The North East is full of art and creativity, everywhere you look there are memories of the heritage of our shared past in industry, the incredible natural surroundings that shape us as well as the voices of the present day. Although sometimes it can feel frustrating that all of the big arts and cultural events seem to be happening elsewhere, in this blog series we want to outline some of the fantastic art and creative events, landmarks, galleries and such that the North East have to offer right NOW!
This time we are sharing six stunning sculptures which are scattered throughout County Durham. Many of these sculptures commemorate an important part of County Durham’s heritage, often acting as poignant reminders of our history to locals, and new insights into the area for visitors.
Tommy is a statue of a First World War soldier by local artist Ray Lonsdale, displayed close to Seaham war memorial on Terrace Green by the seafront.
The statues official name is 1101 (or Eleven-O-One), referring to the first minute of peace as the armistice came into force at 11am on 11th November 1918, but is locally known as Tommy referring to the archetype private soldier, Tommy Atkins. The statue was originally intended to be displayed in Seaham temporarily but became a permanent fixture after a committee of residents raised £102,000 needed to buy it.
Ray Lonsdale is a talented sculptor based in the North East who creates distinctive and thought provoking works from steel. Around County Durham you can spot Ray Lonsdale’s impressive sculptures, which often represent communities of the North-East in the first half of the twentieth century. Check out this page, which offers a list of all of the Ray Lonsdale sculptures located in the North East, and a cycle route to visit them all if you feel up to it!
The Journey, Durham City Centre
The Journey situated on Millennium Square outside the Gala Theatre in Durham is a bronze sculpture depicting six monks transporting St Cuthbert’s coffin by Fenwick Lawson. The sculpture is a bronze cast of the original wooden sculpture which can be found in St Mary’s Church on Lindisfarne.
Saint Cuthbert, a Northumbrian Saxon, lived in the 7th Century on Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland where he was first Prior and then Bishop. He died in 687 on the island of the Inner Farne. A few years later, monks opened his coffin to discover that his body was still intact. This miracle was enough to demonstrate that he was a true saint.
In the late 9th Century, the Vikings invaded Lindisfarne forcing the Community to flee, carrying St Cuthbert’s precious coffin together with the Lindisfarne Gospels written ‘for God and St Cuthbert’. For many years the monks travelled around the north: to Whithorn in Scotland, then south across the Pennines to Crayke in Yorkshire. In 883 they arrived at Chester le Street and built a wooden church there to house the body of the saint. In 993 the Viking threat forced them to move again, this time to Ripon and in 993 they finally arrived in Durham, a rocky outcrop on the loop of a river. Here, according to an account by Symeon of Durham, the coffin became immoveable, a sign that this was where Cuthbert wished his body to rest permanently.
The Journey depicts this tale and shows St Cuthbert’s body being moved to the site of what is now the cathedral after monks fled from a Danish invasion. It illustrates the struggle of this movement and is a powerful representation of the founding of Durham itself.
Terris Novalis, Consett
Terris Novalis is a sculpture consisting of two measuring instruments; a theodolite and an engineer’s level, which each stand at six meters tall.
The measuring instruments are supported on animal’s feet, which are inspired by the heraldry found on shields, coats of arms and plaques. The feet are cast from originals carved by Tony Cragg and are cast in stainless steel.
The works are a visual representation of the altered landscape from moorland to industry, altered by the industrial revolution, marking where Europe’s largest steel works once stood. Locals regard this sculpture as a monument to the height of industry in the local area and its following demise.
Terris Novalis is located on the Coast-to Coast Cycle Route, just off Templetown roundabout, across the road from the back entrance to the supermarket car park and can be easily accessed for those cycling or walking. Those visiting by car must park nearby and then walk to view the sculptures. Lydgetts Junction car park is approximately a 15 minute walk away.
Air, also known as ‘The Feather’ is a cast iron feather stood on a stone plinth by Victoria Brailsford, located at Whistle Crag, on the outskirts of Middleton-in-Teesdale.
The Feather is inspired by a sense of freedom and flight and the sculpture is in keeping with the stone-walled fields which it overlooks in the heart of Teesdale.
The sculpture is located in the layby on the B2682 road to Middleton in Teesdale (DL12 0RY), beside the Middleton Teesdale entrance sign.
Little Tern, Horden
Situated on the coastal path along the Durham Heritage Coast the Little Tern Sculpture sits in Horden. The sculpture of the bird is nestled on the cliff top at Cotsford Field overlooking the North Sea. This vantage point is a great spot to take in the wonderful views across the coast and have a rest.
The Little Tern is one of Britain’s rarest sea birds, which over recent years has taken a liking to sands of the North East. Many now return annually in May from West Africa to breed on the Durham Heritage Coast. The sculpture is a lovely marker of this home for birds, and well worth taking a look at!
Brick Train, Darlington
The Brick Train is a sculpture created by David ach in 1997 to celebrate the town of Darlington’s railway heritage, and is modelled on the steam locomotive Mallard, which set a UK rail speed record of 126 miles per hour in 1938.
The train is made from red bricks and is cleverly depicted as if it has just exited a tunnel, with the billowing smoke typical of such an exit. A total of 185,000 Accrington Nori bricks were used in the impressive sculpture’s construction. It stands at 7 meters high and 29 meters long. In addition, there are 20 special ‘bat’ bricks built in at various places to encourage the nocturnal creatures to use the sculpture as their home. Local schools also donated ‘time capsules’ which were placed inside the train during it’s launch.
The sculpture is visible from the nearby A66 road, DL1 4PH. Visitors can park at the Morrisons Park shopping area and walk along the special footpaths to reach the sculpture. If you’re brave, you can climb the platform and overlook the train from above!
There you have it, six amazing sculptures to check out in County Durham. What sculptures and statues are near to where you live? Let us know any sculptures you have spotted recently and we’ll be sure to share a recommendation on our social media. Get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org