Geordie Lamp sculpture: Resurfacing George Stephenson’s lifesaving invention

Artist Andy Mayers and the Elected Mayor Dame Norma Redfearn DBE

A sculpture of George Stephenson’s lifesaving Geordie Lamp is to be unveiled close to Dial Cottage, his former home in North Tyneside.

His ingenious miner’s lamp was designed in 1815 to prevent explosions due to mine gases called firedamp.

Standing at 3.6 metres high, the new addition to the South Gate/ West Moor junction is made of weathering steel and designed by artist Andy Mayers.

It will be unveiled at 2pm on Wednesday 20 March by Elected Mayor of North Tyneside Dame Norma Redfearn DBE. All are welcome to attend.

The Geordie Lamp artwork celebrates one of Stephenson’s lesser-known inventions. A natural engineering genius, Stephenson worked as engine-wright at Killingworth Colliery. It was there he invented his first locomotive, Blucher, before going on to become known as the Father of the Railways.

To create the Geordie Lamp, Andy Mayers used the image of Stephenson’s lamp, with a nod to some of the design features of his famous steam engine Locomotion No 1.

It will be lit from inside, shining out from apertures all around the structure. The weathering steel will rust and develop a dramatic reddish patina over time, like the Angel of the North.

Andy said: “George Stephenson was an incredible engineer, and when you read about him he’s also an amazing character. He developed his inventions with no real formal education, he could just see how things worked, he had an instinct.

“I’m not surprised that North Tyneside is still so proud of him, and in Derbyshire we’re proud of him too. He lived here for the latter part of his life and he’s buried in Chesterfield.

“When I started researching Stephenson, the thing that shouted out to me was his miner’s lamp. He designed a safety lamp at almost exactly the same time as Sir Humphry Davy invented the Davy lamp.

“Even though Stephenson’s lamp was in some ways superior, Davy’s became the more widely-used, and there was a lot of controversy about whether one had copied from the other.

“The scientific community sided with Davy, an eminent scientist, over Stephenson, who was from a much humbler background.

“As a result, the Geordie Lamp only got used in the coalfields around Newcastle, including North Tyneside.”

Andy Mayer’s previous sculptural artworks include imposing steel tributes to commemorate the fallen of WW1 and WWII in his home county of Derbyshire.

Funding for the Geordie Lamp came as part of the conditions of planning permission for the nearby Lidl development.

Dame Norma Redfearn DBE said: “North Tyneside has a proud engineering past and George Stephenson is a powerful symbol of our heritage. The Geordie Lamp shines a light on that rich history.

“It’s an impressive and thought-provoking artwork that will bring something special to this part of West Moor.

“We have ambitious plans for the North West of the Borough, including further improvements at Killingworth Lake, better transport links, enhancement work on the Wagonways and the creation of smarter public spaces in the villages. This is an opportunity to look forward to those positive developments.”

Image of George Stephenson courtesy of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums.