FEATURE: Memorial exhibition in memory of proud blacksmith + VIDEO

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THE legacy of a proud Wearside blacksmith will live on after a new memorial to him was unveiled.

George Westgarth died last year after battling lung cancer, aged 87.

Display of artwork by George Forster Westgarth at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane.

Display of artwork by George Forster Westgarth at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane.

And although his death was devastating for his family, it set the wheels in motion for a project to document much of the mining artworks he had produced during his life.

A display including many of his pieces is today on show at Easington Lane Community Access Point, opposite The Davy Lamp Pub, in Brick Garth.

Mr Westgarth’s widow Elizabeth, 85, was joined by his daughter Anne Thompson, 58, and grandsons John, 40, and Stephen, 34, as well as great-grandsons Harry, 14, and Alfie, 12.

Mrs Thompson said: “It’s a very proud day for me and the whole of my family.

Photographic exhibition at on display at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane.

Photographic exhibition at on display at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane.

“Dad always wanted his stuff to be put on display somewhere it could be appreciated and not just stuck in a cupboard.

“It wasn’t until after he died that we had this idea.

“This is just what he wanted.

“He would have been really, really proud.”

The family of artist  George Forster Westgarth looking at some of his art work now on display at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane. Picture are George's daughter Anne Thompson and her sons Stephen and John.

The family of artist George Forster Westgarth looking at some of his art work now on display at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane. Picture are George's daughter Anne Thompson and her sons Stephen and John.

Speaking about the exhibition, Mrs Thompson said: “On show we have a lot of the miners’ helmets that were collected from Eppleton Colliery.

“There are also lots of little sculptures and paintings of scenes he did underground.

“There are miniature banners, which are unique as far as I know.

“He was a very popular man. The whole community can come now because they know it’s here.”

Display of artwork by George Forster Westgarth at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane

Display of artwork by George Forster Westgarth at The Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane

Alan Jackson, of Hetton History Group, who was a friend of Mr Westgarth, said the exhibition was a fitting tribute.

“George was a fantastic character and the nice thing about the exhibition is that it shows the different jobs that were done down the mines,” he said.

“We would lose all of that if George hadn’t made the effort to make all of these structures.

“He was also a fantastic painter, as we can see.”

Pictures of the area’s past from as far back as the turn of the 20th century are included, showing how different life was for Wearsiders back then.

There are also diagrams used at the inquest into the Elemore Colliery pit explosion, on December 2, 1886, showing where a number of workers’ bodies were found. Harold Watson, chairman of Elemore Banner Group, said he was delighted with the exhibition.

“We are really grateful that we have been allowed to have this display,” he said.

“It’s wonderful and it’s unique. I don’t think there has been something in the country like this, it’s marvellous.”

Mr Westgarth’s work is also helping a charity which was close to his heart.

His 34-year-old grandson Stephen has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since his early 20s and now uses a wheelchair to get about. Now, prints of Mr Westgarth’s impressive paintings of pit scenes, miners’ helmets and Durham Cathedral are on sale, with the proceeds going towards the MS Trust.

In total, his family has generated more than £12,000 for the organisation so far.

“We just thought it was the right thing to do,” added Mrs Thompson.

“It’s an ongoing thing, which we want to continue.”

The exhibition is now open from 9am to 4pm, Mondays to Thursdays, and 9am to 2pm on Fridays.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho