HE is Cockfield's most famous son, but the exploits of Jeremiah Dixon remain in comparative obscurity.

However, residents in the County Durham village plan to change all that with a celebration of the astronomer and surveyor's life later this summer.

A small committee of Cockfield residents is organising the event, on July 27, and hope it will help raise Dixon's profile.

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It coincides with the 250th anniversary of the start of work on his greatest project – the Mason-Dixon line.

Dixon and fellow surveyor Charles Mason famously plotted the Mason-Dixon line, the dividing point between free and slave states during the American Civil War.

After completing his work in America, Dixon, who was born in 1733, finally returned to Cockfield in 1769 and continued to work locally until his death, at 46, in 1779.

The only evidence of his link with the small Teesdale community is one sign at an entrance to the village.

Carol West, a member of the committee organising the Dixon celebration, said that was about to change.

She said a plot had been set aside outside Cockfield's Liscombe Hall where a permanent tribute to Dixon would be housed.

She said it was hoped the local school would help design a plaque for outside the hall.

The area will also include a display board with information about Dixon and two milestone markers made by Dunelm Quarry, at Staindrop, similar in style to those which can still be found dotted along the Mason-Dixon line.

Mrs West said the celebration day would be staged on the village green and feature a variety of activities.

Officials at Beamish Museum have agreed to help with some activities and Jonathan Peacock, who spent two years researching Dixon's life for this summer's exhibition at The Bowes Museum, will don period costume.

Mr Peacock said Jeremiah Dixon's life and work deserved to be more widely recognised.

“It is a pity he is not so well known in his own back yard. His experiences were so unbelievable to ordinary people.

“There cannot have been five people in the north of England who had set eyes on native Americans and yet he had worked with them,” he said.

Fundraising has begun to help cover the celebration day's costs and the next event takes place on Saturday, May 11, at Cockfield Workingmen's Club.

It will will feature a talk by a descendant of the Dixon family, George Wayman Dixon.

The Dalesiders Folk Band and guest vocalist Angela Arundel will perform music from America, Scotland, Ireland, England and France and there will be a pie and pea supper.

Tickets are £5 available from Mrs West, telephone 01388-718192.