The History of  Seaham

 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.

 

Contents

Chapter 1 (Old) Seaham
Chapter 2 Seaton-with-Slingley
Chapter 3 Dalton-le-Dale
Chapter 4 Dawdon (Seaham Harbour)
Chapter 5 New Seaham (Seaham Colliery)
Chapter 6 The Satellite Estates (Westlea, Eastlea, Northlea, Parkside)
Chapter 7 The Churches and Cemeteries

 

Other links in this Document
The Concealed Durham Coalfield
 
 

The Growth of Greater Seaham 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 (Sea’mHarb)

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Seaham Total

273

326

282

1359

2433

4550

9066

10290

11017

14204

16046

 

The censuses of 1801-31 inclusive were simply head counts and no personal details were recorded. The huge increase in population at Dawdon in 1831 was caused by the foundation and growth of the town and port of Seaham Harbour from 1828 onwards. The big increase at Seaham (Old & New) in 1851 and 1861 was due to the two new collieries which appeared in 1844 and 1849 and which merged as Seaham Colliery in 1864.

 

Chapter 1, (Old) Seaham

Population changes in the 20th. Century were:

 Date

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 Seaham area has been lightly inhabited for thousands of years and densely populated only since the 1830s, a story repeated across East Durham. At Warden Law, alongside the Houghton road, there are two tumuli or prehistoric burial mounds, each surmounted by a crown of trees. Between them and running north to south is an ancient highway, Salter’s Lane, connecting the saltpans of Teesside with Tyneside and Wearside and which may predate the Roman occupation by several millenia. Fertile soil and the ready availability of fish and shellfish must have made this coast an attractive proposition to the first human inhabitants. Prehistoric artefacts have been found elsewhere in Easington District but not in Seaham and there are no remains from the Roman era either. In the early Saxon era Seaham was part of the kingdom of Northumbria, the frontline English state against the Northmen and later, as part of a united England, against the Scots. In 1860 30 male skeletons were discovered at Seaham Hall which may have been monks or victims of the Vikings. The Durham coastline must have been a dangerous place to reside in those troubled times.

  It is certainly peculiar that there should be only one Seaham in Great Britain when you consider how many ‘hamlets-by-the-sea’ there must have been in this island of ours. Seatons (‘town-by-the-sea’) and Murtons (‘moortown’) are a commonplace and there are several of each in County Durham and Northumberland alone. But there is only one Seaham. The undoubtedly ancient place of worship at Old Seaham was originally dedicated to St. Andrew and then rededicated to St. Mary the Virgin at some point after 1066. Although St. Mary’s is classified as an Anglican church today it should be remembered that for hundreds of years before the Reformation it was a Roman Catholic place of worship when they were no such things as Protestants. County Durham became Protestant late in the reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603) and we must assume that St. Mary’s converted at much the same time. Renovation work in 1913 revealed herring-bone masonry associated with Saxon structures so it is probable that the church is far older than the mid 11th. century usually attributed to it. There is evidence that the original (wooden) edifice may have been burnt down (possibly by Vikings) and been built over by a Norman structure at some point after the Conquest.  A recent book by Bill Griffiths, Old Seaham, explores the early days of the parish.

 

 The ancient parish of Seaham comprised the tiny village of that name as well as the hamlets of Seaton and Slingley and outlying farms such as Cherry Knowle. It was bounded on the north by the townships of Ryhope and Burdon, on the west and south-west by Warden Law and Eppleton, on the south by Dalton-le-Dale, and on the east by the German Ocean or North Sea. Seaham was included in a grant of land to the shrine of St. Cuthbert by Athelstan, grandson of Alfred and first King of All England, early in the 10th. century. The estate or manor was eventually sold off to a private individual and by the 13th. Century it had descended from him to two heiresses, the sisters Matilda and Hawysia. The former married a man called Yeland, and the latter married a Hadham, between whose descendants some disputes respecting the division of the property seem to have existed, but which were terminated in 1295 by a solemn deed executed in the parish church.

 

 At some point before 1408 the Yeland share of Seaham and Seaton became vested in the family of nearby Dalden estate, part of Dalton-le-Dale parish. Later that share passed successively, sometimes by marriage, other times by purchase, to the Bromeflete, Bowes, Collingwood and Milbanke families. The latter sold out to the Londonderrys in 1821. The Hadham share of Seaham and Seaton continued in that family until the failure of male issue early in the 16th. century, when it passed by marriage to first the Bamford and then the Blakeston families. The share was then acquired by the Swinburnes of Nafferton in Northumberland who passed part of this on to the Milbankes who in turn sold on to the Londonderrys. The remaining part ended up with the Gregson, Pearcey and Brough families.

 

 The advowson (ownership and power to appoint new parish priests or vicars) of St. Mary’s church appears always to have been attatched to the ownership of the manor of Seaham and to have been held alternatively in the Middle Ages by the families of Hadham and Yeland. Inside the church is a very ancient stone coffin, bearing the inscription “ hic jacet Ricardus Miles de Ilehand [Yeland] “, one of the early lords of the manor. The first rector recorded was John de Yeland in 1279. In 1475 the rectory was annexed to the Abbey of Coverham in Yorkshire. After the Dissolution in the reign of Henry VIII the patronage became invested in the Crown which sold it on to raise money. In 1827 on the death of the incumbent Richard Wallis, Lord Londonderry bought the advowson and so became the Lay Rector with the right to appoint the new incumbent.

 

 The tiny church of St. Mary the Virgin is a very plain structure, consisting of nave and chancel, with a square tower, and contains a maximum of about 150 seats. Some of the pews are still decorated with the brass plaques of previous well-to-do worshippers, including the Londonderry family. The leading features of the church are Transitional in character from the early Norman era. The two windows at the east end are of this style, being splayed on the inside. The nave is of later date, but the windows, with one exception, are comparatively modern. The old roof, considered to be too heavy for the walls, was replaced at the beginning of the 20th. Century. On the front of the porch is a sundial, dated 1773, above which was the following inscription, now too eroded to read:

 


I am natural clockwork by the mighty On
Wound up at first, and ever since has gone
Its pin (?) drops out, its wheels and springs hold good;
It speaks its Maker’s praise, though once it stood,
But that was by the order of the workman’s power,
And when it stands again it goes no more.
 


 Until well into the present century there was a parish charity called Martin’s & Bryce’s, being the interest of £10 left to the poor. According to the Parliamentary returns for 1786 one William Martin bequeathed £5 in 1696 and a Thomas Brice left £5 in 1762. The £10 yielded 10 shillings (50p) interest annually (5%). It is not clear whether this charity still exists at the time of writing (2003), still yielding 50p annually. If so this author would like to apply for it. The parish burial registers reveal that the William Martin concerned was probably the ‘widower of Seaham’ interred on February 2 1695. In the Old Style Calendar then existent the old year ended on March 24 and the new year began on March 25 so a date of 1696 for the bequest is likely to be accurate given a gap between the death and the completion of legal formalities. Less likely candidates are the William Martin (‘son of Richard of Seaton’) buried on December 7 1696 and the William Martin (‘son of Thomas and Elizabeth of Seaton’) buried on November 21 1698, who were both probably children. For Thomas Brice there is just one candidate - the gentleman (‘of Seaham’) interred on September 25 1762, whose family had long been resident in the village.

 

 Though the parish registers commenced in 1646 there are no clues in them about specific structures until 1694 when Mill House (now demolished, which stood on the site of modern Deneside and is not to be confused with the Mill Inn area) was mentioned. Haverley House at Seaton followed in 1697 and then the other outlying farms such as Seaham Field House and Cherry Knowle were alluded to as the 1700s progressed. Clearly many of the outlying farms had already been in existence for many centuries and have oustanding claims to be the oldest inhabited dwellings in the district. As Seaham lay on the coast there were often corpses washed up from shipwrecks and these were buried in the ancient graveyard alongside the locals………..

 

SMV Burial 12.10.1762, A drowned man, name unknown, he had lost both his legs and arms, but there was found in his breeches pocket a considerable sum of money.

SMV Burial 22.12.1767, A drowned man, name unknown, had in his pocket two shillings and a watch, with the letters G.H. on the inner case,  and maker’s name J.Startridge, Lymington No.53.

 

and there is evidence too of the dangerous nature of the clifftops…………

 

SMV Burial 03.11.1789 Francis Pailethorpe or Palethorpe, Valet to Ralph Millbanke, found at Bessy’s Hole on November 1st and died at 8 o’clock that morning.

SMV Burial 10.01.1790 Ann Summers, of Hartlepool, while walking from Sunderland, missed her way and fell over the rocks at Dawdon Dene mouth, and was found dead in the Rivulet on 08.01

 

 The baptismal registers for St. Mary the Virgin began in August 1646 in the middle of the Civil War and with a Scots army occupying most of the county. Many of the early entries relate to the then lords of the manor, the Collingwood family. These sold out the twin estates of Seaham and Dalden to the Milbankes in c. 1678. A later Milbanke, Sir Ralph, married a sister of Viscount Wentworth. This couple demolished Seaham Cottage in 1792 and replaced it with Seaham Hall. Their only daughter Anne Isabella married the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, at Seaham Hall on January 1 1815. Byron’s signature is in St. Mary’s marriage register though the marriage was not solemnized there. The union lasted just long enough to produce a daughter and then the couple parted. Sir Ralph’s wife Judith inherited her childless brother’s money not long after and it was decided to move to her ancestral headquarters at Wentworth in Leicestershire. The estates of Seaham and Dalden were sold at auction to the Londonderrys in 1821.

 

 The population of Seaham village and parish in the 1801 census was just 115 and we have no reason to believe it had ever been much more. As late as 1841 there were only 153 residents. The Londonderry family, new lords of the manor, soon swept away the hamlet to make way for a lawned area around Seaham Hall. The vicarage was replaced with a new structure but otherwise only the church survived from what had been a thriving community for centuries, perhaps millenia. With the sinking of Seaton Colliery (1844-52) and Seaham Colliery (1849-52) and the creation of a pit village at what is now called New Seaham, St. Mary the Virgin church entered the busiest period in its history. By the time of the 1851 census, when the pits had yet to start producing, the population of ‘Seaham’ (Old and New) had risen to 729. By 1861 it was 2591. The old church and especially its graveyard could not cope with such numbers and something had to be done to relieve the pressure. In 1857 therefore a new church was begun near the colliery village and a separate parish was established for New Seaham in 1864 but that rough and tough mining community was still lumped together with sedate Old Seaham for census purposes. By 1891 New & Old Seaham together had 4798 souls. The early records for Seaham Colliery village can be found in the St. Mary the Virgin registers. Since 1864 St. Mary’s has served only Old Seaham, Seaton and outlying farms and ‘events’ are very rare. The baptismal register begun in 1861 still has not been filled.

 

 Seaham Hall has had many illustrious guests since its construction by Sir Ralph Milbanke in 1792. By marriage Sir Ralph was related to William Lamb, better known as Lord Melbourne, twice Prime Minister and adviser to the young Queen Victoria and after whom the Australian city is named. In his youth Lamb was an occasional visitor to his Seaham relatives, a three day ride each way from his ancestral home at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire. Byron would later have an affair with his wife, Lady Caroline Lamb, and it was through her cousin that Anne Isabella Milbanke first met the famous poet at the Lamb house in London. Byron spent some weeks in Seaham in the run up to his marriage but apparently found it boring and provincial. The recurrent winter storms and the rapid dissolution of his marriage blackened his moods yet further. The first important guest of the Londonderrys was the Duke of Wellington, hero of the Napoleonic conflict and future Prime Minister, in 1827. A pub in the new town of Seaham Harbour (founded 1828) was named to commemorate his visit. Later guests of successive Lord Londonderrys were Benjamin Disraeli and King Edward VII. The 7th. Marquess donated the Hall and grounds to the county as a sanatorium in the 1920s and it survived as a hospital of various sorts until the 1970s. It then had a brief career as first a hotel and then a nursing home before being bought by Sunderland entrepreneur Tom Maxfield in the late 1990s. He has spent a fortune restoring much of its faded grandeur and created an international quality hotel in the process.

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Chapter 2, 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

The hamlet of Seaton was first mentioned in documents in AD 950. It was considered part of the manor of Seaham until the division of 1295 when half of each village was allotted to the families of Hadham and Yeland. As the centuries passed ownerships changed hands several times. One line eventually led to the Collingwoods, Milbankes and Londonderrys and the other ended up with different owners, such as Colonel Lancelot Gregson. Thus much of Seaton was never owned by the Londonderry family unlike most of the rest of Greater Seaham. The village has never had its own church or even a chapel and has always been in the parish of St. Mary the Virgin at (Old) Seaham.

