Today's Object of the Week is a statue which stands proud in a County Durham County Park. But what happened to the original?

THE Roman god of water, seen conquering a dolphin with his trident, stands on a small island in a lake at a North-East park.

The statue of Neptune, which stands in the man-made Serpentine Lake in Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, was originally made in lead by the fashionable London sculptor John Cheere.

It cost £32 12s, including carriage to Sedgefield, and is believed to be the same design as the Neptune in Durham Market Place.

But the statue which stands in the park today is not the original.

The sculpture that once stood in the 18th Century park, went missing in the 1940s and never seen again.

Divers from an Army underwater search unit scoured the depths of the Serpentine in 2000 in an effort to find it, sparking numerous theories about what happened to it.

Some say it was removed and stands in a garden in Sedgefield. Others think it was taken away by the Army.

Others believed it simply fell into the lake – but the Army’s fingertip search of the lake bed found only a shopping trolley.

A replica statue, costing £30,000, now stands on the original’s stone plinth.

The charity Friends of the Hardwick, which was set up to support the multi-million restoration of the Grade II listed parkland, replaced the statue using a £24,500 grant.

Neptune is just one of many fine features in the landscaped park, which was created in the 1750s by leading architect James Paine for wealthy estate owner John Burdon.

* Hardwick Park is open for daily exercise, but people are urged to remember to social distance and follow Government advice at all times. The café and visitor centre are closed until further notice.