Pupils from Northallerton came face-to-face with a sculpture being created for the town’s multi-million pound Treadmills development.
The children from Mill Hill School visited the studios of Ray Lonsdale in County Durham to check on the progress of the ‘Ballad of Sophia’, which will be installed once the artwork is completed next month (July).
The eight-foot-high sculpture depicts the youngest female inmate ever incarcerated in Northallerton’s former prison with a warden. The prison site has now been converted into a retail, business, education and leisure destination.
The renowned steel sculpture artist showed the children and North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for art and culture, Cllr Simon Myers, how work on the statue is progressing. It depicts 11-year-old Sophia Constable, who was sentenced to three weeks of hard labour followed by four years in a reformatory for stealing a loaf of bread from a shop.
Cllr Myers said:
To have a piece of public art by such a celebrated artist as part of our Treadmills development is amazing. We hope it will encourage visitors to our district and l be a fitting way to remember the former prison.
Sophia’s story is fascinating and will put Northallerton firmly on the map for visitors, tourists and anyone interested in art and heritage.
The two-figured sculpture, which is one-and-a-half times life-sized, will be the focal point for Treadmills – and will be visible from the town’s High Street. Costing £85,000, the statue is being funded by North Yorkshire Council and Historic England’s cultural programme as part of the Northallerton High Street Heritage Action Zone.
Mr Lonsdale has already been responsible for a series of striking artworks across the North of England, including Tommy, a sculpture of a war-weary soldier which was installed on the promenade at Seaham Harbour in 2014.
Angela Jones, a teacher at Mill Hill School, said:
This was a truly inspirational visit for our children. Their interest and questions reflected how impressed they were by the stunning sculpture they saw.
Ray made us feel so welcome. It was a great day! We very much look forward to seeing the Northallerton sculpture resplendent on the Treadmills site.
The Treadmills scheme has been delivered by the Central Northallerton Development Company Ltd (CNDCL), a joint venture between North Yorkshire Council and a leading Yorkshire developer, the Wykeland Group.
The development features an Everyman cinema, which opened last month (May), as well as the digital innovation centre, C4DI (Centre for Digital Innovation), Lidl and Iceland stores, a pilates studio, a kitchen showroom, restaurants and a bistro and the educational facility, Campus@Northallerton (C@N).
The development has also been supported by the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which secured investment of £1.8 million from the Government’s Local Growth Fund for the redevelopment and fit-out of C4DI.
A further £725,000 was secured from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for C@N – the first further and higher education facility in the area with two education providers, the University of Sunderland and York College.