A flagship council development on a former prison site looks set to feature a celebrated artist's sculpture of an impoverished 11-year-old girl jailed for stealing a loaf of bread.

Hambleton District Council's cabinet will on Tuesday consider commissioning Ray Lonsdale, whose works include the soldier Tommy at Seaham and The Smuggler's Apprentice in Scarborough, to deliver a £105,000 public art scheme at its Treadmills development in Northallerton.

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If approved the sculpture will be among the final additions to the mixed use development, which features shops, restaurants, a cinema, flats and a tech hub, on the site of the prison which housed convicts between 1788 and 2013.

After the authority bought the site in 2015 and a public consultation over how the town centre site could best be used, an ambition to establish a heritage arts trail was pushed forward with funding by Historic England and the Arts Council.

Several artists were invited to prepare proposals for an artwork and the Treadmills management team concluded Mr Lonsdale's concept of a one-and-a-half life size statue of Victorian girl Sophia Constable, of Whitby would provide the most impact.

The Northern Echo: The former Victorian prison pictured last year during its development Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTThe former Victorian prison pictured last year during its development Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

She was jailed there for three weeks in 1873 and then spent four years in a reformatory school for obtaining, by false pretences, a threepenny loaf of bread from a shop in Church Street, Whitby, despite telling magistrates the crime had been motivated by hunger.

Funding of £67,240 has already been secured towards the statue. If funding applications to the Henry Moore Foundation and the Arts Council are unsuccessful, councillors will be asked to agree funding the remaining £37,760 to enable the scheme to progress.

The meeting will also see councillors consider approving a £50,000 grant for Imaginosity, an arts scheme run at Mill Hill primary school in Northallerton, which the authority believes has the potential to be launched at schools in the district and lead to a further public artwork at Treadmills.

Imaginosity, for which match funding has already been secured, has included a number of projects which has seen pupils visit care homes and help residents to make flowers to weekly creative challenges.

The next phase of the project is for the pupils to work with artists to explore ideas about connecting with their community.

An officer's report to the meeting states the development of public art at Treadmills would support the council’s priority of driving economic vitality; specifically supporting the development of Northallerton as a vibrant market town through work to strengthen and revive the town’s heritage.

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It reads: "Both projects have, or are, being developed to add value to the community as part of the redevelopment of the former prison site.

"Using the media of arts and culture the focus is on connecting people with their locality and heritage, to inspire young people and to encourage community cohesion.

"These projects link to the council’s priorities for enhancing health and wellbeing, through the delivery of creative projects that contribute to improving the mental and physical wellbeing of people, and also the special place to live priority through community engagement and public art installations."


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