First look at Tommy sculptor Ray Lonsdale's plans for Sunderland's Vaux site and Riverside

The public have been given their first glimpse of three new statues planned for Sunderland’s Vaux site and riverside.

Sunderland City Council's development company has commissioned sculptor Ray Lonsdale – creator of Seaham’s iconic Tommy statue – to produce two pieces for the riverside and one for the Vaux brewery site.

The sculpture of a Vaux waggon pulled by two dray horses will form a centrepiece for the site which is being developed for high quality office accommodation, residential, retail, food and drink, hotel and leisure use.

The other two sculptures, which will be sited on footpaths overlooking the River Wear, pay tribute to Sunderland’s proud shipbuilding heritage.

The dray sculpture will be eight metres long

The first features of two shipyard workers sat side by side as they read about the impending closure of the yards, while the second is based on Ray's own recollections of his Dad taking him to see a ship being launched and shows a grandfather telling his grandson about what it was like. The life-size dray sculpture, complete with two brewery workers, will be eight metres long, while the impressive riverside sculptures will be twice life-size.

Coun Rebecca Atkinson, Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: "This is just the latest development in the exciting plans for Sunderland city centre which is undergoing a £500m transformation between now and 2030 that will deliver the step-change residents want to see in the heart of the city."The sculptures, which have been commissioned at a cost of £390,000 will be made from hollow steel and manufactured by Ray at his South Hetton workshop.

Three maquettes – miniature versions of the works – have gone on show at the Museum and Winter Gardens in Mowbray Park, where they can be viewed until October, after which they will move to the National Glass Centre until January and then The Bridges until February.

Ray Lonsdale said: "I have first hand memories of the Vaux horse-drawn drays making their deliveries. They are distinct images in my mind and that alone shows their importance in the history of Sunderland to me personally.


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The sculpture planned for the riverside, with grandfather and grandson

"The two pieces to follow on from the Dray both represent the shipbuilding of the river Wear and its loss to the City."

Two shipyard workers share their lunch in this piece
The dray sculpture will be life-size


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Ray Lonsdale in his studio