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, the Rainton & Seaham Railway. This skirted the southern end of Seaton and brought in newcomers to operate the line. No sooner was it completed in 1831 than 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 1836 the Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) and Haswell Railway passed under the Rainton and Seaham at Seaton Bank Top, and a junction was effected to enable Rainton coals to divert to Sunderland if Seaham Harbour was overloaded. 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 effortlessly with the 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.

 

 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.

 

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 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 primitive 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. 

 

 From 1836 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 begun 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 and were buried at St. Mary the Virgin.

 

 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 East Durham 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. One of its residents is David Angus, butcher and cacti collector, co-author of two books about Seaham with the late Tom MacNee. The village has two ancient pubs, the Dun Cow and the Roadside Inn (Seaton Lane Inn) but no shop.

 

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Chapter 3, 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

 The ancient parish of St. Andrew included the four constabularies or townships of Dalton-le-Dale, Morton-in-the-Whins, Cold Hesledon, Dalden (or Dawdon) and several outlying farms. The largest of these communities and the parish seat was Dalton-le-Dale, described in c. AD 700 by the Venerable Bede as a cluster of ‘ten households round the Guildhall of Witmar, Saxon thegn and Soldier of Christ’. In 1155 the boundaries between the possessions of the Church of Dalden and those of the Lords of Dalden were decided by arbitration.

 

  St. Andrew’s at Dalton-le-Dale has been tentatively dated at c.1150, but this was in the turbulent reign of King Stephen, 84 years after the Conquest, when a civil war over the throne was in progress and the Scots had taken the opportunity of English disunity to seize most of the north of England, including County Durham. An earlier or later date, when normality prevailed, seems more likely. The doorway is definitely Norman in style. The church contains a unique internal sundial and also the ancestral tombs of some of the Lords of Dalden. The ruins of their ancient stronghold, Dalden Tower, still stand in the dene. Nearby was their home at Dalden Hall. Dalden Tower was needed when Robert the Bruce laid waste much of East Durham as far south as Hartlepool in the years after Bannockburn. In 1337 Robert de Herrington, vicar of Dalton, complained to his superiors in Durham that his parish had again been wasted and depopulated by the Scots, this time led by the Bruce’s son, who had taken advantage of the English war with France. Previously 15 husbandmen and 15 cottagers paid tithes and now there were only five husbandmen and six cottagers - all in a state of near beggary and unable to pay him anything. He was then granted 40 shillings annually for life. There was worse to come for East Durham was particularly badly affected by the Black Death (bubonic plague) which reached England in 1348 and may have wiped out a third of the population.

 

 Down the centuries the Tower, Hall and Manor of Dalden passed through the hands of the de Dalden, Bowes and Collingwood families. The latter, staunchly Catholic, are believed to have abandoned the Tower and Hall in c. 1600 for their more comfortable home in the adjacent manor of Seaham which they also owned. Their surname features heavily in the early registers from Seaham St. Mary the Virgin which began in the Commonwealth era. The Collingwoods sold out the twin estates of Seaham and Dalden to the Milbankes in c. 1676/78 and they in turn sold out to the Londonderrys in 1821. By then Dalden Hall had been converted to a farmhouse and the Tower had long been in ruins.

 

 From its origin in c. AD1150 to c. 1575 St. Andrew’s was a Catholic church in a completely Catholic country, a Catholic known world. At some point in the reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603) it became Anglican. The parish records survive from a century later by which time both England and Scotland were united under one King and Catholics were a small, feared, despised and persecuted minority.

 

 The town and port of Seaham Harbour was founded at Dawdon in 1828 and a new parish was created out of old St. Andrew’s in 1845 to cater for the great increase in population. Seaham Harbour’s records for the period 1828-45 therefore are included in the registers of St. Andrews. Murton Colliery, originally called Dalton New Winning, was sunk between 1838 and 1843 but the new community which evolved did not receive its own Anglican church chapel until 1875. Murton’s records before that year are therefore also included in the St. Andrew’s registers. Since 1875 St. Andrew’s has been the parish church for only the two small communities of Dalton-le-Dale and Cold Hesledon. Today ‘events’ (baptisms, banns, marriages and burials) at St. Andrew’s are exceedingly rare and it has the status of a chapel-of-ease (i.e., a part-time church) for its ‘parent’ church at Murton. The vicar of Murton is also the vicar of Dalton-le-Dale.

 

 One entry in the baptismal registers in April 1857 is worthy of particular notice. A Margaret Jane Mowbray was christened whose parents were given as William and Mary Ann of Murton. The mother is better known to history as Mary Ann Cotton (her fourth and bigamous husband was Frederick Cotton), Great Britain’s alleged most prolific murderer, who is credited by some authorities with some 21 killings, one of whom was the child Margaret Jane Mowbray. Mary Ann Cotton was executed at Durham Gaol in March 1873 for one murder she definitely did do - that of her stepson Charles Edward Cotton at West Auckland.

 

 By 1911 the population of Dalton-le-Dale had risen to 472. It has remained more or less stable ever since. There is little left of the old village for most of the older housing was swept away in the 1950s and 60s. One of the most distinguished Dalton-le-Dale residents was the late Tom MacNee, co-author (with David Angus) of ‘Seaham - the First 100 Years’ and ‘The Changing Face of Seaham’. See those two books for more information about the village. The village has one pub, The Times Inn, mentioned in the 1841 census but probably much older than that as it was situated on the main road from Sunderland to Stockton.

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Chapter 4, Dawdon (Seaham Harbour)

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 

1801

1811

1821

1831

1841

1851

1861

1871

1881

1891

1901

Dawdon (S.Harb.)

22

27

35

1022

2017

3538

6137

7132

7714

9044

10163

 

1. The Londonderrys Arrive:

 On  April  3 1819  a marriage took place in London which was to have a profound effect on the ancient Saxon settlement of Seaham. An Ulsterman, Lord Charles Stewart, a widower of 41 with a 14 year old son, took as his second wife Lady Frances Anne Vane Tempest, a 19 year old coal heiress whose pits were in the Penshaw and Rainton districts of her native County Durham. The bride was given away by the Duke of Wellington, a Napoleonic War comrade of the bridegroom. She was the second largest coal exporter on the River Wear  behind Lord Lambton and had an annual income of £60,000, a collosal sum in those days. Lord Stewart himself was far from penniless and though he currently ranked only as a humble baron he expected one day to inherit a much higher title, a marquessate, from  first his father and then his childless half-brother Viscount Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons and Prime Minister in all but name, the man actually in charge of the British Empire. On his marriage Lord Stewart adopted the surname Vane and henceforth would sign himself as Vane Londonderry. Before the marriage Lord Charles Stewart had never visited County Durham and knew nothing whatsoever about his young bride's business, coal. It was explained to him that the produce from her Rainton and

Penshaw collieries had to be taken on a primitive horse-drawn wagonway to Frances Anne's own staiths on the Wear not far from Penshaw. There it was loaded on to very small vessels called keels and taken downriver to be reloaded on to much larger, ocean-going vessels, for onward shipment to London and the Low Countries. Wages to the keelmen and other incidentals were costing his new wife some £10,000 a year but there seemed no way round this overhead. A few miles to the east of Rainton Colliery  lay a possible solution to the  problem  -  Dalden Ness,  near Seaham.

 

 Electioneering over two decades and the building of Seaham Hall had virtually bankrupted Sir Ralph Milbanke, owner of the sister manors of Seaham and Dalden. The final straw came when he had to raise an additional £20,000 as a dowry for his only child Anne Isabella on her marriage to the poet Lord Byron at Seaham in January 1815. It was intended that the Byrons should take over Seaham Hall and live happily ever after while Sir Ralph and his wife moved to his ancestral home at Halnaby in North Yorkshire. The inheritance, via his wife, of her brother's Wentworth money and property in  April 1815 saved Sir Ralph Milbanke's financial bacon and the ending of his daughter's marriage the following year rendered the Seaham and Dalden estates as surplus to requirements. What was to be done about them ?  The exposed Durham coalfield at Rainton was only four miles away and Sir Ralph conceived the absurd idea of constructing a port at Seaham out of the living rock of Dalden Ness to export coal from inland pits such as Rainton and the projected Hetton Colliery. In 1820 he even went so far as to commission a well-known engineer, William Chapman, to draw up a plan for 'Port Milbanke', but the amount of money involved in such a high-risk project discouraged him. He could not have guessed that vast mineral wealth lay far beneath his own estates and that very soon the technology to extract it would be available. He was too impatient even to wait for the results of the experimental digging into the East Durham limestone escarpment going on  at that very moment at Hetton and decided to sell Seaham and Dalden to the highest bidder and retire to the Wentworth headquarters in Leicestershire. His plan for a harbour at Seaham  and a railway inland now came to Lord Stewart's knowledge and he determined to buy the estates 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 half-brother's Irish property. The Milbankes then left Seaham for their other estates in Yorkshire and Leicestershire and made way for the new lords of the manors of Seaham and Dalden. Lord Stewart's father, Robert Stewart, 1st. Marquess of Londonderry, died in 1821 and was succeeded in his titles and possessions by his childless eldest son Castlereagh who became the 2nd. Marquess of Londonderry.  A year later his mind became unhinged and he cut his own throat at his house at Cray in Kent. His titles and possessions passed to his half-brother Charles who thus became the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry, the title history remembers him by.

 

 2. The Concealed Durham Coalfield

 The eastern half of the Durham coalfield, upon which Seaham and all of 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 1820s. As the third decade of the nineteenth century dawned  technological advances had been made which at last made it possible 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 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. 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 650 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) and Colonel Thomas Braddyll of Haswell, would enter the arena and the tapping of the deeply concealed Durham coalfield began in earnest.

 

 In 1801 the total population of all County Durham was a mere 150,000. Half of these people lived in the ancient towns of Chester-le-Street, Gateshead, South Shields, Sunderland, Stockton, Hartlepool, Darlington and Durham City and the rest of the county, not just the highground, was as empty as some parts of western Ireland are today. In 1820 Seaham, Silksworth, Ryhope, Murton, Hetton, South Hetton, Haswell and Shotton were tiny communities in an East Durham landscape which had been agricultural and unchanging for countless centuries. Over the course of the next century  however the population of County Durham increased by more than twelve-fold to 1.88 million in 1901 as the coalfield expanded both eastward to exploit the concealed seams and southward towards Yorkshire. Most of the newcomers arrived from  the other counties of the Great Northern Coalfield (Cumberland and Northumberland) but some came from established mining areas far afield. Murton and Seaham collieries for instance received a large number of Cornish lead and tin miners in the 1850s and 1860s. The effects of the potato famine on the Irish, with starvation and typhoid from 1846-51, brought many of them too. Seaham Harbour certainly took its share of these as is evidenced by the Irish Back Street but strangely few of them reached Seaham/Seaton Colliery, even at this lowest of low-points in Irish affairs. Seaham Colliery and Seaham Harbour also absorbed at least two waves of unemployed agricultural labourers from Norfolk and Suffolk in the 1860s and 70s.

 

 

3. Seaham Harbour & the Rainton Railway

 The favourable views of William Chapman  regarding the new harbour at Seaham and a railway connection to the Rainton pits were reinforced by the opinions of other leading engineers of the day - Rennie, Telford and Logan, whom Stewart consulted before finally deciding to proceed.  Lack of cash caused the postponement of the project several times. Though he was still short of money Lord Londonderry decided in 1828 that a start must be made to the new harbour and railway.  The Rainton & Seaham  railway was initially only 5 miles long, from Seaham Harbour to the main Londonderry pit at Rainton Meadows, but later additions created a network of over 16 miles of railway track. Fixed steam engines and early locomotives hauled the coal from the numerous Rainton pits to the top of the Copt Hill. At a site 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 very same point traversed the road by means of a level crossing. Thereafter the going to Seaham was comparatively easy and more fixed engines took over to haul the loads across the fields of Warden Law and Slingley, skirting to the south of Seaton village. From Seaton Bank Top a gravity incline and then a final fixed engine (the Londonderry Engine) brought the coal to the top of the Mill Inn Bank, where one day Seaham Colliery would be sited. Two habitations, the Londonderry Engine Cottages, were erected  to accomodate the men who operated the engine and their families. These were the first dwellings of what became New Seaham. They stood just behind what became Walter Willson's store. The last leg of the Rainton  & Seaham railway, from there to the new harbour, was downhill  and utilized a self-acting incline system. The 1830's saw further exploitation of the concealed coalfield. South Hetton, Haswell, Thornley, Kelloe, Wearmouth (Pemberton Main), Wingate and Murton collieries were sunk. The known coalfield advanced to the edge of Londonderry's land at Seaham and Dalton. The next decade saw Castle Eden, Shotton, South Wingate, Trimdon, Trimdon Grange  and Seaton/Seaham collieries appear.

