When Coal Was King:

 Reproduced here with kind permission of the author, Tony Whitehead

Copyright Tony Whitehead.
Visit his pay-per-view website of parish register entries and census returns for the entire county at www.durhamrecordsonline.com Your ancestors may well be there.

 

The Collieries, Railways, Waggonways and Communities of Easington District

Contents

Chapter 1, Easington District before Coal was King
Chapter 2, The Collieries
Chapter 3, The Railways
Chapter 4, The Waggonways
Chapter 5, The Communities
Chapter 6, An Essay on Miners’ Lives: The Miners’ Bond

 

Other Links that may be of interest

History of new Seaham
Haswell colliery disaster 1844
An Essay on Miners lives
The Collieries
Murton
Shotton
Horden

 

Chapter 1, Easington District before Coal was King

 There are signs of ancient times all around us in and around Easington District. At Warden Law, alongside the Seaton to Houghton road, there are two tumuli or prehistoric burial mounds, each surmounted with a crown of trees, an eerie sight in the moonlight. Between them runs Salter’s Lane, an ancient highway, the A19 of its day, which carries on to Haswell, Wingate and Teesside. There are other tumuli in Easington district and the Castle Eden Vase and other prehistoric artefacts confirm that man has been here for many thousands of years. Fertile soil and the ready availability of fish and shellfish must have made this land an attractive proposition to early humans.

 Much later Easington district was incorporated in the Roman Empire along with the rest of England but there are no visible signs in the district of this long lost civilisation. As the Romans departed in the 5th. Century AD new invaders took their place and the whole of the county of Durham eventually became part of the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, whose capital was York. Many of the place names in Easington District are of Saxon origin - Seaton (‘township-by-the-sea’), Seaham (‘hamlet-by-the-sea’), Murton (‘moor-town’), Cold Hesledon and Hesleden (‘hazel-dene’), Easington (Essyngtana, place of Essa’s people) and Haswell (‘hazel-well’).

 Eventually the monarch of the southern Saxon kingdom of Wessex, Athelstan (grandson of Alfred the Great), established himself as the King of All England in the early part of the 10th. Century. By then there was a new and extremely dangerous external enemy with a habit of turning up in some numbers anywhere along the coast to cause mischief and destruction. These were the Northmen and Easington district was in the frontline of the defence against them. The oldest structure in Easington District today is St. Mary the Virgin church at Old Seaham, which may date back to as early as AD 800. If this date is even more or less correct then the church and village were sited in a very dangerous and vulnerable position for those troubled times. The later siting of Easington parish church high on a hill overlooking the German Ocean may well have been a precaution against a surprise attack by Vikings.

 Sheer distance from London meant that the far north of England, frontline against the Scandinavians and later the Scots, was usually remote and detatched from the affairs, personalities and events which shaped the nation’s history. Few of our sovereigns came this way or knew much about the North, preferring to delegate authority to the Prince-Bishops of Durham. One definite exception was the Conqueror himself, who rampaged through the county in his infamous ‘Northern Expedition’ to avenge a Saxon rebellion against him. He laid waste the northern shires to such an extent that there was no point in including them in his later Domesday Book. The population of County Durham took generations to recover from this genocide. The Conqueror’s grandson King Stephen (1135-54) was a usurper who dragged the country into a dynastic civil war over the throne. The Scots took advantage of the 20 year anarchy in England to seize the whole of the north of the country. They were soon driven off by Stephen’s energetic and undisputed successor Henry II (1154-89). Henry’s son of infamous memory, King John (1199-1216), passed through our county in his seemingly endless wars with the baronage.

 Seventy years and more passed before the next royal visitor to the county, King Edward I (1272-1307), grandson of John, a man with a mission to unite all of the island of Great Britain. He simply passed through on his way to massacring the population of Berwick and temporarily imposing his will on the south of Scotland. His inept son Edward II (1307-27) was defeated by the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314 and obliged to flee south for his life. For the next decade Scots armies terrorised the northern counties. On at least two occasions they penetrated as far south as Hartlepool, ruining the village of Dalton-le-Dale and many others in their passage. The son of the Bruce, David II, took advantage of Edward III’s war with France to try to repeat the performance in 1337. Once more East Durham was ruined but the King of Scots was eventually brought to book in the battle of Neville’s Cross and became a prisoner of the English Crown. There was to be no further serious trouble from rampaging Scots for 300 years and East Durham once more reverted to the role of backwater in the affairs of the nation.

 Salter’s Lane and the Great North Road at Durham were the slender threads which connected Easington district with the commerce, ideas  and technology of the outside world but the highways also regularly brought pestilence to counterbalance those advantages. At the end of the 1340s Britain was decimated by  an epidemic of bubonic plague which originated in the Far East. Perhaps as many as a third of the population of Europe may have died in this and later outbreaks of what was called ‘The Black Death’. Easington district was particularly badly affected and the survivors had to trek west to buy food from the dalesfolk whose isolation from other humans had saved them. Food and money were left on special ‘Plague Stones’, some of which still survive in Weardale and elsewhere.

 The ‘Rising of the North’ in 1569 was intended to remove the Protestant Elizabeth Tudor from the throne and replace her with her imprisoned heir the Catholic Mary Stewart, former Queen of Scots. It was crushed and its principals fled into permanent exile, leaving the commoners to their fate. Elizabeth demanded a quota of executions from each participating district and for this reason two Easington men were selected and publicly hanged on the village green. At some later point in the reign of Elizabeth all of the churches and clergymen of Easington district became Protestant. Eventually most of the population, wanting only a quiet life, also saw sense and transferred their religious allegiance from Rome to London.

 The childless Elizabeth was succeeded by her distant Protestant cousin James VI of Scotland (only child of the Queen of Scots) in 1603 and the two countries were united in a personal union. This seemed to have brought a sensible end to the perpetual Scottish threat to the northern counties of England but it was to prove an illusion. James’s successor Charles I soon involved himself in a conflict with both Parliament and Presbyterian Scots which led to a three-way civil war. As so many times had happened before the Scots took advantage of English disunity to occupy Northumberland and Durham. Royalist, Scottish and Parliamentary armies chased each other round and round the northeast of England for several years and Easington district was ruined once more. Even in the 1650s, long after the execution of Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth, Dalton-le-Dale was without a parish priest and there is a huge gap in the parish registers. He had either died and not been replaced in the turmoil or he had simply fled. Charles II was restored in 1660 and normality soon resumed at Dalton-le-Dale and elsewhere. The northeast was not directly involved either in the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 or the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 for Charles Edward Stuart chose to invade England from Scotland via the north-west route through Carlisle and Lancaster. He retreated the same way to meet disaster at Culloden in 1746.

 Down the centuries after the Conquest the various manors, estates and labouring serfs within Easington district changed hands many times, sometimes by outright purchase, other times by inheritance or marriage. As the countless generations of labourers tended the fields they cannot have guessed that the greatest harvest of all lay far beneath their feet. Other than the churches none of the mediaeval structures in the district have survived to the present day, though there are ruins at Dalden Towers (near Dalton-le-Dale) and at Ludworth which lies just outside the modern boundaries of the district. Ancient churches stand at Old Seaham (c. AD 800 ?), Dalton-le-Dale (c. AD 1150 ?) and Easington (c. AD 1100 ?). Another (c. AD 1134 ??) stood derelict at Monk Hesleden but was mysteriously and inexplicably demolished by the Council one day in 1968. At Castle Eden there is an 18th. Century church constructed by the local landowners, the Burdon family. No new churches or chapels were erected until the first coalminers arrived to transform and populate the empty district in the early 1830s.  

 In 1801 the total population of County Durham was just 150,000. Over a third of these people lived in the ancient towns of Hartlepool (1,047), Barnard Castle (2,966), Stockton (4,009), Darlington (4,670), Durham (about 7,500), Gateshead (8,597), South Shields (with Westoe about 11,000) and Sunderland (about 18,000). Even that great metropolis of the far North, Newcastle, just across the Tyne in Northumberland, had only 30,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the 19th. century, little more than Greater Seaham has today.

 The rest of the county of Durham, not just the high ground as now, was as empty as some parts of western Ireland are today. The tiny communities which together made up what we now call Easington District had just 2,310 souls in the year 1801, about the same as modern-day Wingate. Almost the smallest of these minute and ancient agricultural communities was the scattered ‘constabulary’ of Dawdon (22 people in two farmhouses) in Dalton-le-Dale parish, destined to become the collosus of the district (as Seaham Harbour) until being itself eclipsed by the new town of Peterlee in the 1960s.

 The eastern half of the Durham coalfield, upon which Easington District is situated, is concealed by many hundreds of feet of Permian magnesian limestone. The powerful steam engines required to drain deep mines did not exist until the early 1820s. As the third decade of the nineteenth century dawned technological advances had been made which made it possible at last to investigate just what lay under the rolling limestone hills of East Durham. At Rainton, four miles west of Seaham,  coal is just below the ground. A few hundred yards away to the east at Hetton, at the start of the limestone escarpment, the coal is several hundred feet below the surface. It was there on December 19 1820 that the new machinery was put to the test.

 Deep mining was an entirely new, dangerous and expensive business, far beyond the financial means of most coal owners, and necessitated the creation of a large company for the purpose, the Hetton Colliery Company. Whilst digging proceeded the famous engineer and pioneer of steam engines, George Stephenson, began construction of a railway from the pithead at Hetton to Sunderland in March 1821. The new line,  the first in the world to be designed to use locomotives,  was some 8 miles in length and ran to the Hetton Company's own staiths on the river Wear, where coal could be loaded directly on to large vessels, thus missing out a number of middlemen at Penshaw and on the river. The excellent publicity received launched the Stephensons on to even greater things, as the world knows. More importantly  for the history of County Durham, coal was  found at the Hetton Lyons Blossom Pit sinking, at 650 and 900 feet, in seams six and a half feet thick! By 1832 Hetton Lyons and its two sister pits Eppleton and Elemore were annually producing 318,000 tons of coal worth £174,000, and the combine was the largest mine in England. Hetton Colliery and its railway proved that 900 feet of limestone, water and quicksand and a large hill (Warden Law) blocking the way to Sunderland were not insurmountable obstacles to the exploitation of the rich reserves of coal and that achievement did not go unnoticed. Before long others, such as Lord Londonderry, Lord Lambton (1st. Earl of Durham), Lord Howden and Colonel Thomas Braddyll of Haswell, would enter the arena and the tapping of the deeply concealed Durham coalfield began in earnest. Their target was the tranquil idyll of Easington District.

 Below you will find the population figures for Easington District in the first four censuses of the 19th. century. The large and sudden increase in the population of Dawdon in 1831 was due to the foundation of the town and port of Seaham Harbour three years before. The rise of the population at South Hetton and Haswell in the same census was caused by the sinking of the first two collieries in Easington District. Once these had begun production (1833 & 1835 respectively) and proved they were viable the stampede into East Durham was on. By 1841 Thornley and Wingate collieries were also in production and four other pits were being sunk (Murton, Shotton, Castle Eden and South Wingate). By the time of the 1851 census Seaton and Seaham collieries (later amalgamated as ‘Seaham’ in 1864) were being sunk. All of the then existing 8 collieries in Easington were on the western edge of the district for the technology did not yet exist to contemplate even deeper mines on the coast.

 No new collieries were sunk in the decade 1851-61. In fact the district experienced its first pit closure with the collapse of South Wingate Colliery in 1857. In 1869 the sinking of Wheatley Hill commenced and this was followed a year later by two other new ventures at nearby Deaf Hill and Hutton Henry. Wheatley Hill was severely handicapped by under-capitalisation and went bankrupt at least twice before the turn of the century but eventually proved itself. Shotton Colliery closed in 1877 and became a ghost village for the next 23 years until it was reopened by the new Horden Coal Company in 1900. Castle Eden Colliery folded in 1893, Haswell in 1896 and Hutton Henry in 1897. The 20th. Century saw the opening of the coastal super-pits at Dawdon, Easington, Horden, Blackhall and Vane Tempest and the creation of new mining communities in East Durham.

TOP

Sub-District/Census

1801

1811

1821

1831

Dalton-le-Dale

40

52

49

73

Dawdon (Seah. Harb.)

22

27

35

1022

Seaham (Old & New)

115

121

103

130

Seaton-with-Slingley

96

126

95

134

Cold Hesledon

48

31

55

112

Hawthorn

114

118

140

162

East Morton (Murton)

75

71

72

98

 

 

 

 

 

Easington

487

542

593

693

Haswell & Sth Hetton

93

114

115

263

Shotton

250

286

264

272

Castle Eden

362

257

281

260

Monk Hesleden

150

148

164

176

Nesbitt

5

5

9

10

Sheraton

99

97

116

110

Hulam

7

11

16

15

Hutton Henry

156

155

174

162      

Wingate

135

151

131

115

Thornley

56

58

60

50

 

 

 

 

 

Total

2310

2370

2472

3857

Apart from these fixed habitations there is evidence of transients living on the East Durham beaches and sometimes occupying the numerous caves along the rugged coastline. The Portsmouth Telegraph of October 14 1799 reported thus:

Woman from the Seashore

 ‘On Thursday se(ven)’nnight a woman was brought to the Lunatic Hospital near Newcastle who has lived upwards of three years among the rocks on the sea-shore near Seaham. From whence, or in what manner she first came there is unknown, but she speaks in the Scottish dialect and talks of Loch Stewart and AberGordon in a rambling manner. She is about thirty-five years of age, inoffensive and cheerful, and during her residence among the rocks was fantastically dressed in the rags which chance or the wrecks threw in her way; she always kept a good fire of wood or coal, which the sea threw up, and it is supposed lived upon shellfish & c. What is remarkable, a beard has grown upon the lower part of her chin, nearly an inch long, and bushy like the whiskers of a man.’

Until the mid 1840s  County Durham was divided into the following wards:

 

1. (NW and North), Chester (le-Street) Ward, (included Bedlingtonshire, Norhamshire and Islandshire, now parts of Northumberland).

2. (East), Easington Ward

3. (South East), Stockton Ward

4. (South West), Darlington Ward

 Two settlements were considered large enough and important enough to run their own affairs - Durham City and Sunderland Town. For historical reasons connected to the Palatinate (abolished 1836) County Durham included not only three areas of Northumberland but also several other small enclaves in other neighbouring counties, such as Craike, near Easingwold in Yorkshire.

 

 Easington Ward was clearly much larger than Easington District is now and included such far-apart places as Bishopwearmouth Panns, Penshaw, South Biddick, Lambton, West Rainton, Pittington, Sherburn, Coxhoe, Kelloe and Trimdon. Virtually a quarter of the county.  The population of the entire old Easington Ward in 1841 was about 24,000. October 1 1844 was the date the new Act of Reorganisation took effect (Act of 7 & 8 Victoria. C.61), rationalising the ancient boundaries of the counties and removing many of the strange and archaic anomalies (such as Bedlingtonshire and Craike) that had existed. Thereafter the new district of Easington assumed more or less its present shape and size (Greater Seaham, Murton, Cold Hesledon, Hawthorn, Easington Village, Thorpe, Castle Eden, Monk Hesleden, Nesbitt, Hulam, Sheraton, Hutton Henry, Wingate, Deaf Hill, Wheatley Hill, Thornley, Shotton, Haswell and South Hetton). The population of the new district in  the census of 1841 was only 15,491. In 1801 the same area had just 2,310 people.

 

Chapter 2, The Collieries

Easington District Collieries in Chronological Order

Colliery

Duration

Known owners before Nationalisation in 1947

Major Disasters

1. South Hetton

1833-1982

South Hetton Coal Company

 

2. Haswell

1831, 1835-96

Haswell & Shotton CC

28/09/1844 (95)

3. Thornley

1835-1970

John Gully & Partners

05/08/1841 (9)

4. Wingate Grange

1837/40-1962

Lord Howden & Partners

1906 (26)

5. Murton (initially known as Dalton New Winning)

1838, 1840-1991

South Hetton  CC

15/08/1848 (14)

21/12/1937 (4)

26/06/1942 (13)

6. South Wingate (also known as Hart Bushes Colliery or Rodridge Colliery)

1840 (?) - 1857

Milbank ??

 

7. Castle Eden (also known as the Maria Pit or Hesleden Pit)

1840-93, 1900- ? (as a pumping station only)

Wilkinson, then

Horden CC

 

8. Shotton

1840-77, 1900-72

Haswell & Shotton CC,

Horden CC

 

9. Seaton/Seaham

(‘The Nack’ pit)

1844/49-1983

Merged as ‘Seaham’ in 1864. ‘Amalgamated’ with Vane Tempest 1983

North Hetton & Grange CC and Londonderry Colls. to 1864, then Londonderry alone

1852 (6) (Seaton)

1864 (2) (Seaton)

1871  (26) (Combine)

1880 (164) (Combine)

10. Wheatley Hill

1869-77, 1878-84, 1890-1968

Hartlepool  CC to 1884, and then Weardale Steel, Coke & Coal Company

 

11. Hutton Henry

1869 (?) - 1897

Milbank ??

 

12. Deaf Hill

1870 (?) -1967

Trimdon Coal Co.

 

13. Seaham Dawdon

1899-1991

Londonderry

 

14. Easington

1899-1993

Easington CC

1951 (81 + 2 rescuers)

15. Horden

1900-87

Horden CC

 

16. Blackhall

1913-81

Horden CC (??)

 

17. Seaham Vane Tempest

1923-93

Londonderry

 

18. Hawthorn Shaft

1959-93

NCB

 

NB: Hawthorn Shaft was not a colliery in the strict sense of the word. Coal was transported there underground from Elemore, Eppleton and Murton collieries and then raised to the surface for onward shipment by rail. The closure of the three feeders meant the end for Hawthorn Shaft too.

 

NB: Castle Eden Colliery closed for good in 1893. The site was reopened in 1900 but only as a pumping station to assist the drainage of the new coastal super-pit at Horden and the newly reopened Shotton Colliery.

Collieries and Censuses

Sub-District

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Collieries or connection with

Dalton-le-Dale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Dormitory’ for Seaham & Murton collieries

Dawdon (Sea Hr)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Dawdon 1899-1991, Vane Tempest  1923-93

Seaham (Old & New)

 

 

XX

XX

X

X

X

X

Seaton/Seaham 1844/49 - 1983 (merged 1864)

Seaton-with-Slingley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Dormitory’ for Seaton/Seaham after 1850

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Morton (Murton)

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Murton 1838-1991

Cold Hesledon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Dormitory’ for Murton Colliery after c.1885

Hawthorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Took overflow population from Murton & Easington colls

Haswell & Sth Hetton

 

XX

XX

XX

XX

XX

XX

X

Haswell 1835-96;  Sth. Hetton 1833-1982; Hawthorn Shaft  1959-91

Shotton

 

X

X

X

X

 

 

X

Shotton 1840-77, 1900-72

Easington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Easington 1899-1993

Castle Eden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Took overflow population from Castle Eden Colliery

Monk Hesleden

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Castle Eden 1840-93;  Horden 1900-87, Blackhall  1913-81

Nesbitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No connection with coalmining

Sheraton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No connection with coalmining

Hulam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No connection with coalmining

Hutton Henry

 

X

X

 

X

X

X

 

South Wingate 1840 (?) -1857;

Hutton Henry 1869 (?) -1897

Wingate

 

X

X

X

XXX

XXX

XXX

XXX

Wingate  1837/40-1962

Wheatley Hill 1869-77, 1878-84, 1890-1968; Deaf Hill 1870 (?) -1967

Thornley

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Thornley 1835-1970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

0

8

10

9

11

10

10

11

 

 

NB:  Castle Eden Colliery closed in 1893. The site was reopened in 1900 but only as a pumping station to assist the drainage of the new coastal super-pit at Horden and the reopened Shotton Colliery.

 

 There is some doubt over the commencement date for South Wingate Colliery. Conventional wisdom has it as being 1840 but there was no sign of the colliery or any sinkers in the census of June 1841. A later date is more probable. The colliery was definitely operating by the time of the 1851 census.

 

There is also some doubt over the commencement date for Hutton Henry Colliery. Conventional wisdom has it as being 1869 but there was no sign of the colliery or any sinkers in the census of 1871. A later date is more probable. The colliery was definitely operating by the time of the 1881 census.

 Likewise there is considerable doubt over the commencement date for Deaf Hill Colliery. Conventional wisdom has it as being 1870 but there was no sign of the colliery or any sinkers in the census of 1871. A later date therefore is more probable. The colliery was definitely operating by the time of the 1881 census.

 

Sub-Chapters and photos on all 18 collieries to be inserted here.

 

Chapter 2, The Railways

 

Maps to be inserted here

 

1. Hartlepool to Sunderland via Haswell

 1835/36-1993

The Past

 

 In 1832, an incredibly early date in railway history, the Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company received Parliamentary approval to construct a passenger/freight line from Hartlepool to Haswell (via Hart Station, Hesleden, Wellfield and Shotton) with the intention of eventually pushing through to Pittington, Moorsley, Rainton and beyond and hopefully diverting coal trade from collieries en route such as the new ventures at Haswell and South Hetton towards Hartlepool. In the same year a rival company, the Sunderland Dock & Railway, started to build a line from Sunderland to Haswell (via Ryhope, Seaton, Murton and South Hetton), which opened on August 30 1836. Both lines terminated at Haswell but initially there was no connection between them as they were on different levels and almost at right angles to each other. There were two separate stations. It was necessary for both passengers and freight to change stations and trains to complete their journey to Hartlepool or Sunderland

 

 Between 1836 and 1839 the Durham and Sunderland Railway also constructed a western branch line from Murton Junction to Durham (Shincliffe) via Hetton, Pittington and Sherburn House. This extension passed the very places (Moorsley and Rainton) that the Hartlepool Dock and Railway had been aiming for and so that company gave up any idea of expanding their line beyond Haswell. Four hundred yards of track in the direction of Moorsley, already constructed, were abandoned also. A proper junction was then created at Haswell so that passengers could change trains and companies with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience but there were still two stations. Seaham was bypassed by the Sunderland to Haswell/Shincliffe railway but a long walk to any of the three stations at Murton, Seaton or Ryhope gave access to the rest of the world. From Seaton Sunderland was now just a ten minute train journey away and Durham (Shincliffe) fifty minutes. The Rainton and Seaham waggonway crossed the new railway at a point just south of Seaton and a junction was created to enable Rainton coals to be sent on the new line to Sunderland docks. A junction was also effected between the new railway and the South Hetton waggonway to Seaham Harbour. The Hartlepool Dock and Railway was gobbled up by the new giant Northeastern Railway (N.E.R.) in 1857. The Durham and Sunderland Railway was also snapped up the same concern not long after. A single station was then constructed at Haswell and through trains began running from Hartlepool to Sunderland under the same livery.

