictly segregated.

Companies including British Steel, Synthetic Ammonia, Ashmore, Benson and Pease, Furness Shipbuilding and Head Wrightson subscribed to its upkeep, plus the workmen's deductions from their weekly pay packet. However, even as late as 1949, black workers were asked not to subscribe because they were not allowed to use it.

Darlington and Stockton Times: ROPNER HOME: The former Ropner Convalescent Home in Middleton-St-George. PICTURE: Stuart Boulton..

The Ropner home lasted until 1999, when it was converted into apartments and houses were built in its grounds. The £700,000 proceeds from its sale were invested in the John T Shuttleworth Ropner Memorial Fund, which is a charity that helps ill, elderly or disabled people and their carers in the Tees Valley. The charity is now administered by the County Durham Community Foundation.

Darlington and Stockton Times: A parakeet peers out at Ropner Park in Stockon-on-Tees, pictured by Susie BennettA parakeet peers out at Ropner Park in StockTon-on-Tees, pictured by Susie Bennett

ROPNER PARK in has had an unusual bird make its home in recent years: the rose-ringed parakeet. Native to Africa and India, parakeets were long popular cage birds, but they regularly escaped.

Until the late 1960s, they did not survive in the wild in Britain, but since then, starting around south London, their emerald flash and raucous calls have become more common and now there are an estimated 12,000 breeding pairs in the country.

There are noticeable flocks of them in Ropner Park and in Ward Jackson Park in Hartlepool and in Northumberland Park near Tynemouth.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Hi Chris there's a flock of around 20 in Ropner Park  they nest on the other side of the road in the church grounds, by Simon McCabeThe flock of parakeets in Ropner Park, by Simon McCabe