THOUSANDS of pounds are to be spent restoring a 147-year-old statue which has been courting controversy since it was first erected.
The mounted figure of Charles Vane, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, dominates Durham City’s Market Place, but it was not always a popular choice for the site.
When a 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.
Earlier this year, when it was proposed to remove the Londonderry statue to make more room in the Market Place, local people in a two-day consultation at neighbouring St Nicholas Church voted overwhelmingly in favour of it and the neighbouring Neptune statue staying put.
Harvey Dowdy, regeneration manager for Durham City Vision, an organisation set up to examine ways of revitalising the city centre, said: “There was an overwhelming response surrounding the future of the statues. The vast majority of respondents want them to stay in the Market Place.”
Now £5,000 has been put aside to pay for a thorough examination of the Lord Londonderry statue with a view to carrying out any repairs, as part of a proposed £5m refurbishment of Durham Market Place and surrounding narrow medieval alleyways and streets.
Regeneration agency One North East is contributing £4m to the project to improve gateway to the City’s Cathedral and Castle World Heritage Site.
Ms Dowdy said: “Local people showed so much loyalty to the ‘man on the horse’ during the public consultation that Durham City Vision wants to ensure that the statue remains in tip-top condition for residents and visitors alike.”
Tony Wyatt, Urban Design Director at architects Ryder, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to explore ways of enhancing the public realm in Durham’s heart to make it more attractive and user-friendly, without compromising its historic importance. As a public space the Market Place doesn’t really work as well as it might do and we want to make it compare with other public spaces in historic cities across the UK and Europe.”
Plans to revive the historic city centre will include better lighting and signage, and shop front improvements to the Market Place and surrounding streets and alleys.