 

 

 

 4. The Great Strike of 1844

 In April 1844 all of the Durham and Northumberland collieries came out on strike, including Londonderry's. The miners' demands included a half-yearly contract and at least 4 days work or wages every week. There were as yet no producing pits in Seaham, just the digging by the North Hetton Colliery Company going on at the projected Seaton Colliery, but in the infamous 'Seaham Letter' Lord Londonderry warned all traders there not to give credit to the Rainton and Penshaw strikers, or else they would become 'marked' men and would henceforth be denied any business. If the tradesmen in Seaham Harbour persisted he threatened to remove all of his own custom to Newcastle. He even suggested that he was prepared to ruin 'his' town if he did not get his own way. He evicted those ringleaders at Rainton and Penshaw who were his tenants. He also imported a number of workers from his estates in the north of Ireland to make way for them. The other owners also despatched agents all over the kingdom to recruit replacements for the strikers and they too carried out mass evictions. Large numbers of blacklegs and their families were brought from Wales on the promise of excellent wages and free housing. They were not told that they were intended as strike-breakers. When they arrived in the northeast of England they discovered their true function but had no money to return home. They had no choice but to work to raise funds. Thanks to their efforts after four months the strike was broken.

 

 Once again the 'Masters' were triumphant and could take their pick of those returning to work. The lot of the blacklegs now became a hard one. The special wages they had received during the strike came to an abrupt end and they were afforded no special protection from the former strikers. At Seaton Delavel in Northumberland the Welsh blacklegs were repeatedly thrashed by the native people and eventually all but one was driven back to the Land of Song. He remained in the village for 20 years, an outcast denied communication with anyone, before at last even he got the message and departed. The union was now extremely weak and many collieries gave it up altogether. It was effectively finished by 1852 and dead and buried by the following year. Unionism would not recover its strength for another generation. Thirty five years would pass before the next major confrontation and in that time Seaham Colliery appeared and became one of the most important mining villages in the county and thus at the forefront of the battle for miner's rights. One good thing was achieved in this interlude. The Mines' Regulation Bill passed into law in the Parliamentary session of 1850, despite the fierce and completely unprincipled opposition of the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry, making the appointment of inspectors of mines necessary.

 

5. Seaham Harbour before the Londonderrys

 In her later years Lady Frances Anne would boast to her visitors at Seaham Hall that before the Londonderrys arrived there had been not a habitation or even a path in what became the boom town of Seaham Harbour. This was not strictly true. East Durham had been agricultural for countless centuries and the few residents had to live somewhere near to the fields they tended. In 1828 at least two farmsteads existed in the future Seaham Harbour, Dene House Farm (now demolished) and Dawdon Hill Farm which still survives. The latter thus has an outstanding claim to being the oldest continuously inhabited structure in ‘Seaham Harbour’ though it may have rivals in terms of ‘Greater Seaham’ for some of the other outlying farms are clearly far older than Seaham Hall (1792). Apart from these two fixed habitations there is evidence of transients living on the 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.’

 

The parish of Dalton-le-Dale contained just 211 inabitants in 1821.  35 of these lived in the ‘township’ of Dawdon, where the future Seaham Harbour would be located.

 

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6. Events 1828-41

 By 1831, three years after the foundation of the town and port of Seaham Harbour, Dalton parish contained 1,305 people, 1,022 of them in Dawdon. The population of Seaham (Old Seaham and Seaton-with-Slingley) in 1831 was 264, barely up from 1821. The first list of Greater Seaham residents that I have been able to find is contained in Pigot’s Trade Directory for County Durham for 1834, six years into Seaham Harbour’s history. This mentions only the names of tradesmen wealthy enough to pay to have their names included and even then simply descibes their addresses as ‘Seaham Harbour’ but it gives us some clues as to which buildings and structures were erected first. Pigot’s Directory mentions several public houses (The Golden Lion, King’s Arms, Londonderry Arms, Lord Seaham Inn, Lynn Arms, Noah’s Ark, The Wellington, the Wheatsheaf and the Windmill, which later may have become the Braddyll Arms) and so we know that at least part of North and South Railway Streets, South Crescent, North Terrace and Adolphus Place were constructed by 1834. Not until seven years later was a full list made of all the residents, the census of June 1841, the first to include personal details in the returns.

 

 In June 1841 after thirteen years of existence and a decade fully operational the new port was already functioning to capacity and would be greatly expanded over the next decade. According to  the census of that year Seaham Harbour already had a Harbour Master, Coast Guards, Customs Officers, Pilots, Seamen, Ropemakers, Ship Builders, Ship Chandlers, Sailmakers, Bellmen and Keelmen. The census also mentioned all of those trades necessary for the construction of a new town - Joiners, Carpenters, Builders, Labourers, Blacksmiths, Stonemasons and Painters. Pit Sinkers, Coal Trimmers and Brakesmen were also mentioned. Trimmers worked at the docks but the nearest pit being sunk was Murton (which finally came on stream in 1843). Seaton-Seaham Colliery was still in the future and the nearest producing pits were South Hetton, Haswell and Eppleton. The Pit Sinkers must have commuted to work, possibly by getting rides on the wagons on the Braddyll Railway. There were also Engineers, Enginemen, Enginewrights, Wagonmen and Wagonwrights  resident in Seaham Harbour to operate the two vital mineral lines to the inalnd collieries.

 

 Also mentioned in the 1841 census were cotton weavers, tinners and brazers, dressmakers, tailors, drapers, shoemakers, potters, hairdressers, paper makers, straw hat makers and bookbinders. Seaham Harbour in 1841 also had clerks, agents, lawyers and schoolteachers. These middle classes were employers of housekeepers, a governess in one case, servants and gardeners. Supplying entertainment to the community we find brewers, coopers (barrel makers) and publicans. Only a few of the pubs were named in the census - many smaller establishments (‘beer shops’, often simply somebody’s front room) were not. Provisions were supplied by butchers, grocers, breadbakers, shopkeepers, pedlars and druggists. Producing the food for the growing town were the farmers, agricultural/farm labourers, husbandmen, millers and millwrights in the surrounding fields. Transport in this, the twilight of the Age of the Horse, was provided by carriers, cartwrights, waggon drivers and coach drivers. Seaham Harbour also had a postman (The Penny Post was introduced the year before the census).

 

 It is said that the first two things that any new settlement needs are a cemetery and a prison. The new church of St. John’s (completed 1840)  provided the former and the ‘Kitty’ in Back North Railway Street supplied the latter. Two unknown males were resident in the lock-up on the night of the census. Keeping law and order were two policemen and a prison officer. Reinforcements could be sent for from Sunderland or Durham and there was a large garrison of troops permanently based in Sunderland to deal with any situation in the coalfield. Like all ports Seaham Harbour would have been a den of vice, drinking, gambling and prostitution. The pimps and ladies of the night would have disguised their presence in the census by declaring to the enumerator that their profession was something very different, a dressmaker perhaps, or a labourer. Until the coming of gas lighting in the next decade Seaham Harbour may well have been a very dark, threatening and frightening place when the sun went down. Some people would say it still is.

 

 The 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry originally envisaged a magnificent town designed by the famous Newcastle architect Dobson to back the port of Seaham, but shortage of cash prevented this and in fact compelled him to lease land to anyone. Only on the North Terrace and at Bath Terrace were better quality houses built. Much of the rest was ramshackle and degenerated into slums well before the end of the century. What emerged by the time of the 1841 census was a grid-pattern development on both sides (but primarily the north) of the unfenced Rainton and Seaham Railway. We know that the Londonderry Arms was the first building to begin construction and that the Golden Lion was probably the first to be completed.

 

 South of the Rainton line there was very little development of housing by 1841. South Crescent, South Railway Street, Back South Railway Street and Pilot Terrace were complete and a recent start had been made on Adolphus Street, Frances Street, South Crescent and Church Street. Beyond those embryonic avenues the fields began which led to Dawdon Field House farm. Before very long though those same fields would be earmarked for further industrial development. A pottery already existed but this would vanish before the enumerator visited again. Examples of its produce can be seen at Sunderland Library.

 

 North of the Rainton mineral railway line was the real town - a hollow rectangle whose sides were North Terrace, (what would become) Tempest Road, Henry Street and North Railway Street. Inside the ‘Rectangle’ was still virtually empty but a start had been made on John Street. Outside the rectangle was still countryside broken up by the occasional new structures like the Baths, the Garden House (later called Adam & Eve’s Gardens), Wood Cottages on Terrace Green and New Lodge and by that solitary old building, Dene House Farm. Already the farmer was hemmed in by the Rainton line and a bridge had to be thrown across the waggonway to allow him access to his fields to the south. The day would come when he would have to wend his way through acres of humanity to reach his diminishing workplace. In the census of 1841 the population of Dalton-le-Dale parish was 2,709 (which included Dalton village, East Murton, the embryonic Murton Colliery village, Cold Hesledon and the new town of Seaham Harbour, regarded as part of Dawdon township).

 

 

7. Events 1841-65

On August 23 1843 the township of Dawdon (Seaham Harbour) was severed from the parish of Dalton-le-Dale, and made into a separate chapelry, and in 1845 was created into a separate incumbency, Saint John the Baptist, whose patronage was vested in the 3rd. Marquess of Londonderry. That old tyrant appointed a like-minded Scot, the Reverend Angus Bethune of South Shields, as the first Vicar. He became personal chaplain to Lady Frances Anne and baptised three generations of the Londonderry family (in London not Seaham). Bethune, who lived into his nineties and who has a street at Deneside named after him, also became the town’s chief magistrate. He could always be relied upon by the Londonderrys to rule in their favour and he played an important and sinister role in the suppression of the disorder which followed the Seaham Colliery Disaster of September 1880. After his stint at St. John’s Bethune became vicar of St. Mary the Virgin at Old Seaham where he is buried.

 

 In the 1851 census therefore the figures for Seaham Harbour were finally separated from the rest of Dalton-le-Dale parish. By then the population of the infant town had reached 4,042 (including the absent mariners), double the size of a decade earlier. Dalton-le-Dale village’s population actually fell slightly in that period. Seaton-with-Slingley increased by 25 people. The population of ‘Seaham’ itself (formerly just Old Seaham and outlying farms) radically increased for it encompassed the new Seaham and Seaton collieries. At the time of the 1851 census neither pit was yet producing and the population of Seaton/Seaham collieries was still quite small. By 1865 nearly 1000 colliers would live and work there. The sinking of Seaton Colliery (the High Pit, owned by the North Hetton & Grange Colliery Company) began in 1844 but coal was not drawn until 1852. Seaham Colliery (the Low Pit, owned by Lord Londonderry) began sinking in 1849 and production started after Seaton but the precise date is unknown. Seaham Harbour accomodated the overspill from the new concerns.

 

 In 1843 Lord Londonderry’s eldest daughter Fanny (Frances Ann) was married to the Marquess of Blandford, eldest son and heir of the Duke of Marlborough. The union was celebrated in Seaham Harbour by the naming of the new Blandford Place and later of Marlborough Street. The south docks at Seaham Harbour were finally completed in 1845. Between them Lord (the driving force) and  Lady (the money) Londonderry had created a  port and town where none had existed twenty years before. In the decade 1841-51 most of the existing streets expanded in size to absorb the waves of immigrants coming from all directions. New streets were built - Bath Terrace (1848), Blandford Place and Adelaide Row.

 

 Within the ‘Rectangle’ of North Terrace - (what would become) Tempest Road - Henry Street - North Railway Street there was further development. John Street trebled in size and William Street appeared. North of the Rainton railway was still the most important residential and business sector of the growing town. A Gasworks was constructed in the dene and the town was at last illuminated at night. South of the Rainton line there had been few changes. Blandford Place and Adelaide Row were erected, South Terrace expanded from 1 to 9 households  and Church Street, destined for greater things, now had 45 families but the development was mostly on the north side of the street and even that had a large gap in the middle of it. It was still possible to see Kin(g)ley Hill from Back South Railway Street. Frances Street went up from 1 to 12 households but Adolphus Street barely grew at all.

