Top 5 North East Public Sculptures to Visit with Kids

Weebles South Shields

We have been wanting to compile this blog piece for a while but the weather was conspiring against us. However, even though March has been a little temperamental we decided to get out and about and start exploring some of the sculptures in the North East area. All of the works of art featured are accessible to the public with no admission fees and are easy to locate. They are all in places that can form the start of a mini-adventure or day out exploring a place or town you aren’t too familiar with.

1. Converstion Piece – Little Haven Beach – South Shields (aka The Weebles)

Conversation Piece is made up of 22 bronze figures designed by the Spanish sculptor Juan Munoz in 1999. The artwork can be found on Little Haven beach in South Shields next to the hotel of the same name and sand dunes. The locals nicknamed the bronze sculptures the ‘Weebles’ after the popular toys due to their rounded shape but there is no rocking them over as they are heavy & well planted into the paving slabs!

Parking is aplenty this area of town (charges do apply) and a lovely modern promenade forms a path for a great stroll along the coastline stopping by for fish and chips or an ice cream cone from Minchellas.

Weebles South Shields

The sculptures are arranged in small groups with their faces turned to each other as if in the middle of a private chat. There’s a few on the edge looking in which I imagine is deliberate to give a sense that some people are on the edges of the conversation. Abigail got stuck right in the middle eavesdropping on this one group which definitely mimics real life!

Weebles South Shields

Munoz worked a lot in paper mache and although these sculptures are bronze you can see the influence in the folds of the metal work. The sculptures are not shiny & perfect and their rough texture works so well in the backdrop of the sand dunes and the blue of the North Sea.

Weebles South Shields

The sculptures are 1.5 metres high so now I know how tall Imogen is!

Weebles South Shields

2. Cramlington Spoon (Eat for England) – Northumberland

Now this one is a little bit more of an adventure to find and possibly not one for those with prams or anyone with mobility issues, but definitely worth checking out. Right in the middle of the Cramlington countryside you will find a spoon created by Bob Budd in 2001 as part of a lottery funded art trail. At 4.5 metres high the spoon provides a fun backdrop for some photos!

Cramlington Spoon - Eat for England

We parked up at the pub The Bay Horse Inn and walked through the underpass by the bus shelter opposite to reach the end of the track. As you can see it was a muddy path!

Cramlington Spoon - Eat for England
Cramlington Spoon - Eat for England

Reaching the spoon felt like a real achievement and I loved the fact it wasn’t in an obvious place! It definitely added to the adventure.

Cramlington Spoon - Eat for England
Cramlington Spoon - Eat for England

You have to love a bit of forced perspective!

3. Angel of the North – Gateshead

Not sure we could have compiled this list without a nod to the Angel of the North arguably the most iconic & well know sculpture in the North East. Designed by Antony Gormley in 1998 it was met with some controversy (mainly over the costs!) but it soon became an eye-catching gateway to Gateshead when you arrive from the A1.

Angel of the North

The Angel is pretty easy to find with directions from the A1 to the designated free car park. On the Sunday we visited there was an ice cream & coffee van in situ and a fair few people visiting.

Angel of the North

The girls had the most fun at this sculpture as the feet of the angel are perfectly shaped and slippy enough to be a make shift slide! I think you don’t get a sense of how large it actually is until you visit up close. How the jokers at Christmas managed to get that Santa hat on is a scary thought!

Angel of the North
Angel of the North
Angel of the North

4. Terra Novalis – Consett – County Durham

This was a sculpture we were totally unfamiliar with & there was little to explain who it was by or what it was at the site (which lies on the Coast to Coast cycle path). After doing a little internet research we found it was sculpted by Tony Cragg, installed in 1996 as part of the national Sustrans cycle paths and actually won the Turner Prize.

