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Angel of the North

The Angel of the North
The Angel of the North ©Stephen - stock.adobe.com
If you're travelling past Gateshead, whether by car on the A1 motorway or by train on the East Coast Main Line, you can't miss the Angel of the North.

At 20 metres tall, with a 54-metre wingspan and weighing 200 tonnes, the Angel is Britain's largest sculpture and towers over the Team Valley from its hilltop site.

Angel Of The North
Angel Of The North ©dan - stock.adobe.com
In 1994 Gateshead Council chose Turner prize-winning artist Antony Gormley OBE to produce a landmark sculpture as a symbol for Tyneside.

Funding was secured in 1996, and the giant contemporary sculpture was erected on-site on 15th February 1998.

Engineering and Installation

The Angel of the North is as much a feat of engineering as a work of art.

The sculpture has a greater wingspan than a Boeing 757 and has to be able to withstand winds of over 100mph in its exposed location.

This required a complex construction with an internal 'skeleton' and sheet steel of varying thickness.

Structural engineers from Ove Arup & Partners worked on the engineering of the project to make sure the relatively slender body can withstand the enormous forces generated by gale-force winds.

The Angel is made from 3,153 individual steel pieces and was constructed by Hartlepool Steel Fabrications Ltd, taking a team of 20 people working for 6 months.

700 tonnes of concrete and 32 tonnes of steel were used to create foundations that anchor the sculpture to the solid rock 20 metres below.

Angel of the North
Angel of the North ©David - stock.adobe.com
Created in three parts - the body weighing 100 tonnes, and two wings weighing 50 tonnes each, the Angel was transported on three huge lorries, before being assembled on site.

The wings are not flat - but are angled 3.5 degrees forward, which Gormley says was to create "a sense of embrace".

Angel of the North
Angel of the North ©Victor Keech - stock.adobe.com

How was the Angel of the North Funded?

The Angel of the North cost a total of £800,000.  This was funded by:

  • £584,000 from National Lottery via Arts Council England
  • £150,000 from the European Regional Development Fund
  • £ 45,000 from Northern Arts
  • £ 21,000 from private sponsorship


The cost was controversial in a relatively deprived area of Britain, but as time has passed, Antony Gormley's Angel has become a landmark work of public art much-loved by local residents and a symbol of pride for the North East of England.

Man and his dog
Man and his dog ©laurent dambies - stock.adobe.com


Although the Angel of the North can be seen from miles around, you have to visit the site itself and stand at the feet of the giant to truly appreciate the scale and majesty of this most recognisable of England's landmarks.

Angel Of The North
Angel Of The North ©dan - stock.adobe.com
Visiting by car is easy:  The postcode for parking is NE9 7TY so just put that in your satnav.

There are 26 parking spaces plus four disabled bays.  Parking is free but can get busy at peak times.

Sculptor Antony Gormley has created one of the most recognisable pieces of art in England that is seen and enjoyed by tens of thousands of people every day.

© Darren Price via Flickr

10 Interesting Angel of the North Facts

  1. The Angel of the North is believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world.
  2. The Angel was designed and engineered to cope with wind speeds up to 100 miles per hour (160 kph), so despite its wings, it's in no danger of taking off!
  3. The statue is 20 metres (65 feet) in height and has a wingspan of 54 metres (175 feet). That's higher than 4 double-decker buses and nearly the same wingspan as a Jumbo Jet!
  4. The Angel was built on top of an old coal mine.
  5. The statue cost £800,000
  6. The concrete foundations are 20 metres deep and weigh 150 tonnes.
  7. The Angel weighs 200 tonnes.  The body weighs 100 tonnes and each wing weighs 50 tonnes.
  8. The steel sculpture is bolted to its foundations with 52 three-metre bolts, and 136 bolts hold the wings to the body.
  9. It's estimated the Angel is seen by 33 million people each year - that's 90,000 per day, or one person every second!
  10. The wings are angled forward by 3.5 degrees which, according to the artist, was to create "a sense of embrace".

© Alex Dixon via Flickr

Angel of the North FAQ

Q.  Can you go inside the Angel of the North?

A.  No the sculpture was not designed to make access possible.


Q. When was the Angel of the North built?

A. Construction of the statue off-site began in July 1997 and work on the foundations started in September 1997.  The Angel was installed on 15th February 1998

© Dominic Wade via Flickr

Q. Does the Angel of the North have a nickname?

A. Two nicknames actually - it's known locally either as "Rusty Rita" or "The Gateshead Flasher".


Q. What is the meaning of the Angel of the North?

A. According to the artist Antony Gormley:  "The angel has three functions - firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years, secondly to grasp hold of the future, expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears - a sculpture is an evolving thing."

© Peter M via Flickr

Q. How old is the Angel of the North?

A. The Angel of the North is more than 20 years old - it was installed on 15th February 1998.


Q. Why is the Angel of the North Rusty?

A. Statues are often cast in bronze, but that would not have been strong enough to withstand the wind loads on this exposed site.

Steel was chosen instead, but continually re-painting it, or using stainless steel would have been too expensive.

For that reason Cor-ten steel (an alloy of steel and copper) was used.  This material develops a rusty patina which protects the structure from further corrosion and provides an attractive finish that requires very little maintenance.

© Roger Ormston via Flickr

Q. Is the Angel of the North in Newcastle?

A. No, it's in nearby Gateshead.


Q. What gender is the Angel of the North?

A. There are no obvious male or female features, so you can imagine whichever gender you like.  However, Antony Gormley, the artist who created the sculpture, designed the body of the Angel as a scaled-up version of a cast of his own body, so perhaps it's male.

Q. Is the Angel of the North lit up at night?

A. No.  Although it has been lit for special occasions such as its installation in 1998 and on its 10th birthday.


Q. Why is the Angel of the North Famous?

A. Probably because it's seen by so many people.  It's estimated that 90,000 people see the statue every day making it one of the most famous artworks ever produced.  It's also become a much-loved symbol of the regeneration of the Gateshead area.

© Timothy Cranshaw via Flickr

Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley OBE was born in 1950 and is a well-known British artist with public works in the USA, Australia, Japan and Norway.

He won the Turner Prize in 1994 and has exhibited in the Tate Gallery, the V&A Museum and the British Museum.

Many of Antony Gormley's sculptures explore the relationship of the human form to space and tackle fundamental questions about how human beings relate to nature and the universe.

© Werner Wittersheim via Flickr

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From the North:

Heading South on the A1 continue past Newcastle and Gateshead. Take the slip road marked Wrekenton and Birtley. At the roundabout, take A167 exitsigned Gateshead South. After a few hundred yards the Angel site is a few hundred yards along this road on the left. Parking is available nearby.

From Central Gateshead:

Heading South on the A167, travel through Low Fell and continue south until you reach the roundabout leading to the A1. Drive all the way round the roundabout and take the A167 exit back towards Gateshead South. After a few hundred yards the Angel site is on the left. Parking is available nearby.

From the South:

Heading North on the A1, take the A167 exit signed Gateshead South. At the roundabout take the A167 turn off. After a few hundred yards the Angel site is on the left. Parking is available nearby.

Angel of the North Postcode for SatNav: NE9 7TY


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