 

 In about 1855 Greater Seaham was surveyed in preparation for the first national Ordnance Survey. The resultant map was printed in 1857. The original can be examined at the Durham Record Office at County Hall. Surveyed at the time it was, half-way between the censuses of 1851 and 1861, the map gives us priceless clues about the development of our town of Seaham Harbour. Several places are shown (e.g. some of the streets inside of the ‘Rectangle’) which were not mentioned in the 1851 census and we can thus deduce that they were built between 1851 and 1855. Likewise several places (e.g. Seaham Cottages, Marlborough Street) are mentioned in the 1861 census but are not on the map - therefore we know that they were built between 1855 and 1861. We have one other priceless clue about these early days in the history of our town in the form of the remarkable and exquisite wooden model of Seaham Harbour made in c. 1861 which hangs at the back of Seaham Library and was apparently made by an employee of Lady Frances Anne, a Mr. Cummins, for show at the Paris Exhibition. It is not known whether or not it reached the show. For years it gathered dust in the attic of the Londonderry Offices and was discovered only in the 1960s when the Londonderry family finally abandoned the building to the Police. It was restored and now hangs proudly in the intellectual centre of the town.

 

 The decade 1851-61 saw another great expansion of the population of Greater Seaham, from five to nine thousand people. The main reason for this next phase of development was the stimulus of the  new Seaton and Seaham Collieries but additional demand for housing was created by the new Londonderry Wagonworks and two new bottleworks. The immigrants came from all directions but especially from the Emerald Isle.

 

 Seaton Colliery began production in 1852. Seaham Colliery began producing later but the exact date is not known. By the end of the decade nearly a thousand colliers and their families were employed at the two pits. Seaham/Seaton Colliery pit village was erected to accomodate them but the building could not keep pace with demand. Seaham Harbour, Seaton and Dalton-le-Dale tried to absorb the overflow but  those tiny communities could not cope with the influx of newcomers. Four rows of houses were built at Dawdon which were initially called Seaham New Cottages but which eventually became known as Swinebank Cottages. It is not known if these 83 dwellings were owned by Seaton Colliery or Seaham Colliery or both. In the census of 1861 several more new structures were described as ‘New Cottages’ - these would eventually become Ropery Walk, Candlish Street, Gallery Row and Fenwick’s Row. The future Ropery Walk was inhabited by the workers of the Londonderry Wagonworks. The future Candlish Street, Gallery Row and Fenwick’s Row were occupied by the employees of the two bottleworks which opened in Seaham in about 1853. Before the decade was out Fenwick’s was bought out by Candlish and the two bottleworks became one. Fenwick himself was remembered in the name of the street.

 

  Despite the erection of ‘New Cottages’ the demand for more and more housing was far from exhausted. Several new streets or habitations were constucted in Seaham Harbour - Sebastopol Terrace (for the well-heeled), Green Street, Back Adelaide Row, Back Church Street. Inside the ‘Rectangle’ the available space was  filled up - North John Street, Back John Street, Back William Street, Back Henry Street and Back Tempest Place all appeared. The gap between the ‘Rectangle’ and Dene House Farm  also began to fill up - Vane Terrace was built. A start was also made in filling the space between Blandford Place and the new railway station - work began  on Marlborough Street. It contained 45 families in the 1861 census but would soon have far more.

 

 The Dowager Marchioness built her imposing Londonderry Offices in 1857 next to Terrace Green. This impressive structure still stands and is currently Seaham’s Police Station. Its predecessor as Police HQ was erected on the corner of Tempest Road and Vane Terrace at about the same time as the Londonderry Offices. It served the town and the force for over a century. In the same era Rock House was built just across the road. The decade 1851-61 also saw the appearance of several ramshackle structures which would soon degenerate into slums and which contributed greatly to the very high death-rate in Seaham Harbour - the worst in the county by 1900. Amongst these were Pattison’s, Hunter’s, Nicholson’s  and Todd’s Buildings.

 

  By 1850 the docks at Seaham Harbour were seriously overloaded by coal from a dozen inland pits and something had to be done to ease the pressure before Seaton and Seaham collieries came on stream. The solution was to create a railway from Seaham Harbour to the much larger port facilities at Sunderland. On a bitterly cold day, February 8 1853, the 3rd. Marquess, now aged 75, dug the first turf of the Londonderry Seaham and Sunderland Railway (LS&SR). He was fated not to see the completion of this project. Passenger traffic began on the line on July 1 1855 with stations at Seaham Harbour, Seaham Colliery, Seaham Hall (for the private use of the Londonderrys and their guests), Ryhope East and Hendon Burn. The new line was connected to the Rainton and Braddyll railways. Seaham Harbour Station was a short walk from the edge of town at Blandford Place. By 1861 the space in between was developed as the ‘Marlborough’ area and the edge of town advanced to the new railway line. There was no southern extension of the LS&SR towards Hartlepool until 1905 so Seaham Harbour was a deadend on the railway map for half a century. To get to Hartlepool from Seaham it was necessary to travel north on the LS&SR to Ryhope East station, walk the few yards to Ryhope West and change to a southbound NER (North Eastern Railway) train to Hartlepool via Seaton, Murton and Haswell. The LS&SR had its own terminus in Sunderland at Hendon Burn before the Central Station was finally completed in 1879. The legend ‘LS&SR’ can still be seen stamped on the railway bridge at Ryhope.

 

 Already in poor health the 3rd. Marquess caught influenza at the end of February 1854 and this developed into pneumonia. He died at his London mansion, Holdernesse House, on March 6. He was succeeded in all of the titles he had inherited from his father and brother by his eldest son (from his first marriage) Frederick Stewart who thus became the 4th. Marquess of Londonderry. All of the titles the 3rd. Marquess had gained since 1821 however passed to his eldest son from his second marriage, Henry Stewart (Lord Seaham), who thus became Earl Vane. Henry simultaneously became heir to his half-brother Frederick who was childless and looked like remaining so and also to his mother Frances Anne. On her husband’s death she regained all of her possessions including the Durham pits, Wynyard and Seaham Hall. For 35 years the Marchioness had deferred to her husband and contented herself with the roles of mother, wife and society hostess but now she grasped the opportunity to come out of his shadow. From then on  Seaham Hall was her headquarters and the collieries and the harbour her business. She developed the habit of spending the summer and early autumn at Garron Tower in Ulster, Christmas at Wynyard and the rest of the year at Seaham Hall, with the exception of a short visit to London for ‘the season’. In December 1859 she laid the foundation for another new enterprise, the Seaham Harbour Blast Furnace, in Dawdon Field Dene, next door to the ancient farmhouse.

 

 The last major famine in peacetime in Western Europe occurred in Ireland at the end of the 1840s. Blight destroyed the staple crop of potatoes in several successive years and the population, never prosperous, was reduced to starvation. Millions emigrated to Australia and North America to escape the horror that engulfed those left behind. Many could afford only to reach England and Scotland and those two countries found themselves overwhelmed  by the sheer numbers of illiterate, penniless and starving Irish who turned up in every town and village looking for work. Far from being sympathetic the British public were openly hostile to the newcomers who were prepared to work for far smaller wages than the average Briton and were thus perceived as a threat. Seaham took more than its fair share of the Irish and you will find hundreds of them in the census of 1861, especially in the ‘Irish Back Street ’ (Back South Railway Street). Many Seaham people (this co-author included) descend from this Catholic Irish influx in the 1850s - it is the explanation for  the high proportion of Catholics in the town compared to the rest of England.

 

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 Immigration to our ‘boom’ town was not limited to the Irish in the decade 1851-61. The first of several waves of refugees from the dying lead and tin mining industries of Devon and Cornwall began arriving in the 1850s. A street was named after them at Seaham Colliery and an entire district of Murton but you will also find lots of Cornishmen and Devonians in Seaham Harbour in the 1861 census. A swarm of unemployed agricultural labourers also came from Norfolk - lured north by the prospect of higher wages and more consistent work by the agents of Lord Londonderry and others. 

 

 In 1859 the Government, alarmed by the apparent belligerency of France under Napoleon III, formed the Volunteer movement and invited towns and cities, especially those on the south and east coasts, to look to their own defence. The Marchioness responded by creating the Seaham Volunteer Artillery Brigade in 1860. In 1862 she built Seaham’s first Drill Hall near Castlereagh Bridge. Seaham Harbour and Seaham Colliery men flocked to the colours. Drill Halls were also constructed by Frances Anne or her heir Henry at Silksworth, Rainton, Durham and Seaham Colliery. Eventually 12 batteries (over 1,000 men) were created, out of a total County strength of 16 batteries. An indication of how seriously the Londonderry family took their private army can be found throughout the 1861 and later censuses - the number of professional soldiers they were prepared to employ and house in order to keep ‘their’ Volunteers in tip-top condition. All Londonderry agents were expected, indeed required, to train as officers. The 6th. Marquess, grandson of Frances Anne, built a huge new Drill Hall in 1888 and donated the Drill Field, now the site of Princess Road school playing field. He used to delight in leading the annual inspection and parade from the Drill Hall to the Drill Field in full ceremonial dress. One of the Volunteer uniforms is retained at Durham Records Office at County Hall. In 1908 the Volunteers were absorbed into the Territorial Army. There is a still a pub in Seaham called The Volunteers, last remnant of Frances Street.

 

 In 1863 a Local Board of Health was created to conduct Greater Seaham's affairs. It was led from 1873-94 by J. B. Eminson, chief financial agent for the Londonderrys in Seaham from 1869-96. The Board became Seaham Harbour Urban District Council by the Local Government Act of 1894. Eminson also led the new body from 1895-96. During his 27 years service he filled the leading position in the town. He was also Chairman of Seaham Magistrates and a member of the Easington Guardians (Work House). Despite the semblance of a kind of democracy after 1863 Seaham was still a family fiefdom.

 

 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. The health of the Dowager Marchioness declined rapidly after 1862. The news of the death of her second and favourite son Adolphus in June 1864 broke her heart. Within weeks she suffered a major heart attack at Garron Tower in Ulster and returned to Seaham in September seriously ill. By Christmas she seemed to have recovered but this was to prove an illusion. In the New Year she had a relapse and died at the Hall on January 20 1865, three days after her 65th. birthday. She was buried with her husband and her Vane ancestors at Long Newton in the south of County Durham. Her remains were escorted there from Seaham, the town she had founded, by the Volunteers she had created. Her possessions, apart from Garron Tower in Ulster, passed to her eldest son Henry, Earl Vane. The Founders of Seaham Harbour and Seaham Colliery had certainly been characters. Their immediate and much less colourful descendants took little interest in their homes and businesses in the Northeast of England. Their visits were rare and usually confined to shooting parties at Wynyard, their mansion near Stockton. By and large they were content to leave everything in the hands of agents, hard men who were paid by results. Nineteen years would pass before the next generation of the Londonderry family were again regular visitors to the town their ancestors had created. For months and years at a time Seaham Hall remained empty, maintained by a skeleton staff. With the death of Frederick Stewart, 4th. Marquess of Londonderry, in a nursing home at Hastings on November 25 1872, the connection between the marquessate and Seaham was restored. His titles and possessions passed to his half-brother Henry, Earl Vane, who became the 5th Marquess of Londonderry at the age of 51.

 

8. Events 1865-81

 Seaham’s most famous resident, Lady Frances Anne, died on January 20 1865. She missed the arrival of Seaham’s most infamous resident by only a matter of days. Five days before her death, on January 15, a  38 year old stoker called William Mowbray died of typhus and diarrhoea at his humble home in Henry Street East at Hendon in Sunderland, leaving a widow and two small daughters. The widow, Mary Ann Mowbray, soon received £35 from the British Prudential Assurance Company and promptly moved to Bolton’s Buildings (19 North Terrace) on Seaham’s seafront. Her room may have been on the ground floor looking out to sea though the current owner says that it was in a cottage at the back of the house which has long since been demolished. Before long Mary Ann began an affair with a married man, Joseph Nattress, but her two little girls were in the way of a serious relationship. When the younger girl died of ‘typhus’ in April 1865 Mary Ann farmed out the remaining child to her mother who lived at Seaham Colliery. Unfortunately Nattress’s wife then found out and insisted that her husband move away from Seaham. Mary Ann had to accept the fait accomplis and she moved back to Sunderland before the summer was out. Her stay in our town was brief (a maximum of six months in a 40 year life) and the bulk of her career was spent elsewhere in the Northeast. She is known to history as Mary Ann Cotton (her fourth, bigamous, husband was Frederick Cotton) who is suspected of being Great Britain’s most prolific murderer. Most authorities credit her with 14 or 15 victims but she may have been responsible for as many as 21, a figure which includes her own mother. Mary Ann returned to Seaham (Colliery) very briefly in March 1867 to nurse her mother who was already dying of hepatitis. She may have speeded her unfortunate parent on the way but this is unlikely for it would not have benefited her in any way - quite the reverse in fact for her mother’s demise meant that Mary Ann had to take back her remaining daughter.