 

 The directors of the new Durham (Shincliffe) & Sunderland Railway Company in 1832 had been unconvinced by the early locomotives produced by George Stephenson and others and instead opted for fixed engines which could manage steep gradients far better. Later locomotives had the power to cope with gradients but by then it was too late and the company was stuck with the archaic method of transport until it was taken over by the North Eastern Railway in the 1850s.

 

 The advantage of fixed engines was that they overcame the necessity for much of the excavation work required to make a railway line as level as possible. Consequently, for reasons of economy, the Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) & Haswell ended up with some of the steepest gradients in the British railway network and was later used to test the power and brakes on new models of locomotives. From Ryhope to Haswell via Seaton, Murton Junction and South Hetton was a continuous upslope. One night in the 1890s the brakes on a downtrack loco failed at Murton and the runaway train raced past Seaton before derailing itself on the curve ahead. Several people were killed.

 

 The disadvantage to fixed engines was that they made a journey tortuous in the extreme due to the need to change haulage equipment for each leg of a journey. From Sunderland to Ryhope, which was flat, the trains were hauled by a locomotive. There the loco was replaced by a chain connected to the fixed engine house at Murton Junction. The coaches were than pulled uphill, stopping at Seaton on the way. At Murton the chain was changed for another one connected to Haswell fixed engine house. To get to Durham was even more complicated. It was necessary to change trains at Murton Junction and gravity brought the coaches (still connected by a chain) downhill to Hetton. From there to Durham (Shincliffe) via Pittington, Broomside and Sherburn House was comparatively flat but there were several more fixed engines to attatch to en route. It was barely quicker than walking but this method of transport was used some 20 years after the development of powerful locos which could do the entire journey on their own regardless of the gradients. 

 

 It should be remembered that the entire length of the Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) and Hartlepool railway was constructed in the mid 1830s, a very early date in railway history and therefore very early too in the Industrial Revolution. There was as yet no digging machinery available to help in the construction, just raw manpower and horsepower, spades, ropes, planks and gunpowder. The labourers or ‘navvies’ lived in shanty towns of wooden huts and tents right next to the excavations. A few of the workmen had their wives and families with them but the bulk of the workforce were single Irishmen, twenty to a hut. They were a terror to the communities through which they dug a great swathe but had to be tolerated as a passing and unstoppable phenomenon. Every so often the camps broke up and moved on to plague another community four miles down the projected line. The work itself was extremely hazardous and deaths were commonplace though they seldom occurred in multiples unlike the coalmines. Drawings of the time depict the dangerous conditions and the arduous work required of these young supermen. Babies were born and died and children were raised amongst the bedlam, drink, violence and squalor. Our nation owes much of its prosperity to the coarse, ignorant and often brutish Irish labourers who made the Industrial Revolution possible and who died in their hundreds in the effort.

 

 In 1880 the N.E.R. constructed a branch from the Hartlepool and Sunderland line at Wellfield to Stockton via Wynyard Park. This created a connection between Wynyard and Seaham via Wellfield, Murton Junction and Ryhope. Coal travelled from Seaham Colliery to heat Wynyard Hall and the Londonderry family travelled between their two Durham residences on their own private train with private stations at either end. As well as a rental for the use of his land the 5th. Marquess was given the right to halt any trains he wished in order that he could get on board, regardless of the inconvenience to other passengers.

 

 In the early 1890's the 6th. Marquess' younger son Reginald, in his teens, developed an interest in engineering and  would spend days on end travelling in the cab of a train on the family's private locomotives between Wynyard, Seaham and Sunderland. He learned to drive the train, ate with the drivers and stokers and often returned home begrimed. He took a greater interest in the family's northeast businesses and possessions than anybody since his great-grandmother Lady Frances Anne Vane Tempest.  Reginald developed TB and was sent first to a sanatorium in South Africa and then to stay with Cecil Rhodes as his guest. His health kept declining and in May 1898 his mother had to travel out from Britain to bring him home, which to him was Seaham Hall. He died there on October 9 1899, aged 20. The shops in Seaham remained shut during the funeral service and six enginemen acted as his pallbearers. According to his wishes he was buried at St. Mary the Virgin at Seaham Hall, the only member of the Londonderry family to lie in the town they created. A large Celtic stone cross was erected over the grave but this has since been removed for safety by the current Marquess of Londonderry. The passenger service on the so-called Castle Eden branch line between Wellfield and Stckton via Wynyard ended on November 2 1931. It remained open for goods traffic until 1951. It was finally closed between 1966-68 and the line was dismantled. It has now become the splendid Castle Eden Walkway. Passenger service on the Hartlepool to Sunderland via Haswell was withdrawn on June 9 1952. The line remained open for freight and minerals until the mid 1960s when it was dismantled. The northern section from Hawthorn Shaft to Ryhope remained open until the closure of Murton colliery in 1991. This last segment was dismantled at the end of 1993.

The Present

 

 At the risk of repeating myself a walkway now exists from Ryhope (old A19 Flyover) to Hart Station, just north of Hartlepool. With a little diversion at Station Town it is also possible to walk from Ryhope to Stockton via Wynyard. With a much bigger diversion because of a 200 yard gap at Murton, it is also possible to walk from Ryhope to the edge of the Cathedral City. Needless to say Seaham is not connected to this because ‘The Yellow Brick Road’ stops short at Cold Hesledon though there are plans to extend it to the old Hartlepool-Sunderland at South Hetton.

 

The Future

 

 Why is there a 200 yard gap at Murton, entailing a huge diversion for ramblers trying to get from Ryhope to Durham City along old railways ? Get your fingers out Easington District, Tyne & Wear and Durham County councils

Durham & Sunderland via Murton 1836-1993

 

The Present

 

 This railway opened on 28 June 1839 and ran from Durham Shincliffe via Sherburn House, Pittington, Hetton-le-Hole, Murton Junction, Seaton and Ryhope. The western passenger terminus was not in Durham itself but at Shincliffe, one mile south of the city. A spur line serviced Lord Londonderry's colliery at Old Durham from 1849. When this pit closed in 1892 the spur was taken over and extended across the River Wear to a new station, Durham Elvet, between the County Gaol and the Racecourse. The first Miners Gala was held on the racecourse in 1872. For the first 21 years the trains from Sunderland and other points spilled out the miners, their bands and their banners at Shincliffe and they then marched the two miles to the city. After 1893 the trains delivered the miners to the edge of the racecourse. From 24 July 1893 the service to Shincliffe was withdrawn and closed, but the building still remains, used by the County Council Highways Department.

 

The original purpose of the railway had been to pick up coal from collieries en route and deliver it to the docks at Sunderland but in this it had not been successful. At the western end spur mineral lines did extend to the short-lived Houghall, Shincliffe, Whitwell and Old Durham collieries. But this last colliery and collieries all the rest of the way to Sunderland all belonged to Lord Londonderry, Lord Lambton and the Hetton Coal company - all of which had their own railway networks delivering coal to Sunderland and Seaham Harbour. The severe industrial depression of the early 1890s finished off all of the pits at the western end of the line including Old Durham. All of their branch lines were abandoned except for that to Old Durham (see above) which became part of the new main line to Durham City (Elvet), bypassing Shincliffe. Elvet station was very close to Durham County Gaol and the racecourse where the Miners Gala was held.

 

 The passenger service from Durham Elvet to Sunderland was not a great success either and it was withdrawn on 1 January 1931. The service was cut back to Pittington. Except for the war years, Durham Elvet continued in use for just one day a year until 1953. The great day was of course the Miner's Gala. In 1949 the station was taken over by the County Council. The Sunderland to Pittington passenger service was withdrawn on January 5 1953. The Miners Gala of July 1953 was the last time Elvet was used for passengers. Elvet was demolished in 1964 and a new office block constructed on the site. The Pittington and Sunderland line remained open for mineral traffic until the Beeching cuts of the early 60s. Then it was dismantled from Pittington to Murton Junction. The section from Murton to Sunderland via Seaton and Ryhope remained open to serve the Hawthorn Shaft combine. The closure of the last feeder pit for Hawthorn Shaft, Murton, in 1991, meant that this last section too was doomed. The line was dismantled from Hawthorn Shaft to Ryhope in 1993 and has since been turned into a walkway. It is in fact part of a continuous walkway from Ryhope to Hart Station, just north of Hartlepool.

 

The Present

I repeat - the old line is in fact part of a continuous walkway from Ryhope to Hart Station, just north of Hartlepool. Brilliant. Enough said.

The Future

 

 Why is there a 200 yard gap at Murton, entailing a huge diversion for ramblers trying to get from Ryhope to Durham City along old railways ? Get your fingers out Easington District, Tyne & Wear and Durham County councils !

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      Londonderry Seaham & Sunderland 1854/55- 98

The Past

 Seaton and Seaham collieries came on stream in 1852. The docks at Seaham Harbour were by now receiving coal from nearly 20 inland pits and were seriously overloaded. Something had to be done to ease the pressure. The solution was to create a railway to the much larger facilities at the port of Sunderland. On a bitterly cold day, February 8 1853, the first turf of the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland Railway was dug by the 3rd. Marquess, now aged 75. He was fated not to see the completion of this project. On January 17 1854 Frances Anne celebrated her 54th. birthday at Wynyard, the last she would share with her husband. On the same day the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland Railway was completed as far as Ryhope where it met up with the Durham (Shincliffe) and Sunderland Railway. This company would not share its rails or its station at Ryhope (West) with the newcomer which was obliged to lay its own tracks alongside the others on the remaining stretch from Ryhope to Sunderland. This explains why the trackbed today is so wide between Ryhope and Hendon. Passenger traffic finally began on the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland on July 1 1855 with stations at Seaham, Seaham Colliery, Seaham Hall (for the private use of the Londonderrys and their guests) and Ryhope (East). The town was at last connected to the outside world by a passenger rail service. From 1854 to 1868 the LS&S had its own station in Sunderland. From 1868 until 1879 the terminus was at Hendon Burn until the new central station opened.

 

 The new railway terminated at Seaham, there was no southward connection to Hartlepool and Teesside. For this it was necessary to travel on the LS&S north to Ryhope (East) and change there to a D&S (rope-hauled) southbound train to Haswell and change again there to a loco-hauled train of the HD&R. This situation of dozens of independent railway companies serving the northeast was about to come to an end. A giant appeared amongst them. The North Eastern Railway was formed in 1854 by the amalgamation of four large railway companies: the York and North Midland; the York, Newcastle & Berwick; the Leeds Northern; the Malton and Driffield. In the following decades the N.E.R. gobbled up many others including the Stockton & Darlington, the Durham and Sunderland, the Hartlepool Dock and Railway and, eventually, the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland. From HQ in York the company at its peak controlled over 500 stations, with 1700 miles of track and the right to use another 300 miles belonging to other companies. The N.E.R. and Hartlepool Dock & Railway amalgamated in 1857. The D&S was gobbled up a little later. A single station was constructed at Haswell and through trains now ran from Sunderland to Hartlepool under the same livery.

 

 The 3rd. Marquess died in March 1854 and his widow took over the running of all the Londonderry businesses. On December 12 1859 she laid the foundation stone for the Seaham Harbour Blast Furnaces at a site near Dawdon Hill Farm. An extension to the LS&S, the Blastfurnace Branch, was constructed to connect with this new and high-risk venture and Frances Anne's second son Adolphus was put in charge. This was possibly not the wisest of choices given that Adolphus was having serious mental problems at the time. Quarrels between Frances Anne and her chief agent John Ravenshaw over the entire scheme brought about his resignation and delayed completion of the project until 1862. The furnaces were supplied with coal from Seaham Colliery and iron ore from Cleveland which was brought by rail to Ryhope by the NER and then on to the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland railway. The newly built extension to this line led straight into the furnaces. Lime was brought on another short branch tramway from the quarry at Fox Cover. National overproduction of iron and falling prices threatened the scheme by the time of Frances Anne's death three years later and it did in fact fold by the end of 1865. In 1869 the site was leased out to a chemical company for the production of soda and magnesia and occasionally pig-iron when the market revived. Both Chemical Works and Blastfurnaces finally closed in 1885.  The Blastfurnace Branch line was taken over to service Dawdon Colliery whch appeared near to the furnace site in 1899. The branch tramway to Fox Cover Quarry remained in use until about 1919.

 

 In the mid-1890s new deep collieries were planned along the Durham coast - Blackhall, Horden, Easington and Dawdon. The 6th. Marquess contemplated extending the LS&S southward to Easington and perhaps beyond. However the N.E.R. was also on the scene and wanted to build its own railway to connect Seaham (and all the new pits in between) with Hartlepool. The N.E.R. already owned Hartlepool Dock. A clash was inevitable and for months legal action and counter-action ensued. Londonderry opposed a new N.E.R. line, the N.E.R. opposed the Seaham Harbour dock project and the proposed extension of the LS&S. Finally the two sides came to their senses and agreed to cooperate. 

 

 In 1898 the 6th. Marquess sponsored the Seaham Harbour Dock Act which established the Seaham Harbour Dock Company and gave it powers to construct new harbour works, including two outer protective piers and an enclosed dock equipped with new coal staiths. SHDC was unusual as one of the few private companies to be established by special Act of Parliament. The capital of the Company in 1898 was £450,000. Both the N.E.R. and Lord Londonderry were major shareholders in this new concern which took over the docks and the LS&S waggonways and stock of coal wagons. As part of the deal the rest of the LS&S, in almost its entirety, was sold to the N.E.R. for £400,000 and it was incorporated in their network. The Londonderry family also gained a seat on the board of the N.E.R. Two small exceptions were made to the sale of the LS&S lock, stock and barrel: Seaham Hall station remained the private property of the family and the Marquess retained the right 'to stop other than express trains within reasonable limits' (between 1900 and 1923 this privilege was used only four times, an indication of how little the family used Seaham Hall by then. In 1923 the 7th. Marquess, who had recently abandoned Seaham Hall, was persuaded by the new L.N.E.R. to surrender this right.); The Station Hotel in Seaham also remained the property of the Marquess. This public house had an entrance straight from the platform. Seaham Colliery station became the new main station for Seaham for through-trains but the old station remained as the terminus for the local service from Sunderland. It was closed on September 11 1939 as a a wartime measure and never reopened. It and the public house were demolished in the 1970s. The N.E.R. became the L.N.E.R. after the Great War and part of British Railways after the Second World War.

 

The Present

 Seaham lost its own private railway in 1898. The trackbed of the LS&SR is now part of the coastal Sunderland-Seaham-Hartlepool-Teesside branch railway. Virtually the only visible reminder of the old private railway is to be seen just to the north of the former Ryhope junction with the inland Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool line where the legend LS&SR can be seen stamped on the metal railway bridge which spans Ryhope Dene.

The Future

 

 The future of the trackbed of the former LS&SR between Seaham and Sunderland seems to be reasonably secure. Without her pits Seaham is rapidly becoming a mere satellite of Sunderland which is soon to be connected up to the Tyneside Metro system. It seems likely that Seaham too will be connected up one day.

 

 

 

N.E.R.  Seaham to Hartlepool, 1905-?

 

 The Past

 

 In 1899 the N.E.R. began to construct the Seaham-Hartlepool connection. This necessitated the construction of viaducts over four large denes and several smaller ones. The most spectacular of these are at Seaton Carew, Hawthorn Dene and Dawdon Field Dene. Dawdon Viaduct was finished in 1905 to complete the new line. Seaham was at last connected to the south and was no longer a railway deadend. There were stations at Hartlepool, Hart Station, Blackhall, Horden, Easington (Colliery), Seaham, Ryhope (East) and Sunderland. Over the years the number of stations was gradually reduced until there was only one stop between Hartlepool and Sunderland - Seaham.

 

The Present

 

 In recent decades all of the pits the Seaham to Hartlepool extension was constructed to serve - Blackhall, Horden, Easington, Dawdon and Vane Tempest have closed. The Durham coalfield is history. The line from Seaham to Hartlepool and beyond has never been a success as a passenger railway. Watch the passenger trains as they shuttle past. Hardly a soul on board.

 

The Future

 

 If the Seaham to Hartlepool connection  does go then surely a magnificent coastal walkway can be created from the trackbed. There is even the possibily of a steam service in summer time.

 

Chapter 3, The Waggonways

 

Map to be inserted here

The Hetton Colliery Railway (Waggonway)  1822-1959

 Including a chapter on the Hetton Colliery Railway in a book about the railways and communities of Easington District might seem a little strange - after all the HCR began in Hetton and ended in Sunderland and at no point does it even touch our district. However  the railway was constructed in the early 1820s when Hetton was indeed part of the then Easington Ward, which was much larger than Easington District is now. The HCR ran from Hetton to Sunderland by crossing over Warden Law Hill, one of the highest points for miles around, and thus it could be seen from various high points (e.g. Mount Pleasant and Kinley Hill) in and around Seaham and elsewhere and for a brief while (from 1896 to about 1920) it may have been  connected to Seaham Harbour via the old Rainton and Seaham line. More importantly the HCR (about which there is little published material) deserves a place in this book because of its unique place in railway history and for its role in opening up the coalmines of Easington District. The HCR was fed by Hetton Lyons, Eppleton and Elemore pits. These were the first deep mines in the county of Durham and were the inspiration for all of the other deep collieries which came later in Easington District, including the three Seaham pits. In 1921 the Londonderrys sold Silksworth Colliery to Lord Joicey and that pit was also connected to the HCR.

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The Past

 

 The Durham coalfield is divided into two distinct parts - the exposed and the concealed. In the western, exposed, half  fuel at or near the surface must have been collected from earliest times. There are  places today in west Durham where people can literally dig up coal from their back gardens and there are still several open-cast sites which are likely to be around for decades to come. The first clearly documented evidence of coalmining in the exposed coalfield is in the Boldon Book of 1183, a register of the Bishop of Durham's personal lands and the dues paid by his tenants. Small mines, probably simple bell-pits, were worked during the mediaeval period in the Tyne and Wear valleys. Limited in quantity and of indifferent quality, these coals were sent by sea to London and the Low Countries. The Industrial Revolution encouraged a dramatic increase in production from the 16th. century onwards. Because of their nearness to the sea Durham and Northumberland became the most important coal-producing and exporting counties in the period 1550-1700. Early waggonways and then the railways proper enabled coal and coke to be moved to the ports on the rivers and coast, where they were loaded on to large ships for export. A coal exchange was established at Billingsgate in London in 1769 and coal cartels began to operate in the Durham coalfield in the 18th. and early 19th. centuries. Before the advent of steam coal mines had to be drained by  primitive water-wheels and this placed a physical limit on the depth of the mines and the amount of water that could be removed.

 

 Waggonways may have been used at small mines in the Midlands in the 16th. century. The earliest waggonway in the northeast was near Blyth, probably opened in 1609 to carry coal from pits near Bedlington to the river Blyth. In about 1630 Sir Thomas Liddell, of Ravensworth Castle, is said to have laid the first waggonway to the Tyne from the Teams Colliery near to Derwenthaugh. The first waggonway on the Wear was laid by Thomas Allan in 1693. By 1793 on a stretch of the river near Fatfield there were ten coal staiths connected by rail to some thirty pits. The rails of all these early lines were made of wood and the wagons were horse-drawn. By the middle of the 18th. century rails were made of cast-iron. By 1820 cheaper wrought-iron was increasingly in use. Wherever a large weight of goods had to be transported regularly between two fixed points railways showed themselves to be very practicable. At first hills set a limit to their use but inclined planes soon circumvented this problem. Complete canal boats were let down and drawn up on slopes between different canals. Similar inclined planes were placed to connect nearly level railways, and so the possibility of overcoming every difficulty of the ground was offered by them. Empty wagons were drawn up the line by the weight of the full ones in descent, a system apparently perfected by a Mr. Barnes of Benwell Colliery.

 

 The eastern half of the Durham coalfield is concealed by several hundreds of feet of Permian magnesian limestone. The powerful steam engines required to dig and drain deep mines did not exist until the start of the 1820s. The first exploitation of the concealed coalfield using the new technology took place at the tiny village of Hetton where sinking commenced on December 19 1820. Deep mining was an expensive business, far beyond the financial means of most coalowners, and necessitated the creation of a large company for the purpose. Hetton was at the edge of the exposed coalfield. A few hundred yards to the east were old shallow pits at Rainton which sent their coal on horse-drawn wagons up a waggonway to Penshaw where it was loaded on to small vessels, taken down the river Wear, and re-transferred to larger boats for export to London and abroad. The new Hetton Colliery Company decided to dispense with all of these middlemen and have its own direct waggonway connection to its own staiths near the mouth of the river, eight miles to the northeast, for direct loading on to ocean-going vessels.

 

 Whilst the exploratory digging proceeded at Hetton George Stephenson, the famous engineer and pioneer of steam engines, oversaw the construction of the railway from the pithead to Sunderland from March 1821. He was allowed by his usual employers, the 'Grand Allies', to undertake this extra work, his first completely new railway, without any diminution of his salary as resident engineer at Killingworth Colliery in Northumberland. His brother Robert (after whom George's equally famous son Robert was named) was the resident engineer for this, the remarkable Hetton Colliery Railway. The new line was the first railway in the world to be designed to use locomotives. Stephenson sold 5 of his own locos to the Hetton Company, but they were not terribly successful and were replaced by others in the 1830s.

