The Elizabeth Landmark: What’s it all about? A look at plans for the new gigantic Northumberland sculpture

Plans for a new gigantic landmark for the North East measuring 180ft – three times the height of the Angel of the North – are back up for debate.

By Ross Robertson
Friday, 28 June, 2019, 14:36
The Elizabeth Landmark

A Northumberland County Council planning committee will discuss the plans on July 2 and make a final decision on whether or not it should go ahead.

Here we look at what it’s all about:  

How the Elizabeth Landmark measures up

Who is behind the project?

The Elizabeth Landmark – which will cost around £1million - is the brainchild of Terence Kearley, the Viscount Devonport, a Northumberland aristocrat whose seat is at Ray Demesne, near Kirkwhelpington.

Artist Simon Hitchens, who was chosen to create the 56m high landmark, graduated from art school in 1990, and has worked as an artist ever since. He has experience in large public commissions, and also has work on show at North East sculpture park Cheeseburn.

 

The concept design by Simon Hitchens.

What’s it all about?

The Elizabeth Landmark is planned to honour Queen Elizabeth II (hence the name) for whom Lord Devonport has a personal admiration as the longest-reigning British monarch and “her anchoring of The Commonwealth around shared values of tolerance, respect and understanding”.

The project team say the landmark will “celebrate the unity of The Commonwealth in an increasingly fractured world”.

The viscount first had the idea 25 years ago, inspired by the Wellington or Waterloo Monument, which stands on the summit of Penielheugh, part of the Lothian Estate in Jedburgh.

Terence Kearley, Lord Devonport, at Cold Law.

What will it look like?

The 56m sculpture has been likened to a sundial, and there will be markings to note the shadows of sunrise and sunset on Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday in April.

The number of lateral fins on the side of the monument line up to Queen Elizabeth II’s age. 

The viewing area which will accompany the monument will hold information on the Commonwealth, and etched onto the floor will be the symbol of the Commonwealth.

Visitors will walk on a curving pathway from the proposed car park, featuring works relating to the history and heritage of the area produced by a community writing programme as well as by poets from around the Commonwealth.

The path will lead through the rock slot cut through the top of the hill and pass via an archway through the base of the landmark to a pathway to the hilltop viewpoint area.

 

Where will it be built?

The 180ft monument is planned for Cold Law, on the Ray Estate in Northumberland. It will be seen from the surrounding countryside, standing at 56m tall defining the height of the adjacent Cragg.

The purpose-built path will lead from a public road east of the A68.

 

What will it be made of and what’s behind the design concept?

Lord Devonport has commissioned three artists to create a proposal for the design and construction of the contemporary landmark. 

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Simon Hitchens’ winning proposal, entitled Ascendant: The Elizabeth Landmark, is made from Corten weathering steel, with a rock slot cut from the carboniferous sandstone bedrock at the site.

The form, materials and siting of the sculpture were inspired by the “rugged and undulating landscape” in which it will sit.

Made from robust weathering steel, this elevated slice of hillside “has the elegance of an aerodynamic form and references the rich history of local iron ore mining”, according to the project proposal.

Lateral fins will change in pitch, size and frequency catch the sun, creating shadows and a sense of perspective and movement.

The proposal appeals to visitors: “Take a unique walk into the Northumbrian landscape by entering Cold Law hill itself, viewing geological time as bedrock rises above you and then find respite at the hilltop shelter”.

Simon Hitchens said: “To have the opportunity to design a landmark sculpture to be placed in this raw and beautiful landscape is undoubtedly a challenge and a privilege that I wholeheartedly relish.

“The success of the sculpture will grow from a sensitivity to land and place: born in form, material and presence from the majestic geography that supports it.”

 

How will it be built?

It is anticipated that the artwork will mainly be manufactured off-site in sections by North East companies and put together on the site.

The foundations and support structure will be designed by accredited structural engineers.

The reinforced concrete beam will be supported on two buried concrete pile caps secured to rock anchors and the foot of the steel structure will rest on a buried concrete pad foundation.

 

What happens next?

 

There were some concerns over the design and location, as well as objections to the scheme, and planning committee members were divided on the merits or otherwise of the proposal.

A site visit was scheduled after the last meeting to discuss the application, and a report has been tabled including comments from the council’s tourism manager. The next meeting is due to take place on Tuesday July 2.

Council officers say while it is questionable that the landmark be a “substantially visited singular attraction”, it will be “an unusual feature and point of interest” which adds value to what the county can offer visitors and will “contribute directly to ambitions for sustained growth in our economy”.

The planning statement submitted for the project said: “It will form a part of the growing continuum of notable contemporary and historic cultural tourism sites in the region, which include: Temenos (Middlesbrough), the Angel of the North (Gateshead), Hadrian’s Wall; Kielder Art and Architecture, Northumberlandia, the Couple (Newbiggin-by-the-Sea), Alnwick Garden, and the Wellington Tower (Jedburgh).

“These landmarks are part of an historic tradition of public and private landowners who commissioned monuments that have become, with time, a cherished part of the urban and rural landscape.”