 

  By the time of the 1871 census the population of Dawdon township (which included Seaham Harbour) had reached 7,132. The population of Seaham (which included Old Seaham, outlying farms and the new Seaton/Seaham colliery village) was 2,802. Dalton-le-Dale still had only 128 residents. Seaton-with-Slingley had  just 228.

 

 There was little further development in Seaham Harbour in the decade 1861-71. A start was made on Emily Street, Caroline Street and Cornelia Terrace. The ‘Marlborough’ area was now beginning to take shape. In the ‘Rectangle’ space was somehow found for Little John Street. Sea View Villas and the North Battery appeared on the seafront. The Blastfurnaces closed in 1865 but were soon replaced by the Chemical Works. Watson Town was erected for the employees of the new concern. The Vicar of St. John’s got a magnificent new house and the Roman Catholic priest got a parsonage next to the Police Station and the new RC church and school. The Irish were by now in Seaham in some numbers, concentrating themselves in the poorest accomodation, particularly the hovels of Back South Railway Street, which eventually became known as ‘Irish Back Street’. ‘The Irish’ versus ‘The Rest’ punchups became a regular feature of Saturday nights when the colliers from New Seaham descended on Seaham Harbour for an evenings entertainment.  The origin of the ‘Top-Enders’ (New Seaham) and ‘Bottom-Enders’ (Seaham Harbour) dispute probably lies in these drunken brawls.

 

 A terrible storm occurred on December 17 1872. Newspapers of the time reported that six Seaham-based ships were lost with all hands but unfortunately they gave no names. It may be that dozens of Seaham men went to a watery grave but there is no record of who they were. The sea had not finished yet. On Tuesday June 26 1873 a dreadful boat accident took the lives of five men within hailing distance of the end of the pier.......

 

 Having finished work and wishing for an adventure on that endless summer evening of long ago seven bottlemakers (John Jefferson, Ralph Hush, James Coyle, Robert Miller, Joseph Hall, Benjamin Turns and Andrew Davison) engaged a coble and placed themselves under the charge of Morley Scott junior, an experienced junior pilot. The boat was brand new, the skipper an accomplished seaman, the seven passengers were mature and sober men and the weather was very calm so there should have been little possibility of a mishap. Morley Scott rowed the coble out of the harbour and then raised the mast to catch what little breeze there was. When they were about three hundred yards out from the (old) north pier an event occurred which was to precipitate a tragedy - Morley Scott’s brace button snapped and he was in danger of his trousers falling down ! Being equipped with a  needle and thread and a reserve button he handed charge of the sail to James Coyle, who he believed was an experienced sailor, whilst he effected an instant repair. A slight wind then hit the sail, Coyle lost his grip and the sail fell into the water. The situation was still not a dangerous one and Morley Scott, seeing the slight problem, forgot his trousers and moved towards the side of the boat to pull the mast back upright again. Unfortunately the other men in the boat, being inexperienced, all moved instinctively to help him, the boat overbalanced and tipped over throwing all eight into the water. Benjamin Turns, Andrew Davison and Morley Scott survived and were able to walk home unassisted.  The other five drowned. Today there may be thousands of descendants of the eight men in Seaham and elsewhere, most of them probably oblivious of the events of that tragic evening 130 years and several generations ago.

 

 There were ugly scenes and near-tragedies at both Seaham Harbour and Seaham Colliery when the Parliamentary Election came round  in February 1874 - directed against Tories in general who were rightly blamed for the fact that none of the Seaham miners and other workers had the vote. The Riot Act was read at Seaham Harbour and extra police were brought in and some soldiers from the barracks at Sunderland. The crowd was dispersed at Seaham Harbour but a section of it then headed for the Mill Inn at New Seaham for uncertain reasons. The pub was attacked and the landlord, John Barret Wells, was put under siege for over two hours. He fired several shots from his revolver but in the end was only saved from a beating or worse by the arrival of more police. Quite why he was picked on is far from clear at this distance in time. It may be that Wells had made the same mistake as those traders in Seaham Harbour who had their places of business wrecked - he might have placed a Vote Conservative poster in his pub window. Nationally the Conservatives had a comfortable victory in the election but in County Durham they lost to Liberals in all 13 seats. Because of the unrest in Seaham and elsewhere the Conservatives demanded  and received a second election in the Northern Division of County Durham of which Seaham was a part. This duly took place and the Tories recaptured one of the two seats for the division.

 

 Seaham Harbour was almost as hard hit by the Seaham Colliery Disaster of September 8 1880 as New Seaham. There were many funerals at St. John’s as well as at Christ Church as the burial registers show…………

 

12091880 Thomas Gibson, 37 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 John Hunter, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 George Dixon, 47 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 James Kerton Kent, 16 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

14091880 Thomas Hindson, 39 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 James Slaven, 27 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Matthew Charlton, 29 [Seaham Colliery][Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Michael Owens, 14 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

19091880 George David Williamson, 18 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

Note: The above was named as David Williams on the ‘official’ Death List

19091880 Francis Watson, 55 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 William Barrass, 27 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 Robert Haswell, 19 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 Thomas Smith, 55 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 John James Hedley, 17 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Luke Smith, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 John Owens, 16 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Thomas Cassidy, 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Walter Murray, 42 [Seaham Colliery][Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Christopher Smith, 36 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 Richard Cole, 46 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 Joseph Bowden [or Richardson], 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

 

and over 10 months later………

 

28081881 Benjamin Redshaw, 25 [Seaham Colliery][Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29081881 William Strawbridge, 48 [Seaham Colliery][Colliery Explosion 08091880]

 

 Of the 164 men and boys killed in the 1880 disaster 32 were not resident at Seaham Colliery Pit Village. 28 of these lived at Seaham Harbour. Two (the brothers John and David Knox) lived at Seaton Village. One (John Watson) lived at Murton. One (Robert Wharton) lived at Sunderland. The badly-faded gravestones of at least two of the victims of the Seaham Colliery disaster can be found leaning against the walls of the disused St. John’s graveyard in Seaham Harbour. The heroic George Dixon’s stone leans against the west wall and Walter Murray’s leans against the south wall. Rest in Peace. Surely there is space inside St. Johns to give sanctuary to these two reminders of a grim but glorious past before time, the elements and vandals completely destroy them ?

 

 The population of Greater Seaham (including Seaham Colliery Pit Village) in 1871 was 10,370. It rose slightly to 11,017 by 1881. Consequently there was very little new development in Seaham Harbour in that decade. Only one new street (Sophia) was constructed. Summerson’s Buildings appeared though it may have been there earlier under a different name. Co-author Tony Whitehead’s maternal grandmother Elizabeth Robinson (nee Kelly) was born there in 1897. Cornelia Street and Emily Street were finished off and only the tiny George Street and York Place were yet to appear to complete the ‘Marlborough’ area.

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9. Events 1881-1998

 The 5th Marquess of Londonderry died in 1884 and was succeeded in his possessions and titles by his eldest son Charles who thus became the 6th. Marquess of Londonderry and 3rd. Viscount Seaham. On July 27 1886 he became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland  (Viceroy) for an agreed three year term of office and he and his family moved into residences at Dublin Castle and Phoenix Park. He was the first member of an Irish family to hold the position. In truth he was chosen because he was the only candidate who could afford the office, which carried a small wage and a large expenditure for hospitality. In 1888 he was awarded the Garter for his services in that troubled island. His term ended on August 30 1889. A new row, Viceroy Street, was constructed at Seaham Colliery to honour the office. A Viceroy Street was also erected in Seaham Harbour and appeared  in the 1891 census.

 

 The population of Greater Seaham (including Seaham Colliery Pit Village) expanded from 11,017 in 1881 to 14,204 in 1891. There was no obvious reason for this large increase. The surges in the past had been caused by the opening and expansion of Seaham Harbour and the coming on stream of Seaton/Seaham collieries but no such major event took place anywhere in Greater Seaham in the decade 1881-91. There was however much further housing development in Seaham Harbour during that period -  George Street, Adolphus Street West, Maria Street, Lord Street, Viceroy Street and Herbert Terrace - all of them bearing Londonderry names - appeared to fill in the few remaining gaps in the town. The decade also saw the erection of Cliff House, the new Drill Hall, York Place and Castlereagh Road. Only Frederick Street and the area between Ropery Walk and Candlish Terrace were still to be built to complete old Seaham Harbour. They would be developed in the following years.

 

 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.

 

 The 6th.Marquess of Londonderry died in 1915 and was succeeded by his only surviving son Charles, the 7th.Marquess. His inheritance however was decimated by the newly-introduced death duties and so the new lord of the manors of Dalden and Seaham was immmediately in financial difficulty.The family would never truly recover from this blow and have been in economic decline ever since.

 

 Though miners were in a protected and vital industry and theoretically exempt from conscription tens of thousands of them volunteered and were accepted in the early days of the Great War when it was thought ‘it will all be over by Christmas’. The Seaham Volunteers, part of the Auxiliary Army, were among the first to be called up in 1914. Co-author Tony Whitehead’s grandfather, Robert Whitehead, 32 year old blacksmith’s striker at the new Dawdon Colliery, signed up at the Drill Hall the day after the war began, despite the fact that he had a wife and five children to look after and another one on the way. He was not alone for it seems he had to fight his way through to the recruiting officer. He ended up being gassed and barely survived the conflict. He was tortured with lung pains and infections for the remaining 15 years of his short life. He was lucky though for hundreds of Seaham men gave their lives in that most pointless of confrontations. They are remembered on cenotaphs and plaques in various clubs and churches.

 

 The year 1918 saw both the end of the Great War and the fourth and most dramatic of the Reform Acts. For the first time all men over 21 and all women over 30 were enfranchised. Younger women did not get the vote until 1928. Constituency boundaries were also changed and a new seat called 'Seaham' came into existence, but the town itself was only a small part of a largely rural constituency which bordered with the seats of Houghton-le-Spring, Durham and Sedgefield. At the General Election in December 1918 the Liberal Hayward defeated the Labour candidate Lawson by 13,574 to 8,988. The election nationally was a resounding success for the Coalition Government. 339 Coalition Unionists and 136 Coalition Liberals were returned. Labour went up from 39 to 59 seats.The (Non-Coalition) Liberals got 26. In 1919 Labour gained control of Durham County Council for the first time, under the chairmanship of one Peter Lee.

 

 Though he was back in the driving seat at Dawdon and Seaham collieries once more after the Great War the 7th.Marquess actually had more pressing problems elsewhere for there was still the small matter of his own solvency. Because of the death duties payable on the estate of his late father he was now suffering acute financial problems which needed urgent remedies. From 1917-30 he sold off scores of minor properties in Seaham, the rest of the county and elsewhere. In 1920 he sold 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.The auction took place in May 1922 and the Hall then remained empty, but there were no takers to buy it. In 1923 Londonderry offered it to Durham County Council for use as a hospital. It was officially opened in February 1928 as a tuberculosis sanatorium.

 

 In 1925 the 7th.Marquess gave 18.5 acres of land to create Dawdon Welfare Grounds. In 1934 he gave Dawdon Dene Park to Seaham Urban District Council. In the late twenties he sold off farmland to the Council for the proposed Carr House Estate, later called Deneside. The Londonderrys still owned the collieries and most of the land and buildings in the town but otherwise their connection with Seaham had come to an end after a century and four generations. The family still visited Seaham on important occasions but they had become remote figures by the 1930s. They were still at the pinnacle of society however despite their economic difficulties.

 

 Ironically in view of what was to come James Ramsay MacDonald was proposed as leader of the Labour party in 1922 by a certain Emmanuel Shinwell and was duly elected. The new leader attended the Miner’s Gala in 1923 at a time when industrial relations were on a downward slope. On November 19 1923 the first sod was cut at the new colliery which was called Vane Tempest after Frances Anne and her ancestors. In that same month there was another General Election which produced a combined Labour (191) & Liberal (159) majority of 92 over the Conservatives who got 258, down 87. On 22 January 1924 James Ramsay MacDonald became the first Labour Prime Minister of a Lib-Labour government. Sidney Webb, first Labour MP for Seaham, became President of the Board of Trade. The administration did not last long and Labour could achieve little without a solid working majority. On October 8 1924 the Conservatives joined with the Liberals to defeat Labour by 364 to 198. In the General Election at the end of the month the Conservatives gained a majority over the other two parties of 215. They secured 419 seats, up 161. Labour got 151, down 40. The Liberals strategy backfired horribly - with just 40 seats (lost 119), they were virtually wiped out and would never again even hope to be the sole party in power. They had been replaced as the respectable party of the left by the Labour Party.

