Village digs its own artwork by home grown artist in a tribute to its colliery past

South Hetton scultpor Ray Lonsdale with part of his latest creation that is to stand in his hiome village
South Hetton scultpor Ray Lonsdale with part of his latest creation that is to stand in his hiome village
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An artist whose emotive sculptures have won him fans from across the world is working on a piece for his home village.

Ray Lonsdale is constructing The Village Remains in his South Hetton workshop after a community campaign raised £26,000 to pay for the work.

The head is complete for The Village Remains by Ray Lonsdale.

The head is complete for The Village Remains by Ray Lonsdale.

Once complete, the life-size figure of a miner pushing a tub will be installed outside the Robin Todd Centre.

Ray, whose Tommy statue in Seaham has become internationally recognisable, said: “I was approached by some people from the village who wanted to do something to commemorate the mining history, because South Hetton as a village would not exist if it wasn’t for the pit.

“I grew up around the colliery, and then the pit was taken away, but the village remains.

“It’s looking forward, but it’s a nod to the past, so the pose is pushing the tub while the face is looking on.

We decided we wanted something for the community and so we set up this group and bring people together.

Gill Rodgers

“I will end up passing it twice a day going to and from work, but that means the pressure’s on because I will have to be happy with it.

“It’s nice to have something if your own in your home village.

“I started it on Friday and I think I should have it finished by mid-September.

“I will more or less be working just on this.”

Ray Lonsdale's sketch of what the finished piece will look like.

Ray Lonsdale's sketch of what the finished piece will look like.

The project has been headed up by South Hetton Heritage Group, with the cash to cover the cost raised through a host of events such as a sponsored bike ride and pigeon sale.

Its Gill Rodgers said: “About 14 or so months ago, we were thinking about how there had been a lot of development in the village with new houses and lots of people live here now, who didn’t know there was a colliery.

“There has been a lot of publicity about Tommy and we thought if Seaham has Tommy, why can’t we have something?

“We decided we wanted something for the community and so we set up this group and bring people together.

The late Robin Todd, who was a councillor for South Hetton.

The late Robin Todd, who was a councillor for South Hetton.

“We’ve had the support of the parish council and the community for the mining statue.”

The position of the finished piece will also help the village pay tribute to Councillor Robin Todd, who worked at Hawthorn coke works, and represented the ward on Durham County Council as well as on the parish council.

A champion of the community, he died in May last year aged 74.

Gill added: “He would be absolutely over the moon about it and his widow and children have been incredibly supportive.

“The very first event, when we raised £150, was on the day that Robin died and we talked about what would be the right thing to do and we went ahead because it is what he would have wanted.

“He died on May 23, 2015, and by that time this year, we had got in all the money. Everyone has been amazing.”

The money collected includes £1,000 donation from Barclays and £4,000 from the parish council.