Lewis Carroll’s walrus faces lonely future after carpenter statue plan hits a snag

Elise Ronald (left) and Sylvia Smith of Friends of Mowbray Park at the location of the proposed Carpenter statue in Mowbary Park, Sunderland.
Elise Ronald (left) and Sylvia Smith of Friends of Mowbray Park at the location of the proposed Carpenter statue in Mowbary Park, Sunderland.
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PLANS to unite Sunderland’s bronze walrus with the carpenter from Lewis Carroll’s famous poem have hit a snag.

The Friends of Mowbray Park and The Winter Gardens are hoping city council officers will this week approve their planning application for a bronze carpenter statue.

Artist impression of Carpenter statue planned for Mowbray Park, Sunderland

Artist impression of Carpenter statue planned for Mowbray Park, Sunderland

But, even if it gets the green light, the walrus faces a lonely future unless the Sunderland group can come up with about £90,000 to fund his long-lost friend.

The walrus was unveiled following an overhaul of the park in 2000, at a cost of £34,000.

However, a funding shortage meant the carpenter could not join him at the time.

Now, having approached the Heritage Lottery Fund – which funded the walrus – the Friends of Mowbray Park has been told the project needs to be part of a wider educational scheme in order to qualify for more cash.

Artist impression of Carpenter statue planned for Mowbray Park, Sunderland

Artist impression of Carpenter statue planned for Mowbray Park, Sunderland

The deadline for a planning decision by Sunderland City Council is tomorrow, and the group’s chairman Sylvia Smith says they may as well see what happens as the application has been paid for.

Whatever the planning outcome, it looks as though Sylvia and the friends, who have been working on the project for the last couple of years, will be left disappointed.

“We thought we would get National Lottery funding and they turned us down,” she told the Echo.

“They urged us to go ahead with trying to get a carpenter, but they won’t provide funding just for a statue.

“It must be part of a much bigger education project.”

The group has already spent more than £2,000 on the planning application as well as drawings from sculptor Colin Wilbourn.

“We thought it might take some more time,” Sylvia said.

“We weren’t really thinking it would take this long then come to a stop. We are not terribly happy.

“We are cutting our losses unless somebody, anybody, can help.”

She added: “We are in times of austerity and we are looking at about £90,000.

“When we first started talking about it, we thought it would be £30,000 to £40,000.

“We thought it was probably achievable then, but as time has passed it’s gone up. The ground works alone are going to be £1,300.

“There are not many people that will come up with that sort of financial support.”

A spokeswoman for the Heritage Lottery Fund said that a formal application for funding had not been received.

However, in an initial telephone conversation, the friends group was told that the current idea, for the creation of a stand-alone sculpture, did not fit with funding criteria.

It was not a definite “no,” the Lottery Fund said, but the group would need to consider the people and community elements of the criteria.