Terra Novalis - Consett

You can find Nerra Novalis nestled on the moor above Consett in the Derwent Valley. The sculpture is the site of the former Consett steel works which provided an income for people in the area for 150 years. The artwork is a giant theodolite symbolizing the instrument the surveyors used to construct the plant & to demolish it after it had closed. The legs made up of birds & animals suggest medieval heraldry & history.

Terra Novalis - Consett
Terra Novalis - Consett
Terra Novalis - Consett

We loved the detail in this sculpture and thought the story behind the art work was really interesting to make you think about the past and the decline of heavy industries in the North East.

Terra Novalis - Consett
Terra Novalis - Consett
Terra Novalis - Consett
Terra Novalis - Consett

5. Eleven ‘o One (aka Tommy) – Seaham – County Durham

We might be cheating a little by popping two sculptures into our last entry but they are both by the same artist Ray Lonsdale a local artist from Bishop Auckland. His work is distinctive, emotive and beautifully made and we are big fans of “Freddie” another sculpture of his which depects an old man on a bench on Scarborough’s North Bay.

First up is Eleven ‘o one (known locally as Tommy) a depiction of a world war one soldier sitting on a box of ammunition. The sculpture was originally placed on Seaham sea front as part of a temporary exhibition in 2014 but a subsequent fundraising campaign bought him outright so he will remain here for generations to enjoy.

Tommy statue at Seaham
Tommy statue at Seaham

The knitted poppies were added on with magnets in November 2018 to recognise 100 years since the end of World War 1 by a local knitter! I think they look brilliant.

Tommy statue at Seaham

On the back of Tommy is a poem which was written by the sculptor.

Tommy statue at Seaham
Tommy statue at Seaham

Rememberance Tribute nearby on railings.

While your here it is also worth having a look at the Poppies on the seafront Railings. Easily overlooked as it is tucked behind the parked cars.

Tommy statue at Seaham

It was quite touching to see that a possible relative has added this photograph to the poppy. This made the installation more real as to a visitor, we don’t know much more than their names.

Tommy statue at Seaham

Emily Wilding Davison – Morpeth

Our bonus Ray Lonsdale sculpture can be found in Carlisle Park in the market town of Morpeth. This is the newest North East sculpture in the list as was installed in September 2018 marking 100 years since some women were given the vote. It’s great to see a local feminist woman ahead of her time represented in such a way.

Emily Wilding Davison

Davison was a prominent suffragette and is buried in a local churchyard after she sadly lost her life jumping in front of the King’s horse in 1913. She suffered a great deal at the hands of the state for her protests and the sculpture depicts her tipping food from the bowl to represent the many force feeds she endured.

Emily Wilding Davison
Emily Wilding Davison

The plaque notes that she knew a tube force feeding her would come but that only ‘strengthened her conviction’. Wow, I can only imagine how brave she was and how scary this must have been.

Emily Wilding Davison

Carlisle Park is a brilliant spot for kids and just next to the sculpture is a aviary of rescued birds. Further into the park the paddling pool is a great hit on a summers day.

English Heritage Week

We hope we have inspired you to take a trip to some of the modern public works of art in our North East towns and cities. We could have made this list even longer but thought these represented the diversity of both the different styles of sculpture and the diverse locations. All of the sculptures have somethings in common though in that kids love to pose on them and they get you to think & understand a little more about the world around us.

This week (31st March – 7th April) marks English Tourism week, so we hope we have inspired you to get out and explore our region.

For more North East Top 5’s see more from the list below.
New Girl in Toon – Top 5 North East Walks
Big Stevie Cool – Top 5 Castles in Northumberland
Katie Jane Online – Top 5 Park Runs in the North East
North East Family Fun – 5 North East Family Picnic Spots
Nomipalony – 5 Child Friendly North East Cafes

3 Comments

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  1. How on earth have I never noticed the Weebles? I definitely need to go and visit them next time we’re in South Shields, quite fancy seeing the giant spoon as well! I’ve never really stopped and thought about how many sculptures we have in the North East so this has been a great inspiring read – looking forward to going and finding some for ourselves!

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