“50 Years Without Our Pit” Miner Sculpture
In 2014 the village’s Mothers Club discussed the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the colliery’s closure in May 2018.
A member of the Mother’s Club proposed erecting a “statue” to commemorate this event. This led to local organisations forming a Funding Committee called The Last Shift to raise the estimated £20,000 needed to have a sculpture fabricated by the well know artist Ray Lonsdale – he of “Seaham Tommy” fame.
The sculpture portrays a typical 1960’s Wheatley Hill miner. Additional costs associated with the foundation, setting, surround and plinth brought the overall cost of the project to just over £25,000.
Over the last 4 years, village organisers, groups, clubs and individuals have raised funds, put on shows, organised fund raising events and dug deep in order to raise the initial target figure of £10,000 with which funding organisations were approached and grant applications made. In 2017 that figure was surpassed and the community raised £14,000. The following organisations raised a further £13,000; The Sir James Knott Trust, CDCF East Durham Wind Farms Project, East Durham Area Action Partnership, Wheatley Hill Parish Council, Wheatley Hill Co -op Members, Durham Miners Association and the Freemasons of the Province of Durham Castle Eden Lodge.
The location of the sculpture, its ongoing security and insurance were issues that initially caused concern. Wheatley Hill Parish Council stepped in and offered long term assurance by allowing the sculpture to be located in the Cemetery.
The artwork itself depicts a Wheatley Hill Miner, carrying a “Powder Box” over his shoulder, working the last shift at the colliery. He is positioned with a slight turn of his head toward the now reclaimed colliery surface infrastructure and pit waste heaps.
The official unveiling of the sculpture was held on 3 May 2018 at Wheatley Hill Cemetery.