WARTIME and post-war life in a County Durham colliery community was recalled during an annual local history day in the village.

The Second World War for the people of Wheatley Hill, in east Durham, was portrayed in a one-off exhibition staged at Wheatley House, in the village, at the weekend (September 25).

Not only did it revive memories of how Wheatley Hill responded in the country’s hour of need, but it also helped to boost the local fundraising drive to mount a statue to mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of the village pit, in 1968.

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It is hoped £10,000 can be raised locally for the wrought-iron figure, to be titled: The Last Shift: Fifty Years Without our Pit, which will then be eligible for match-funding from other bodies.

Ray Lonsdale, the creator of the now famous statue, Tommy, a weary soldier at the end of the First World War, which has attracted much interest in Seaham, on the County Durham coast, is to be commissioned to produce the landmark piece, to be unveiled in 2018.

Margaret Hedley, chairman of Wheatley Hill History Club, which organised Saturday’s exhibition, said more than £300 was raised in donations towards the statue fund.

“There was an excellent response. It was a really bumper day and we sold more of our calendars and local history publications than at any other event.

“We had a lot of interest in our own display and in exhibits loaned by Beamish Museum and the DLI Museum for the day.”

She added that Wheatley Hill contributed greatly to the war effort, both by the coal produced underground by local miners, in what was a reserved occupation, and by the large number of villagers enlisted into military service.