WORK has begun on a memorial statue to honour men and boys killed in the pits.

A turf-cutting ceremony took place on Friday (June 20) ahead of the creation of a life-size statue of a miner, his wife and child for Esh Winning, in County Durham.

The statue will honour people who died in the collieries of Esh Winning, Waterhouses, Hedley Hill and East Hedleyhope.

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Work on the memorial is expected to take three months, followed by an unveiling ceremony.

A long-running community campaign raised £65,000 to pay for the statue.

That included donations from the County Durham Community Foundation, Esh Winning Community Association, Hargreaves, Durham Rural Community Council, the Co-operative Society and others.

Councillor John Robinson, chairman of Durham County Council, was part of Friday's event.

He said: “This will be a wonderful memorial to the local community and the families of those who worked in the mines.”

Hargreaves, a mining firm which is based in Esh Winning, is the main commercial supporter of the project.

Development director Ian Parkin said the company was honoured to be involved.

Bob Heslop, a devoted leader of the memorial group, sadly died last year, before the campaign reached fruition.