 

 In January 1929 James Ramsay MacDonald was adopted as prospective Labour candidate for Seaham where Sidney Webb had decided to retire. MacDonald gave up Aberavon where there were excessive demands on his time and pocket for Seaham where he would not be expected to visit more than once a year and where the costs were met by local people. Two months later, on May 30 1929, there was a General Election in which Labour won 288 seats to the Tories 260. The Liberals again held the balance with 59. James Ramsay MacDonald returned as Prime Minister of another Lib-Lab government. He had a majority of 28,794 at Seaham where the Liberal and Communist candidates lost their deposits.

 

 The enormous economic crisis in 1931 split the Labour party and led to the formation of a 'National' Government on August 31. MacDonald, on the verge of a nervous breakdown and deserted by most of his party, made an offer to the King to form an ad hoc government to put through the financial legislation necessary and then dissolve for a General Election. The offer was endorsed by Baldwin and by Samuel for the Liberals. MacDonald remained as Prime Minister even though he could count on only a handful of his party’s 287 MPs. On his insistence Labour had 4 of the 10 Cabinet seats. The Conservatives also had 4 and the Liberals 2. Baldwin, as Lord President of the Council and titular head of government, was one of the four Tories.

 

 Shortly after MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party. The Seaham Labour Party asked him to resign his seat but he refused and instead put himself forward as a 'National Labour’ candidate. The General Election was duly called for October 27 1931. Each party issued its own manifesto with a general pronouncement from the Prime Minister in his name alone. A Conservative landslide saw them win 473 seats. Together with their 'National Labour’ (13) and 'National Liberal’ (35) allies they had 521 seats in the new Commons. The Liberals got 33. Official Labour got just 52 and all except one of their front-bench lost their seats. The party would be impotent for the next 14 years. Ramsay MacDonald retained Seaham with a majority of nearly 6,000 over Official Labour, thanks mainly to the non-mining vote in rural parts of the constituency. Had the vote been restricted to the town of Seaham and other mining villages he would certainly have suffered the indignity of being the only Prime Minister in history to lose his own seat. The official Labour candidate was the local party secretary, A. Coxon, a Shotton schoolmaster. MacDonald got 28,978 to Coxon’s 23,027. A new National Government was formed a week later. MacDonald remained as PM but he was now merely a puppet. Baldwin continued as Lord President and moved into 11 Downing Street from where he could keep an eye on 'his' PM.

 

 Seaham Colliery was again mothballed from August 1932 to April 1934 because of it’s heavy losses. All of the hewers and some of the officials working in Dawdon’s Maudlin Seam were dismissed. A total of 2600 men were paid off by Londonderry Collieries. The whole of Dawdon colliery was closed for 4 weeks early in 1933 by a fire. In May 1935, sensing the worst and with an election apparently imminent, Ramsay MacDonald retired as PM just before the Whitsun recess and swapped jobs with Baldwin. The General Election finally took place on November 14 1935. The Conservatives won 432, a majority of 247. Labour increased from 52 to 154. The Liberals fell from 33 to 20. Both of the MacDonalds, father and son, lost their seats to Official Labour. This time the Seaham Labour Party put in a real political heavyweight, a street-fighting Jewish socialist, to oust the icon of the ‘National’ Government. Ramsay Macdonald lost in Seaham to Emmanuel Shinwell by 38,380 to 17,882.

 

 The Slum Clearance Act was passed in 1930 and Seaham Council was quick to take advantage. The Carr House Estate (later renamed 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. Those billeted at Ash Crescent complained bitterly about the continuous noise from the South Hetton mineral line but eventually they became used to it and no more was heard about the matter.

 

 The old streets at Seaham Colliery and Seaham Harbour were not immediately demolished but were kept for those made homeless by German air raids. The Seaham created by the Founders was beginning to disappear and this process was accelerated by the coming of war with Germany. As an industrial town and significant railway hub Seaham was an important target during the war. On the night of February 15-16 1941 four died at Seaham Harbour and Seaham Colliery. Eight months later on October 25 1941 the Seaton Colliery Inn sustained a direct hit 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 January 1 1945 a new union, the NUM, was created from the MFGB. A General Election was held in July 1945. Labour achieved a landslide with 393 seats to the 213 of the Conservatives and their allies, the Liberals 12 and Independents 22. For the first time a Labour government had an overall majority and could put into effect some of its ideals. Emmanuel Shinwell, MP for Seaham, became Minister of Fuel and Power to carry out the pre-war dream of nationalisation. 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.

 

 On the evening of Saturday November 17 1962 Seaham was rudely thrust into the national spotlight when the lifeboat was launched to help a fishing coble in distress in a rising and sudden gale and with the thin late Autumn light already fading. Having successfully rescued the occupants of the coble the lifeboat overturned in huge waves just as it was about to re-enter the safety of the harbour. All of the occupants of the lifeboat were lost and all too from the coble except for one man, Donald Burrell, who managed to hang on to the propellor of the lifeboat until it was beached and he was found. His 9 year old son David and a brother were amongst those lost. This co-author was also 9 years old at the time and the scenes from the next 24 hours are still clear in my mind after 40 years. All night long helicopters and aeroplanes dropped flares high over the coast lighting up the Seaham sky hoping to direct rescuers to men in the water. By dawn no other survivors had been found and bodies were gradually washed up over the next few days and weeks. One body was never found. In my mind’s eye I can see the mountainous waves smashing up over the lighthouse on the Sunday morning and every inch of every Seaham cliff and beach was full of people vainly looking for signs of life in those merciless seas. For a few days the Seaham Lifeboat Disaster was high in the news and was then forgotten by all except those Seahamites who lived through the drama. Donald Burrell could never forget even after he moved away to a Nottinghamshire pit with his family. When he died in the 1990s his ashes were sprinkled on the North Sea just outside the piers.

 

  At its peak in 1913 the Durham coalfield produced 41.5 million tons with 165,246 employees at 304 pits. By 1934 the output had fallen to 30.6 million tons produced by 107,873 employees at 228 pits. By the time of nationalisation in 1947 the number of pits had dropped to 127. The three Seaham collieries, with their access to the unlimited reserves under the North Sea, seemed to be safe for another century and there were no alarm bells ringing yet on the Durham coast. Between 1951 and 1964 the Conservatives closed 44 pits in the county. From 1964 to 1970 Labour shut down another 51. By 1970 a mere 34,484 employees worked at just 34 pits. The closures were now coming ominously close to Seaham and the writing was on the wall. By 1983 7.2 million tons were being produced by 15,289 employees at 13 collieries.

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 The Miner’s Strike of 1984-85 - the last, longest and most bitter of them all, was calculated to stop the closure of the remainder, in 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.

 

 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.

 

 Since the war a ring of satellite council and private estates has sprung up to completely surround the original town of Seaham Harbour. Westlea, Eastlea, Woodlands, Northlea etc. Parkside received an extension and some shops at last. None of these new areas have any connection with the Londonderry family and none have street names with a Londonderry connection.

 

 

Glossary of Place Names in the Censuses 1841-91

Dawdon Field House

 Now known as Dawdon Hill Farm this structure held 7 households in 1841 and had probably been there for decades and maybe even centuries before that. It had an outstanding claim to being the oldest continuously inhabited structure in Seaham Harbour and possibly in Greater Seaham as well. Other outlying farms may predate it. Now seems to have been abandoned in favour of a new dwelling alongside but this co-author can remember it being inhabited as late as the 1980s.

 

Pilot Terrace

 Originally intended only for pilots but that superior and affluent breed soon decamped and left it to others. Eventually it was dominated by bottlemakers.Though there were only 11 cottages as many as 36 households (1861) were recorded as living there.

 

Wood Houses

 There is an entry for Wood Houses and/or Wood Cottages in each of the censuses 1841 to 1891. The terms may have been interchangeable. The first child born in the new town of Seaham Harbour in 1828 was John Seaham Prudhoe whose parents lived in Wood Cottages which were on Terrace Green opposite to the Lord Seaham. Also living there was the Rogerson family. In the 1851 census both the Prudhoes and the Rogersons were in ‘Marquess Cottages’ and Wood Cottages had vanished. The two structures were probably one and the same. Wood/Marquess Cottages were dismantled at some point in the next decade and moved to a site just to the north of Pilot Terrace. They were not mentioned thereafter and probably became known as Wood Houses. The Rogersons lived in Wood Houses from 1861 to 1891 inclusive and probably moved at the same time that the houses did.

 

Pottery

 Seaham Pottery was mentioned only in the 1841 census though it is still marked on the wooden model of Seaham Harbour (c.1861) which hangs on the rear wall of Seaham Library. Examples of its produce can be inspected at Sunderland Museum.

 

Adolphus Street

 Named after the 2nd. son of the 3rd.Marquess of Londonderry and Lady Frances Anne Vane Tempest. There were 3 households in 1841 and 68 houses by 1891.

 

Wood Cottages

 See the above Wood Houses.

 

South Crescent

 Four households in 1841 (including the Vane Arms which was later regarded as being number 74 Church Street). Contained the Londonderry Arms. Part of it still stands.

 

Back Street (Back South Railway Street)

 The famous Irish Back Street. Numbered 1-37 in 1891, it had as many as 92 households in it in 1861. The great period of Irish immigration to Seaham ended at about that time. The Irish population of the street had become much diluted by 1881. Back South Railway Street had several courtyards which each contained several households. These seem to have confused successive enumerators so the population of the street seems to fluctuate wildly. The enumerator almost certainly confused many of the residents with other neighbouring streets or vice versa.

 

Malcolm Square

 Mentioned only in the 1841 census. Was probably one of the courtyards of Back South Railway Street. A Malcolm’s Yard appears in the 1861 census but this appears to be one of the yards of Back North Railway Street - the other side of the Rainton line. I have no idea who either Malcolm was.

 

Church Street

 Eleven households in 1841, 74 houses by 1881.The church was not completed until 1840 so the street is not as old as some others. For a long time development was mostly on the north side of the street and even that had a large gap in it so that Kin(g)ley Hill was still visible from Back South Railway Street. Church Street did not become the main shopping thoroughfare until late in the 19th.century when it replaced North Railway Street.

 

Cross Street

 Contained 4 households in 1841 but then vanishes. May have reappeared as Green Street in 1861.

 

South Terrace

 Only one household in 1841, numbered 1-14 by 1891. Apparently had 41 households in it in 1871 but this may have been a mistake by the enumerator. The surviving block includes the Engineer’s Arms.

 

Dunn’s Buildings

 Named after their first owner Ralph Dunn. Were probably one of the backyards of Back South Railway Street. Later they may have changed their name or merged with Back South Railway St.

 

Thornton’s Buildings

 Were probably one of the backyards of Back South Railway Street. Later they may have changed their name or merged with BNRS. Named after their first owner Parkin Thornton whose gravestone leans against the south wall of St.John’s Churchyard.

 

 South Railway Street

 Probably always had 34 houses but as many as 46 households had been registered as living there (1871). The Golden Lion, Duke of Wellington and the Northumberland Arms (Inn-Between) survive in 1996.

 

Dawdon Hall

 Mentioned only in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. Uninhabited thereafter. Had existed since mediaeval times.

 

Frances Street

 Named after the Marchioness. Only one house in 1841. Numbered 1-55 by 1891. Only one surviving house today - the Volunteers Arms.

 

Dene House Farm

 Mentioned in every census from 1841 to 1891. The only structure in the projected new town in 1828. Eventually the farm became completely surrounded by the town and the farmer had to travel further and further to look after his diminishing fields. Demolished 1950s. Telephone exchange now stands on the site.

 

New Lodge

 Exact location unknown.

 

Adam & Eve Inn

 Originally called Garden House. Owned throughout the 19th.century by the Fair family.

 

Tempest Place

 Only one house in 1841, which vanishes in 1851. The street is resurrected by 1861 and seems to have had about 15 houses thereafter.

 

Baths

Mentioned in every census from 1841 to 1891. Stood on the promontory overlooking Featherbed Rock.

 

‘Mill House’

Mentioned only in the 1841 census. I have not been able to identify or locate this structure. Not to be confused with the Mill House (site of modern-day upper Deneside) or the Mill Inn at New Seaham.

 

North Terrace

 Probably always had 29 houses but as many as 51 households were recorded there in 1841. Mary Ann Cotton, the alleged mass murderess, lived at number 19 for 6 months in 1865. It is possible that she murdered her 3 year old daughter Margaret Jane Mowbray there. The current owner says that according to her grandmother Mary Ann actually lived in a self-contained cottage to the rear of number 19 (which would make it in Back North Terrace), a structure which has long gone as has the rest of Back North Terrace. Much of the original North Terrace (circa 1828-31) still survives.