 

 The HCR ran uphill from Hetton to the Copt Hill, climbed over the top of Warden Law Hill, and descended past Silksworth on its way to the river at Sunderland. The railway was far from straight for it needed to make skilful use of the terrain. The first four stages totalled a climb of 317 feet 9 inches in about 2.8 miles. From the top of Warden Law Hill to the staiths above the river was seven more stages away, very nearly 5 miles, and a collective drop of 522 feet. Wagons, eight at a time and holding over two and a half tons each, were transported from Hetton to the Wear in about two hours - using fixed steam engines for the steepest gradients, self-acting inclined planes for the less steep, and very early locomotives and fixed engines for the few level stretches. Over the 8 miles there were two locomotives, six stationary engines, and 5 brake arrangements on as many inclined planes. At the time of its opening, November 18 1822, the Hetton Colliery Railway was regarded as one of the engineering wonders of the world and it attracted visitors from as far afield as America and Prussia. The North-East was at the forefront of technology, the Silicon Valley of its day. The excellent publicity received launched the Stephenson clan on to even greater things - the Stockton & Darlington Railway (opened in 1825), the Manchester and Liverpool (opened in 1831) and the Birmingham & London. These pioneering achievements have earned George Stephenson a place on the back of every modern  £5 note.

 

 Coal was found at the Hetton Lyons Blossom Pit sinking, at 650 and 900 feet, in seams six and a half feet thick. By 1826 Hetton Colliery and its sister mines at Elemore and Eppleton were producing 318,000 tons of coal worth £174,000 and had become the largest mining combine in England. Hetton Colliery and its railway proved that 900 feet of limestone and quicksand and a 300 foot hill were not insurmountable obstacles to exploitation of the rich reserves of coal and that lesson did not go unnoticed. Before long others, including the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry and Colonel Thomas Braddyll of Haswell, would enter the field and the tapping of the concealed Durham coalfield began in earnest.

 

 Between 1828 and 1831 Lord Londonderry constructed a waggonway from his Rainton pits to his new harbour at Seaham. This, the Rainton and Seaham railway, passed under the HCR at a point opposite to the public house at the Copt Hill. No junction was effected between the two at this point in time but there may be have been one later. Rainton Colliery closed in 1896 and the Rainton and Seaham line became redundant. The sections west of the Copt Hill were dismantled. The section from the Copt Hill to Seaham Colliery and Seaham Harbour was transferred from Londonderry Collieries to the Hetton Colliery Company and a junction may have been created which enabled the HCC to ship its coal from either Sunderland or Seaham Harbour. The new connection to Seaham Harbour was used only lightly and was abandoned at some point before 1920. The original Hetton Colliery Company was gobbled up by the Lambtons, Earls of Durham, late in the nineteenth century. At the very end of the century the Lambtons in turn sold out all their mining interests to Sir James Joicey. In 1920 the 7th. Marquess of Londonderry sold Silksworth Colliery to Joicey. This pit had been connected to the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland Railway but was now linked instead to the Hetton Colliery Railway. Thus in its time the HCR served Hetton Lyons, Elemore, Eppleton and Silksworth collieries.

 

 When Hetton Lyons Colliery closed in 1950 Elemore, Eppleton and Silksworth collieries carried on using the ancient HCR and the old staiths on the Wear. The end for railway and staiths came with the construction of the new Hawthorn Shaft near Murton from 1952-58 to which the coals from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton were sent underground for onward shipment down the old branch line from Murton to Sunderland Docks via Seaton and Ryhope or to Seaham Harbour via the South Hetton line. After a working life of 137 years the Hetton Colliery Railway carried traffic for the last time on Wednesday, September 9 1959, and dismantling began the next day. The last 90 feet of track was lifted at Hetton on November 20 1960.

 

 You have to wonder what the planners of Sunderland and Durham County councils  were up to back in 1959. No attempt seems to have been made to keep the trackbed of the Hetton Colliery Railway intact. It is not as if this part of the county is over-blessed with historical monuments. A golden opportunity was missed to preserve Stephenson's masterpiece, a direct link back to the Industrial Revolution which so altered this county and especially Easington District. A continuous walkway/cycleway/bridleway/ tourist attraction could have been created - linking the heart of Sunderland to the serene countryside at Hetton and then on to Durham City via the old Durham and Sunderland branch of the N.E.R. Instead in the 35 years since its closure the course of the Hetton Colliery Railway has been bisected by the quarry at Warden Law (itself now disused), the new A19 Sunderland bypass, and the expanding estates of Moorside and Farringdon. Some sections have been taken back by adjacent farmers.

 

The present

 Today, in fragments, there is still much to see of Stephenson's masterpiece. The three best viewing spots are:

 

1) At the Copt Hill public house on the Houghton and Seaham road you are at the top of the inclined plane from Hetton Colliery and can see down into the valley where the pit was located.

 

2) At the summit of Warden Law Hill, above the old quarry. From here, on a clear day, there is a spectacular view in every direction and the sheer scale of the railway can be appreciated. Truly a wonder of its time.

 

3) From the eastern perimeter of Farringdon estate the course of the railway can be followed, in isolated segments, past Plains Farm and on into the centre of Sunderland, running gently downhill all the way. All traces of it vanish as it crosses the Chester Road. The staiths are long since demolished.

 

The Future

 

 The Hetton Colliery Railway preceded the Stockton and Darlington Railway by three years. It was the first railway in the world to be designed to use locomotives. It marked a crucial stage in the career of George Stephenson. These three facts alone give the HCR a unique place in the history of transport. Until very recently however there were no information boards, no sign-posts, nothing to indicate its importance. Now Sunderland City Council has at last put up some signposts and released some very informative free pamphlets for ramblers.

 The Rainton and Seaham Railway 1831-1988

Map to be inserted here

 

The Past

 In 1813 Sir Henry Vane Tempest of Wynyard, MP for County Durham, died from an apopleptic fit at the age of 42 and left his considerable fortune and his mines at Penshaw and Rainton to his only legitimate child, 13 year old Frances Anne. At a stroke, no pun intended, she became the second largest exporter of coal from the River Wear with  an income of £60,000 per year, a tidy sum now, a fortune then. 'Rainton Colliery' was a collective term for several old, shallow pits, some of which had been worked since at least 1650 by Frances Anne’s ancestors. The coal in the Rainton district is just below the surface and in all probability mining had gone on there for a millenium or two before that.

 

 The entire 'Rainton Royalty' was owned by the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral and leased to Frances Anne. At the time that she inherited the Rainton complex incorporated six main pits and many small ones covering an area of some 9 square miles. The main pits were the Nicholson's, Rainton Meadows, the Plain Pit, Woodside, Hunter's House and Resolution. The smaller pits, some of which were worked directly by Frances Anne and the others leased out to smaller independent operators, included the Quarry Pit, Annabella, the North Pit, The Knott, Old Engine and Pontop Pit. The Rainton and Penshaw collieries were complemented by workshops at Chilton Moor. The coal was pulled by horses from the Rainton pits on a waggonway (which had probably existed since the opening of Rainton Colliery) to the staiths at Penshaw (via Colliery Row, Junction Row and Shiney Row), from which point the Wear was navigable. There it was loaded on to small vessels called keels and taken to Wearmouth where it was transferred to larger vessels for the onward sea voyage. Wages for this and the local port tax of six shillings a chaldron amounted to £10,000 per year. A port at nearby Seaham, linked to Rainton by a waggonway, would have enabled Frances Anne to save paying this and gain an edge on her competitors.

 

 For the moment the heiress was a minor  under the care of  guardians and her business was run by agents appointed by the Court of Chancery. In 1819 Frances Anne, as old as the century, married a man old enough to be her father -  41 year old Lord Charles Stewart, a five foot nothing reactionary and minor hero of the Napoleonic Wars. 'Fighting Charlie', as the family called him, had never been to County Durham in his life and knew nothing about his new wife's business, coal. On the credit side he stood to eventually inherit a marquessate, money and land from his father and childless elder half-brother Robert Stewart. That same half-brother, better known as Viscount Castlereagh, was Foreign Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Prime Minister in all but name and able to exert immense influence on behalf of his friends and relatives.

 

 Sir Ralph Milbanke's plan for a harbour at Seaham ('Port Milbanke') now came to Stewart's knowledge and he determined to buy the estates of Seaham and Dalden when he heard that they were to be sold at a public auction. This took place on October 13 1821 and his bid of £63,000 was successful. He raised part of the money by charging it on his brother's Irish property. Stewart simply wanted to avoid middlemen on the Wear and be independent of the port of Sunderland. As yet there was no thought that coal might lie under Seaham itself, but such ideas could not be far away. Chosen spot for the proposed harbour was the limestone promontory called Dalden (or Dawdon) Ness on his new estates. Frances Anne was rich but her money was controlled by trustees who had no confidence in the venture and for the next seven years Stewart failed to find financial backing despite obtaining the favourable views  of  leading engineers of the day such as Rennie, Telford and Logan.

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 Stewart was certainly not idle during this waiting period. A seventh large pit, Adventure, was sunk at Rainton from 1820 to 1822, and an eighth, the Alexandrina or Letch, in 1824. A completely new colliery complex was sunk at Pittington (consisting of the Londonderry, Adolphus and Buddle pits) from 1826 to 1828 on land leased from others. Stewart also leased land at Hetton in 1820 from the estate of the Earl of Strathmore. Here the future North Hetton Colliery (later called Moorsley) would appear in 1838. In 1825 Stewart combined this tract of land with an adjacent part of the Rainton Royalty, which he leased from the Dean and Chapter and where two more pits (Dun Well and Hazard) were planned, and sub-leased the lot to William Russell of Brancepeth. Included in the deal was the nearby North pit and permission to use the old waggonway to Penshaw and the staiths there. Stewart received rent and royalties and also had a share in the new North Hetton Coal Company that was established. When the Rainton to Seaham line was constructed in 1831 he made sure that the last four named pits were roped into his rail network.

 

 When Castlereagh committed suicide in 1822 his half-brother  Charles became the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry. If he had been able to build his railway and harbour in the first years of the 1820s Charles Stewart would have gained an immense advantage over his competitors. The savings made on cutting out the Wear middlemen would have enabled him to deliver his coal to the export market at a price that ensured a fat profit. In 1820 another option had been available. His chief 'viewer' John Buddle recommended that a connection was built from the Rainton & Penshaw Waggonway to link up with another waggonway which ran from Newbottle Colliery to staiths near to Wearmouth. This colliery and waggonway were the property of the Nesham (or Neasham) family who were keen to strike a deal. Doubts about the waggonway's ability to handle all of the additional coal from Rainton and Penshaw collieries and the fact that he would be dependent on others discouraged Stewart from proceeding. In 1822 Lord Lambton snapped up both Nesham's Waggonway and Newbottle Colliery. The new Lambton Waggonway was then extended southwestwards to join up with Lambton's other collieries at Cocken, Littletown and Sherburn. This shrewd move gave Lambton the same advantage as the Hetton Company, independence from the Wear middlemen.

 

 The opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 enabled pits northwest of Darlington to send their coal cheaply to Stockton at which point the Tees was navigable. A new port was planned nearer the sea which would become Middlesbrough. Next came the Clarence Railway which further connected Teeside (Port Clarence) to inland pits. Vast new docks were also planned for Sunderland. Finally the information that Colonel Thomas Braddyll planned to build a harbour at Hawthorn Hythe and a waggonway from there to his new colliery at South Hetton spurred the Marquess into action. It was no longer a question of gaining an advantage but of survival in a very competitive industry. Without the new harbour and railway it was only a matter of time before his collieries were gobbled up by others and incorporated into their railway systems. The problem in 1828 was that he still did not have the money for such an undertaking. Hearing that Londonderry was determined to proceed Braddyll abandoned his own impractical scheme and tried to buy a share in the Rainton & Seaham project but the Marquess decided to go it alone. Braddyll was however persuaded to lend Londonderry £17,000 on condition that his future South Hetton coals would be shipped from the new port and facilities at Seaham Harbour.

 

 Because of Londonderry’s money problems the construction and running of the Rainton line was contracted out to Shakespear Reed of Thornhill who put up the cash and charged so much per chaldron carried. Their contractor was Benjamin Thompson and so inevitably the waggonway became known as Benny's Bank. Shakespear Reed got 3 shillings (15p) per chaldron for the guaranteed 50,000 chaldrons to be shipped each year, with a reducing rate thereafter. The line cost them £20,000 to construct. In 1840 Londonderry was able to exercise his option to buy out Shakespear Reed for £22,721 16s 1d. The deal thus proved very profitable to both parties.

 

 

Breakdown of costs of the Rainton and Seaham Railway.

Seaham Self-Acting Plane                £  779. 15. 2

Londonderry Engine Plane              £ 1770. 15. 7

Seaton Self-Acting Plane                 £  759.   0. 7

Gregson's Plane                               £  991. 12. 1

Warden Law Engine Plane               £ 1548.   6. 1

Copt Hill Engine Plane                      £ 2210. 10. 6

Rainton Engine Plane                        £ 2453.  11. 5

Sidings at Rainton Bridge                 £  168. 19. 6

Sundries at Rainton Bridge               £   446. 16. 0

Coal Waggons                                 £ 6336.   0. 0

Sub-Total                                         £17,465.  6. 11

Engine Houses                                 £  2,534. 13. 1

Total                                                £ 20,000.  0. 0.

 

On July 25 1831  the first coals ran down the new railway line from the Rainton pits to be loaded onto the new brig the 'Lord Seaham'. The Rainton & Seaham railway was initially only 5 miles long, from Seaham Harbour to Rainton Meadows pit but later additions created a network of over 18 miles of railway track. Fixed steam engines hauled the coal from the Rainton collieries to the top of the Copt Hill. At a point just opposite to the public house the new line passed under the Seaham to Houghton road in a short tunnel. The Hetton Colliery Railway at this point crossed the road by means of an overhead bridge. Thereafter the going to Seaham was comparatively easy and more fixed engines and an inclined plane took over to bring the load across the fields of Warden Law and Slingley, skirting to the south of Seaton village. From Seaton Bank Top another inclined plane and then a final fixed engine brought the coal to the top of the Mill Inn Bank, where one day Seaham Colliery would be sited. The last leg from there to the new harbour was downhill and also utilized a self-acting incline system. According to Tom McNee from 1831, on Saturdays only, a specially constructed coach brought people from the Raintons to Seaham Harbour to shop. The journey must have been a tortuous one, involving up to four changes of haulage machinery, but doubtless it beat walking.

 

 In 1838 North Hetton Colliery (Moorsley) came on stream and began sending its output down the Rainton line. Lord Londonderry sank two more pits in the Pittington area on land owned by the Pemberton family - at Belmont in 1835 and Broomside (Lady Adelaide and Antrim pits) in about 1842. A ninth large Rainton pit followed in the late 1840s and was named after the new Lady Seaham, wife of the future 5th. Marquess. All of these pits and the works at Chilton Moor were linked up to the Rainton and Seaham railway which now had some 15 miles of track. In 1849 another colliery was sunk 3 miles to the west of Pittington on the old Tempest property at Old Durham, within sight of the Cathedral. This was called the Ernest pit after Londonderry’s youngest son. A spur line connected Old Durham colliery with the Durham and Sunderland Railway and coals passed along this line for a couple of miles before connecting with a branch of the Rainton & Seaham railway at Broomside Colliery.

 

  In 1844 the Seaton Colliery or High Pit was sunk, not by Londonderry but by the North Hetton & Grange Coal Company, on a site chosen because of its proximity to the Rainton and Seaham line. The Marquess it seems was still nervous about the expense of sinking a new deep colliery and preferred others to risk their money in what might prove to be a fruitless undertaking. Before long he had his proof when the Hetton Company discovered rich but deep seams of coal. On April 13 1849 the sinking of Seaham Colliery or Low Pit was begun by Lord Londonderry. It was right next door to the High Pit and also right alongside the Rainton and Seaham line. It is not recorded what the North Hetton & Grange Coal Company made of this development. The first coal was drawn from Seaton on March 17 1852. Seaham started producing later but the exact date is not known. At 1800 feet the mines were among the deepest in the country and their workings soon extended under the North Sea. The Londonderry colliery portfolio was now the largest in Britain in the hands of a single individual and was producing over one million tons of coal per year from an area of some 12,000 acres between Seaham and Sunderland on the coast and extending as far inland  as Durham.

 

 Charles Stewart, 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry and Founder of Seaham Harbour, died in 1854. His widow, for 35 years in his shadows, now stepped into daylight and began running the businesses herself. She added Framwellgate Colliery to the family portfolio in 1859 and this too was linked up to the Rainton line which now, at its peak, had over 18 miles of track. At the end of 1864, a few weeks before her  death, the Marchioness bought Seaton Colliery and merged it with Seaham.

 

 Frances Anne's heir Earl Vane (later the 5th. Marquess of Londonderry) was advised that the best days of the Rainton and Penshaw pits were over and to concentrate on the new winnings at Seaham and the proposed new colliery at Silksworth. The slow process of abandoning central Durham began with the transfer of the workshops from Chilton Moor to Seaham in January 1866. For another generation the Rainton complex remained productive but declining and the Rainton and Seaham railway kept operating, carrying millions of tons of coal to Seaham Harbour. Ominously the instruments of the Rainton Band were sold off to the 2nd. Durham Artillery Regiment in 1877. The end of the band presaged the final end of Rainton Colliery 19 years later. Before then the family divested themselves of many unwanted assets. Framwellgate and Penshaw collieries were sold off in 1879 and the Plain Pit at Rainton closed at about the same time. The severe depression of the early 1890s finished the rest of the inland pits off. Pittington/Broomside and Belmont Collieries (which had already been sold off) closed in 1890-91. Old Durham Colliery  closed in 1892 after being worked for some 50 years. Adventure was shut down in 1893. The four remaining Rainton pits (Rainton Meadows, Nicholson's, Alexandrina and Lady Seaham) were closed down in November 1896. Buyers were eventually found for  Rainton Meadows and Adventure drift. Meadows had closed by 1923 but Adventure somehow survived the Great War, the General Strike, World War Two and nationalisation and finally closed only in 1978.

 

 The rest of the 'Rainton Royalty' was taken over by Lambton Collieries Ltd. and worked from existing collieries at Cocken and Littletown. As the coal from Meadows and Adventure pits and from North Hetton/Hazard/Dunwell could be carried on N.E.R. lines the waggonway from the Raintons to Seaham Harbour was  redundant after a working life of 65 years. The sections west of the Copt Hill were dismantled in December 1896. The run from the Copt Hill to Seaham Colliery remained open for a while longer to enable the Hetton Colliery Company to ship their coal at Seaham if their own line to the Wear was choked but this section too had gone by 1920.

  TOP

 The last remaining section of the Rainton & Seaham, from Seaham Colliery to Seaham Harbour, which was a self-acting inclined plane, remained open and working until after the Miner's Strike of 1984-85. That strike was lost and the fate of the rump Durham coalfield was sealed by Conservative victories in the General Elections of 1987 and 1992. In 1987 British Coal 'amalgamated' Seaham Colliery with Vane Tempest. No more coal was produced at the old mine and it was relegated to the role of a third shaft for the newer colliery. Vane Tempest coal came to the surface at Seaham Colliery and was transported to the main railway line or the docks from there. The connection from Seaham Colliery to the docks was finally severed in 1988 following an accident with a runaway locomotive. Thus was closed the last section of the Rainton and Seaham line completed 157 years earlier which had brought life to the infant town. 'Benny's Bank' was probably the last working self-acting gravity line in Great Britain - a direct link back to the Industrial Revolution and the Founders of Seaham Harbour.

 

The Present

 

 This last section from the Seaham Colliery to Seaham Harbour, so recently abandoned, will one day make a very pleasant walkway if Easington or Durham County Councils can be persuaded to take an interest in the matter. For the rest of the line, the section from Seaham Colliery to the site of the Rainton collieries, abandoned between 1896 and 1920, it is of course far too late for such notions. Much of the land it occupied was taken back by neighbouring farmers or has been obliterated by new housing or roads or open-cast mining. When the line was constructed, 1828-31, a nucleus of small coals (the most-readily available material) was used to construct the embankments.  People from the village of Seaham Colliery were able to extract over 1,000 tons of this during the General Strike of 1926, a posthumous gift from that long dead tyrant the 3rd. Marquess. Thus there is no trace of the line between Seaham Colliery and Warden Law apart from a continuous trail of tiny pieces of coal on the ground.

 

 At Warden Law however an 800 yard stretch was over level ground and somehow escaped destruction at the time and encroachment by farmers later. It is still possible to walk along the old track here and this section is clearly visible from the air over a hundred years after it's closure, delineated by two rows of trees. Further west the old line is still visible in a wood to your left just before the golf club on the Seaham to Houghton road. Between the Copt Hill and Rainton Bridge the line has been built over for housing or taken back for agricultural use. At Rainton Bridge the railway was sliced by the new Durham to Sunderland A690 road sometime in the 1960s. Beyond the A690 the original line again is clearly visible, with 30 foot embankments covered in coal fragments, for about half a mile. For the next mile the Rainton and Seaham is obliterated by the former open-cast mine (situated on the very site of some of the original Vane Tempest pits) before emerging near to West Rainton. The last mile of track from here to the terminus at the site of the old Adventure colliery is clearly visible and delineated. The branch lines to Pittington, Chilton Moor and Framwellgate are still visible but are overgrown or built on in parts. The branch from Rainton bridge to North Hetton Colliery (via Dunwell and Hazard) has been converted into a beautiful country lane.

