A sculpture which was only meant to stay on a North seafront for three months is to be made a permanent fixture.
The nine-foot sculpture of a World War One soldier, officially called Eleven “O” One, but nicknamed Tommy by fans, was only expected to be on temporary display in Seaham, County Durham.
But after winning the hearts of hundreds of visitors to the town, it will now be exhibited permanently.
Fundraisers have managed to raise the £85,000 needed to buy the sculpture from South Hetton artist Ray Lonsdale, who created the artwork.
A Facebook page called Mission 1101 has attracted more than 4,000 members, with many pledging to support to “Tommy”, who is situated on Terrace Green.
Ray, who lives just a few miles from Seaham, already had two offers to buy the statue, but turned them down because he hopes it can be kept in Seaham.
The two offers came from a private bidder and another council.
Ray said: “Seaham is a place I’d like to see it stay. It was a big decision to make to give it to Seaham and wait for them to raise the money, as opposed to get the money now.
“However, the amount of people trying to keep him here is overwhelming.
“I’m glad the sculpture has a permanent home here in Seaham. It’s in a nice spot and it’s somewhere people can celebrate it together.”
Chairman of Mission 1101, Dave Stewart, said: “I have been completely overwhelmed by the support we have had. We have had support from local people and from visitors to the area.
“It’s been amazing that he has attracted this much interest and love.We have had donations from local businesses, help from the council, and anonymous donations from people.”
The fundraisers’ JustGiving page has now passed its target, while a message on the group’s Facebook page said yesterday: “News in from Durham County Council is that the money WILL be here in time for the deadline on the 4th August, and your committee will keep you all updated of the transfer of ownership!
“Well done everyone!”
The sculpture was designed to capture the first moments after the armistice came into force. Its loan has been timed to coincide with August 4 – the 100th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany.
Seaham Town Council initially said it had no plans to buy the piece, but has helped with the campaign to save it.
Council leader Edward Bell said the authority would help with the insurance and maintenance costs for the artwork.