Murton (East Morton)

Murton (East Morton)

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office

St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Baptisms 1653-1917
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Marriages 1653-1971
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Burials 1653-1893
Holy Trinity, Murton, Baptisms 1888-1968
Holy Trinity, Murton, Marriages 1907-1971
Holy Trinity, Murton, Burials 1893-1966
Murton Albion Street Methodists, Marriages 1922-55.

For other Murton records before and after the opening of Holy Trinity in 1875, consult the parish records for Dalton-le-Dale.

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

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
East Morton (Murton) 75 71 72 98 521 1387 2104 3017 4710 5052 6514

The above census records for 1841-1901 are transcribed and available on this site.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The census of June 6 1841, the first to record any personal details, was taken about half way through the sinking phase, so only ‘sinkers’ were mentioned, not proper coal miners. The real miners did not arrive until the pit was ready for production in 1843. Everything was described by the enumerator of 1841 as ‘Murton (or Morton) New Winning’ so we have few clues as to which were the first streets.

One of the residents, an 8 year old girl, a certain Mary Ann Robson, was destined to become known nationwide when she was in her 40th. year. She probably arrived with her parents Michael and Margaret (nee Lonsdale) Robson and her brother Robert from Hazard Pit at East Rainton in c. 1838 when she was about 5 and so to her Murton would always have seemed like her home village. History knows her best as Mary Ann Cotton (her fourth, last and bigamous husband was Frederick Cotton), allegedly Great Britain’s most prolific murderer, who was accused of as many as 21 murders but was convicted of only one, that of her stepson, one of the three Cotton boys she may have disposed of. Her usual motivation it seems was insurance money but some of her victims may simply have gotten in her way. She was hanged at Durham Gaol in March 1873. Her father Michael Robson declared himself to be a ‘sinker’ in the 1841 census. The family probably lived in the Durham Place area of Murton, demolished in the 1950s. Michael Robson succeeded in falling down one of the (still shallow, a mere 300 feet or so) pits of the projected mine in 1842 and his mangled body was brought to his home on a wheelbarrow inside a sack enscribed with the legend ‘Property of the South Hetton Coal Company’. Inside a year his widow, who otherwise would have had to give up the colliery house, married another miner and fellow Methodist, George Stott, who hailed from nearby South Hetton. He would later claim to have raised Mary Ann and her brother. The Robson/Stott clan were present in Murton throughout the troublesome 1840s and were recorded again there in the 1851 census.

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

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

  • Matthew Besom, 16 (No Trace in 1841 census of SH (South Hetton) & M (Murton)
  • John Dickenson, 12 (No Tace at SH & M 1841)
  • Edward Noble, 23 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • Edward Haddick or Haddock (No Trace at SH & M in 1841)
  • William Raffell or Raffle, 32 (Family present at South Hetton 1851)
  • Christopher Raffell or Raffle, 10 (Family present at SH in 1851)
  • William Baldwin, 25 (No trace at SH & M)
  • James Hall, 40 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • Thomas Stubbs, 27 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • Joseph Tones, 66 (No Trace at SH & M)
  • Richard Bloomfield, 20 (His family were at South Hetton in 1841 ?)
  • David Rumley, 12 (Resident at South Hetton in 1841)
  • John Robson, a boy (Age not specified in newspapers) (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • Thomas Lawson senior, 41 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • Thomas Lawson junior, 14, was badly burnt and for days he hovered between life and death at his home in South Hetton. At last he pulled through.

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

  • Henry Pace, Overman (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • Anthony Gray (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • John Robinson (At least four men and boys with this name were resident at South Hetton & Murton in 1841)
  • John Teasdale (Resident at South Hetton in 1841)
  • James Dixon, a boy (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
  • William Armstrong, Viewer at Wingate Grange Colliery
  • Thomas Jones of Murton (Not present at South Hetton or Murton in 1841 & 1851)
  • Thomas Graydon of Murton (Resident at Murton 1841)
  • Edward Potter, Viewer of Murton Colliery (Resident at South Hetton as manager of that concern in 1841).

The verdict of the jury was ‘Accidental Death. No blame attributable to anyone’ So none of the dependents could claim a penny from the South Hetton Coal Company. The Employers’ Liability Act was far in the future.

As had happened in 1841, the 1851 census enumerator for the embryonic community described all of the streets as ‘Murton Colliery’ so we are once more deprived priceless clues about the township’s early development. The Victoria, Colliery Inn and Travellers Rest pubs were all mentioned so at least we have something to chew on. Mary Ann Robson (Cotton), now 18, was mentioned again. She was still living with her mother, stepfather and brother, probably still in the Durham Place area. By the summer of the following year she was pregnant by a newcomer to Murton, a young miner called William Mowbray, and was quietly married to him at Newcastle Register Office. They went from there to Cornwall where he had landed a job as a storeman with a railway construction company. They returned with a child to the northeast in 1857. They can be found in the census at South Hetton in 1861. Mary’s Ann’s ‘career’ may have started with the child she brought back from Cornwall or even with some of the other children she had and ‘lost’ there. Some authorities credit her with as many as 21 murders but the evidence for any of them before 1865 is very weak or non-existent. She was hanged for one she definitely did do at Durham Gaol in March 1873.