 

 In it's heyday the Rainton and Seaham line was used by over a dozen pits owned by the Londonderrys and others, an umbilical cord linking central Durham with the coast. The Raintons and Pittington today are dotted with old pit workings, shafts and spoil heaps and criss-crossed by the trackbeds of old railways and waggonways which bear silent witness to the industrial prosperity of other days. The coal at Rainton was not exhausted in 1896 - it had simply become uneconomic to produce. Today the northern part of the old Rainton Colliery (roughly a triangle whose corners are the old Plain Pit, Rainton Meadows and the Nicholson's Pit) can be seen to your left as you drive from Durham to Sunderland on the A690. In the middle of the nineteenth century Rainton and Pittington were important railway hubs almost completely surrounded by Londonderry pits. Today they are tranquil villages far from  any busy railway line and the nearest colliery is a hundred miles away  in Yorkshire.

 

The Future  ?

 

 There probably isn’t one but it is conceivable that the section from Seaham Colliery to Warden Law could be reclaimed and turned into a walkway. Unfortunately the A19 is a major obstacle in the way of this plan but it is surely not so busy that a Pelicon crossing could not be installed for occasional ramblers. Thereafter a small amount of land would have to be compulsorily purchased back from farmers. The Rainton and Seaham was the vital link between the inland railway pits and the new port and town of Seaham Harbour. Without the railway line there would never have been a Seaham Harbour. It is that important.

   TOP

 

 

 The South Hetton line or Braddyll's Railway 1833-1984

 

 

Insert maps here

 

The Past

 

 The main section of the Rainton and Seaham railway was completed in 1831. Almost immediately work began to construct a second railway from the new harbour to the hinterland, paid for by Colonel Braddyll, owner of the new pit at South Hetton. This, the South Hetton and Seaham line (alao known as The Braddyll Railway), also utilised gravity on its final legs and was completed in 1833. It ran from the new winning past the still tiny hamlet of Murton, on past the ancient village of Cold Hesledon and through green fields down to the clifftops. One day it would separate Seaham Golf Course from Parkside estate but that day was still over a hundred years in the future.

 

 Initially the South Hetton line served only the one colliery. In 1835 Haswell Colliery was opened and the waggonway was extended to it. In 1841 Shotton Colliery was sunk and a further extension was pushed to there. This 2 mile extension was later abandoned in favour of a branch line from Shotton to the Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool line. The only surviving traces of this Shotton connection are the buttresses of the bridge which carried the waggonway over the Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool line which can be seen by ramblers on the Haswell to Hart Walkway. Murton Colliery, another Braddyll pit, came on stream in 1843 and it too was connected up to the South Hetton line. In 1844 an explosion killed 96 at Haswell and the pit was always problematical after that, opening and closing several times. It closed for good in 1896. After the final closure of Haswell  the South Hetton line served only two collieries - Murton and South Hetton and this situation continued for the next  62 years.

 

 From 1958/59 the coals from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton Collieries were sent underground to Hawthorn Shaft for raising to the surface. From there most was sent to Sunderland (on the rump Hartlepool to Sunderland line) and some passed down the South Hetton line. One by one the four feeder collieries closed down and only Murton was left by the time of the Miner's Strike of 1984-85.  During the 151 years of its existence millions of tons of coal had been sent down it to Seaham Harbour, bringing work and revenue to the new town.

 

 The Strike, the longest and most bitter of them all, was calculated to stop the closure of the surviving collieries, in Durham and elsewhere. An early victim was the South Hetton line, destroyed at Parkside by local people digging for coal in that grim winter. As with the Rainton and Seaham line the nucleus of the embankments had been made  in 1831-33 with the cheapest and most readily available material at hand, pea to marble sized pieces of coal which had no other economic value. In its time the line had carried millions of tons of coal and served six inland collieries (none of them owned by the Londonderrys), and accounted for more than one life and limb. It would have been abandoned anyway with the closure of the last of the feeder pits, Murton Colliery, in 1991.

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The Present

 Today the old Braddyll Railway is a very pleasant walkway from Seaham Harbour to Cold Hesledon but after that it is almost obliterated by the gigantic slag heap left behind by the Hawthorn Shaft combine. Beyond the slag heap the line connects with the old Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool railway. From there it is possible to follow old railway lines continuously all the way to Ryhope, Hartlepool and Stockton. The course of the old waggonway from South Hetton to Haswell Colliery is still clearly visible all the way from Hawthorn shaft to Haswell village but is is now like a rollercoaster, suggesting that the embankments suffered the same fate as those at Parkside sometime in the past. The course of the waggonway from Haswell village to Haswell Colliery and on to Shotton Colliery has long since returned to  fields.

   TOP

The Future

 At the moment the section from Seaham Harbour to Cold Hesledon (‘The Yellow Brick Road’) is a very pleasant walkway but there is no path from there to connect with the old Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool line at South Hetton. Thus Seaham will be cut off from the developing national network of old railways which have been turned into walkways. Surely it is not beyond Seaham and Easington councils to obtain a strip of land no wider than 20 feet to make the connection ?

Chapter 5, The Communities

 

The Growth of Easington District 1801-1901

Sub-District/Census

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Dalton-le-Dale

40

52

49

73

88

83

102

128

118

134

339

Dawdon (S.Harbour)

22

27

35

1022

2017

3538

6137

7132

7714

9044

10163

Seaham (Old & New)

115

121

103

130

153

729

2591

2802

2989

4798

5285

Seaton-with-Slingley

96

126

95

134

175

200

236

228

196

228

259

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Hesledon

48

31

55

112

83

117

89

99

108

682

899

Hawthorn

114

118

140

162

177

183

227

268

282

330

513

East Morton (Murton)

75

71

72

98

521

1387

2104

3017

4710

5052

6514

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easington

487

542

593

693

812

916

1073

1428

1260

1262

1731

Haswell & Sth Hetton

93

114

115

263

3981

4356

4165

5623

6156

6276

5512

Shotton

250

286

264

272

603

1607

1871

3130

2131

1975

1917

Castle Eden

362

257

281

260

558

491

535

693

880

1257

1354

Monk Hesleden

150

148

164

176

490

1495

1533

1636

2421

3819

1302

Nesbitt

5

5

9

10

12

11

12

7

10

11

13

Sheraton

99

97

116

110

147

128

139

149

176

173

158

Hulam

7

11

16

15

11

19

13

27

Merged

with

above

Hutton Henry

156

155

174

162      

287

1067

392

539

1825

3151

2578

Wingate

135

151

131

115

2625

2456

2143

3104

5949

4463

8005

Thornley

56

58

60

50

2730

2740

3306

3059

3132

2070

2938

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

2310

2370

2472

3857

15470

21523

26668

33069

40057

44725

49480

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Seaham Total

273

326

282

1359

2433

4550

9066

10290

11017

14204

16046

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G.S. as a % of E. D.

12

14

11

35

16

21

34

31

27

32

32

 

1. The huge rise in the population of Dawdon in 1831 was due to the founding of the town and port of Seaham Harbour in 1828.

2. The large increase in the population of Seaham (Old & New) in 1851 was due to the sinking of Seaton Colliery in 1844 and the adjacent Seaham Colliery in 1849. The two collieries merged as ‘Seaham’ in 1864.

3. The rise in Cold Hesledon’s population in 1891 was due to the expansion of nearby Murton Colliery.

4. The fall in the population of Haswell & South Hetton in 1901 was due to the closure of Haswell Colliery in 1896

5. The fall in Shotton’s population in 1881 was due to the closure of Shotton Colliery in 1877 (opened 1840). The colliery reopened in 1900 after a closure of 23 years.

6. The huge fall in Monk Hesleden’s population in 1901 was due to the closure of Castle Eden Colliery in 1893 and nearby Hutton Henry Colliery in 1897.

7. The rise and fall in Hutton Henry’s population 1841-1901 was due to the opening and closing of South Wingate Colliery (1840 ? -57) and Hutton Henry Colliery (1869 ? -97).

8. Thornley Colliery was partially closed in 1891 which explains the population fall in the census of that year.

9. The fall in Wingate’s population in 1891 was due to the recent closure of Wheatley Hill Colliery (1884). The colliery reopened in 1890 but this was too late to greatly affect the 1891 census figures.

 

The Communities

 

1. Dalton-le-Dale

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Dalton-le-Dale

40

52

49

73

88

83

102

128

118

134

339

Dalton-le-Dale village had no direct connection with coalmining though Murton Colliery, a mile to the west, was originally

called Dalton New Winning. Until 1875 Murton did not have its own Anglican church and so the earlier records relating to Murton citizens are to be found in the parish registers for St. Andrew’s in Dalton-le-Dale. Dalton village took some of the surplus population from Murton and Seaham collieries as the census returns show.

 

2. Dawdon (Seaham Harbour)

 The new town and port of Seaham Harbour was founded in 1828 by the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry. The purpose of the new port was to enable Lord Londonderry to export coal from his small inland collieries and be independent of middle men on the River Wear and at Sunderland. Only late in the 1840s did it become clear that coal lay under the Seaham estate. Seaton Colliery was sunk from 1844-52 and Seaham Colliery was sunk from 1849 to c. 1852. These merged as ‘Seaham’ colliery in 1864. Dawdon Colliery was sunk 1899-1907 and Vane Tempest was sunk 1923-29. The three collieries closed a few years after the defeat of the Miners Strike of 1984-85. Seaham no longer has any connection with coal mining or coal export.

 

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Dawdon (Seah. Harb.)

22

27

35

1022

2017

3538

6137

7132

7714

9044

10163

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3. New Seaham (Seaham Colliery)

 New Seaham colliery village was constructed from 1844 onwards. The new community was within the parish of St. Mary the Virgin at (Old) Seaham until the building of New Seaham Christ Church in 1857 and the creation of a new parish in 1864.

Population changes in the 19th. Century were…

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Seaham (Old & New)

115

121

103

130

153

729

2591

2802

2989

4798

5285

 

The sinking of Seaton Colliery (the High Pit) by the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company began in 1844 and production of coal commenced in March 1852 after a long and desperate struggle against flooding. The sinking of Seaham Colliery (the Low Pit) by the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry commenced in 1849 and it began production not long after Seaton though the actual date is not recorded. The two pits were amalgamated as Seaham Colliery under the control of the Londonderry family in November 1864. There were no less than seven known explosions at the pits, before and after amalgamation. There were three in one year at Seaton in 1852, the first year of production, with six men and boys killed in the last of these. One of the casualties was an 8 year old boy. Another explosion at Seaton in 1862 burnt to death two more workers. The massive explosion in October 1871 miraculously killed only 26. Even more miraculously none died in the huge 1872 blast. Finally 164 men and boys were killed in the calamity of September 1880. Though there were no further explosions there were many single or multiple fatalities at Seaham Colliery after 1880 - Seaham’s graveyards are littered with decaying headstones which testify to that grim truth.

 

 Seaham Colliery Pit Village (New Seaham) was constructed from the mid 1840s onwards and was virtually complete by the time of the 1880 disaster (see above chart). Another street was built betweeen 1881 and 1891, called Viceroy Street in honour of the office held by the 6th.Marquess of Londonderry from 1886 to 1889. A final small row, Stewart Street (the family name of the Londonderrys), appeared between 1891 and 1895.

 

 By the 1930s much of the housing at Seaham Colliery, cheap and cheerless to begin with, was well past its best and the village was earmarked for wholesale demolition under the Slum Clearance Act. Parkside estate was constructed at the end of that decade and most of the inhabitants transferred en masse to there in 1939/40. Knowing that Westlea and Eastlea council estates were planned to arise on the ruins of their village a few of the inhabitants decided to stay put and wait for the new houses. When war came they were joined by those made homeless in Seaham Harbour by German bombing. The Germans also managed to hit the colliery village, scoring a direct hit on the Seaton Colliery Inn after hours one night in October 1941 and killing the landlady and her friend. Eventually the aptly-named Phoenix was constructed on the site.

 

 The old pit village was finally swept away between 1945 and 1960 but there are still a few remnants left in 1995 (The Miner’s Hall bulding, High Colliery School, the row of houses on Station Road which incorporates the New Seaham Inn, now called The Kestrel). The village and most of its inhabitants were gone by 1960 but Seaham Colliery itself survived until the late 1980s. It was nationalised in 1947 after a century of ownership by the Londonderry family. In 1987 Seaham was 'amalgamated' with Vane Tempest Colliery and the old pit was relegated to the role of being third and fourth shafts for the newer concern. No more coal was produced at Seaham Colliery. The Seaham/Vane Tempest 'combine' was closed by British Coal in 1994 and both sites were cleared. Now there is a great open space where Seaham Colliery stood for 150 years.

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History of New Seaham

 

 

The preparatory working for the sinking of Seaton Colliery or the High Pit began on July 31 1844. The actual sinking of the shaft commenced on August 12 1845. The mine was developed not by the landowner Lord Londonderry but by the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company, on a site chosen because of its proximity to the Rainton and Seaham waggonway. The main shareholder of this concern was Lord Lambton, 2nd.Earl of Durham, an individual with many other inland pits and who was the second largest producer of coal in County Durham behind Londonderry himself.

 

 The North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company was licensed to exploit only the coal under Londonderry’s land between Seaton and Warden Law, but that canny lord reserved any and all seaward coal for himself. The Marquess it seems was still very nervous about the expense of sinking a new and very deep colliery and preferred others to risk their money in what might yet prove to be a fruitless undertaking. Also, as usual, he was short of cash despite the fact that business was booming. Before very long he had his proof when the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company discovered deep but rich seams of coal.

 

 Sir Ralph Milbanke, he who had sold the estates of Seaham and Dalden to the Irishman for a song a quarter of a century before, must have turned in his grave. Even before this development Lord Londonderry was probably on paper the richest man in the county of Durham. His numerous pits at Penshaw and in the Rainton and Pittington districts and elsewhere in Durham were at their peak and the demand was such that he could usually sell every ton that he produced. Now, almost by accident, he had secured his family’s future for the next century.

 

  The nearby Mill Inn was known as the 'Nicky Nack' and its landlord was dubbed 'Tommy Nicky-Nack Chilton' and so Seaton Colliery soon acquired the nickname. Little is known about these early years but a letter survives in the Londonderry Papers at the Durham Record Office which informs us that on January 27 1845 a party of guests travelled from Lord Londonderry’s mansion at Wynyard (near Stockton, now owned by John Hall) to Seaham Harbour to observe the opening ceremony for a new extension to the docks. On the way they passed the digging at Seaton, where a depth of 40 fathoms had been achieved of an anticipated 240 fathoms. At the request of the ladies present two of the ‘sinkers’ ascended from the bottom of the shaft in a large kibble or bucket. They resembled drowned rats more than men but they maintained their dignity and flatly refused to 'run about and show themselves' to the spectators.

 

 The pit later made much slower progress due to the water problem. After coal was reached but before it could be exploited a second colliery was begun nearby by the lord of the manor. The reaction of the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company directors to this development has not been preserved but they cannot have been very amused. Nearly thirty years after the first tapping of the concealed coalfield at Hetton the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry, now 71, at last took the plunge and sank his first deep coal mine. The sinking of Seaham Colliery or the 'Low Pit' commenced on April 13 1849. The Low Pit shaft was 1797 feet deep and the High Pit shaft was 1819 feet deep. Both were 14 feet in diameter. The new mines were the second and third deepest in the country (behind Pemberton Main at Monkwearmouth). The first coal from Seaton was only drawn on March 17 1852, after almost seven years of battles against flooding and quicksand. Seaham began producing a little later after a much shorter battle, but the precise date is unknown.

 

 In the first weeks after coming on stream there were three explosions at Seaton, the last of which, on Wednesday June 16 1852, killed six men and boys and injured several others. Among the dead was a 10 year old boy, Charles Halliday or Holliday. The inquest was held at the Mill Inn with Mr.Morton, Agent of the Earl of Durham, present. It was revealed that naked lights (candles) had been used in the pit, nearly four decades after the invention of the safety lamp. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death.

 

 To justify their huge outlay of money the Londonderrys' new Seaham pit needed to be a giant in production terms compared to its predecessors inland and this soon proved to be the case. By 1854 (when it had barely begun production and would soon employ far more) 269 hands were employed, making it as large as any of the Rainton  and Penshaw pits owned by Lord Londonderry. By the mid-1870s Seaham/Seaton was producing as much coal as all of the other Londonderry pits at Rainton, Pittington and Penshaw combined. By 1880 the mine employed 1500 men and boys and had an output of half a million tons of coal per year. By the time of the census of 1881 some 3,000 people lived in the village of New Seaham.

 

 Charles Stewart, 3rd.Marquess of Londonderry and 1st.Viscount Seaham, died at his home, Holdernesse House in London’s Park Lane, in March 1854. A new place of worship, Christ Church, was built at New Seaham in 1855 by Lady Frances Anne as a memorial to her husband. It is virtually the only monument to the old tyrant that still stands in the town he created. The church received free heating and lighting courtesy of underground pipes from the colliery 200 yards away. Christ Church also included a graveyard which was to become the last resting place for generations of New Seaham inhabitants. Previously the dead had been interred at either the ancient St.Andrew’s at Dalton-le-Dale or the even older St.Mary’s at Old Seaham or the new graveyard at St.John’s in Seaham Harbour.

 

 Like her late husband the Marchioness was infamous for her parsimony and yet on March 1 1856 this complex character entertained between three and four thousand of her pitmen at Chilton Moor. In 1857 she spent over £1000 to entertain 3,930 of her pitmen, dockers, quarrymen and railwaymen at Seaham Hall, in the presence of the Bishop of Durham and numerous friends. Her friend and protege Benjamin Disraeli recognised in his writings after her death that Frances Anne was a tyrant in her way but it would be fairer to describe her as a benevolent despot. As Durham mine owners went the Londonderrys were actually among the best and the miners of the day preferred to work for them than most others. Bad as they were living conditions at New Seaham were far better than most older mining villages in the county. In the 1850s the Marchioness built Londonderry schools at the Raintons, Kelloe, Old Durham, Penshaw and New Seaham (which still stands) and later her son Henry constructed another at Silksworth. She personally paid the teacher’s salaries and all other expenses and allowed the children of non-employees to attend.

 

 The 1850s saw the building of several streets in the vicinity of the two pits and the creation of a tight-knit community. Window tax was abolished in 1851 and mechanised brick production (with machine-pressed bricks) was developed in 1856, both of which made the process cheaper and easier. The typical 'through terrace house' at Seaton/Seaham Colliery had one room downstairs and one upstairs (often divided into two by a partition to provide separate sleeping accomodation for boys and girls). The downstairs room served for cooking, bathing, meals, general living and as sleeping space for parents. The back yard had a dry closet privy (a netty) and a coal shed. Social life centred on the back alley.

 

 At Hartley Colliery in Northumberland in January 1862 over 200 men and boys died of suffocation when the only shaft was blocked by falling machinery. Shortly after this disaster, the greatest single loss of life in the Great Northern Coalfield, the Seaton High Pit and Seaham Low Pit were joined by an underground link. Within weeks, on March 29, a cage rope broke at the Low Pit and the shaft was blocked by stone. Over 400 men and boys and 70 ponies escaped via the High Pit. They would have shared the fate of the Hartley colliers and perished within hours without the connection. The Northumberland and Durham Miner’s Permanent Relief Fund had its origin in the widespread need which followed the Hartley Disaster. Before Hartley it was the individual worker’s responsibility to subscribe to a 'club' to cover 'private' medical expenses. There were discretionary payments from the mine owners, at a level below that of wages, for some workers who suffered an accident, with the limited objective of retaining the services of skilled workmen temporarily disabled. For those permanently crippled or worse there was nothing and before long they and/or their widows and children were given their marching orders from their colliery houses. The Employer’s Liability Act was still 20 years in the future.

 

 Another explosion on April 6 1864 at Seaton Colliery severely burnt two men, Tristram Heppell and William Fairley. Both died in agony in their homes  some days later. Heppell’s father, a master sinker of pits, had been a contemporary and friend of George Stephenson at Killingworth Colliery in Northumberland. Heppell was a member of the Seaham Volunteers and so was given a military funeral at St. Mary’s. Reverend Angus Bethune conducted the service. We shall come across this individual again later in this narrative.

 

 When an Act of Parliament prohibited the working of coal-mines without two outlets from each seam Lady Frances Anne decided that the simplest way to comply with this legislation in the case of Seaham Colliery was to buy Seaton Colliery from the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company and amalgamate it with Seaham. This was done in November 1864, and was virtually the last business deal she completed for she was dying by then. She died at Seaham Hall on January 20 1865, three days after her 65th.birthday.  Her  collieries passed to her son Henry, Earl Vane, who succeeded his half-brother Frederick as Marques’s of Londonderry in 1872.

 

 'Observer', who wrote 'Gleanings from the Pit Villages' in 1866, gave Seaham Colliery high praise in contrast to older Durham pit villages. He commended its roomy dwellings, good gardens and wide streets. The usual outdoor meeting place for men at Seaham Colliery in dispute with the management was the ball alley. This was also used for gambling, fist-fights and games of hand-ball against teams from neighbouring collieries. The surface of the wall eventually deteriorated and it was abandoned to nesting birds in the 1920s.

 

 All of the Easington district collieries began to receive a steady stream of Cornishmen and Devonians and their families in the mid-1860s. A street would be eventually be named in honour of the Cornish at Seaham Colliery and a whole district of Murton was taken over by these refugees from the dying lead and tin industries and nicknamed ‘Cornwall’. Wingate Grange Colliery also received a very large contingent. Seaham Colliery also absorbed Scots, Irish and Welsh and also a group from Norfolk. Wood Dalling and neighbouring villages must have been stripped bare of their agricultural labourers, lured north by the prospect of higher and consistent wages by the agents of the Marquess of Londonderry and other coal owners. Most of these people would retain their accents for the rest of their lives but their children and grandchildren were completely assimilated into the host community and became Geordies. Seaham Colliery must have been a very cosmopolitan place in these early days and it cannot have been unusual to hear a dozen accents during a day’s work at the pit.

