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Neptune set to rise again.

Byline: Tony Henderson

NEPTUNE will soon be gazing over the waters of an historic park - but first he has to undergo a fiery rebirth.

The statue of Neptune stood on an island in the serpentine lake at the Grade II-star listed Hardwick Park near Sedgefield in County Durham until the early 1 95 0 s.

The 200-acre, 1 8th Century parkland is being restored by Durham County Council in a major project backed by pounds 4m of lottery funding. The statue was made of lead on an iron frame and rumours abound as to its fate.

One was that it was dragged off its island when the Army left and ended up in an officer's garden in the south of England. Another was that it had sunk into the silt of the bed of the serpentine as it was being floated off the island on a raft. Six years ago Army divers tested this theory but found nothing.

The Friends of Hardwick were given pounds 26,000 by the Northern Rock Foundation to commission a new bronze Neptune from artist Keith Maddison, from Elsdon in Northumberland.

To fire his clay statue of Neptune, Keith had to saw it into small pieces first - so that it fitted inside his kiln. "Each piece of clay is fired for around nine hours and shrinks by about 10%," said Jack Glendinning, chairman of the Friends.

Once the pieces are fired, Keith will take them to a small foundry in Nairn, Scotland, where moulds will be made and bronze casts of each piece will be created so that the statue can be re-assembled.

"Once all the sandblasting, cleaning and final treatments have been applied, we hope to have Neptune back in his rightful place as a focal point of the restored parkland by around May next year," said Mr Glendinning.

"Although the Army divers recovered just a single clay pigeon from the Serpentine, the exercise did produce some interesting information about Neptune's whereabouts.

"It was commonly rumoured that the Commanding Officer requisitioned the statue for his own garden, believed to be somewhere in the South-East. We don't think his name was Mainwairing."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2007
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