Community welcome to unveiling of new Ray Lonsdale statue which pays tribute to mining heritage

Artist plan for the statue
Artist plan for the statue
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A lasting memorial to the mining heritage of Hetton will be unveiled later this month after the community rallied together to raise £51,000 needed.

Sculptor Ray Lonsdale, who created Seaham’s Tommy statue, was commissioned by community group Culture for Hetton to create a tribute the mining community that made the town what it is today.

South Hetton sculptor Ray Lonsdale

South Hetton sculptor Ray Lonsdale

The team of volunteers embarked on a major fundraiser to acquire the thousands of pounds needed to purchase the statue.

Four years later, it’s just weeks until the statue - which will show a miner and his son - will be unveiled in the town.

Alan Jackson, treasurer of Culture for Hetton, said: “The statue is suppose to be a reminder and a tribute to the men and women who built the mining community.

“They won things that everybody today takes for granted. When they first came here things were dire. Nowadays nobody would know that this was a mining community, where Eppleton Colliery was is a country park and Lyon’s Colliery is now an industrial estate.

Artist plans

Artist plans

“You wouldn’t know there had been a colliery here and that’s what we’re hoping to change with the statue.”

In an community event, which is hoped to attract more than 1,000 people, will take place on Saturday, April 27.

People will begin to gather from 10.30am where the statue will be placed on the corner where Park View meets Front Street.

Susan Waterston, one of the trustees, said: “We’ve got the minister Steven Hill from the local chapel who is going to come and dedicate the statue.

“We’ve got six schools in the area coming down. The children are going to sing.

“The older children from Hetton School are going to read the names out of some of the young boys who were killed in the mine.

“We’ve got Houghton Brass Band who will be playing a few tunes and Gresford the miner’s hymn.

“The schools are also creating time capsules and we’re going to put whatever they come up with and that’s going to be buried at the base of the plinth - for it then to be opened in 50 years time.

“We’ve got 560 dedications on the plinth, we’ll have all the families who have donated and who have supported and come to all of the charity events.

“There will be there from as far as Canada are coming to see it unveiled.

“We also have business and organisations that have given grants and donations, they’re listed.”

David Geddis, chairman of the group, added: “We want to issue an open invitation to anyone and everyone who wants to come along. There’s 20 or so former pits in the area and anyone is welcome to come along for the unveiling.”