WORK has begun to restore a £100,000 miners’ statue after it was damaged in an attempted theft just days after it was unveiled.
Fund-raisers, many of them former pitmen, spent years gathering the cash for the bronze monument, which stands in Front Street, in Concord, Washington.
The community spoke of their shock and disgust after the statue was targeted by suspected metal thieves, who tried to saw through the legs of one of the figures, as reported in the Echo.
But now, the creator of the statue, Carl Payne, has come from his home in Stoke-On-Trent to fix the artwork, with the help of his engineering team.
Mr Payne, 42, who also created a miners’ statue which stands outside the Stadium of Light, spoke of his shock about the vandalism.
“I’ve become friends with all the fellas who are involved with this and I thought it was a joke when they told me what happened.
“But then it sank in and I just felt a bit numb.
“It’s been three years of work as well as various committee meetings to finalise the design.
“It’s one of the best statues I’ve done.”
Mr Payne and his team are now hard at work to return the statue to its original state. “We are going to repair it by welding where it was cut and then we will have to get the colour of it right, which could be difficult,” he said.
Washington North councillor John Kelly described the attempted theft as “an attack on the area”.
“There is always the potential for an attempt on something like this to be made, but we didn’t think it would be so soon after it was unveiled,” he said.
“It’s something that is representative of the area and, in a strange way, what happened has brought people together.
“It’s not just a Washington issue now, but a city-wide one.”
Special mugs with pictures of the monument are also set to go on sale soon, with the proceeds going to Washington Miners’ and Community Heritage Group.
No arrests have yet been made after the incident but police say that inquiries are ongoing into the attempted theft, which happened between 12.15am and 1.20am on Tuesday.
Those with any information should call Northumbria Police on the non-emergency 101 line ext. 69191.