10 Best Facts about Angel of the North


The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture by Antony Gormley, located in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England.

Angel of the North is a steel sculpture of about 200 tonnes, 20 metres (66 ft) tall, with wings measuring 54 metres (177 ft) across. It is thought to be Britain’s largest sculpture and to be the largest angel sculpture in the world.

The sculpture is defined by a rusty, oxidised colour which comes from the COR-TEN weathering steel material.

Since the sculpture spread its wings in February 1988 it became as much a part of Gateshead’s identity as the Statue of Liberty is to New York.

Below, we discuss the 10 best facts about Angel of the North;

1. The original home of the Angel of the North

Hartlepool – Flickr

Construction on the Angel of the North sculpture began in July 1997 in a shed bearing the name ‘Hartlepool Erections Group’ in Hartlepool.

The sculpture was constructed in three parts: the body weighing 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons) and two wings each weighing 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons).

On 14 February 1998, the sculpture was transpired by a 48-wheel trailer to the hill at Low Eighton in Lamesley Parish. The next day morning, 15 February, the angel was lowered into position and assembled.

The spectacle of the installation attracted crowds of thousands and over 20 television crews.

2. In the image of its creator

Antony Gormley – Wikiart

The Angel of the North, like much of Gormley’s other work, is based on a cast of his own body. Sir Antony Mark David Gormley OBE RA is a world-renowned British Sculpture.

Typically, a human figure leans to adjust to the loading imposed by a gust of wind, but the statue had to withstand these forces in a static state. As a result, the connections joining the wings to the body, the strength of the ankles, and the foundations are all vital points in the design.

Because of this, the sculpture is as much a feat of engineering as a work of art.

3. It was built on top of the site of a former coal mine

A drawing of the pit head and workers of the Street Pit Team Colliery – Flickr

Angel of the North was built on land which previously contained the pit head baths of the former Team Colliery, which was in use from the 1720s until the 1960s.

In 1990 the remains of the colliery were removed and earth was piled up into a knoll which the Angel of the North now stands on.

Gormley commented on this historic connection, saying, “When you think of the mining that was done underneath the site, there is a poetic resonance. Men worked beneath the surface in the dark. Now, in the light, there is a celebration of this industry.”

4. The Angel of the North commands viewing

Angel of the North and surrounding landscape – Wikipedia

In the design brief for the Angel of the North, the designated location was described as “commanding views… for kilometres arcing through 100 degrees” with landmarks including Durham Cathedral visible.

The sculpture stands on a hill at Low Eighton in Lamesley Parish, overlooking the A1 and A167 roads and the East Coast Main Line rail route. Due to its strategic position, it is estimated that more than 1 person per second sees it, or 33 million views per year. Making it one of the most seen sculptures in the world

In addition, its sheer size and dominance over the surrounding landscape allows for an artistic impact on a large audience.

5. The Angel of the North is one of a kind

Statue of Liberty – Flickr

Many sculptures, such as the Statue of Liberty, are made of bronze, however the angel of the North required a stronger material and as a result Cor-ten steel was used in its construction.

Cor-ten is a special alloy that combines steel and copper that forms a rusty patina during the first few years of exposure.

In addition, the Angel of the North has no internal skeleton to aid with wind resistance or overall stability.

Instead, vertical parallel “ribs” run from the head to the feet of the sculpture which function as an external skeleton, breaking up the strength of oncoming wind and focusing it down to the foundations.

6. A life span of more than 100 years

Cor-ten steel on Angel of the North – Flickr

It is estimated that the Angel will last for more than 100 years and can withstand winds of more than 100 miles per hour.

The Angel of the North was designed with fabricator specified strengthened steel ribs that transmit the wind loads through to the foundations, enabling the slick angel design.

Cor-ten steel which is stronger than bronze was used. In addition, the use of Cor-ten steel lowed maintenance and protected the structure from environmental corrosion.

Beneath the ground, 700 tonnes of concrete and 32 tonnes of reinforcing steel were used in the foundations extending down 20 metres, anchoring it to the solid rock beneath.

7. The total cost of the sculpture was £800,000

British Sterling Pound – Flickr

Gateshead Council acquired funding of £800,000. £584,000 came from the Arts Council England, £150,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, £45,000 from Northern Arts, plus private sponsorship.

The whole project was delivered within the budget thanks to collective work between our engineers, the fabricator and the sculptor.

8. A flowered named after the Angel of the North

Daffodils – Flickr

There is a unique species of daffodil named the Angel of the North because of its rusty orange color and height.

The Angel of the North daffodil has been verified and registered with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) since 1999.

The first bulb created took five years to flower, with a number of small bulblets produced from the original.

9. The icon was nearly never built

The Angel of the North viewed from A1 near Lamesley – Wikipedia

Initially, a lot of people opposed the construction of the Angel of the North, resulting in the establishment of the Stop the Statue Campaign. The movement argued that the stature was a threat and danger to motorists who will be distracted by it.  

The statue also faced harsh criticism from Newspaper with now defunct Gateshead Post even ran a story comparing the Angel to a 1930s German sculpture, with the headline: “Nazi… but nice?”

Also, Gormley initially had claimed that he did not “do roundabout art”, but was inspired after visiting the proposed site of the sculpture, comparing it to a “megalithic burial chamber”.

10. The Angel on the North dressed up

Angel of the North in Newcastle shirt – Pinterest

Ahead of Newcastle’s big clash with Arsenal at Wembley, in 1998, Newcastle fans draped an enormous 30ft facsimile of Alan Shearer’s iconic No.9 shirt over the angel.

They used fishing line, golf balls and catapults to hoist the massive shirt into place.