 

 The first mass meeeting of the lodges of the new union, the DMA (Durham Miners’ Association), took place at Wharton Park in the city of Durham in July 1871. Just three months later on Wednesday October 25 1871 26 men and boys were killed in another explosion at Seaham Colliery. On the day before the tragedy a mass meeting of young men and boys had determined to ask for some alteration in their bonds - in particular a reduction in their hours of labour. For many below the rank of hewer the working day lasted from their rising at 3am until they returned home filthy at about 6.15pm. There was barely time for any relaxation before going to bed. A deputation was sent to see the manager Dakers but he refused to give them an answer until the next conclusion of the bond in April 1872. Dakers refused even to see a second delegation. In consequence a mass meeting of all the men and boys was called for the Thursday night with a view to laying the pit idle. The disaster intervened.

 

 The explosion of Wednesday October 25 1871 occurred at 11.30 pm, otherwise the death-toll would have been much higher - by now the colliery was employing 1100 men and boys. The shock was felt at Seaham Harbour.John Clark, aged 9, sitting on the surface in a cabin near the pit shaft, was blown 10 yards by the explosion. The force of the blast was such that many ponies were killed in their underground stables 1.5 miles away from the epicentre. Two men named Hutchinson, father and son, working as 'marrows' (marras), fired the shot which triggered the blast. The father, Thomas senior, survived the explosion but was badly injured. For days he hovered between life and death and medical opinion concluded that he could not survive. But survive he did - for he was destined to be killed in the 1880 explosion. Thomas Hutchinson junior left a pregnant widow and two children. Manager Dakers and Head Viewer Vincent Corbett went down the pit to assess the situation and made a decision which to some seemed harsh and to others seemed like murder. The ‘stoppings’ were rushed up to starve the fire of oxygen and save the mine irrespective of the men thereby entombed. The explosion occurred on Wednesday - by Sunday the furnace was re-lighted at the shaft bottom for ventilation. The men were somehow persuaded to return to work while the bodies of their colleagues lay entombed for several weeks in nearby workings. Religious decency then laid much greater emphasis on proper burial of a body in consecrated ground.Four of the bodies were brought out immediately after the explosion but the remaining 22 were not recovered until December 20. The appeal fund produced just over £2,000. The inquest was held at the New Seaham Inn (now called the Kestrel). Verdict - Accidental death. Just as the village began to recover from the tragedy it was struck another mortal blow with an outbreak of smallpox. There was another explosion in 1872 but there was no loss of life or injury.

 

 Manager Dakers either retired, died or moved on at the start of 1874. He was replaced by a 21 year old, Mr.Thomas Henry Marshall Stratton, who was fated to be in charge when the 1880 disaster occurred. By then he was still only 28 and due to move on from Seaham Colliery to his next post. The man had no luck. There was another county-wide coal strike in 1879, the first major confrontation since the the Great Strike of 1844 and, as usual, the miners were defeated. Before the village of Seaham Colliery could properly recover from this ruinous episode an even greater disaster struck in the following year. The death of one collier started a train of events which led to an immense tragedy. A man called Robert Guy was run over and killed by a set of tubs on the Maudlin engine-plane at Seaham Colliery on August 7 1880. Adverse and critical remarks made at the inquest a few days later obliged manager Stratton to have refuge holes from the rolling tubs made larger and more frequent to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy. This work went on for several weeks and it may well have been a shot fired in the course of it which triggered the great explosion.

 

 In that hot August of 1880 the Seaham Volunteer Artillery Brigade distinguished itself in the big gun shooting of the National Artillery Competition at Shoeburyness, picking up a beautiful trophy and over £200 in prize money, a very handsome sum in those days. The team members were welcomed back to Seaham as heroes and their crackshot Corporal Hindson was carried shoulder-high through the town. The next big event in the town’s social calendar was Seaham’s Annual Flower Show, to be held in the grounds of Seaham Hall from Thursday September 9 to Sunday the 11th. The 5th.Marquess himself, a rather shy and unassuming man, was to make one of his rare visits in order to present the prizes. Indeed he was to honour the town his parents had founded with his presence for an entire week. As it turned out he was to stay for a good deal longer than he anticipated. Many of the miners at Seaham Colliery had entries in the show and some of these men swapped shifts with those disinterested in horticultural affairs in order that they might attend. It was to prove a fateful decision for those who should have been working on the Tuesday/Wednesday night and for those who ended up working when ordinarily they would have been at home sound asleep.

 

 At Seaham Colliery there were three shifts per day for hewers (everyone else worked much longer hours) of 7 hours each, covering the period from 4 am to 11.30 pm. The shifts were: 1) Fore Shift, 4 am to 11.30 am 2) Back Shift, 10 am to 5.30 pm 3) Night Shift, 4 pm to 11.30 pm. Each shift involved some 500 men and boys and at the overlap of the shifts there could be over 1,000 men in the pit. From 10 pm to 6 am, when the colliery was comparatively quiet, was the maintenance shift, which employed far fewer workers. Fortuitously the 1880 explosion took place at 2.20 am during one such maintenance shift, 100 minutes before the start of the Fore shift, which is why only 231 men and boys were below ground.The tragedy could have been much much worse, eclipsing the disasters at Hartley and West Stanley.

 

 On the fateful evening of Tuesday September 7 1880 Joseph Birkbeck (or Birbeck), choir master and organist at Christ Church, slept through his ‘knocker’ at his home at 19 Post Office Street and thereby missed his shift and of course forfeited his pay. The decision, conscious or otherwise, was to save his life and enable him to live until his nineties. His father and namesake (17 Mount Pleasant) was not so fortunate. Corporal Hindson (22 John Street, Seaham Harbour), the crackshot, had a premonition of his own death. Three times he started out for work on that dreadful night and twice he returned home. The third time he did not return. John Hutchinson (15 Post Office Street) went to work even though he was poorly because he knew the financial result of any failure to attend. His condition deteriorated however and he felt obliged to return home before the end of his shift. He abandoned his place of work in the Maudlin seam minutes before the explosion, leaving his marrow Pat Carroll (Cooke Street) alone, but had to sit down for a rest on his way back to the pit shaft. He actually fell asleep and was roughly awoken by the prodding of a stick by the overman Walter Murray who told him to go home if he was unwell. At the shaft bottom Hutchinson talked for a while with Laverick the onsetter whilst waiting for the cage to descend. He had barely stepped from the cage at the surface when the pit blew. The ground shook, waking up people in the neighbourhood. The sound of the explosion was heard on ships in Seaham Harbour and as far away as Murton Colliery and the outskirts of Sunderland. Some men saw a great cloud of dust blown skywards out of the shafts. The Marquess heard the noise at Seaham Hall and was among the first on the scene.

 

 The explosion of Wednesday September 8 1880 took place at 2.20 am in the Hutton and Maudlin seams, the middle of the three levels at the pit.The highest level was the Main Coal Seam, the lowest was the Harvey. Both shafts were blocked with debris and it was twelve hours before a descent could be made. Even then the rescuers had to use the emergency kibble (an iron bucket) for the cages were of course out of action. The cage remained out of action at the Low Pit for nine days. In the pit the engine house and stables had caught fire and many of the ponies were found to have suffocated. The hooves of some of them (complete with shoes) were preserved as souvenirs, polished, inscribed and adapted to various uses, such as stands for ink-wells, snuff-boxes and pin-cushions. Fifty four ponies and a cat survived. Further on the rescuers found debris and mutilated human corpses. Body after body was then located in the dark tunnels. Nineteen survivors from the Main Coal seam were brought up the Low Pit shaft which was not blocked at the level of that seam. The main rescue work was done from the High Pit shaft where it was also possible to use a kibble. Forty eight more survivors were brought out this way. Of the 231 workers only 67 had thus been rescued by midnight of the first day, leaving 164 unaccounted for. None of these survived. Some 169 men and boys had been working in the affected seam - only 5 of these survived and were rescued.

 

 The roads into Seaham were completely blocked by people in the next few days. Most of these were simply morbid sight-seers who obstructed the way for the rescue teams despatched from other collieries near and far. Special trains from Sunderland to Seaham for the Flower Show (now cancelled) were instead packed with these 'spectators'. The families of those dead or missing were unable to get anywhere near the colliery. The crowd round the pit reached an estimated 14,000 on the Wednesday night (the day of the explosion). By Sunday there were an estimated 40,000 people in the vicinity to see the first mass funerals. After that the interest wore off and the crowds gradually drifted away to other entertainment. The bereaved were  at last left alone waiting for news, any news, of their loved ones.

 

 164 men and boys were dead. The flower of the village had been wiped out.There were 13 dead from Seaham Street alone. California Street lost 12, Cornish Street 11, Australia and Hall Streets 10 each. Every single street in the village lost at least 2 men or boys. Some of the bodies were recovered fairly quickly, the rest only after long and painful delays. Fires had to be extinguished before rescue work could continue. There was no artificial breathing apparatus available though it had recently been perfected. 136 of the 164 bodies had been recovered by October 1. Then the Maudlin seam caught fire again and the management decided to seal off that portion of the mine to deny oxygen to the flames, to the horror of the kinfolk of those entombed who still clung to the faint and irrational hope that their loved ones were still alive. The seam was not reopened until the following June when breathing apparatus and Fleuss’s patent lamp were used by explorers. The last of the bodies was not in fact recovered until almost exactly a year after the explosion.

 

 The workmen in those parts of the pit over which the force and flame extended were all found dead at the places where their work required them to be, as if death had been instantaneous. But the miners far away from the shaft had lived on, some badly injured or burnt and others unscathed, in small and remote air pockets, for many hours or even longer, and left evidence of this in their writings. They eventually died from suffocation in the depleting air. The oil in some of their lamps was found to be exhausted, showing that they had continued to burn for some hours, possibly days, after the explosion. A note was found pinned to one of the bodies:

 

September 8 1880

'E.Hall and J.Lonsdale died at half-past 3 in the morning.W.Murray and W.Morris and James Clarke visited the rest on half-past nine in the morn and all living in the incline,

Yours truly,

W.Murray, Master-Shifter'

 

 A piece of brattice-board about 2.5 feet long was found with the names of fourmen on one side and on the other this message:

 

 ' Five o' clock, we have been praying to God'.

 

Near to the board were the four dead men. Another board had two messages written on it in chalk.The first read:

 

 'The Lord has been with us, we are all ready for heaven - Ric Cole, half past 2 o' clock Thursday'.

 

The second message, much fainter, read:

 

 'Bless the Lord we have had a jolly prayer meeting, every man ready for glory. Praise the Lord’. Sign.R.Cole

 

 Another man, Michael Smith, who had left his dying infant son to go to work, wrote a love-letter to his wife on his tin water-bottle with a rusty nail:

 

'Dear Margaret,

There was 40 of us altogether at 7am. Some was singing hymns but my thoughts was on my little Michael that him and I would meet in heaven at the same time. Oh Dear wife, God save you and the children, and pray for me...Dear wife, Farewell. My last thoughts are about you and the children. Be sure and learn the children to pray for me. Oh what an awful position we are in ! Michael Smith, 54 Henry Street'

 

 By a sad coincidence his son Michael did die on the same day as the disaster. The bottle survives to this day somewhere in the Midlands in the possession of a descendant of Michael Smith.

 

 Of the other victims John Southern (or Sutherland, 12 Australia Street) left a widow and 9 children. Crackshot Corporal Hindson (22 John Street, Seaham Harbour) was carried shoulder-high again - this time in his coffin. His arms and legs were blown off by the blast and identification was based on his flamboyant beard. There was no Volunteers band at his funeral at St.John’s for it had lost five of its best musicians. The Hendersons of 10 Cooke Street lost the father Michael and three of his sons. Thomas Hutchinson (18 Seaham Street), survivor in 1871, was not so lucky this time. The Durham Chronicle reported: 'One of the first of the bodies recovered was claimed by his widow to be that of Harry Ramsay (or Ramshaw). At home (20 Vane Terrace) the pet dog refused to approach the corpse, barked ceaselessly and was ill at ease. The body was duly buried. A few days later the real Ramsay was found and positively identified by the army boots and straw belt which he always wore at the pit. This time the dog showed every sign of recognition and even licked one of the dead man’s boots....the unfortunate widow had to pay for a second funeral and needed to be advanced money for the purpose by Vicar Scott.’  The only thing wrong with this story is that according to the 1881 census Harry Ramsey was a single man living with his parents!  Another enigma we shall never get to the bottom of.

 

  Initially at least the Seaham Colliery disaster excited national interest and sympathy. Queen Victoria telegraphed from Balmoral, and the Home Secretary came to Seaham. As a result of the explosion there were 107 widows, 2 mothers and 259 children without their breadwinners. A Relief Fund raised over £13,000. The Queen chipped in £100. It is not clear whether or not the Londonderry family contributed to the sum. Probably they did not (at least not publicly) for this would have created a dangerous precedent both for them and other coalowners. In fairness it should be pointed out that the 5th.Marquess had already contributed to the Northumberland & Durham Miner’s Permanent Relief Fund over the previous three years a sum equal to one fifth of that contributed by the workmen at Seaham and his other collieries. Londonderry and his heir Castlereagh also had the decency to attend one of the mass funerals. Had the disaster occurred just four months later, after the passing of the Employer’s Liability Act (which became law on January 1 1881), then the widows and other dependents would have received at least some compensation automatically if an inquest jury had decided there had been negligence on the part of the proprietors.

 

 Of the total sum of £13,000 raised, £7,500 was invested with the River Wear Commisioners for ultimate needs, and over £4,000 was paid to the committee of the Northumberland and Durham Miner’s Permanent Relief Fund for them to administer by way of current relief in Seaham. The inquest was held at the Londonderry Institute at Seaham Harbour. Verdict - Accidental deaths. The locally-drawn jury might have been afraid of upsetting the Londonderry family or their agents who ran all of Seaham’s affairs and thus made no recommendations or remarks regarding safety at the pit.

 

 Then things changed. Typhoid fever, possibly contracted from handling the bodies, broke out in the village by the end of September. Yet more deaths were caused by this pestilence. Bitterness was expressed when only 1 shilling (5p.) a week was granted to disaster widows, plus 3 pence (1.25p) for each child of school age. Even Vicar Scott protested. Ten of the widows felt compelled to march into a meeting of the Permanent Relief Committee to state their grievances. They asked for 2/9d (14p.) per week for each widow, 1/- (5p.) for each child and a sum of £5 for each family to enable clothing to be bought. The Committee remained unmoved and the rate of relief remained unchanged, which is probably the reason why there apparently is still money in the Fund to this day, 115 years later.

 

 Greater bitterness was caused by the decision to brick up the Maudlin seam before all the bodies were recovered, because fires were still raging underground. Months passed and the resentment led to riots and strikes. In November 1880 coal working was being gradually resumed on the management’s promise of increased pay and an undertaking that the Maudlin stoppings would soon be withdrawn but early in December, when it became clear that these promises would not be kept, the strike began in earnest. Despite the deteriorating weather the workforce were still out at the end of January but a few, a very few, had broken away. The DMA paid out 7/6d (37.5p) per week in strike pay. During February the first blacklegs were brought in from outside the village and were attacked. Daily and under police protection they had to run the gauntlet of the miner’s wives, jeering and banging pokers on 'blazers'. Any blackleg spotted on his own was given a good hiding. On more than one occasion the strikers and their families massed at the pit and prevented a particular shift from going down. More blacklegs were brought in under cover of darkness. Spies in Sunderland somehow reported their imminent arrival at Seaham Colliery station and there was usually a reception committee waiting to give them a warm welcome. Eventually police had to be billeted at the pit and these were put up in the Volunteer Drill Shed.

In February 1881 a special 'court' was held at Seaham Police Station to deal with charges in connection with the disturbances.The Reverend Angus Bethune was the presiding magistrate. The other magistrates were Colonel Allison and Captain Ord. Colonel White, Chief Constable of the County, also occupied a seat on the bench. Bethune made all the decisions, primed no doubt by his ‘associates’. This far from saintly individual, who now rests in St.Mary’s churchyard, was in fact little more than a Londonderry family retainer. He lived into his 90s and was one of Seaham’s leading citizens for 60 years, christening three generations of Londonderrys (usually in London not Seaham). I leave it to my readers to decide whether or not this was a kangaroo court. Watching the entire proceedings (and taking copious notes for future reference no doubt) were the new manager of Seaham Colliery, Barret, and his boss the Head Viewer of all the Londonderry coal concerns Vincent Corbett. Over 50 men were summonsed. Five men were charged with assaulting an alleged blackleg. For this offence one Simeon Vickers (8 Cornish Street) got two months hard labour, the others (Thomas Morgan, William Aspden, Robert Dunn and Thomas Lannigan) got 1 month hard labour. Vickers was further convicted of an additional three assaults on blacklegs. He got another three months hard labour for these incidents. Jonathan Wylde was given 14 days hard labour for assault. A great mob of supporters outside the closed court were held back by police. The constabulary were also needed in force to enable the convicted to be escorted to Durham Gaol the following day.

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 By the beginning of March the strikers were at the end of their tether. A ballot was taken and there was not the necessary two thirds majority to stay out. It was agreed that work would be resumed on condition that all hands were re-engaged. However Vincent Corbett, Supreme Londonderry Lackey in Seaham, was having none of it. He named 26 'marked' men, above and beyond those jailed, who would not be taken back on. These were of course the leading union men, intelligent and therefore dangerous. In this tense stand-off, rumours proliferated that candymen were to be sent for to commence evictions. On several occasions in early March reports reached the village that their arrival was imminent and mobs of men went to meet them. All of these however proved to be false alarms. During the adjourned hearing of some of the intimidation cases at the Police Station in April a crowd of miners left the precincts of the court on hearing that a 'special' train was expected at Seaham station containing both police and candymen. This report too was unfounded. By the end of March 1881 the strikers were obliged to negotiate with the management. The list of marked men was reduced to just 10, the leading unionists.

 

  The DMA had to advise the Seaham Lodge to accept that the 10 men must become 'Sacrificed Members' who would give up their colliery houses within a month. Four of these - Thomas Banks (President of the Seaham Lodge), Thomas Brown, Thomas Burt (cousin of his namesake, the Liberal MP for Morpeth) and Robert Newham stayed put in their homes and were duly evicted on April 29 1881. The police arrived suddenly and in force at 10 am. The rest of the villagers could only stand in silence and watch. They were beaten and they knew it. The other Sacrificed Members were given £50 each by the union to start up again elsewhere. They would of course be denied work at every other mine in the Great Northern Coalfield. Some of the men and their families left the village. Some of these are reported to have been obliged to emigrate to America. At least one of them, David Corkhill, eventually returned to Seaham and his numerous descendants walk amongst us today, possibly oblivious of the goings on of a century and more ago. See below for more information about the Seaham Colliery Disaster.

 

 Seaham Colliery finally got back to work in April 1881. All of the remaining bodies were removed by September 6 of that year. Those widows who were now bereft of colliery workers in their families were obliged to give up their houses and move elsewhere. The village gradually filled up again as new workers were imported. Fertile ground for Londonderry’s headhunters was found in the dying Cumberland coalfield. A swarm of mining families came from the Whitehaven area and there can be few Seaham residents in 1995 who do not have some of these as their ancestors. Another wave came from the north Midlands - Staffordshire and Derbyshire in particular. Some came from North Wales, others from Yorkshire, Cornwall, Devon and Scandinavia. Nearer to home Haswell and Usworth sent contingents too.

 

  The four remaining Rainton pits (Rainton Meadows, Nicholson’s, Alexandrina and Lady Seaham) were closed down in November 1896. With the loss of much of his income from central Durham in 1896 the 6th.Marquess decided to construct a second pit at Seaham as a replacement. In August 1899 the first sods were cut by Theresa, Marchioness of Londonderry, and her elder son Viscount Castlereagh, who gave their names to the two shafts. The first coal was drawn in 1907. By 1911 the population of Seaham was 20,000 - an increase of 33% over the previous ten years. By 1920 the new colliery, Dawdon, employed 3,300 workers and produced over 1 million tons per year. It became the premier colliery in Greater Seaham, relegating the old 'Nack' to a poor second place.

 

 In 1920 the Marquess sold his Silksworth Colliery to Sir James Joicey. It was decided that a new, third, pit should be sunk at Seaham and that the contents of Seaham Hall should be disposed of preparatory to its sale. On November 19 1923 the first sod was cut at the new colliery which was called Vane Tempest after Frances Anne and her ancestors.

 

 The Slum Clearance Act was passed in 1930 and Seaham Council was quick to take advantage. The Carr House Estate (Deneside) had begun even before, in 1928, and was finally completed in 1937. People from Seaham Harbour were moved up to it and away from their old appalling conditions. The old tight-knit community at Seaham Colliery was also broken up and moved almost en masse to the new estate at Parkside. Knowing that Westlea and Eastlea estates were planned a few of the inhabitants stayed put and waited for their new houses.404 houses for 2,017 people were completed at Parkside by September 1940, but there were no shops and no public house.

 

 The old streets at Seaham Colliery and Seaham Harbour were not immediately demolished but were kept for those made homeless by German air raids. On October 25 1941 the Seaton Colliery Inn sustained a direct hit after hours and the landlady and a friend were killed. One day a new public house, aptly named the Phoenix, would appear on the site. In 1947 construction of the Eastlea and Westlea estates began.To make way for them the old streets of the Seaham Colliery area were demolished over the next 15 years.

 

 On July 12 1946, the eve of the first postwar Gala, the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act received the Royal Assent. The official handover took place on 'Vesting' Day, Wednesday January 1 1947. Notice boards were set up outside every pit which read: 'This colliery is now managed by the National Coal Board on behalf of the people'. Lord Londonderry was apparently very generously compensated for the loss of his three Seaham collieries but the precise amount he received seems to be a secret.

