Marsden White Horse – local council under fire over revamp of landmark

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Council bosses have come under under fire after leaving residents scratching their heads over the revamp of a South Tyneside landmark.

People were stunned last week when the White Horse, which has been painted on the rocks at Marsden Craggs since  the 19th century, disappeared.

It later emerged that the landmark was being restored by South Tyneside Council – which had decided not to tell anyone about the revamp.

The painting is thought to date back to at least 1887, and has regularly been repainted and cared for by local people.

Janice Collinson, 59, from Buckingham Close, Whitburn, said:

“I saw the horse had gone, and I was very shocked. I was just sad.

“It is such an iconic symbol of South Shields and I think it is a shame the community wasn’t consulted.”

South Tyneside Council says the work is being paid for with cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund and it did not publicise it to combat potential vandalism.

The council insists the work was carried out to restore the White Horse “to its former glory”.

A spokesperson said:

“We are delighted to have been able to secure funding from Limestone Landscapes partnership – a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – to have the White Horse re-painted.

“The restoration involved the removal of the existing paint and graffiti. Work started on Monday using a needle gun to remove the paint.

“The removal of the paint was completed yesterday.

“The horse has been repainted by a qualified artist, who works as a sign-writer for South Tyneside Homes and is the same man who has repainted it in the past.

“The council didn’t want to highlight the proposed works, as this may have attracted additional graffiti, which would have delayed the restoration.”

Some residents are still concerned that the history surrounding the painting has been ignored – and have vowed to examine the new version closely to make sure it is up to standard.

Jim Robertson, 65, from Boldon Colliery, said:

“It was repainted about a year ago. In the past, the people have over-painted so you could see the layers of paint and the history of it.

“What this council seem to do very well is wipe history away like it never existed. There is now no way you can see the history behind it, as there will be just one layer of paint.

“I am disappointed. In my opinion it was totally unnecessary.

“There was no consultation about this whatsoever, and I think it has been handled very badly.

“I will be comparing photographs to see how the new one compares to the old one.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Sept 2014

By coincidence I was in the vicinity a couple of days before the story broke and, as I usually do, payed a visit to the White Horse. Work had evidently started, tools were lying around, but no-one was in attendence. To be fair, they were probably on their lunch break.

I took this photo –

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The workmen appear to have removed the black painted background and retouched the Horse, which is now white on natural limestone – not the greatest of contrasts.

This secretive revamping seems to have got a lot of backs up – I wouldn’t be particularly suprised if at some stage the black background  reappears, no doubt the work of fairies.

Of course, the Horse does change from time to time. Here’s a photo I took…well, its undated, but I think probably in the 1990s –

Marsden White Horse4

For more on the history of the Marsden White Horse, see –

http://spiritofplace.weebly.com/marsden-white-horse.html

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