Angel of the North

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Angel of the North

Durham Rd, Low Eighton, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE9 6AA
Tel n/a
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Entry Price Free
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Trip Advisor Rating 4/5

The Angel of the North was created by internationally renowned sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley after being commissioned by Gateshead Council. The aim was to create a landmark public art work for the North East of England. Work began on the sculpture in 1997 after years of fundraising and it took twenty people six months to complete. The Angel is now seen by more than one person every second, 90,000 a day and 33 million annually.

Although perhaps not a site of history as of yet, the Angel of the North is a landmark that I drive past regularly on my travels between home in Yorkshire and university in Newcastle. It is presented as the symbol of the North East and so when bringing my sister for a weekend trip it was somewhere we had to go.

“Why an angel? The only response I can give is that no one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them.” – Sir Antony Gormley

The sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley said that the sculpture has three functions. The first is historic; to remind us that coal minors worked on this site for two hundred years. Second is to grasp hold of the future expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, although now this also seems a thing of the past. Finally, he said it was to be a focus for our hopes and fears.

So looking at the historic function of the Angel, a long lasting reminder of the minors who worked here. The Team Colliery was established on this site in 1726 and remained working until 1973. However, Gateshead Council note that mining here started even before that, back into the 1500s.

Durham Mining Museum lists various statistics for the Team Colliery, also known as the Ravensworth Ann Colliery. At its maximum in 1950, the Colliery employed 1,345 people. There is only one recorded disaster at the Colliery, when an explosion took the lives of sixteen miners in December 1757. However, the Mining Museum website has details of other fatalities at the Colliery.

The Angel sculpture is held in place using eight reinforced concrete piles in holes dug 33 metres beneath the surface. The piles travel through the coal seams below the site and have filled them with sand and cement. The sculpture is therefore permanently connected to the coal mines it is there to commemorate.