Work has begun on an iconic piece of public artwork which will mark the end of Hadrian’s Wall at Segedunum in Wallsend.
‘The Centurion’ is an eight and a half feet-high sculpture of a Roman soldier constructed from weathering steel by North Tyneside engineering firm WD Close and trainees from AIS Connect.
Artist John O’Rourke was commissioned by North Tyneside Council to create the Centurion and provide an iconic landmark which denotes and celebrates the eastern finishing point of Hadrian’s Wall. The 2.8metre high contemporary sculpture links both the site’s Roman heritage and its more recent industrial past. To help with its construction, the artist made a complex half-scale sculpture in wood, which can be completely disassembled. This, along with AutoCAD drawings, enables engineers to copy every component at double scale.
The sculpture will take several months to build and will contain 575 components and more than three tonnes of Corten steel – the same material used to construct the Angel of the North. WD Close is providing all of the materials and engineering expertise with trainees and apprentices from AIS Connect helping in its construction. The base and associated paving finishing works are being designed by Capita, the Council’s technical services partner.
North Tyneside Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn said: “With the global importance of this World Heritage site, we thought it would be brilliant to mark the end of Hadrian’s Wall with a very striking piece of art.
“Every year thousands of visitors come to see where the Wall ends, with many having walked or cycled the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall to get here. We wanted to create something celebratory to mark the spot and also act as a tourist attraction in its own right and the Centurion is a perfect fitting symbol.
“I would therefore like to thank WD Close, AIS and Capita for their support in creating what will be a stunning sculpture and I look forward to unveiling the finished piece in the New Year.”
Family owned heavy engineering company, WD Close volunteered to fund and build ‘The Centurion’ after finding out about the proposed project and the engineering challenges of creating it. The company was established in 1983 and fabricates large structures such as oil and gas maintenance platforms for the oil and gas, subsea and renewable energy industries.
Kelly Scott from WD Close said: “This project embodies the ethos of WD Close. It’s all about putting something back into the local community, teaching valuable skills to young people and celebrating our rich heritage on the world stage.
“The Centurion will be handcrafted using traditional engineering and welding skills honed over centuries for which the North East is famous, along with the very latest advances in engineering technology. Every weld has to be invisible so it is a painstaking process and the techniques we use mean the finished structure will no doubt last as long as the Wall itself has.
“We have a long-standing partnership with industrial training provider, AIS and have several high-quality apprentices in place thanks to them. These apprentices and other trainees from the AIS Connect Academy will help us to build The Centurion. This means we can pass on our expertise to an up-and-coming talented future workforce and, in turn, these young people can experience working on an iconic and worthwhile project while gaining invaluable skills.”
The Centurion has been given the name Sentius Tectonicus. Archaeologists know from an
inscription recovered close to Segedunum, that a centurion named Sentius was supervising the building of a section of Hadrian’s Wall in the vicinity. Tectonicus refers to the sculpture’s design as an architectural man, with the centurion’s torso emerging from a Roman four storey building.
Geoff Woodward, Museum Manager at Segedunum Roman Fort said: “The Centurion is a really
engaging contemporary sculpture which captures the power and might of Rome. When he stands at Segedunum facing west along the line of Hadrian’s Wall, echoing those that built and lived on Rome’s great frontier, he will be a stunning addition to the World Heritage Site. I’m sure that the Centurion will become a huge attraction at Segedunum.”
Ian Roberts, project director from Capita added: “We are delighted to be involved in this prestigious project and proud to be investing in a landmark sculpture which will benefit the region and the local community.”
The Centurion will be unveiled early in 2017. Discover more about employing or becoming an AIS-Connect trainee or apprentice here