FUNDRAISERS from a former pit village have almost reached the target needed for a new statue to mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of its last mine.

Residents from Wheatley Hill, in County Durham, have been trying to raise £22,500 over the last four years to commission a Ray Lonsdale statue of a miner.

They are hoping to unveil the statue on May 3 next year - exactly half a century since the closure of Wheatley Hill’s colliery.

The statue, which will be called the Last Shift, is based on a photograph taken of local miner Tot Davies in 1963, and will be put in the village cemetery.

One of their most popular fundraisers has been selling replica mining tokens, which people can keep in their homes or on a display board in the community centre.

Fundraiser Margaret Hedley said: “This has been a major achievement for a village like ours.

“This is quite a declining village and there’s a lot of people unemployed so it shows how important it is to people to raise that amount of money.

“The tokens have been really popular and people can still order them.”

The tokens can still be commissioned for £10 each and can have personalised text.