The work on a huge steel sculpture paying homage to the North East’s rich mining heritage has been completed.

Ray Lonsdale, the artist behind Seaham’s iconic ‘Tommy the soldier’ statue, has teamed up with North East fabrication business Creative Ape to produce a stunning memorial for Houghton Colliery in County Durham.

The artwork will stand at five metres high and will be a centrepiece for a new public realm established on the former colliery site, which is currently being transformed into a new retail hub for the town.

The sculpture, comprising of a giant miner’s helmet, token and head torch, depicts the end of coal mining for the town, with a ‘1981’ timestamp representing the year the pit closed.

Work on the new retail hub, which will include a Tesco and a Home Bargains, is expected to complete this autumn, and the artwork is set to be officially unveiled at a launch event this summer.

The Northern Echo: The work on a huge steel sculpture paying homage to the North East’s rich mining heritage has

Mr Lonsdale, founder of Two Red Rubber Things said: “What we’ve tried to do is commemorate the pit while being sympathetic to the new developments that will now stand in its place.

“The aim is to remember the pit – through fairly rose-tinted glasses – with the hanging up of the old pit equipment, such as the helmet, torch and the token that the miners would carry on them as they went down the shaft.

“Subtle details such as the quote 'The door’s closed, left settling dust. The oiled chains dried. Then seized with rust' also features on the work as well as a nod to the year 1981, when the pit closed.

“It’s been a real case of relaying that fond past and the community spirit that was held in such high regard and is a huge miss for the area and hopefully helping to recapture a sense of that through the work.”

Sam Lonsdale, son of Ray, is the founder of steel fabrication business Creative Ape Fabrications, which is also based in South Hetton.

Creative Ape helped with the manufacture of most of the sculpture’s finer details, including the head torch, which will light up the area once complete.

The Northern Echo: Ray Lonsdale, the artist behind Seaham’s iconic ‘Tommy the soldier’ statue has created a

Sam said: “It’s been a real labour of love working on this project alongside Two Red Rubber Things.

“One of the things Creative Ape really specialises in is memorials, such as commemorative benches, sculptures and ornaments, so it has been great working on this piece of art which will strike a chord and bring a smile to so many people.

“Just from social media, we’ve been blown away by the response we’ve received from local people so far, so we can’t wait to finally see it installed and in its full glory.”

The sculpture was produced at the Two Red Rubber Things studio in South Hetton and received funding from Sunderland City Council’s Coalfield Area Committee.

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Cllr Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member at Sunderland City Council, said: “It has been great visiting Ray’s workshop in South Hetton to see the artwork which will take pride of place on the Houghton Colliery site when it opens. 

“I am delighted that Ray and Sam have been able to put this together. When we sold the land to the developer, one of the things we really wanted to do was have some artwork installed that would proudly represent the heritage of the area and I think Ray and Sam have captured that perfectly through this work.

“The feedback we’ve received not only from residents, but also from across the UK, has been fantastic and we can’t wait to see it installed on site and bring the community together for a launch event to celebrate its unveiling.

“I’m sure it will really capture the hearts of residents and become a real asset for the community.”