 

Prosser’s Opening

 The connection between North Terrace and Back North Terrace, next door to the Lord Seaham (Harbour View). The passageway was a tunnel with several families living above it. Named after its first owner, Thomas Prosser, landlord of the Lord Seaham (page 12) and one of the four masons who built St. John’s.

 

Back North Terrace

 Not a single survivor from this street. 57 households lived there in 1871.

 

John Street

Named after John Tempest, great grandfather of Frances Anne. Long gone like the rest of the ‘Rectangle’.

 

Back North Railway Street

 One of the first streets in the town. Was probably finished by 1841 when it had 39 households. Once a busy thoroughfare, only the Noah’s Ark (rear) survives today.

 

North Railway Street

 Once a busy shopping street but now a quiet backwater. The new supermarket partially revives the old flavour of the street but of course the railway is long gone. Only the Noah’s Ark survives today from what was.

 

Henry  Street

Named after Henry Stewart, Lord Seaham, the eldest son of the 3rd. Marquess and Lady Frances Anne. He became the 5th.Marquess in 1872. Henry Street had 27 households in 1841, 50 in 1851, only 6 in 1861 and then 53 in 1871. It is not entirely clear where the street vanishes to in 1861 but some of the residents may have been confused with other streets. Another Henry Street stands on the site today.

 

Dean Place

It is not clear where this street was. In 1841 it had 13 households, 20 in 1851, none in 1861, 1 in 1871 and then it vanishes. It may have changed its name or become merged with an adjacent street.

 

Bath Terrace

 Advertised for tenants in the Durham Chronicle when constructed in 1848. First appears in the 1851 census. Still among the best blocks of houses in the town 145 years later. Designed by the Newcastle architect Dobson who was also responsible for Hawthorn Towers and many other notable places.

 

William Street

First appears in the 1851 census. Named after Charles William Stewart, 3rd.Marquess of Londonderry. It probably always had 33 houses but 48 households lived there in 1871.

 

Howey’s Yard

 One of the backyards of John Street. Mentioned only in 1851 when one of the residents was a Margaret Howey.

 

Toll Bar

The cottage which controlled the toll-bridge across the dene in early days. Called different names in different censuses.

 

Gas Works Cottages

Located in the dene near to Adam & Eve’s Gardens. First appeared in the 1851 census. Survived until well into the 20th.century.

 

Blandford Place

 Named after the Marquess of Blandford, heir of the Duke of Marlborough, who married the eldest daughter of the 3rd.Marquess and Lady Frances Anne in 1843. Part of the original street still stands. Had either 16 or 17 houses.

 

Adelaide Row

 Named after the fourth and youngest daughter of the 3rd.Marquess and Lady Frances Anne. Had either 24 or 25 houses. Nothing survives of the original street. First appeared in 1851 census. A year later Lady Adelaide eloped with her brother’s tutor, a humble clergyman, and married him the same day. She was ignored by the family for years for this act of marrying beneath herself and was only forgiven after her father’s death in 1854.

 

Marquess Cottages

 See Wood Cottages/Houses.

 

Infirmary

Apparently constructed in the 1840s but not mentioned in the census until 1861. Mary Ann Cotton may have worked there briefly in the summer of 1865. Later became Seaham Library. Demolished 1960s.

 

Sebastopol Terrace

Named after the town and battle in the Crimean War. First appears in the 1861 census, five years after the end of that conflict. Still stands intact.

 

Malcolm’s Yard

One of the backyards of Back North Railway Street. Mentioned only in the 1861 census. No connection with the earlier Malcolm Square (?).

 

Pattison’s Buildings

 Mentioned only in the 1861 census (page 52). Probably changed names. One of the aleged victims of Mary Ann Cotton, her lover Joseph Nattress, was recorded there in 1861.

 

North John Street

 This street had 27 households when it first appeared in 1861, it was called Little John Street in 1871, reappears with 28 households in 1881 and vanishes in 1891 (probably merged with Back John Street).

 

Lowrey’s Yard

 Probably one of the yards of Back North Terrace or John Street. Mentioned only in 1861.

 

Back William Street

 Mentioned only in 1861 when it had 8 households.

 

Back Henry Street

 Had 35 households in 1861, 19 in 1871, 7 houses in 1881 and then vanishes in 1891, probably confused with somewhere else by the enumerators.

 

Vane Terrace

 First appears 1861. Named after the ancestors of Lady Frances Anne. Had either 13 or 14 houses of which two still survive today.

 

Back Tempest Place

 Mentioned only in the 1861 and 1871 censuses.

 

Police Station

 First appears 1861. Served the town for over a century. Demolished 1970s.

 

Thistle Cottage

 Mentioned only in 1861 census (page 61). Probably changed its name.

 

Londonderry Offices

 Constucted 1857. Still stands as Seaham Police HQ.

 

Colliery Station

 The LS&SR was completed by 1855. Station first mentioned in 1861 census.

 

Green Street

 Named after Sam Green, manager of the LS&SR, who was killed by one of his own trains in 1860. Still exists technically but has no residents.

 

Back Church Street

 Mentioned in 1861 and 1881 (when it was called Back Cross Street by the enumerator).

 

Back Adelaide Row

 Mentioned only in 1861 and 1871.

 

Marlborough Street

 First mentioned in 1861 but clearly only partly built by then. Long since demolished. Named after the above mentioned Dukes of Marlborough.

 

New Cottages

 Appeared first in 1861 census. Seems initially to have been an umbrella term encompassing the later Swine Bank Cottages, Fenwick’s Row, Candlish Terrace and possibly Ropery Walk as well.

 

Timber Yard

 Mentioned only in 1861 census.

 

Gamekeeper’s Cottage

 First mentioned 1871. The game was probably within the grounds of Seaham Hall.

 

Dene House

 Residence of the Londonderry Agents. Still stands.

 

North Battery

 First appears 1871. Occupied by a regular soldier employed by the Londonderrys to train the Volunteers.

 

Seaview Villas

 First mentioned 1871. Still stand on North Road next door to the Masonic Hall.

 

Seaham Harbour Vicarage

 First mentioned 1871. Still stands though replaced by an adjacent modern structure.

 

Rock House

 First mentioned 1871.

 

Cornelia Street/Terrace

 First mentioned in 1871 but was clearly only half built. Called Cross Street in the 1881 census. Part of the street still survives. Named after the wife of the 5th.Marquess.

 

York Villa

 First mentioned 1871. Later became York House club. Now Seaham Rugby Club.

 

Emily Street

 A small street which first appears in 1871 with 2 houses and later expanded to 10.

 

Vane House

 Named after the ancestors of Lady Frances Anne. Demolished 1991 along with the rest of Dawdon Colliery. Originally the home of John Watson, founder of Watson Town and the short-lived Chemical Works.

 

Watson Town

 Named after their founder who was the first man to be buried in the new Princess Road Cemetery in 1885. Watson Town was first mentioned in 1871 and was swept away to make room for Dawdon Colliery at the turn of the century.

 

Bottlehouse Cottages

 Probably originally classified as part of New Cottages. Later became known as Candlish Row/Street/Terrace. Still stands.

 

Fenwick Row

 Named after the founder of the first bottleworks in Seaham which was gobbled up by Candlish and merged with his own concern. The Londonderry pub (the Parrot) stood on the seaward end. One house still stands.

 

Ropery Walk

 First mentioned 1871.

 

RC Parsonage

 First mentioned 1871

 

Sophia Street

 First mentioned 1881. Named after the youngest daughter of the 3rd.Marquess and Lady Frances Anne.

 

White House Yard

 First mentioned 1881. Probably the ‘Duck Yard’.

 

Chemical Works

 Mentioned only in 1881.

 

Summerson’s Buildings

 Mentioned first in 1881 with 8 ‘buildings’. Seems almost to vanish in 1891 but this co-author’s grandmother is known to have been born there in 1897 and I have seen a birth certificate mentioning the place as late as 1930.

 

Castlereagh Road

Appears first in 1891. All that remains are the Castlereagh (Carlton) and the abandoned Co-op store.

Rainton line oppposite has been converted into a small walkway.

 

Cliff House

Appears first in 1891.

 

York Place

Ditto. I have been unable to locate it on the map of 1895 (Godfrey Edition). I suspect it

was the rear of the top house in Marlborough Street which had Yorke Villa behind.

 

George Street

Appears first in 1891. Named after the 5th.Marquess who was George Henry Stewart.

Adolphus Street West

Appears first in 1891.

 

Maria Street.

 Ditto. Named afterthe second daughter of Lady Frances Anne and the 3rd.Marquess.

 

Lord Street

 Appeared first in 1891. Named after Lord Londonderry.

 

Viceroy Street

 Named after the 6th.Marquess who was Viceroy of Ireland from 1886 to 1889.

 

Herbert Terrace

Named after the brother of the 6th.Marquess.

 

Swine Bank Cottages (under that name), Cemetery Lodge and ‘The Dene’ all appeared firstly in 1891.

As ‘New Cottages’ Swinebank Cottages were there 30 years earlier.

 

 

Chapter 5, New Seaham (Seaham Colliery)

Population changes in the 20th. 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

Growth of the Village of New Seaham 1861-91

1861 Census

1871 Census

1881 Census

1891 Census

West Row (23)

School Row/Vane Terrace (25)

Vane Terrace (23)

Vane Terrace (23)

Infant Row (6)

Reading Room Row (6)

Infant Row (7)

Infant Street (7)

California Row (68)

California Row (68)

California Street (68)

California Street (68

Mount Pleasant (20)

Mount Pleasant (20)

Mount Pleasant (20)

Mount Pleasant (58)

Australia Row (82)

Australia Row (66)

Australia Street (66)

Australia Street (66)

Lononderry Engine Cottages (2)

Londonderry Engine Cottages (2)

Londonderry Engine Cottages (2)

Londonderry Engine Cottages (2)

Office Row (53)

Office Row (37)

William Street (30)

William Street (30)

Butcher’s Row (40)

Butchers Row (39)

Butcher Street (40)

Butcher Street (40)

German Row (22)

German/Doctors Row (66)

Doctor’s Street (66)

Doctor’s Street (66)

Bownden Row(23)

Daker’s Row (21)

Post Office Street (21)

Post Office Street (21)

Church Row (23)

Church Row (25)

Church Street (26)

Church Street (57)

Double Row (32)

Double Row (32)

School Street (32)

School Street (32)

Single Row(24)

Railway Row (22)

Bank Head Street (22)

Bank Head Street (22)

Model Row (35)

Model Row (27)

Model Street (26)

Model Street (26)

 

New or Cornish Row (57)

Cornish Street (57)

Cornish Street (57)

 

 

Henry Street (59)

Henry Street (59)

 

 

Seaham Street (59)

Seaham Street (59)

 

 

Hall Street (50)

Hall Street (50)

 

 

Cooke Street (20)

Cooke Street (20)

 

 

 

Viceroy Street (61)

 

 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 introductory 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, 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 140 years.

 

 

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 an 8 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. Some of the streets were built and owned by the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company, proprietors of Seaton Colliery. The rest were constructed and owned by the Londonderry family, owners of Seaham Colliery. At this distance in time it is difficult to tell who owned what. The first streets, all of which were mentioned in the 1861 census, were:

 

West Row: which was later called School Row and later still became Vane Terrace.

School Row: which is not to be confused with School Street (see the below Double Row).

Infant Row: Very small. Only six dwellings.

California Row:  1849 saw the California Gold Rush.

Mount Pleasant : which may have been named after a place in northern Ireland near the Londonderry mansion at Mount Stewart or simply because it occupied a good vantage down to the sea.

Australia Row: Australia was a principal destination for British emigrants in this period, especially miners from the northeast of England. Many of them promptly commemorated their roots by naming their new communities after the ones they had left behind. A Newcastle, a Sunderland, a Murton, a Ryhope and yes even a Seaham, were created in New South Wales and survive to this day.

Office Row: which was later called William Street.

Butcher’s Row: Butcher may have been a director/official of the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company

German Row: later called Doctor’s Street, which in the direction of Sunderland had a fine view of the North Sea (The German Ocean.).

Bownden Row: later called Daker’s Row and later still renamed Post Office Street. Bownden may have been a director/official of the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company.

Church Row: which faced the new Christ Church

Double Row: later called School Street

Single Row: later called Railway Row, later still renamed Bank Head Street

Model Row: Presumably the builders and owners were proud of this street and gave it a magnificent title.Or maybe they had just run out of names !

 

 

 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 resposibility to subscribe to a 'club' to cover 'private' medical expenses. There were discretionary payments from the mineowners, 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 Marquess 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.

