In 1993 the Gateshead Council expressed its desire to build a piece of public art on a hill overlooking the A1 road – one of the main routes through North East England. The project was awarded to the well-respected contemporary artist Antony Gormley. He designed a massive sculpture that would be an Angel but with all the physical qualities of the region and particularly reflecting the iron and steel industries that had fuelled the regional economy for centuries.
Work began on the project in 1994 resulting in a metal statue of an industrial angel. It is 20 metres (66 ft) high, with wings measuring 54 metres (177 ft) across. The wings, are at a right angle to the body but tilt slightly forward to suggest an embrace. Reports state that the project cost £800,000 – most of which was provided by National Lottery funding. The Angel was finished on 16 February 1998.
At the time it caused significant controversy and opinion was divided as to whether it was a work of genius of a fool’s folly. To explain the significance of his work, Gormley explained that it was a tribute to an industrial age that the people of Britain seemed to have forgotten. In particular, he wanted something that honoured the work of the coal miners and steel workers of the region. He expressed his hope that it would mark the transition from an industrial age to an information age. Construction of the ‘Angel’ was finished on 16 February 1998. If anything the debate about it is aesthetic value increased. It even earned itself the derogatory nickname – The Gateshead Flasher. Over the following years public opinion gradually shifted in favour of the sculpture and it is now generally recognised as one of the most extraordinary and enduring demonstrations of British public art.
- The Angel of the North was engineered to withstand winds of over 100 mph (160 km/h).
- 700 tonnes of concrete and 32 tonnes of reinforcing steel were used to create the foundations.
- It is anchored to bedrock some 20 metres below ground level.
- It is made of Corten weather-resistant steel and the red colour is actually rust that ironically protects the metal.
- Its 54 metre (175 feet) wingspan is only four metres shorter than that of a Jumbo Jet.
- It is Britain’s largest sculpture / statue
- It is the largest sculpture of an Angel anywhere in the world
- Its dimensions are said to be based on Antony Gormley’s own body.
- A 6ft 6” tall prototype of the Angel of the North was sold for £2 million at an auction held by Sotheby’s in 2008.
- A daffodil with a distinct reddish colour has registered with the Royal Horticultural Society and officially named the ‘Angel of the North Daffodil’.
- In 2014 a British supermarket giant projected the image of a loaf of bread onto the statue’s wings. People were generally unimpressed by the stunt.
- In 1998 Newcastle United fans dressed the statue in a replica of Alan Shearer’s football shirt.
- At least 90,000 people see the statue every day – most while driving.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
B6320 (Rd), Bellingham, Hexham
Northumberland, England, NE48 2JY
+44 (0)1434 220 175
- Address: Durham Road, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE9, UK
- GPS: 54.914051050912796,-1.5894757994140036
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: NE9 7TY
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Good
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Ron Ellis