Work on an eight-foot sculpture depicting the youngest female inmate ever incarcerated in Northallerton’s former prison is underway.

It will become the centrepiece of the new square at the Treadmills development in the town – and the finishing touch to an eight-year plan to redevelop the old prison site.

World-renowned Durham based steel sculpture artist, Ray Lonsdale, has been commissioned to produce the ‘Ballad of Sophia’ – a statue of ten-year-old Sophia Constable who was sentenced to three weeks hard labour followed by four years in a reformatory for stealing a loaf of bread from a shop.

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The one and a half life size two figured sculpture will be the focal point for the development – and will be visible from town’s High Street.

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Costing £85,000 the statue is being funded by Hambleton District Council and Historic England’s Cultural programme as part of the Northallerton High Street Heritage Action Zone.

“This is a first for Northallerton and one which we hope will lead to other works of art in the town – and the district,” said district council leader, Councillor Mark Robson.

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“To have a piece of public art by such a celebrated artist as part of our Treadmills development will encourage visitors and will be a fitting way to remember the former prison and all the people who worked and were incarcerated in the facility over the years.”

Ray Lonsdale said: “I am delighted to have been given the opportunity.

"It is so interesting to pick up on a subject and time period that presents challenges artistically and allows the possibility to relay the story of an ordinary person.”