THE Bishop of Jarrow gave his blessing to Wearside’s proud mining heritage at a special ceremony.
Children from seven Washington primary schools were joined in a huge community gathering for an outdoor service during which the bishop, the Right Reverend Mark Bryant, blessed the schools’ mining banners.
The event was held outside the bus station in Concord, so that Bishop Mark could also bless the new mining statue, which now proudly stands there.
Created by renowned sculptor Carl Payne, the statue was erected earlier this year to symbolise the Washington coal mining community.
Pits at Springwell, Usworth, Washington, Washington Glebe, Harraton, Fatfield, North Biddick, Chaytor’s Haugh, Butney, as well as other shafts and workings, formed a vast underground web.
Every school is Washington is close to an old pit shaft and each of the seven primaries have made their own mining banners.
Wessington, Usworth Colliery, Albany, St Bede’s, Springwell, John F Kennedy and Usworth Grange all worked closely with Washington Miners and Community Heritage Group, which organised the blessing ceremony.
Les Simpson, chairman of the Heritage Group, said: “The event was very much about the children. You take a piece of coal into school and they do not know what it is.
“The event was about making sure that we do not forget the area’s mining heritage.”
Bishop Mark said: “I think this is a wonderful project and I was very grateful indeed to be invited along to be part of it.
“I was a student in the North East about 40 years ago and one of the things that was very, very strange coming back five years ago was there were no pits.
“You could travel around and there was nothing to show that thousands of people had worked underground.
“I think it is wonderful what you have here – this statue reminds people about something that was so important to the area.
“If you look at the commissions the artist has done, they tend to be footballers and celebrities.
“What is important about this sculpture is that it depicts an ordinary mining family.”
Judith Monaghan, community cohesion teacher at JFK primary, said: “The children have been fascinated during their research to learn about the pit shafts that are under the area’s schools.
“The work we have done on the readings and for the banner has been about raising their awareness of the area’s mining heritage.”