 

 The Miner’s Strike of 1984-85 - the last, longest and most bitter of them all, was calculated to stop the closure of the remaining collieries in County Durham and elsewhere. Once again, as usual, the miners lost and the fate of the rump Durham coalfield was finally sealed by Conservative victories in the General Elections of 1987 and 1992. In 1987 British Coal 'amalgamated' Seaham Colliery with Vane Tempest. No more coal was produced at the old mine and it was relegated to the role of a third shaft for the newer colliery. Vane Tempest coal came to the surface at Seaham Colliery and was transported to the main railway line or the docks from there. The rail connection from Seaham Colliery to Seaham Harbour was severed a year later in 1988 following an accident with a runaway locomotive. Thus was closed the last section of the Rainton and Seaham line laid between 1828 and 1831 which had brought life to the infant town. 'Benny’s Bank' had been a direct link back to the Industrial Revolution and the Founders of Seaham Harbour.

 

 In 1991 both Dawdon and Murton collieries were closed and the sites levelled. In October 1992 British Coal, as part of a national strategy, announced the closure of the four remaining pits in the old County of Durham, including the Seaham-Vane Tempest combine. Seaham and Vane Tempest collieries were bulldozed in 1994. Now a great open site has replaced each of the three Seaham pits. Mining in the town came to an end after a century and a half.

 

 The twin estates of Westlea and Eastlea, on either side of the old A19, now stand on the site of Seaham Colliery village (‘The High Colliery’). Many ex-miners or descendants of miners, live there today but the nearest coalmine is over a hundred miles away.

 

4. Seaton-with-Slingley

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Seaton-with-Slingley

96

126

95

134

175

200

236

228

196

228

259

 

 Centuries of rural tranquility came to an abrupt end in 1828 when the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry built a waggonway to connect his wife’s Rainton and Penshaw pits to their new port and town of Seaham Harbour. This skirted the southern outskirts of Seaton and brought newcomers to operate the line. No sooner was it completed in 1831 when the Sunderland Dock Company pushed through a passenger and freight line in the direction of Durham, with a branch line to the new pit at South Hetton and the projected new colliery at Haswell. This passed just west of Seaton which was given its own station. Completed by 1835 the Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) and Haswell Railway passed under the Rainton and Seaham at Seaton Bank Top, and a junction was effected.

 

 From 1835 onwards therefore, a very early date in railway history, Seaton was directly connected to the outside world. Sunderland was now just 15 minutes away and London could be reached within a day. Seaham Harbour would not have a passenger railway for another 20 years so Seaton, being the nearest station, catered for Seaham Harbour traffic as well during that period. The Londonderry Seaham & Sunderland Railway opened in 1855. Seaton station at once lost all of the Seaham Harbour traffic and became a quiet backwater of the NER system. Its busiest day of the year after 1871 was always the Durham Miners Gala when tens of thousands of East Durham mining folk would travel on the line to the county town. Seaham miners and their bands would march in procession to Seaton station to board the special trains provided. Though hundreds of thousands of people must have used Seaton station in its heyday no photos of it are known to have survived.

 

 In 1844 the North Hetton & Grange Coal Company commenced the sinking of Seaton Colliery on land leased from Lord Londonderry. The new concern was called Seaton Colliery after the nearest settlement but the village of Seaton was a good mile away. The presence of rich but very deep coal was proven by 1849. Londonderry then began his own Seaham Colliery alongside. Seaton Colliery started production in 1852 after a long and costly battle. Seaham began production not long after but the precise date is not known. A new community appeared, called New Seaham, which became a  separate parish from (Old) Seaham in 1864. For 13 years the villagers of Old Seaham and Seaton had to share St. Mary the Virgin with swarms of rough mining folk. This came to an end when New Seaham Christ Church was constructed by the Dowager Marchioness of Londonderry in 1857. In 1864 Seaton and Seaham collieries united as Lord Londonderry’s Seaham Colliery. In 1871 the first major Seaham Colliery disaster killed 26. In 1880 the second Seaham Colliery disaster killed 164 men and boys. Two of these, the teenage brothers Knox, were Seaton residents.

 

 In November 1896 the last Londonderry pits at Rainton closed. The Rainton & Seaham Railway was dismantled between Rainton and Seaham Colliery. Parts of the trackbed and an embankment can still be observed near Seaton Bank Top and at Warden Law. Seaton thus lost its only heavy industry and the connection to mining villages inland. Thereafter it reverted to a quiet agricultural village.

 

 In the 1950s passenger services ended on the old Sunderland to Durham (via Murton) & Hartlepool (via Haswell) line. The track stayed in place between South Hetton (and the projected Hawthorn Shaft which would raise coal from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton collieries) and the coast railway at Ryhope. Thus coal could still be transported from the few surviving collieries to Sunderland for export. In 1991 Murton and Hawthorn Shaft were closed and the last section of line was dismantled. One unlucky driver, travelling on the Seaham to Houghton road, was dazzled by the morning sunshine and failed to see the warning lights flashing at the railway crossing. He was killed by one of the last trains to pass through, whose job was to take up the railway behind it. The entire trackbed of this beautiful old railway from Ryhope (A19 Flyover) to Hart Station (some 11 miles) has now been turned into a  continuous walkway.

 

 In the 1970s Seaton was physically severed from the rest of Greater Seaham by a cutting of the new A19 Sunderland bypass. Despite the new bridge across the cutting this frontier has served only to further identify Seaton as a separate place with a separate history. It is now a very comfortable and prosperous semi-rural village and the nearest coal mine is over a hundred miles away.

5. Cold Heseldon

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Cold Hesledon

48

31

55

112

83

117

89

99

108

682

899

 

 Previously an exclusively agricultural community Cold Hesledon was rudely thrust into the modern world when Colonel Thomas Braddyll pushed through a waggonway in 1831-33 to connect his new colliery at South Hetton with the new port and town of Seaham Harbour. The one-pub village expanded considerably in the 1880s to deal with the overflow of population from the expanding Murton Colliery. Many of these newcomers were Methodists who soon organised themselves a chapel. Cold Hesledon ‘events’ which otherwise might have been recorded at St. Andrew’s instead appear in the registers of Cold Hesledon United Methodist Free chapel. The (mining) village of Cold Hesledon is now long gone, replaced by an industrial estate. The old Waterworks, magnificently Gothic, are currently being renovated to become a late night venue. The pub, the Pemberton Arms, was originally called the Braddyll Arms, then became the Cold Hesledon Inn before adopting its present title. Whatever the official name it has always been known to regulars as The White House because, it seems, it has always been painted white.

 

6. Hawthor

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Hawthorn

114

118

140

162

177

183

227

268

282

330

513

 

 

 Situated near the old Sunderland to Stockton turnpike road Hawthorn is and has always been a working agricultural village. The Hawthorn Shaft coal combine (which raised coal from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton collieries from 1959 to 1991) was some three miles away and was much nearer to South Hetton and Murton than to the village from which it took its name. The only connection that Hawthorn village had with coalmining was that it occasionally absorbed a small overspill of population from the surrounding collieries of Haswell, South Hetton, Murton and Seaham. Coalminers and ‘sinkers’ from these pits can be found in all of the censuses of Hawthorn taken in the late 19th. Century. The Pembertons, past owners of Hawthorn Towers and Hawthorn Dene, were coalowners with interests first in Monkwearmouth Colliery (originally called Pemberton Main) at Sunderland (now the site of Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light) and later in South Hetton & Murton pits which stock they took over from the bankrupt Colonel Thomas Braddyll in 1846. Several members of the Pemberton family are buried in the graveyard of St. Michael & All Angels in Hawthorn village. The church registers date from 1862.

 

 Hawthorn village and particularly its Dene, now a serene and exquisite beauty spot, home of deer and badger, wild garlic and the Mayflower, very nearly did have a direct connection with coalmining. In the late 1820s Colonel Thomas Braddyll planned to sink a new colliery at ‘South Hetton’ and connect it by a waggonway to a new coaling port at Hawthorn Hive or Hythe, Port Braddyll. This, combined with the limestone quarrying already in progress, would have obliterated Hawthorn Dene in its tracks. A very narrow escape indeed. Braddyll was eventually persuaded to abandon his own impractical scheme and built a waggonway to Lord Londonderry’s new town and port at Seaham Harbour via Cold Hesledon from 1831-33 instead.

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 7. Murton

Population changes  to Murton in the 19th.Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

East Morton (Murton)

75

71

72

98

521

1387

2104

3017

4710

5052

6514

 

 

 Historically Murton was one of the four constabularies of the parish of St. Andrew at Dalton-le-Dale. A hamlet of half a dozen houses and farmsteads on the road from Dalton-le-Dale to Durham until 1838, it was also known as East Morton or Morton-in-the-Whins. Morton or Murton is a very common English place name, being a corruption of Moor-town. The village was known as East Morton to differentiate it from several others in the county and especially from Morton, near Fencehouses, which also had a colliery, called Morton Grange.

 

 Centuries of rural tranquility came to an abrupt end for Murton in 1831 when the Sunderland Dock Company pushed through a passenger and freight line in the direction of Durham, with a branch line to the new pit at South Hetton and the projected new colliery at Haswell. This passed just west of Murton which was given its own station, Murton Junction. Completed by 1835 the directors of the new line were unconvinced by the early locomotives produced by George Stephenson and others and instead opted for fixed engines which could manage steep gradients far better. Later locomotives had the power to cope with gradients but by then it was too late and the company was stuck with the archaic method of transport until it was taken over by the giant North Eastern Railway in 1854.

 

  From 1835 onwards therefore, a very early date in railway history, Murton was directly connected to the outside world. Sunderland was now just 30 minutes away and London could be reached within a day. The busiest day of the year after 1871 was always the Durham Miners Gala when tens of thousands of East Durham mining folk would travel on the line to the county town. Murton miners and their bands would march in procession to the Junction station to board the special trains provided. Though hundreds of thousands of people must have used Murton station in its heyday few photos of it are known to have survived.

 

 The first attempt by Colonel Thomas Braddyll’s South Hetton Coal Company to sink a new colliery at East Morton or Murton took place in 1838 but this collapsed after just a few months due to serious flooding problems. Sinking began again at another site in 1840 but coal was not finally drawn until 1843. It was the most expensive coal sinking yet to have taken place in Great Britain. The effort and money involved finished its owner as a major player in the Durham coalfield. The pit, originally called Dalton New Winning, was linked up to the South Hetton (Braddyll) Railway and the new port and town of Seaham Harbour. Braddyll, principal shareholder of the South Hetton Coal Company, went bankrupt in 1846 and his stock went to, among others, the Pemberton family of The Barnes, Sunderland, later owners of Hawthorn Towers, who had almost ruined themselves in the sinking of Monkwearmouth Colliery (originally called Pemberton Main).

 

  Hardly had coal-drawing begun at ‘Dalton New Winning’ in 1843 when a total  strike commenced across the Great Northern Coalfield on April 5 1844. A few days later the first general meeting of miners took place at Shadon Hill on Gateshead Fell. Over 40,000 people attended. It was rumoured beforehand that the men from  the new super-pit at Dalton/Murton had declined to join their brothers in industrial action. When it was announced to the great crowd that the Murton men were indeed present the whole mass rose to their feet and cheered till they were exhausted. The Murton men joined the uprising but this could not prevent the eventual crushing of the miners and their union. Even the workhouses were closed to the strikers. Magistrates and clergymen alike gave their sanction and protection to this policy. Shopkeepers were threatened with ruin by the coalowners and authorities if they helped the miners with credit. At least 72 collieries in Northumberland & Durham were affected by this costly dispute. The strike collapsed after 20 weeks.

 

 On  the morning of Tuesday August 15 1848 fourteen men and boys were killed by an explosion at Murton Colliery. Twelve of these actually lived in South Hetton, sister colliery and community to Murton. These were:

 

Matthew Besom, 16 (No Trace in 1841 census of SH (South Hetton)  & M (Murton)

John Dickenson, 12 (No Tace at SH & M 1841)

Edward Noble, 23 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Edward Haddick or Haddock (No Trace at SH & M in 1841)

William Raffell or Raffle, 32 (Family present at South Hetton 1851)

Christopher Raffell or Raffle, 10 (Family present at SH in 1851)

William Baldwin, 25 (No trace at SH & M)

James Hall, 40 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Thomas Stubbs, 27 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Joseph Tones, 66 (No Trace at SH & M)

Richard Bloomfield, 20 (His family were at South Hetton in 1841 ?)

David Rumley, 12 (Resident at South Hetton in 1841)

John Robson, a boy (Age not specified in newspapers) (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Thomas Lawson senior, 41 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

 

Thomas Lawson junior, 14, was badly burnt and for days he hovered between life and death at his home  in South Hetton. At last he pulled through.

 

 Mentioned in the 1861 census of Murton were a few Irish and Welsh families but not one from Devon or Cornwall. The Cornish and Devonian tin and copper industry collapsed in the early 1860s in the face of overseas competition and many of the workers migrated to the northeast and other coalmining areas. By the time of the 1871 census there were some 25 families all living in the same part of Murton, a brand new block of 12 rows which had not existed ten years earlier. This was the origin of the name ‘Cornwall’ for that area, officially known as ‘Greenhill’. There is still a Cornwall Estate in Murton today, a council estate, but ‘Old Cornwall’ is long gone, demolished in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

 The first of these migrants were merely the scouts, the vanguard, of far more who would appear in time for the censuses of 1881 and 1891. The same phenomenon can be observed in the rest of Easington District in the censuses of 1861-91 inclusive, especially at New Seaham and Wingate Grange collieries. A row was named Cornish Street at New Seaham, an entire district at Murton. The immigrants came from such places as Collumpton, Horrabridge, Egbuckland, Beerferris, Tavistock, Whitechurch, Walkhampton, Oakhampton, Mary Tavy and Inwardleigh in Devon and Calstock, Beeralstone, Callington, Liskeard, Stoke Climsland, St. Germans, Northill, St. Ives and St. Just in Cornwall. The following southwestern surnames appeared in Murton and Easington District for the first time in the 1860s and are still present today:

 

Blackmore, Newcombe, Tremaine, Colville, Bolt, Cornish, Hampton, Milford, Nancarrow, Peardon, Main, Pascoe, Trewicke, Tilley, Hemphill, Bray, Spry, Lavis, Dashper, Beer, Henwood, Hocking, Vine, Blackwell, Pine and  Jane.

 

  Murton was complete by the time of the 1897 map. Council housing arrived only in the 1920s. A further colliery estate, with just four rows, nicknamed ‘Wembley’, opened on the same day as the Empire Stadium in north London in 1923. Four men were killed in an explosion at Murton on December 21 1937. Thirteen died in an explosion on June 26 1942 during World War Two. Since the war much of old Murton, including ‘Cornwall’ has been demolished to make way for council housing. Murton Colliery and Hawthorn Shaft combine were closed and demolished in 1991. Now a great empty site stands in its place and the nearest coalmine is over a hundred miles away.

 

 In the 1950s passenger services ended on the old Sunderland to Durham & Hartlepool (via Haswell) line. The track stayed in place between South Hetton (and the projected Hawthorn Shaft which would raise coal from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton collieries) and the coast railway at Ryhope. Thus coal could still be transported from the few surviving collieries to Sunderland for export. In 1991 Murton and Hawthorn were closed and the last section of line was dismantled.

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Murton Colliery Strikes

1883 (August 20-25), both Murton and South Hetton collieries struck on behalf of two sacked hewers.

1891 (June 13 to August 17), ‘Lowes’ strike (local)

1892 (January 10 to March 12), 3 month County strike

1910 (January 1 to April 5), the ‘8 Hours’ strike (The Pea-Heap Strike, see below)

1912 (March 1 to April 6), ‘Minimum Wage’ strike (first national mining strike)

1920 (October 18 to November 3) 2 week strike

1921 (April 1 to July 1), National Lockout

1926 (May 1 to November 30), General Strike, then miners on their own.

1973-74, National strike, which effectively brought down the Tory government.

1985-85, Last, longest and most bitter of all. Miners led by Arthur Scargill. Resulted in the destruction of the rump Durham Coalfield.

 

  Etched deep in Murton’s memory is the ‘8 Hours’ strike of 1910, known locally as the ‘Pea-Heap Strike’. In that bitterly cold winter Murtonians rapidly ran out of coal and were obliged to pillage the colliery ‘Pea-Heap’, a mountain of pea-sized pieces of coal considered unsuitable for sale and unwanted by anyone except as ballast or as the nucleus for railway embankments. It would burn however and there was nothing else. Eventually the rate of pilfering became so bad that the South Hetton Coal Company called in security men. These were soon intimidated by the local people, especially the women. They breed them tough in Murton. Then police were introduced, not only from other parts of the kingdom but also and especially from Ireland. The usual British Empire trick of divide and conquer. Local police would have turned a blind eye but the Irish constabulary relished the opportunity of being given free licence to beat up English people, any English people. Ancient racial scores could be settled and no questions asked. The situation eventually deteriorated into a cat and mouse game for the police could not guard all of the vast colliery complex at the same time. On one occasion a pitched battle was fought between the two sides, with the Murtonians almost succeeding in outflanking the Irish police with a cunning pincer movement. Fortunately for all sides the thaw came and the strike petered out. Murton soon got back to normality, which meant the production of coal for a country about to go to war.

 

8. Easington Village

 Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Easington

487

542

593

693

812

916

1073

1428

1260

1262

1731

 

  Situated near a hilltop two miles from the coast Easington village commands views to the north, east and south - an important advantage in the Viking Age and earlier. Historically the Sunderland to Stockton turnpike, forerunner of the A19, passed through the village and the King’s Head pub was the collection and distribution point for the area’s mail. In 1903 the then Easington District Council based itself in Easington village.

 

 In Saxon times ‘Esyngtana’ was a centre of religion. The church of St. Mary the Virgin  (a Norman structure c.1100 ?) , probably built on the top of an earlier church,  is right on the top of the hill. Between 1256 and the ending of the Palatinate in 1832 rectors of Easington were also Archdeacons of Durham. Easington has long been the ‘capital’ of East Durham, though it was eventually dwarfed in size by the new towns of Seaham Harbour (1828) and Peterlee (1948). In 1569 two local men were hanged on the village green for their part in the failed attempt to put the Catholic Queen of Scots on the throne instead of Elizabeth. The parish registers date from the following year. The Easington Union Workhouse was sited in Easington in 1837. Modern Council buildings now stand on the site. When the registration of births, deaths and marriages began in July 1837 the country was divided into registration districts, one of which was Easington. The Registrar is now based in Peterlee, reflecting the rise in stature of that vibrant community. The great change for the Easington village area came with the construction of Easington Colliery at the start of the 20th. century. This closed in 1993. Today Easington is a delightful village reeking with atmosphere and history and the nearest coalmine is over a hundred miles away.

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9. Easington Colliery Villag

 The sinking of Easington Colliery began on April 11 1899. Like neighbouring Dawdon the pit took many years to complete and needed to employ Germen contractors who used the ‘freezing’ technique to deal with massive water problems. The first coal was not shipped at Seaham Harbour until January 15 1912, transported there on the new NER railway connecting Seaham and Hartlepool (via Blackhall, Crimdon, Horden and Easington Colliery).  In May 1951 an explosion at the pit killed 81 men and two rescue men. The colliery closed on May 7 1993. Now the site has been flattened and levelled and the nearest colliery is over a hundred miles away. The colliery village remains however and is currently being renovated. Some of the filming for Billy Elliott was done in Easington Colliery.

 

10. South Hetton

Population changes in the 19th. Century for South Hetton and Haswell (combined) were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Haswell & Sth Hetton

93

114

115

263

3981

4356

4165

5623

6156

6276

5512

 

 

 The sinking of South Hetton Colliery was commenced on March 1 1831 by Colonel Thomas Braddyll’s South Hetton Coal Company. It was the first colliery inside the modern-day boundaries of Easington District. Simultaneously Colonel Braddyll began building a waggonway from the pit to Lord Londonderry’s new port and town of Seaham Harbour via Cold Hesledon. The new line was ready in 1833 just in time to transport the first coals for export. The Braddyll Railway was destined to last two years longer than its parent colliery, being destroyed at Parkside in Seaham by local people digging for coal during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85. In 1835 Haswell Colliery, newly opened, was connected to the waggonway. Shotton Colliery, also brand new, was joined to the line in  c.1840.

 

 In the same year that the sinking of South Hetton Colliery and the construction of the Braddyll Railway began the Sunderland Dock Company began to push through a passenger and freight line in the direction of Durham via Murton, with a branch line to the projected new collieries at South Hetton and Haswell. This passed through South Hetton which was given its own station. From 1835 onwards therefore, a very early date in railway history, the infant community of South Hetton was directly connected to the outside world. Sunderland was now just 35 minutes away and London could be reached within a day. Though hundreds of thousands of people must have used South Hetton station in its heyday few photos of it are known to have survived.

 

 The registers for the church of Holy Trinity at South Hetton date from 1838. Not until January 13 1863 though did it become a separate parish from Easington. The graveyard contains the remains of many of those killed in the Haswell Colliery Disaster of 1844. The church was built and paid for by the Burdon family of Castle Eden.

 

 On August 15 1848 an explosion at Murton, sister pit of South Hetton (same owners), killed 14 men and boys, most of whom actually lived at South Hetton. Their names are listed below (in brackets their place of residence according to the census returns):

 

Matthew Besom, 16 (No Trace in 1841 census of SH (South Hetton)  & M (Murton)

John Dickenson, 12 (No Tace at SH & M 1841)

Edward Noble, 23 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Edward Haddick or Haddock (No Trace at SH & M in 1841)

William Raffell or Raffle, 32 (Family present at South Hetton 1851)

Christopher Raffell or Raffle, 10 (Family present at SH in 1851)

William Baldwin, 25 (No trace at SH & M)

James Hall, 40 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Thomas Stubbs, 27 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Joseph Tones, 66 (No Trace at SH & M)

Richard Bloomfield, 20 (His family were at South Hetton in 1841 ?)

