Last time out we went to Cheeseburn Sculpture Park in June, I must have been excited to get it done as I completely missed out a couple of other outings that Sophie and I went on in May, so I’m going to be chronologically challenged. No matter, it’s all time travel anyway. 🙂
SO, Seaham. It’s a coastal town, once named Seaham Harbour. It’s been around a fair long while and has one of the 20 oldest surviving churches in England. Back in the day (1815) it was a rural agricultural community, but somehow a local landlords daughter, Anne Isabella Milbanke, managed to catch herself a beau by the name of Lord Byron and got married to him in Seaham Hall on Jan 2nd, 1815. Now Anne was a bit of a puritan and Lord Byron was a bit of a hmmm, what word to choose for him?… rascal? anyways, he was amoral and agnostic and she a god fearing girl. No surprise the marriage disintegrated and they legally separated in 1816, on the grounds of his having sex with various men, women, his half-sister and for sodomising his Missis. Before that ignominius ending they had a daughter, Ada Lovelace, who became a famous mathematician and invented the first computer algorithm. Byron was bored in Seaham and wrote to one of his pals “Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales. But I saw the sea once more in all the glories of surf and foam.` He skedaddled out of the country a month after Ada was born. It’s worth noting, for Seahams sake more than mine, that Lord Byron, apart from being a cad, (fab word that!) was a British nobleman, poet, peer, politician, and leading figure in the Romantic movement. He was good pals with Percy Shelley, another great British poet and his Missis, Mary, who outdid both of them when she wrote Frankenstein IMHO.
Seaham, strangely, has been in the movies, it was featured in “Billy Elliot”, and (I kid you not) “Alien 3”.
Of course, it was also a mining town and had it’s share of mining disasters as we found when reading the gravestones in the church.
Well let’s crack on with some pictures,
First, we went down to the harbour
Seaham has had a lifefboat station since 1870, and though closed down in 1979, the station was renovated in 2012 and now houses one of Seaham’s historic lifeboats, the George Elmy. In November 1962 the Elmy and her crew went out in appaling weather conditions to rescue a missing fishing boat. They found her and after three attempts they miraculously rescued four men and a nine year old boy. On the return journey they battled against mountainous seas in an heroic effort to return to port, but at 5.20 pm, just yards from the harbour entrance they were overwhelmed by gigantic waves and capsized with the loss of the entire crew and all but one of the people that they had so bravely rescued from the fishing boat. The George Elmy was a right old mess of a wreck, and although the people of Seaham didn’t know what happened to her after that, she was carted off, extensively repaired, and returned to service with the RNLI, ending up in Dorset where she did a great job and was finally decommissioned in 1972 where she shuffled off into obscurity. Then, in 2009, one of the Seaham Heritage group members spotted her for sale on Ebay She had been converted into a fishing vessel and was laid up in Holyhead neglected and forlorn. Of course this story has a happy ending, the heritage group bought her and restored her to her former glory’. I just LOVE happy endings!
Ray Lonsdale is a local sculptor and is becoming quite famous. Originally a steel fabricator, he now works in steel to pursue his passion for sculpture. He has 2 statues in Seaham, we found the latest down by the marina, called The Coxwain.
It was commissioned by the town’s East Durham Heritage Group and Lifeboat Centre who spent months raising the £24,000 needed to fund the piece, made to honour the sacrifices made by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution crew and staff who worked at the Seaham Harbour station between its opening in 1870 and its closure in 1979.
Ray’s first statue for Seaham is known as ‘Tommy’ a 1st WW soldier representing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which many of the returning soldiers endured.
People leave memorial tokens to their WW1 relatives on the statue.
Seaham did seem to be a bit statue potty bearing in mind it’s only a small town, but all good for photographing.
Of course someone had to do a statue of Lord Byron and Anne Milbanke, and it’s situated just outside Byron Place Shopping Centre.
Created by local artist David Gross they are supposed to be dancing at their wedding. Mr Gross said ‘the figures are facing different directions in reference to their brief relationship‘. At least they are together forever in Seaham. In wood.
Lastly there is a statue to the mining community, entitled The Brothers. Created by Brian Brown, who previously worked at Silksworth pit, and unveiled in 2011. Celebrating Seaham’s mining heritage, the sculpture of 3 miners represents the 3 mines of Seaham: Seaham Colliery, Dawdon Colliery and Vane Tempest.
that’s enough for part 1 I think, stay tooned for part 2, bet ya can’t wait.
all pictures can be clicked on to embiggen them where they look even more glorious if that were possib;e (it is, try it 😀 )
further interesting reading if you are a geek like me
Missis Lord Byron is also a very interesting lady.