 

 As the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company no longer had an interest in the Seaton part of Seaham Colliery or its housing stock any trace of that concern in the street names of the village was now removed by the Londonderrys. Uncharacteristically they did not bestow their own names as had happened at Seaham Harbour and other places, at least not yet: West Row became School Row and only later became Vane Terrace; Infant Row became Reading Room Row; Bownden Row became Daker’s (the new manager of Seaham Colliery) Row; Single Row became Railway Row. One new street appeared, predictably being called New Row. By the time of the 1881 census it had become Cornish Row in honour of the wave of immigrants coming in from that county.

 

 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 coalowners. 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 mother and stepfather of the alleged mass murderess Mary Ann Cotton moved to New Seaham from South Hetton in the early 1860s. George and Margaret Stott took up residence in California Street at an unknown number and in the summer of 1865 took in Mary Ann’s only surviving child, Isabella Mowbray, aged 6. Mary Ann had lost her husband William Mowbray to typhus in Hendon at the start of the year and her other daughter Margaret Jane had succumbed to the same disease at Seaham Harbour in May. Now Mary Ann needed time to sort herself out and farmed her child out to its grandmother and step-grandfather. She moved to Sunderland and got a job as a nurse at the Infirmary. There she met a patient, George Ward, and married him before the year was out. Mysteriously he was dead within months of a disease which apparently baffled his doctors. At the end of 1866, within weeks of being widowed a second time, she took a job at Pallion as housekeeper to a well-to-do shipyard official James Robinson, who had just lost his own wife and badly needed female help with his five children. The youngest of these, a sickly infant boy, died within days of her arrival.

 

 A few weeks later, in the spring of 1867 Mary Ann, a ‘nurse’ remember, was summoned back to New Seaham to look after her mother who was dying of the liver disease hepatitis. Margaret Stott expired within a week and was buried at New Seaham Christ Church. Mary Ann then quarrelled with her stepfather over a few sheets she claimed had been hers. He had never liked her much and now told her what he thought of her and ordered her to leave his house and take her child with her. George Stott already had eyes on a comely widow, Hannah Paley, who lived in the same street, and he didn’t want the little girl around cramping his style. He married Hannah Paley not long after but Mary Ann was not invited to the wedding and in fact never came to Seaham again. Within weeks of Mary Ann’s return to Pallion Isabella Mowbray was dead, two more of Robinson’s children also, and the ‘housekeeper’ was pregnant by her employer. George Stott did see his stepdaughter one more time. He was her last visitor in the condemned cell at Durham Gaol in March 1873 a few days before she was hanged for the murder of yet another child, a son of her fourth (bigamous) husband Frederick Cotton. Her mother Margaret Stott and her daughter Isabella Mowbray are included among the 21 people that Mary Ann Cotton has been accused of murdering either for the insurance money or because they were somehow in her way.

 

 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. There were two mass funerals at Christ Church………..

 

 

21121871 John Hay, 60 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 James Aspden, 41[Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 John Richardson, 50 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 George Barker, 16 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 William Dunn, 57 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 Thomas Bousfield, 49 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 William Robins, 28 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 Edward Laing, 43 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 John Waddle, 52 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 George Shipley, 34 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

Burials from Christ Church Registers [New Seaham]

21121871 Thomas Norris, 60 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 John Boadin [Burdon], 46 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 Edward Campbell, 30 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

21121871 Thomas Dobson, 13 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

22121871 William Young, 67 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

22121871 Thomas Proud, 58 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

22121871 David Ballantine, 69 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

22121871 Thomas Tones, 64 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

22121871 William Coates, 30 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

22121871 Matthew Brown, 30 [Colliery Explosion 25101871]

 

Note: There were four other men killed in the explosion who were not buried at Christ Church, Ralph Hepplewhite [St.Mary The Virgin], Thomas Hutchinson [St.Mary The Virgin], Robert Straughair [St.John’s] and Charles Lawson [St.John’s]

 

 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. The burial registers at Christ Church make grim reading………..

 

11091880 William Simpson, 31 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

11091880 James Brown, 55 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 William Spanton, 39 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Samuel Venner, 52 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 William Venner, 24 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Joseph Straughan, 21 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 John Thomas Patterson, 31 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 John Mason, 21 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Lees Ball Dixon, 26 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 William Wilkinson, 40 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 John Weirs [Weir], 47 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 John Neasham, 42 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Anthony Ramshaw, 65 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 James Dotchin [Dodgin], 62 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Joseph Rollins [Rawlings], 49 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Walter Dawson, 49 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Anthony Smith, 39 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Thomas Foster [Forster], 64 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 John McGuinness, 31 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Richard George, 31 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Thomas Alexander, 36 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 William Breeze, 33 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Thomas Lowdey, 48 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Robert Rollins [Rawlings], 39 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Robert Potter, 47 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

12091880 Thomas Williams, 14 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

13091880 Joseph Chapman, 35 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

13091880 Michael Smith, 14 months (son of mentioned Michael of Water Bottle fame)

18091880 John Short, 18 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Thomas Foster [Forster], 17 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 John Jackson, 61 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Dominic Gibbon, 46 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Robert Greenwell, 29 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Robert Graham, 26 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 George Shields, 23 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Michael Henderson, 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 Roger Henderson, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

18091880 William Henderson, 19 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

19091880 Charles Horan, 28 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 Jacob Fletcher, 50 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 James Clark, 47 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 James [William] McLoughlin, 54 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

20091880 James Clarke [junior], 20 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 William Potts, 41 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Alexander Sanderson, 34 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Thomas Hays, 46 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Thomas Hays, 23 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Henry Ramsey, 33 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 George Roper, 50 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 John Riley, 70 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Michael Keenan, 50 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Charles Dawson, 37 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 William Fife, 44 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 George Page, 55 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 John Lock, 50 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 George Hopper, 51 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Anthony Scarff, 40 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 George F.Lamb, 36 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Joseph Birkbeck, 64 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Robert Clarke, 71 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Robert Straughan, 17 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 George Henry Norris, 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 William Hood, 28 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 John Kirk, 67 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Robert Shields, 52 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 William Bell, 44 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Richard Driver [Drainer], 56 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 John Lonsdale, 27 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Mark Phillips, 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Anthony Greenbank, 27 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

21091880 Michael Henderson, 57 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28091880 Edward [William] Hall, 61 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Joseph Lonsdale, 48 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 William Wilkinson, 20 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Joseph Clarke, 23 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 George Diston, 55 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Thomas [John] Miller, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 Thomas Grounds, 27 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 John Grounds, 19 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 John Dinning, 53 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 John Baty [Batey], 33 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29091880 William Sawey, 30 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 John Sutherland, 40 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Richard Defty, 28 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Edward Brown, 21 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 John George Roper, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 John Potter, 43 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Joseph Lonsdale, 67 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 George Brown, 26 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 James Higginbottom, 62 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Robert Johnson, 34 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Robson Dawson, 34 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Isaac Ditchburn, 39 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Thomas Keenan, 37 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 William Berry, 26 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 George Brown, 62 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 Joseph Cook, 32 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 James Best, 51 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

30091880 James Shields, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 William Hancock, 19 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 Robert Dunn, 24 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 Thomas Roberts, 45 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 William Moore, 30 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

01101880 Michael Smith, 34 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

02101880 John Vickers, 52 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

 

and some 10 months later…………..

 

01081881 Thomas Cummings, 72 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

02081881 Joseph Pickles, 51 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

02081881 Joseph Cowey, 40 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

02081881 James Ovington, 49 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

03081881 Benjamin Ward, 35 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

03081881 John Spry, 53 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

03081881 William Crossman, 18 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

03081881 Nathaniel Brown, 20 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

11081881 Joseph Theobald, 67 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

13081881 Henry Bleasdale alias Turnbull, 23 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

13081881 William Roxby, 25 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

13081881 Alfred Turner, 18 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

19081881 Joseph Waller, 16 [Seaham Harbour][Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 Edward Johnson, 39 [Seaham Harbour][Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 John Redshaw, 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 George Sharpe, 39 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 James Walker, 44 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 Henry Elsbury, 72 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 Samuel Wilkinson, 26 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

28081881 John Wilkinson, 20 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29081881 John Copeman, 32 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29081881 Thomas Wright, 26 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

29081881 James Johnson, 22 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

08091881 John Whitfield, 17 [Colliery Explosion 08091880]

 

 

  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 other alleged 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.

 

 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 5th. Marquess of Londonderry died in 1884 and was succeeded in his possessions and titles by his eldest son Charles who thus became the 6th. Marquess of Londonderry and 3rd.Viscount Seaham. On July 27 1886 he became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Viceroy) for an agreed three year term of office and he and his family moved into residences at Dublin Castle and Phoenix Park. He was the first member of an Irish family to hold the position. In truth he was chosen because he was the only candidate who could afford the office, which carried a small wage and a large expenditure for hospitality. In 1888 he was awarded the Garter for his services in that troubled island. His term ended on August 30 1889. A new row, Viceroy Street, was constructed at Seaham Colliery to honour the office. A Viceroy Street also appeared at Seaham Harbour.

 

  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.

 

 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 (co-author Tony Whitehead’s great aunt) 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. 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.

 

Chapter 6, The Satellite Estates (Westlea, Eastlea, Northlea, Parkside)

 

  1. Westlea
  2. Eastlea
  3. Northlea
  4. Parkside

 

Chapter 7, The Churches & Cemeteries

 

Anglicans:

St.Mary the Virgin [Old Seaham]

Baptisms since 1646

Marriages since 1652

Burials since 1653

St. Andrew [Dalton-le-Dale]

Baptisms since 1653

Marriages since 1653

Burials since 1653

St. John [Seaham Harbour]

Baptisms since 1845

Marriages since 1847

Burials 1841-1936, when graveyard closed.

Christ Church [New Seaham]

Baptisms since 1857

Marriages since 1861

Burials since 1860

Dawdon Mission Church

Baptisms 1911-12

St. Hild & St. Helen [Dawdon]

Baptisms since 1912

Marriage since 1912

No Burial Ground

 

Roman Catholics:

St. Mary Magdalene [Seaham Harbour]

Baptisms since 1857

Marriages since 1871

No Burial Ground

St. Cuthbert [New Seaham]

Baptisms since 1934

Marriages since 1935

No Burial Ground

 

Methodists, Baptisms:

New Seaham Primitive Methodist Circuit 1888-1919 & 1932-1942

Seaham Harbour Primitive Methodist Circuit 1889-1948 [inc.New Seaham 1919-1932]

Seaham Harbour United Methodist Free Church [Church Street] 1864-1904

Cold Hesledon United Methodist Church 1893-1903

Seaham Harbour Free Methodist Chapel [Church Street] 1898-1911

Seaham Harbour & Cold Hesledon United Methodist Churches 1924-1942

Seaham Harbour Bourne Methodist Church [Tempest Road] 1950-1960

Parkside Methodist Church, Seaham 1960-1968

Seaham Harbour United Methodist Church [Church Street] 1950-1968

Seaham Colliery Wesleyan Methodist Church [Cornish Street] 1870-1946

Seaham Harbour Wesleyan Methodist Church [Tempest Place] 1876-1964

Stewart Street Methodist [Seaham Harbour] 1950-1969

Jubilee Methodist Church [New Seaham] 1944-1996

Cold Hesledon Methodist Church 1947-1966

Enfield Road Independent Methodist Church [New Seaham] 1926-1999

Caroline Street Independent Methodist Church [Seaham Harbour] 1914-1967

Stanley Street Independent Methodist Church [New Seaham] 1968-1999

 

Methodists, Marriages:

Seaham Harbour United Methodist Centenary Church [Stewart Street] 1954-1968

Seaham Harbour United Methodist Free Church [Church Street] 1950-1968

Seaham Harbour Primitive Methodist Chapel [Tempest Road] 1912-1960

Seaham Wesleyan Methodist Church [Tempest Place] 1926-1955

Enfield Road Independent Methodist Church [New Seaham] 1920-1998

Caroline Street Independent Methodist Church [Seaham Harbour] 1939-1966

Stanley Street Independent Methodist Church [New Seaham] 1968-1999

Parkside Methodist Church 1976-1996

Cold Hesledon [Stockton Road] Methodist Church 1946-1971

 

Salvationists:

Dedications (Baptisms) from the Salvation Army Citadel [Seaham Harbour] 1980-2000

Marriages 1972-2000

 

Presbyterians:

Baptisms from Seaham Harbour Presbyterian Church [Adolphus Street] 1911-1945

 

Secular:

Burials from Princess Road Cemetery [Seaham Harbour] since 1885

New cemetery at Seaham Lodge planned for c. 2005

 

 


 

 

 

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