Plenmeller Halt

The Mayor family tombstone in Mugglewick churchyard – Lough’s first independent commission. Copyright Eric Draper.

Gelt Bridge

Close-up of the Mayor tombstone showing the elaborately carved cherub and swags. Copyright Eric Draper.

Title page of the Wear Valley Extension Railway plans of 1845

Photograph of Nanny Mayor with her daughter in law and grand-daughter outside Tween House, Waskerley.

Sounding Board Original Location: Muggleswick
Current Location: Muggleswick
Theme: Cultural, Social
Period: Post Medieval
Date: 1819

What is it?
A family tombstone commissioned by Ann Mayor on the death of her husband in April 1819. It is a large upright tombstone elaborately carved with a cherub and swags by John Graham Lough, the son of a local blacksmith who became one of the most eminent sculptors of his day.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The name of Ann Mayor has lived on as part of ‘Nanny Mayor’s Incline’ – the self-acting incline from Waskerley to Bank Foot, constructed as part of the Stanhope & Tyne Railway. In 1845 the Weardale extension of the Stockton & Darlington Railway came through from Tow Law to Waskerley and a new railway town at Waskerley was created. Ann Mayor, a remarkable and enterprising seventy year old widow who, with her sons, had farmed 60 acres of Muggleswick Common since the death of her husband, saw a business opportunity. She opened an inn at their home, Tween House, which on the first edition Ordinance Survey Map it is shown as the Railway Inn. On 5th July 1859 what had by then become famous as ‘Nanny Mayor’s Incline’ was closed and soon after, in early 1860, Ann Mayor herself died, aged 85. The route of the railway can now be walked as part of the Waskerley Way.

The sculptor of the Mayor family tombstone, John Graham Lough, also came from a humble background. He was the eleventh son of a Shotley blacksmith, born in 1798, who showed a remarkable talent for modelling and sculpture. This was recognised by George Silvertop of Minsteracres who showed the young boy his collection of classical antiques and figures and encouraged him to become a stone mason. By about 1812 the Lough family had moved to Low Muggleswick and John was apprenticed to a local builder and mason. It is known that in 1817 John Lough worked with his employer on the building of Stanhope Rectory. It is recorded that he sculpted a pig in the stonework. He moved to London and in 1825 was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools; by the late 1820’s was he producing such remarkable sculptures that the Literary Gazette described him as an ‘extraordinary genius’.

Why is it important?
The tombstone is the first independent work by John Graham Lough whose long career continued until the 1870’s. Examples of his work in the areas close to the North Pennines include the bronze statue of George Stephenson in Newcastle, the statue of Admiral Collingwood at Tynemouth and the memorial to the poet Robert Southey at Crossthwaite church near Keswick.

Further Information
    Text References:
  • Draper, Eric, Weardale Gazette Magazine 2015, An Old Lady from Wolsingham and a Blacksmith’s Son from Shotley.
  • John Graham Lough: A Transitional Sculptor. T.S.R.Boase, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes Vol 23 July-Dec 1960.

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