David Rumley, 12 (Resident at South Hetton in 1841)

John Robson, a boy (age not specified in newspapers) (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Thomas Lawson senior, 41 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

 

Thomas Lawson junior, 14, was badly burnt and for days he hovered between life and death at his home  in South Hetton. At last he pulled through.

 

The Durham Chronicle covered the inquest at which the following were called as witnesses:

 

Henry Pace, Overman (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

Anthony Gray (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

John Robinson (At least four man and boys with this name were resident at South Hetton & Murton in 1841)

John Teasdale (Resident at South Hetton in 1841)

James Dixon, a boy (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

William Armstrong, Viewer at Wingate Grange Colliery

Thomas Jones of Murton (Not present at South Hetton or Murton in 1841 & 1851)

Thomas Graydon of Murton (Resident at Murton 1841)

Edward Potter, Viewer of Murton Colliery (Resident at South Hetton as manager of that concern in 1841).

 

The verdict of the jury was ‘Accidental Death. No blame attributable to anyone’

 

  The mining village, owned lock, stock and barrel by the South Hetton Coal Company, was virtually complete by the time of the 1891 census. Council housing came in the 1920s. In 1947 279 of the old colliery houses were demolished by the local Council. This more or less coincided with the birth of Peterlee New Town.

 

 In the 1950s passenger services ended on the old Sunderland to Durham & Hartlepool (via Haswell and South Hetton) line. The track stayed in place between South Hetton (and the projected Hawthorn Shaft which would raise coal from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton collieries) and the coast railway at Ryhope. Thus coal could still be transported from the few surviving collieries to Sunderland for export.

 

 South Hetton Colliery closed at Easter 1983 after a working life of 152 years. As the defiant message on the giant mural  you see as you drive through the village says ‘Gone but not Forgotten’.

 

 In 1991 Murton Colliery and Hawthorn Shaft combine were closed and the last section of the old Sunderland to Hartlepool & Durham railway network was dismantled. The entire trackbed of this beautiful old railway from Ryhope (A19 Flyover) to Hart Station (some 11 miles) has now been turned into a  continuous walkway.

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Some South Hetton Street Names

 Clarence Street was named after William, 3rd. son of King George III, Duke of Clarence and later King William IV (1830-37), who was godfather to Colonel Braddyll’s sixth child Clarence in 1813. Colonel Braddyll’s full name was Thomas Richmond Gale Braddyll.

 

 11. Haswell

Population changes for South Hetton/Haswell combined in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Haswell & Sth Hetton

93

114

115

263

3981

4356

4165

5623

6156

6276

5512

 

 The prospect of new collieries at South Hetton and Haswell and also at Wingate, Thornley, Cassop, Shotton, Castle Eden and Ludworth was enough to encourage the Hartlepool Dock Company to build a railway in the direction of all these proposed enterprises and beyond if possible. Simultaneously a different company, connected with Sunderland Docks, commenced a railway from the docks at Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) with a branch line from Murton to Haswell. An extension of the Braddyll Railway to Haswell further linked that booming community to South Hetton and on to the new port and town of Seaham Harbour. Thus Haswell Colliery was the target for three different railways. They all met up at the north end of old Haswell village. The first shipment of coal from the new colliery passed down the waggonway to South Hetton and Seaham Harbour on July 2 1835. A year later the first waggon passed over the newly-completed Durham and Sunderland Railway on its way to the Hendon staiths.

 

 Haswell Colliery was always problematic as a profitable concern due to gas and flooding. There was an explosion on June 16 1840 which killed one man and another on August 17 1841 with similar result. In both cases it was truly miraculous that the death toll was so small. These had been merely warnings of the catstrophe to come. Its owners in 1844 were Clark, Taylor, Plumer & Co. (The Haswell Coal Company). The same company also owned nearby Shotton Colliery.

 

 The Great Strike of 1844 lasted from April 5 to the end of August. It was eventually defeated by the importation of large numbers of blacklegs from all over the country. Haswell too had to take its fair share of these. No sooner was the unrest quelled than an even greater disaster struck the village. Haswell Colliery was ripped apart by an explosion at 3 pm on Saturday September 28 1844. All 95 men and boys underground in the ‘big’ pit at the time were killed as were all of the pit ponies. Four men and two boys were saved in the ‘little’ pit . They happened to be near the upcast shaft, and the flame did not reach them; it having been stopped in its destructive passage by a wagon and a horse, and a number of empty tubs, which, by the force of the explosion were all jammed together in the rolley-way.

 

 William Scott, Under-Viewer, had the unenviable job of descending the main shaft to see what could be done. Very little as it turned out. Some of the dead were buried at Easington, the then parish church for Haswell. Some were interred at Pittington Hallgarth. One was taken back to his family at Long Benton. Three were taken back to Gateshead. Over 50 were buried in a mass grave at Holy Trinity in South Hetton, the nearest graveyard. A memorial plaque to the catastrophe hangs in the church today.

 

  The offical enquiry after the disaster concluded that there was ‘ no blame attributable to anyone’, which relieved the owners of any financial liability to the bereaved widows and orphans. 58 of the 95 can be found in the Haswell census of June 6 1841. Haswell Colliery was always problematical after that, opening and closing and changing ownership several times before it was abandoned in November 1896 in the middle of the economic slump which also finished Lord Londonderry’s Rainton pits and many other others in the county. The engine house of the colliery stands but is virtually the only monument or clearly visible sign of the area’s brief coal mining history.

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Haswell Colliery Disaster of Saturday September 28 1844

 

 Its owners in 1844 were Clark, Taylor, Plumer & Co. (The Haswell Coal Company) The same company also owned nearby Shotton Colliery. 95 of the 99 men and boys present in the pit at 3 pm on Saturday September 28 1844 were killed, as were all of the ponies present. The pit was always problematic after that, opening and closing and changing owners several times. It was finally closed in 1896.

 

List of 95 Dead

 

1. Joseph Gibson, 50, Hewer

2. John Gibson, 22, Hewer

3. Ralph Gibson, 15, Putter

4. William Gibson, 12, Putter

The above were a father and three of his sons. They can be found in Butcher’s Row in the 1841 census.

 

5. George Hall, 38, Hewer, Left a wife, Quarry Row 1841

6. Robert Hall, 12, Driver, Quarry Row 1841

The above were father and son

 

7. Hans Ward, 29, Hewer, Pregnant wife and 5 kids, Salter’s Lane 1841

 

8. John Terry, 35, Hewer, Wife and 5 children

9. George Terry, 14, Putter

The above were father and son

 

10. Robert Douglas, 22, Hewer, Wife and 4 children, Quarry Row in 1841

 

11. John Williamson, 34, Deputy, Pregnant wife & 6 children, Long Row in 1841.

12. Robert Williamson, 19, Putter, Butcher’s Row 1841.

The above were brothers

 

13. John Noble, 40, Hewer, Wife and 4 children

14. John Curling, 30, Hewer, Wife and child

15. Wanless Thompson, 55, Hewer, Wife & large family

 

16. Elliot Richardson, 38, Hewer, Wife & family

17. John Richardson, 14, Putter

The above were father and son

 

18. William Dixon, 15, Putter, Low Row in 1841

19. John Dixon, 16, Putter, Low Row in 1841

The above were brothers

 

20. John Wolfe, 25, Hewer, Wife and 1 child

21. Peter Wolfe, 20, Putter

The above were brothers

 

22. William Elsdon, 22, Hewer, Long Row in 1841.

23. George Elsdon, Salter’s Lane in 1841

The above were brothers

 

24. Henry Mather, 19, Putter, Chapel or Mary Street in 1841.

 

25. Christopher Teasdale, 21, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.

26. John Teasdale, 19, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.

27. Stephen Teasdale, 17, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841

The above were brothers

 

28. Michael Thirlaway, 18, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.

 

29. Ralph Surtees, 19, Putter, Cousin of the below two, Butcher’s Row in 1841.

30. John Surtees, 17, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.

31. William Surtees, 12

The above two were brothers

 

32. Mark Davison, 16, Putter, Sinker’s Row in 1841

 

33. Thomas Nicholson, 16, Putter, Low Row in 1841.

34. William Nicholson, 11, Driver, Low Row in 1841.

The above two were brothers

 

35. George Dryden, 18, Putter

36. Robert Dryden, 16, Putter

37. James Dryden, 25, Hewer

38. Thomas Dryden, 22, Hewer

39. Edward Nicholson, 16, Putter

The first four of the above five were brothers. The fifth had been brought up as their brother

 

40. Robert Hogg, 20, Putter

41. George Heslop, 20, Putter

 

42. Michael Clough, 14, Putter

43. Henry Clough, 12, Putter

44. Matthew Clough, 10, Putter

The above three were brothers

 

45. John Willis, 20, Putter, Lime Kiln Row in 1841.

46. Thomas Willis, 18, Putter, Lime Kiln Row in 1841.

The above two were brothers

47. John Willis, 12, Putter, Low Row in 1841.

48. William Gilroy, 16, Putter

49. John Gilroy, 13, Putter

The above were brothers

 

50. John Brown, 42, Hewer, Sinkers Row in 1841.

51. Daniel Lemmon, wife and 1 child

 

52. Thomas Briggs, 61, Long Row in 1841.

53. John Briggs, 25, Sinkers Row in 1841.

54. James Briggs, 10, Sinkers Row in 1841

The above represented 3 generations of the same family - a boy, his father and his grandfather

 

55. William Barrass, 32, Wife and 4 kids, Sinkers Row in 1841.

56. John Barrass, 10, Sinkers Row in 1841.

The above were father and son. John Barrass had been taken down the pit by his father on the fateful day to have his first look at what would soon become his workplace.

57. James Robson, 11, Sinkers Row in 1841.

58. Henry Wheatman (Weetman), 42, Wife and 1 child, Thompson’s Row in 1841.

59. William Wheatman (Weetman), 14, Sinkers Row in 1841

60. William Dobson, 50, Wife, Long Row in 1841.

61. John Avory, 39, Wife & family

 

62. Robert Rosecamp, 33, wife and four children

63. William Rosecamp, 22, Wife

The above were brothers

64. George Dawson, 53, Wife & 6 children, Low Row in 1841.

65. Thomas Moody, 25, Salter’s Lane in 1841.

66. Joseph Moffat, 25, Wife, Sinkers Row in 1841.

 

67. George Bell, 31, Wife, Sinkers Row in 1841.

68. Jonathan Bell, 28

The above were brothers

69. William Taylor, 21

70. William Dawson, 26, Wife and 3 kids, Long Row in 1841.

 

71. William Dixon, 46, Wife & family, West Blue House in 1841.

72. John Dixon, 21, West Blue House in 1841.

The above were father and son

73. John Padley, 28, West Blue House in 1841.

74. John Parkinson, 28, Quarry Row in 1841.

75. Robert Carr, 26, Wife & child, Butcher’s Row in 1841

76. William Farish, 30, Wife

77. James Maughan, 23, Long Row in 1841.

 

78. John Whitfield, 31

79. John Whitfield, 10

The above were father and son

 

80. George Richardson, 29, Wife & child, Butcher’s Row in 1841.

81. William Jobling, 29, Wife

82. Thomas Bottoms, 17

83. John Brown, 17, Low Row in 1841.

84. Peter Robinson, 21

 

85. Thomas Turnbull, 22, Long Row in 1841

86. James Turnbull, 12, Sinkers Row in 1841

The above may have been brothers. If they were they were living in different households in 1841.

87. William Routledge, 18, Butcher’s Row in 1841

88. William Nicholson, 18, Low Row in 1841

 

89. William Harrison, 13, Salter’s Lane in 1841.

90. John Harrison, 12, Salter’s Lane in 1844.

The above were brothers

91. James Laylands, Wife and 2 kids

92. John Sanderson, 24, Wife

93. James Richardson, 41, Wife and 4 children, Long Row in 1841.

94. James Sanderson, 40, Wife and 2 children

95. John Hall, 10, Long Row in 1841.

 

Poem by George Werth (which probably rhymed in its original German version)

The hundred men of Haswell, They all died in the same day;

They all died in the same hour; They all went the self same way.

And when they were all buried,Came a hundred women, lo,

A hundred women of Haswell, It was sight of owe !

With all their children came they, With daughter and with son:

‘Now, thou rich man of Haswell, Her wage to everyone !’

By that rich man of Haswell Not long were they denied:

A full week’s wages he paid them For every man who died.

And when the wage was given, His chest fast locked up he;

The iron lock clicked sharply, The women wept bitterly.

 

George Werth, Translated from German by Laura Lafargue (daughter of Karl Marx) in 1880.

£4,265 was raised as a relief fund but this still meant a payout of only about £40 to each family.

 

 Haswell Colliery closed for good in 1896 and the populations of both Haswell Colliery and Haswell Terrace soon decamped for pastures new. In 1896 the redundant colliery hamlet at Haswell Moor (Haswell Terrace ?) was acquired by the Durham Miners’ Homes for their aged members. Today the site of Haswell Colliery has returned to the fields and the nearest coal mine is over a hundred miles away. The village of Haswell lives on though.

 

 12. Shotton

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Shotton

250

286

264

272

603

1607

1871

3130

2131

1975

1917

 

The above figures include Old Shotton, Shotton Colliery and outlying farms.

 

 Old Shotton was not directly affected by coalmining for Shotton Colliery village was an entirely separate entity located over a mile to the west. Old Shotton did however take the occasional overspill of population from the pit village during the 19th. Century as the census returns testify.

 

 Old Shotton dates back to at least AD900, when it was known as Scitton. It was owned by the Manor of Easington which in turn was under the jurisdiction of the Prince Bishops of Durham and was always in the parish of Easington In 1756 Joseph Brandling, wealthy Gosforth coal owner, married Mary Thompson and built Shotton Hall as their home. Two years later Rowland Burdon, a wealthy merchant banker purchased Castle Eden estate. His son married Brandling’s daughter so that eventually both estates passed to the Burdon family. Later the village stood on the Sunderland to Stockton turnpike, constructed by another Burdon. It now sits alongside the A19 Trunk road. It has expanded greatly in the 20th. Century and is now effectively part of the new town of Peterlee. The nearest coalmine today  is over a hundred miles away.

 

The main reason for the fluctuations in population at Shotton in the 19th. century was the rise (c.1840) and fall (c.1877) of Shotton Colliery. The colliery remained closed for 23 years until its reopening in 1900 by the Horden Coal Company. Thereafter it became a profitable concern. It closed for good in 1972.

 

 Shotton Colliery was ‘won’ in c.1841 and was immediately connected up by a waggonway to Haswell Colliery which in turn was connected by a waggonway to the new port and town of Seaham Harbour via South Hetton Colliery. This tortuous connection to a tiny and already overloaded coal port was eventually abandoned in favour of a link line from Shotton Colliery direct to the NER Hartlepool to Sunderland Railway (probably in about 1855 when a through service from Hartlepool to Sunderland began). The only trace of the early waggonway linking Shotton Colliery with Seaham Harbour is the remains of the bridge which carried it over the Hartlepool and Sunderland and on to Haswell  Colliery which can be observed as you stroll on the Haswell to Hart Walkway. After the new link was established Shotton coal could be delivered to the docks at either Sunderland or Hartlepool, which were much larger ports.

 

 The accepted date for the closure of Shotton Colliery is November 3 1877 but it may have been earlier for the enumerator of 1881 stated that the pit had been closed about 6 years. The date therefore may have been more like 1875. From the number of uninhabited dwellings in the 1881 census, taken some 4-6 years after the pit closure, it is clear that he was wandering round a ghost village. Things got worse over the next 10 years. By then, 14-16 years after the closure of Shotton Colliery, its village must have seemed an eerie place. Entire streets were boarded up. Some streets had only one or two inhabitants. The village somehow survived another nine years until the arrival of the Cavalry.

 

 In 1900 the colliery was reopened by the new and giant concern the Horden Coal Company which also planned super-pits on the coast at Blackhall and Horden. The pit village came back to life after 23 years, like some latter day Rip van Winkle. Astoundingly there had been no vandalism in a quarter of a century and most of the housing was ready for habitation within weeks. Imagine that happening today. Them were the days. Mind you the penalty for mindless vandalism then was probably a prison term and not a smacked hand like today.

 

 By 1906 Shotton Colliery Mark II was producing 392,000 tons a year from 1163 employees and the village was full again. By 1913 1833 men and boys were employed. By 1918 472,000 tons were being extracted annually. In September 1907 the old beehive coke ovens were opened up again. Before long there were 71 of them employing 16 or so men. In 1913 they produced 25,649 tons. The brickworks were reactivated in 1905 to make use of sagger clay from the mine. 28 people, including girls, were employed there. Much of the old colliery village was demolished after the Second World War. Shotton Colliery closed on September 1 1972. Today there is barely a sign that this was indeed a mining community, off and on, for 130 years.

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13. Castle Eden

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Castle Eden

362

257

281

260

558

491

535

693

880

1257

1354

 

 Castle Eden village has never had a direct connection with coalmining. It has always been an agricultural village with very ancient roots. Castle Eden Colliery (c. 1840-93) was actually a mile away and situated in the sub-district of ‘Monk Hesleden’ and not Castle Eden sub-district. Castle Eden village did occasionally take in overspills of miners from its humble namesake in the 19th. century as the census returns testify.

 

 The parish registers began in 1694 in the reigns of the co-monarchs William III & Mary II but the original church dated back much earlier than this. By 1750, the dawn of the modern era, the start of the Age of the Machine, little was left of the mediaeval manor granted to one Robert de Brus (ancestor of the King of Scots) at the time of the Norman Conquest. In 1756 Joseph Brandling, a wealthy Gosforth coalmine owner, married Mary Thompson and built Shotton Hall as their home. Two years later Rowland Burdon, a wealthy merchant banker, purchased Castle Eden manor and estate. His son married Brandling’s daughter so that eventually both estates passed to the Burdon family. Each successive male heir to the Burdon estates was also called Rowland and designated a kind of regnal number. This first owner of Castle Eden was Rowland III. The decrepit and ancient (Norman ?) St. James Church was rebuilt by him in 1764 shortly after he bought the manor. The ‘castle’ at Castle Eden was also rebuilt by the Burdons in the 18th. Century. Rowland IV constructed the Sunderland to Stockton turnpike which ran through the village. He also built the first cast iron bridge over the Wear at Sunderland and some surplus iron from this went to make the gates of the new village church. His son Rowland V added two aisles. Rowland VII, a flying ace, was killed in the Great War. His father, Rowland VI, the last of the direct male line, died in 1944.

 

 Another notable Castle Eden family were the Nimmos, brewers and farmers. They established their brewery early in the 19th. Century and were present in the village until they sold out to the giant Whitbread company in the early 1960s. Whitbread allowed a management buyout in 1998 but now (2002) the brewery is under threat of closure.

 

14. Monk Hesleden

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Monk Hesleden

150

148

164

176

490

1495

1533

1636

2421

3819

1302

 

 The above census figures relate to the sub-district of Monk Hesleden, which included Castle Eden Colliery, and not to the tiny village of Monk Hesleden.

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 The name Hesleden probably meant ‘Hazel Dene’. The ancient Norman church, built on Saxon foundations and already in ruins, was somehow and inexplicably demolished by the Council in 1968. The graveyard remains. It seems as if it was abandoned some time after 1910, the last known date on any gravestone. The parish registers began in 1578 in the reign of Elizabeth I. The last burial entry was in 1908, the last marriage in 1925 and the last baptism in 1948.

 

 Monk Hesleden (also known as High Hesleden) village never had any connection with coalmining. The sub-district of ‘Monk Hesleden’ contained three collieries - Castle Eden (c. 1840-93), Hutton Henry (c.1869-97) and South Wingate (c. 1840-57), also known as Rodridge or Hart Bushes. As all three of these closed in the 19th. century the sub-district has long since lost any coalmining connection. Monk Hesleden today is a pleasant village just off the road from Castle Eden to Blackhall.

 

15. Horden

Census returns for the period 1841-91 mention only the two or three farmhouses which then existed in the area. The sinking of the colliery, which took its name from one of the farms, began in 1900. In 1903 the Company constructed 24 houses. By 1905 138 were up and by 1913 Horden was a community with over 1700 pitmens’ homes. The rows were unimaginatively named First to Thirteenth Streets.

 

 In 1910 there was a riot during the ‘Eight Hours’ national strike. The police were called and shots were fired. Horden ‘Big Club’ was looted and burnt down. The modern parish church of St. Hilda was constructed in 1913, replacing an earlier temporary structure, St. Mary’s (1904). The parish registers date from 1904. In the inter-war period the village expanded southwards and westwards into new council housing estates. The population grew to a peak of about 15,000 in 1951. Since then some of the original colliery stock has been demolished and the town has lost population to nearby Peterlee. By 1987 the population had fallen to 8,500. Horden Colliery at one time employed over 6,000 men and boys. It closed in February 1987.

 

16. Blackhall

Blackhall Colliery, named after a local farm which had occupied the lonely site for centuries, did not appear until well into the 20th. century. It had the same owners, the Horden Coal Company (effectively Pease & Partners), as Horden. The first coal was drawn in 1913. Initially the only road in to Blackhall Colliery village was from Hesleden and Castle Eden. The coast road from Hartlepool to Easington came much later. The Sinkers and their families had to live in huts and even caves on the beach. Like Horden the streets of the new community were called First, Second, Third Streets, etc. The officials lived in East Street. The first (tin) church was erected in 1911. It was replaced by the present structure in 1930. The coast road, connecting Blackhall to Horden and Blackhall to the north and Hartlepool to the south, was constructed in 1923. Blackhall Colliery closed in 1981.

 

17. Nesbitt

No connection with coalmining

 

18. Sheraton

No connection with coalmining

 

19. Hulam

No connection with coalmining

 

20. Hutton Henry

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Hutton Henry

156

155

174

162       

287

1067

392

539

1825

3151

2578

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 The above returns are for ‘Greater Hutton Henry’ which included the village of that name, outlying farms and Hutton Henry Colliery (c. 1869-97) which area eventually came to be known as Station Town.

