STATUE of railway pioneer George Stephenson has been resurrected and unveiled in cafe bar of a university college named in his honour – to mark the 240th anniversary of his birth on Wednesday.

The wooden sculpture, created by artist Colin Wilbourn, which had been in storage for several years, now takes pride of place at Stephenson Central of Stephenson College, at Durham University.

College principal Professor Rob Lynes said: “This is the first event we have had in 15 months, where we have been able to invite guests to the college.

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“Colin Wilbourn was commissioned to create it, as one of six sculptures for the 1990 Gateshead Garden Festival. After that, they were donated to the Botanic Gardens, where they remained for many years.

“In about 2015, because one or two were starting to disintegrate, they were taken down and put into storage, where they have been for the last six years.

“I just happened to overhear that there was a sculpture of George Stephenson in a garage at the Botanic Gardens, so I went to have a look.”

He added: “It’s a wonderful sculpture carved out of an elm tree. We thought it would be a nice idea to restore him and put him in our cafe bar. And because it is his 240th anniversary today we thought we it would be a fitting way to mark that occasion.

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Pro-Vice-Chancellor Jeremy Cook unveiled the restored sculpture at a ceremony attended by Mr Wilbourn, along with students and staff.

College vice principal Lou Gildersleeve said: “It’s lovely to see the sculpture refurbished and that it has lasted this long, given it was made out of something natural."

She added: "The values that Stephenson College hold in terms of civic mindedness and community resonate with the way George Stephenson lived his life, in terms of his humble background.

"He obviously overcame a huge amount of adversity - he was still illiterate at 18 - and got through that and was still philanthropic."

Mr Wilbourn said: “The unveiling was really good. I carved it so long ago, back in 1989, along with five other figures.

“They went to the Botanic Gardens and after a few years someone told me the sculptures had gone.

“I just assumed they had all rotted away. It was a real surprise when Rob contact me and told they had the statue of George Stephensons and asked me to come and give them advice on what to do with it.

“I was quite full of trepidation, because I thought it would be in a heck of a state - but when I got there it was in very good nick.

“Obviously if you make something of wood and put it outside it;s not going to last forever.

“So its a real bonus to have it suddenly resurrected. And now that it’s inside it should stay there for many years to come."

The statue was refurbished by university staff members Dean Butler and Rob Tindale.