LORD Londonderry - known to generations as “the man on the horse” – has been causing controversy in Durham for 150 years.
But yesterday it was not so much the horseman as the horse which was the subject of much debate – or more specifically, the horse’s rear end.
Durham City Vision’s plans for the regeneration of the city’s Market Place triggered an outcry earlier this year when it was found they included a proposal to re-locate the famous statue of Lord Londonderry.
Yesterday the Vision’s design team attempted to demonstrate that the statue will be shown to much better advantage if moved 100 yards from its present position in the centre of the Market Place to a site close to the entrance from Silver Street, by placing a wooden horse of a similar size there.
The idea is that moving the statue will open-up views of historic building facades, turn the horse to face into the Market Place and create more space for events and market stalls.
But the downside is that pedestrians entering Durham Market Place from Silver Street will have views of the horse’s derriere.
Colin Wilkes, managing director of Durham Markets, was philosophical.
He said: “For 150 years people approaching the Market Place from Claypath have had to look at the back of the horse. In future it can be the turn of people approaching from Silver Street.
“Whichever way it is positioned, we cannot get away from the fact that it does have a rear end.”
Durham City Vision director Harvey Dowdy, said: “During the consultation we held during January, the majority of those who responded were happy with the prospect of relocating the statue so long as it remained within the Market Place itself because they were convinced of the benefits both to the statue and to the Market Place as a whole.
“We are not moving this statue out of bloody mindedness. We believe that moving it will make the Market Place considerably less cluttered and free up space for public performances.
“We believe the statue will be more prominent facing across the Market Place and down Claypath from the top of Silver Street. Unfortunately, whichever way it is facing, the horse’s rear will face the opposite direction. Our studies have shown that more people approach the Market Place from Claypath than they do from the direction of Silver Street.”
Moving the statue is part of a £5m-plus makeover of the Market Place.
The mounted figure of Charles Vane, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, dominates the Market Place and was a popular meeting place for generations of courting couples.
But when the statue was proposed, opinion was divided between those who respected his military career and others who remembered the colliery owner who sent letters threatening to evict any merchant in Seaham who supplied goods to striking miners. The electro-plated copper statue of Londonderry, portrayed at the age of 42 dressed as a hussar, was unveiled in 1861 at a ceremony attended by Benjamin Disraeli and various military detachments.