 

 The name Hutton Henry is of Scandinavian origin. Hutton means ‘high farm’. Henry derives from Henry de Eshe, who was the lord of the manor and local landowner in the 14th. Century. The community layout is typical of those Durham villages laid out in the 12th. and 13th. centuries - a main street bordered on both sides by extensive grassed areas; with dwellings lying together some distance from the road.

 

 The Anglican church of St. Francis was built in 1867 to serve the village and the nearby settlements of Sheraton and Hulam. There is also a Methodist chapel and St. Peter and St. Paul’s RC church.  The presbytery of this RC church is known as Hutton House. The current Catholic church was constructed in 1895 on the site of a former place of worship (1825). Hutton Henry today has just one pub, the ancient Plough, scene of many an inquest in times gone by.

 

 Conventional wisdom has it that Hutton Henry Colliery began in 1869. There is no trace of sinkers or coalminers in the 1871 census however. There was definitely a colliery by 1881 but it was some way from the old village, almost a mile to the northeast. The community that built up around it became known as Station Town. There were just 6 households at what would become Station Town in 1871. Also the old mining village at South Wingate Colliery (closed c. 1857) was used to house other Hutton Henry Colliery workers. There were a few miners billeted in Hutton Henry village as well but it remained primarily an agricultural community.

 

 Station Town had 153 households by 1881. Hutton Henry had couple of dozen miners as well in that year for the first time. There were far more in 1891. There were 396 households at Station Town by 1891.

 

 Hutton Henry Colliery, never very profitable, closed in 1897. This spelt doom for the village of South Wingate but Station Town eventually grew and linked up with Wingate. Hutton Henry village lost all of its coalminers and reverted to its agricultural traditions.

 

21. Wingate

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Wingate

135

151

131

115

2625

2456

2143

3104

5949

4463

8005

 

The above figures refer to Old Wingate and farms, Wingate Grange Colliery (c.1837-1962), Deaf Hill Colliery (c. 1870-1967) and Wheatley Hill Colliery (c.1869-77, 1878-84, 1890-1968)

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 Wingate Grange Colliery was sunk by Lord Howden and partners in 1837. It had two shafts or pits called the Lord & Lady. Production is believed to have begun in c. 1840. In 1843 the owners of the colliery decided on having wire ropes for hauling the cages to bank. To this the men, ignorant and prejudiced, objected. A long strike ensued and the miners were eventually driven back to work.

 

 The mining village of Wingate Grange evolved into a long and narrow settlement, over a mile in length, with little depth of development behind the main street and without an obvious centre. Shops and social facilities for the new community were developed at the southern end, near to what would become Station Town. The colliery was at the northern end.

 

 In the 1841 census  the enumerator noted the presence of Sinkers Row, Seymour Street, Pickering Street, Johnston Street and Todd Street. These streets, the nucleus of the village, were ever-present in the 19th. Century. The enumerator also mentioned ‘Horsington Terrace’and ‘Mount Pleasant’ which were not mentioned in later censuses and are not on the map of 1897. These must have changed their names at some point over the next 20 years. He also mentioned Cargill’s (or Caygill’s) Court which was mentioned again only in 1861. In 1841 Deaf Hill was just a farm with a single household. Wheatley Hill was also a farm, with four households.

 

 In 1851 the enumerator first mentioned the community of ‘Trimdon Foundry’. The origins of this structure and its precise location remain a mystery to me but by 1851 it had clearly been turned into homes for coalmining families. Thirty houses there were uninhabited and the enumerator explained that Wingate Grange pit was temporarily laid up due to a change in ownership. The enumerator covered the colliery village proper but with the solitary exception of ‘Wood Houses’ he described everything as simply ‘Wingate Colliery’. Wheatley Hill & Deaf Hill were still just farms.

 

 In 1861 the enumerator mentioned ‘The Sheds’ (or Shades), Humble Lane, Chapel Chare, Parkins Place (later called Brewery Square), Mill Row, Davisons Row (5 households), Front Street and Back Street (1 household) for the first time. Wheatley Hill & Deaf Hill were still farms.

 

 In 1871 the enumerator lumped everything in the village together as either ‘Seymour Street’ or ‘Todd Street’. The satellite community ‘Trimdon Foundry’ had 83 households but there were 13 dwellings uninhabited. Wheatley Hill Colliery first appeared, with 144 households in this census. Deaf Hill Colliery (allegedly opened in 1869) had not appeared yet and there was no sign of coalminers in that vicinity. A later opening date than 1871 seems probable.

 

 In 1881 the enumerator first mentioned Brewery Square (formerly Perkins Place), New Row, the Barracks (formerly Trimdon Foundry ?) and Church Street. Deaf Hill Colliery made its first appearance in this census. The 1891 census saw the appearance of Plantation Row and Overmans Row. This virtually completed the community.

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 Wingate’s moment of truth came in 1906 when an explosion killed 26 men and 86 ponies. The colliery closed in 1962. Its huge slag heap was removed and many colliery streets cleared. Since then the community has lost many people to Peterlee and other colliery villages, in County Durham and elsewhere. The population in 1991was down to about 3,000.

22. Wheatley Hill

 The sinking of Wheatley Hill Colliery by the seriously under-capitalised Hartlepool Coal Company began in 1869. All of the available cash seems to have spent on finishing the pit and building the housing stock for the workforce. Not long after the colliery began production a severe depression began and the demand for coal fell away. The owners had no reserves of cash to see them through this crisis. On May 18 1874, following the announcement of a 10% drop in wages and  longer hours, the colliers came out on strike. Police and ‘candymen’ evicted several mining families from Grainger and other streets. The DMA refused to back its Wheatley Hill Lodge and the dispute eventually petered out. The economic situation improved but the respite was brief. On February 9 1877, without notice, the workforce were informed that the company was bankrupt. The Riot Act was read later that day and great violence was only avoided by a massive influx of police. The bankruptcy and subsequent long stoppage led to great poverty in the village. Families had to live on 8s. (40p) per week from the Miners’ Poverty Fund. A re-formed Hartlepool Coal Company started up in 1878 paying only half the wages owed to the men. The collapse of this second company in 1884 led to more rioting in the village. This time the closure would last 6 years and it took over a year to secure the men’s wages.

 

 In 1881 the census enumerator mentioned Office Street, Gowland Terrace, Grainger Street, Elizabeth Street, Smith Street, Emily Street, Anne Street, John Street, Plantation Street, Wingate Lane, Quarry Street, Webb Street, Robson Street, Hirst Street, Patton Street, Gothay Street, Louisa Street, Arne Street, Maria Street, Gullock Street, Pyman Street, Ford Street and Wohmerhausen Street, all of which appear on the map of 1897. He also mentioned Farm Cottages Numbers 1 - 51. I have not located these on the map. Many of these street names will have been connected to the directors of the original and second companies.

 

 Eventually the workforce moved elsewhere and most of the village was boarded up. Wheatley Hill Colliery was bought up by a much larger concern, the Weardale Coal, Iron & Steel Company and reopened in c. 1890 according to conventional wisdom. This is not borne out by the census of 1891 in which the enumerator mentioned no new streets but left a note saying that all (or nearly all) of the houses in Elizabeth, Smith, Emily, Anne, John, Quarry, Webb, Robson, Hirst, Patton, Gothay, Pyman, Gullock and Ford Streets were completely uninhabited and boarded up. In that block of Wheatley Hill alone there were 369 empty dwellings. Many of the remaining streets were, at best, half empty. The village soon came to life again and saw another 70 odd years of coal production before the inevitable end. Wheatley Hill Colliery closed in 1968.

 

23. Deaf Hill

 Deaf Hill Colliery was first mentioned in the 1881 census. The enumerator noted ‘Deaf Hill Pit’, Cookes Buildings, Prospect Terrace, Church Street, Cuthbert (or Cuthbertson) Street, Lord Street (with 15 uninhabited dwellings) and Railway Street (11 uninhabited dwellings). Total of 90 households. In 1891 the enumerator also mentioned Foundry Square and Railway Cottages. All of these are named on the map of 1897. Deaf Hill Colliery closed in 1968.

 

24. Station Town

 The community of Station Town derives its name from its location at the junction of the old Ferryhill to Hart and Sunderland to Hartlepool (via Murton and Haswell) railways, where a station was built. Only six households were present in the embryonic community in 1871, 2 years after the alleged opening of Hutton Henry Colliery, the concern it was built to serve. There was no sign of the pit in the 1871 census so a later date for its opening seems likely. There were 153 households at Station Town by 1881 and 396 by 1891 when the enumerator mentioned: Station Lane, Gladstone Street, Wingate Station, ‘Station Town’, Collwill Building, Front Street, East Terrace, ‘Acclom’ (Acklam ?) Street, Vane Street, Rodridge Street, Gargen Street, Millbank (or Milbanke) Terrace, East View and ‘Hutton Henry Colliery’.

 

 Only a single row of houses was built adjacent to Hutton Henry Colliery. The rest of the colliery houses (Station Town) were situated near the shops, church and other facilities at the southern end of the adjacent settlement of Wingate. As time went by the two communities became indistinguishable.

 

 When Hutton Henry Colliery failed in 1897 the Station Town miners went to work at Wingate or Trimdon collieries. Their proximity to two passenger railways in fact gave them several options of collieries to pick from. After the Great War Station Town was extended southeastwards towards Rodridge.

 

 Wingate Colliery closed in 1962. During 1976-79 the surviving old colliery streets at Wingate and Station Town were cleared away and replaced by new estates. Today driving through Station Town you would never guess that it once was a coalmining village.

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25. South Wingate Colliery (also known as Hart Bushes Colliery or Rodridge Colliery)

South Wingate Colliery was far too small ever to have its own church  but it did have a Methodist chapel. It is not known what has happened to its records. South Wingate  was in the parish of Monk Hesleden so look there for the ancient records. Also try Hutton Henry records.

 

South Wingate was a colliery too far. On the southeastern edge of the Durham coalfield and almost in the low-lying valley of the River Tees it suffered badly from flooding from the moment sinking began and it is unlikely that it ever ran at a profit. Conventional wisdom has it that the colliery began in 1840 but there was no sign of coalminers or even ‘sinkers’ in the 1841 census. A later date than June 1841 seems more likely. By 1851, when the village was at its peak, there were 155 households. The enumerator mentioned only Main Street, Back Street and Low End. The colliery closed in 1857 and the population of the village collapsed, dispersing to the four corners of the Great Northern Coalfield. By the time of  the 1861 census there were just 26 households and the enumerator called everything ‘South Wingate’. It was almost a ghost village. Some diehards held on hoping for better times and they were eventually rewarded.

 

 In the census of 1871 there were still only 27 households and the enumerator still described everything as just ‘South Wingate’ which is of little help to local historians. By 1881 (probably c. 1872) at the latest Hutton Henry Colliery had definitely opened and began using the redundant village for its workforce. The enumerator of that year noted that 70 households now lived at what he too called simply ‘South Wingate’. By 1891 there were 103 households and the enumerator  of that year at last mentioned Front Street, Far Row, Pond Row, High Row and Low Row. The stay of execution for South Wingate was only a temporary one. Hutton Henry Colliery too closed for good in 1897 and this finished off South Wingate as a viable community. A few diehards remained for the next 30 or so years however. The village, apart from Miss Nichols’s shop, was demolished in the 1930s and the entire population moved en masse to Wingate and Station Town. Many had spent their whole lives at South Wingate and they still returned there once a week to buy their groceries and show support for Miss Nichol. Miss Nichol can be followed in the censuses for South Wingate in the late 19th. century. Eventually Miss Nichol, now grown very old, died and her shophouse was also demolished. The villagers, also very old, came to their birthplace no more. There is little trace today of the former mining village of South Wingate and the nearest colliery is over a hundred miles away.

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Chapter 6, An Essay on Miners’ Lives

 

Lest we Forget - The Miners’ Bond

 For those of us ‘Northeasterners’ with mining ancestors there is another little-known tool available to pinpoint their movements beyond certificates, the census returns, parish registers and the IGI - the existence of the Miners Bond. To use this tool you need not visit any distant record repository or consult any learned tome or index. All you need is a basic knowledge of the history of local mining and the application of four important dates. The main source for the following notes was The Miners of Northumberland & Durham by Richard Fynes, 1873.

 

 

 Until 1872 all of the miners of Northumberland, Cumberland and Durham were employed under the hated Bond system whereby they contracted their lives away each year (or each month from 1844 to 1864) to a 'Master' in return for a 'bounty' and little else of substance. By the terms of the bond, under pain of a substantial penalty, they were obliged to submit to various fines and conditions and to work continuously at one colliery for a whole year. The system was a kind of legalised temporary serfdom. The colliery owner on his part gave no undertaking to furnish continuous employment or indeed any employment at all. After 1809 the annual Bond was usually entered into on/about April 5 when a colliery official read out the rate of pay and the conditions available at the pit to the assembled workers and would-be workers. Those who signed up were given a 'bounty' of 2s. 6d. (12.5 pence) to start work. The first few to sign up were given extra money which was usually enough incentive to cause a stampede among the poverty-stricken workforce to ‘make their mark’.

 

 If anyone broke the bond he was liable to arrest, trial and imprisonment. If he struck in an attempt to improve conditions, the law was largely against him. If he stood on a picket line, and even looked at a blackleg, it could be construed as attempted coercion. If he attempted to unionise he was intimidated or dismissed and put on a county-wide black list. If he still gave trouble to the authorities  he was liable for transportation to the colonies. For the truly unreformable there was always the ultimate sanction in an age when over 200 crimes theoretically carried the death penalty.

 

 A foreign visitor to Tyneside at the end of the 18th. century was struck by the number of notices placed in local newspapers by the 'Masters' offering rewards for knowledge of the whereabouts of runaway miners and threatening to prosecute whoever might employ them. In  the years 1839/40  for example 66 pitmen in the county of Durham were jailed for short periods as 'vagrants'; that is, for leaving their usual places of work. In the same period a further 106 were committed for 'disobedience of orders, and other matters subject to summary jurisdiction'. The annual termination of one bonding and the start of the next enabled the 'Masters' to pick and choose from  their former and would-be employees (except when there was a shortage of labour), discarding any known or suspected troublemakers or shirkers in the process. The bonding was also the only point in the year when  a miner and his family could lawfully uproot themselves from one wretched pit village and trek to another where the wages were slightly higher, the conditions or housing slightly better, or where the grass was or was believed to be greener.

 

 We have all played the game of 'Musical Chairs' in our childhood. The music starts, all of the participants walk round in a circle whilst one chair is removed, and then everyone makes a dash for the remaining chairs when the music stops, the individual  without a place to park his or her backside being eliminated. Every year the annual bonding triggered a gigantic game of 'Musical Houses'  and even ‘Musical Villages’ across the Great Northern Coalfield. The old bond expired, the music began and anything up to a quarter of the mining population of the three counties went on the march to a new start, a new life, elsewhere. Sometimes spies had been sent on ahead to ascertain conditions but usually the 'Masters' sent agents round the coalfield to recruit/steal  workers from each other. Thousands of families took to the road every April  from 1809-1844 and 1864-72 with all of their humble belongings on a hired flat-cart, with or without a pony. Then the music stopped, the new bond was ‘signed’ (usually with a cross) by the working members of the family and the new life began. Many clans moved from pit village to pit village every year or whenever the urge struck them. That is why it is so difficult to keep track of the movements of one's mining ancestors. The great hope of amateur genealogists is to find some of their ancestors who actually stayed put for twenty years or more and who are therefore mentioned in successive censuses in one place.

 

  Eventually conditions for coalminers became so intolerable that the workers were driven to unite. Most, but not all, of the Northumberland and Durham miners went on strike in 1810. It took the 'Masters' seven weeks to starve them into submission. The ringleaders were arrested and their families evicted by bailiffs guarded by troops. Over the following two decades appeals to reason and justice went unheeded and discontent kept boiling up in strikes. An attempt was made at the new (and giant) Hetton Colliery in the early 1820s to create a union but it was crushed by the owners and its leader compelled to emigrate to America.

 

 In 1830 Northumberland and Durham miners united in Hepburn's Union, named after its founder Thomas Hepburn, another Hetton Colliery man, though originally from Pelton. In 1831 both counties came out on strike for more wages and shorter hours. The annual bond terminated on April 5 and its expiry was the signal to down tools. Hepburn himself advocated non-violence but he was unable to control some of the rowdier elements of his membership. A mob of some 1500 miners caused damage at Blyth, Bedlington, Cowpen and Jesmond Dene collieries. Large bodies of violent and lawless men wandered the country causing mischief and the frightened authorities felt obliged to call out the military and swear in a large body of special constables. Hetton was occupied by troops.

 

 On May 5 1830 a large meeting took place at Black Fell, where the miners were met by none other than  that great coalowner General the Marquess of Londonderry, accompanied by a military escort. Londonderry asked the miners to disperse and promised to meet their delegates, to which the men agreed. At that meeting however nothing was achieved and the situation continued to deteriorate. On May 17 a large body of men descended on Hebburn Colliery and threw machinery down the shafts to the terror of the blacklegs working below. Only the arrival of a magistrate and marines saved the situation from becoming extremely ugly. In the middle of the following month the owners suddenly capitulated, the first unmistakeable victory the miners had ever achieved. One of the fruits of their triumph was the establishment of a working day of 12 hours for boys, instead of one almost without limit. They did not long enjoy their unprecedented success.

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 At the end of that same year of 1831 another stoppage took place at Waldridge Colliery, near Chester-le-Street. On Christmas Eve over 1,000 working men below the ground were placed in some danger by strikers who threw machinery down the shaft. The government promptly offered a reward of 250 guineas and a free pardon to accomplices in return for information about the ringleaders. Six men were betrayed and received prison sentences of up to 15 months for their part. These punishments and the owners plan to deny work to any union member were to be the catalysts for a second strike across the Great Northern Coalfield.

 

 The miners strike of 1832 also began in April, to coincide with the Bond, and within a few days all of the collieries in Northumberland and Durham were again at a standstill. This time however the coalowners had an effective strategy - they brought in blacklegs from all over the kingdom and began evictions of strikers and their families to make way for the newcomers. Soon thousands of strikers and their families were living in fields whilst their villages were full of alien policemen and soldiers.

 

 The terror had its intended effect and the strike eventually petered out. So many strangers had been introduced to the region that the supply of labour was overstocked and the owners could pick who they liked from their former servants. The position of the former strikers was desperate but fortunately for them the demand for coal soon picked up and most of them eventually found employment. Not so the leaders and Thomas Hepburn in particular. He was ultimately reduced to selling tea in the colliery villages but even then the mining folk were too intimidated by the owners, led by Lord Londonderry, to dare buy anything from him. He was driven to starvation and had to beg at Felling Colliery for work. He was forced to consent to have nothing further to do with the union before he was taken back on. Thomas Hepburn kept his word to the ‘Masters’and died in abject poverty on Tyneside in 1864. For the time being at least the miners of the northern counties were leaderless and without any effective union or hope. Twelve years would pass before the next serious unrest.

 

 Before 1809 the time of binding was in October. From 1809 to 1844 the binding took place on/about April 5. After 1809 the time when the contract should be renewed was made changeable and uncertain - sometimes a month or 6 weeks before the old contract ceased. This was of course entirely beneficial to the owners.

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 In 1843 the men of Thornley Colliery came out on strike in protest at the harshness of their Bond conditions. On November 23 the owners caused arrest warrants to be issued against 68 men for absenting themselves from their employment. All of these informed the court that tried them that they would prefer to go to jail rather than work under the Bond. The magistrates duly obliged and sentenced all 68 to 6 weeks imprisonment. Immediately afterwards however their lawyer Mr. Roberts obtained a writ of habeas corpus and the imprisoned men were removed to the Court of Queens Bench in London where, upon an informality (a techicality), they were acquitted. They all returned to County Durham as heroes but the Bond remained.

 

 The following year saw the ‘Great Strike of 1844’. Once more the miners were crushed and their union destroyed. As part of the punishment a monthly bond was introduced which remained in place for the next 18 years. The intention was to enable the owners to discard troublemakers as soon as they were detected but eventually it was concluded that the new arrangement benefited the miners by giving them undue freedom of movement. The owners could no longer guarantee a stable working force with the mining clans moving on every month without notice. At the end of 1863 the owners collectively advised their workforces that the annual bond would be reintroduced with effect from the following April 5. Disunited and without a union the miners were obliged to accept. The Bond survived for 8 more years until 1872. The prospect of its abolition was the catalyst for the creation of the Durham Miners Mutual Association (D.M.A.) in 1869.

 

 How can  all this help amateur genealogists with their research ? Simply apply logic and the known dates to the following fictitious example of a census return at Seaham Colliery in 1871:

 

23 California Row, Seaham Colliery, 1871  (April) Census

James Hogarth, head of household, married, 48, Coal Miner, born in Long Benton, Northumberland

Sarah H, wife, married, 40, Haswell

James H, son, 4, Haswell Colliery

John H, son, 3, Seaham Colliery

 

 From this we can see that the family moved from Haswell to Seaham at some point between the birth of James junior at Haswell Colliery in 1867 and the birth of his brother John at Seaham Colliery in 1868. The certificates for these births will give us two  precise dates (let us say Feb 2 1867 and Jan 17 1868). Applying our knowledge that the Bond was usually signed on /about April 5 in this period we can conclude that James Hogarth senior must have signed the Bond at Haswell in April 1866 and at Seaham in April 1867. Therefore the family must have moved from Haswell to Seaham in April 1867. The same logic can be applied to parish registers in the period before registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1837.The crucial dates for the Bond are:

 

 Before  1809 the Bond was signed in October. Between 1809 and 1844 the Bond was signed in on/about April 5. Between 1844 and 1864 there was a monthly Bond. The Bond was finally abolished in 1872.  © Tony Whitehead 199

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