A creative way to showcase history

Tom Newstead is pictured next to his tree sculpture.
Tom Newstead is pictured next to his tree sculpture.

An old tree stump at the entrance to Astley Park in Seaton Delaval has been transformed in honour of the community’s mining history.

At a meeting of Seaton Valley Council in March, county councillor Bernard Pidcock asked if members could look into doing something about the ‘eyesore’.

After officially unveiling the sculpture, Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell thanked artist Tom Newstead for his creation.

After officially unveiling the sculpture, Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell thanked artist Tom Newstead for his creation.

Following discussions, it was agreed to commission an artist to do a sculpture from the section of white willow tree.

Seaton Sluice resident Tom Newstead was appointed and he changed his mind from the original suggestion of a woodland scene to highlight the importance of coal mining to the area.

The sculpture, which includes representations of an adult and child miner, the Mary Elder collier ship that transported coal from Seaton Sluice to locations all over the world, lamps, a pit axe, winding gear and a canary, was officially unveiled on Saturday.

The area’s mining history includes the Hartley Colliery disaster, also known as the Hester Pit disaster, in January 1862. The accident resulted in the deaths of 204 men and children.

Tom said: “The sculpture was going to be something else, but I then realised the Hester Pit disaster was just about a mile-and-a-half away from Astley Park and after thinking about it, I decided that it was important to do something which reflects the history of our community.

“Coal mining is an important part of the heritage of this area and other parts of Northumberland.

“I describe this sculpture as the story of the white willow tree.

“It represents the forgotten heroes of the North East.”

Those in attendance included Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell, who cut the ribbon to officially unveil it and said he was impressed with the art piece.

A Seaton Valley Council spokesman said: “Tom’s sculpture is his interpretation of the mining history that surrounds the Seaton Delaval area and the council is delighted with the outcome.

“We hope that residents and visitors will take some time to visit the sculpture to reflect on what it represents.”