The Angel of the North celebrates its 20th year

Published: Monday 5th Feb 2018

Seen by one person every second and with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 757, the chances are even if you have never visited the Angel of the North, you are still likely to have seen it or heard about it.

This steel angel sculpture overlooking the A1 motorway in Gateshead celebrates 20 years since it was erected in 1998 next week (February 15). Controversial at the time, it has however become an iconic structure in its own right – a symbol for many Geordies that they have returned ‘home’ and a sign for visitors that their north-eastern adventure has begun.

Ten years ago, Emma from London told the BBC: “I love it, I love it, I love it… every time I drive back home to Newcastle I look out for it – it signals that I am almost home and reminds me to call my parents to tell them to get the kettle on!!”

Angel of the north

Whether you love it or hate it, the sculpture itself is certainly impressive.  It weighs 20 tonnes, is 20 metres tall, has a 54 metre wingspan, can withstand winds of 100mph and 600 tonnes of concrete was used to anchor the angel to rock 70ft below ground.

Believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world, it was designed by sculptor Antony Gormley – also famous for Quantum Cloud next to the Millennium Dome in London – and constructed by the people of the North East. Made of steel and built on a former colliery pithead, it had to be made in three parts and took five hours to be transported from Hartlepool – normally a 40-minute journey.

To celebrate its 20th birthday, Gateshead Council is running a year-long programme of events, exhibitions and workshops, entitled Angel20. It is also collecting people’s images and stories.

Many of our guests make the stop at the Angel on their way north or south after visiting Northumberland. Its proximity to Coastal Retreats’ The Old Paper Mill means it is also a popular attraction to guests holidaying there.

As Diane from Oxford told the BBC: “I saw the Angel for the first time three years’ ago. It is fabulous and a wonderful symbol to welcome you to the North. It is awesome to stand at the Angel’s feet and look up. Her wingspan is unbelievable. I understand that her foundations go down into the earth as far as she reaches up to the sky… I cannot wait to visit the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area again and I would encourage my fellow “soft” Southerners to come up North and explore. It is a beautiful area with so much to see and do.”