A HORSE once again occupies the splendid 18th Century stables of a Northumberland stately home.
And the horse now in residence at the National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall has a history.
The rocking horse was carved earlier this year by sculptor Tom Newstead, from nearby Seaton Sluice, as the county’s gift to Prince William and bride-to-be Kate Middleton.
It was politely declined but no matter. It is now one of the many pieces from a decade of work by Tom in what is his first major exhibition.
The display in the hall’s stables is underpinned by a maritime and mining theme – both key influences in 65-year-old Tom’s life.
His great grandfather was a master mariner from Seaton Sluice and his father was a miner at Hartley pit near Seaton Delaval.
Tom started his working life as an apprentice at a boat building business in Wallsend, followed by a spell at Swan Hunter’s shipyard.
There followed 11 years as a ship’s carpenter in the merchant navy and time as an antiques restorer before his return to his Seaton Sluice birthplace and life as a full-time artist.
Tom, who also teaches yoga, sources much of his wood from the forest floor and the natural shape often provides inspiration.
The exhibition includes carved wooden miner’s clothing and equipment, shoes ranging from football boots to high heels and a wooden loaf and bread slices.
There are ships and a range of musical instruments from harp, violin and double bass to saxophone and sitar.
He says: “I basically take old pieces of wood and bring them back to life. It has to be lying on the floor, so it’s not chopping down branches.”
The exhibition, which runs until August 9, also includes work by a line-up of local artists whose creations are housed in the stable stalls.
They are Whitley Bay fisherman Mick Smith, Seaton Sluice’s Frank Doyle, Bill Woods and Sarah Elder Smith, Linda Thompson from New Hartley and Tynemouth’s Carol Mary Howley.
The horse, engraved with the Northumberland coat of arms and Northumberland sea daisies, is named after Lord Collingwood but it won’t be taking its place in the palace.
A letter, sent to Tom from Prince William’s secretary, said: “The Prince and Miss Middleton were so touched that you should think of them in this way, but I am afraid that it will not be possible for them to accept your very generous gift.
“Your kind gesture was much appreciated and I am so sorry to send you this necessarily disappointing reply. Prince William and Miss Middleton would have me send you their best wishes and renewed thanks.”
Tom said: “I accept they can’t take everything, but it is still really disappointing.
“I’m going to auction it to raise money for Help for Heroes instead. Northumberland has a wonderful maritime and mining heritage and I wanted to reflect that in the work. It took 11 months to make.”