At last in 1861 the census enumerator gave some clues as to the streets of early Murton. He repeated the errors of the 1841 and 1851 enumerators and described the first large section of housing he dealt with as simply ‘Murton Colliery’. But for the next section of his stint he mentioned: Surgery Row (not mentioned in later censuses), Coke Row (which became East Street), New House Row or Sinkers Row (which later became part of Durham Place), North Plantation Row (which became Shipperdson Street), South Plantation Row (which later became South Street), Cross Row (not mentioned in later censuses), Tile Row (which later became Railway Street), Chapel Row (which later became another part of Durham Place), Cottage Row and Sandgate Row (which later merged and became Owen Street), Double Row (which later became Lancaster Street), Smokey Row (which later merged with Front Row to become Green Street) & Back Houses (which were not mentioned in later censuses). In fact, though the names of many streets would change, the village was now almost complete apart from the area which would become known as ‘Cornwall’.

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

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

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

The 12 rows of ‘Cornwall’ may all have been completed by the time of the 1871 census but the enumerator of that year mentioned only 4th. and 5th. rows specifically. He gave the other rows different names which proved to be shortlasting, like Back Road, High Row and Mechanics Row. Also in 1871 Hart Bushes Row (later called Johnsons Row and then Murton Street) and Wood Row appeared (later called Villiers Street). In 1875 Murton at last received its own Anglican church, Holy Trinity. The Miners’ Hall was erected in the same year. In 1879 Murton, like many other Durham mining villages, was ruined by the 6 week county-wide strike from April 5 to May 16, the first serious confrontation between men and ‘Masters’ since 1844.

In the 1881 census Woods Terrace, Church Street, Back Church Street and Church Road all appeared for the first time. Fortunately for posterity and local historians the enumerators of that year thoughtfully explained the changes in street names which had occurred since the last census:

Wood Row became Villiers Street
High Row + High Tile Row + Overmans Row became Church Street
1st. & 2nd. Rows at Greenhill became Pilgrim Street
3rd. Row at Greenhill became Model Street
4th. & 5th. Rows at Greenhill became Albion Street
6th. Row at Greenhill now became one side of Princess Street
7th. Row at Greenhill now became the other side of Princess Street
8th. & 9th. Rows at Greenhill became Silver Street
10th. & 11th. Rows at Greenhill became Alfred Street
12th. Row at Greenhill became Talbot Street
Part of Sinkers Row + All of Chapel Row became Durham Place
Tile Row became Railway Street
Front Row + Smokey Row became Green Street
Double Row became Lancaster Street
Cottage Row + Sandgate Row became Owen Street
Johnsons Row became Murton Street
North Plantation Row became Shipperdson Street
Coke Row + Coke House became East Street
South Plantation Row became South Street
NB: North Street and New Albion Street were constructed between 1881and 1891 to complete ‘Cornwall’ (Greenhill).

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

In the 1950s passenger services ended on the old Sunderland to Durham & Hartlepool (via Haswell) line. The track stayed in place between South Hetton (and the projected Hawthorn Shaft which would raise coal from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton collieries) and the coast railway at Ryhope. Thus coal could still be transported from the few surviving collieries to Sunderland for export. In 1991 Murton and Hawthorn were closed and the last section of line was dismantled. One unlucky driver, travelling on the Seaham to Houghton road at Seaton, 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 the former Hart Station (some 11 miles) has now been turned into a continuous walkway which parallels the western border of Easington District and passes the sites of several defunct collieries.

Murton Colliery Strikes

  • 1883 (August 20-25), both Murton and South Hetton collieries struck on behalf of two sacked hewers.
  • 1891 (June 13 to August 17), ‘Lowes’ strike (local)
  • 1892 (January 10 to March 12), 3 month County strike
  • 1910 (January 1 to April 5), the ‘8 Hours’ strike (The Pea-Heap Strike, see below)
  • 1912 (March 1 to April 6), ‘Minimum Wage’ strike (first national mining strike)
  • 1920 (October 18 to November 3) 2 week strike
  • 1921 (April 1 to July 1), National Lockout
  • 1926 (May 1 to November 30), General Strike, then miners on their own.
  • 1973-74, National strike, which effectively brought down the Tory government.
  • 1985-85, Last, longest and most bitter of all. Miners led by Arthur Scargill. Resulted in the destruction of the rump Durham Coalfield.

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

Some Murton Street & Building Names

Cornwall House: Built about 1879, possibly for manager Bailes
Lady Adeline Terrace (1899): After Ethel Adeline Pottinger (later Baroness Knaresborough), granddaughter of Reverend E.H. Shipperdson (Shipperdson Street), owner of most of Murton. Her son Claude (Claude Terrace) Henry (Henry Street), born in 1887, was killed in the Great War.

J.H.B. Forster (Forster Avenue) was chairman of the South Heton Coal Company in 1923 when ‘Wembley’ was constructed.

Ada and Ellen streets were named after the daughters of the constructors of the streets, Benjamin & Temple. Lancaster Street was named after Joseph Lancaster, founder of the schools ‘Monitorial’ system. Owen Street was named after Robert Owen, the pioneer of infant schools and the cooperative movement. Villiers Street was named after Charles Pelham Villiers, M.P., ardent advocate for free trade and Poor Law reform.

— by Tony Whitehead

Monk Hesleden Village, Blackhall & Horden

Monk Hesleden

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Monk Hesleden 150 148 164 176 490 1495 1533 1636 2421 3819 1302

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

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

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


Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
…parish registers of St. Mary, Monk Hesleden, as listed above, plus…
St. Mary, Horden (1913 St. Hilda, Horden Colliery), Baptisms 1904-56
St. Mary, Horden (1913 St. Hilda, Horden Coll), Marriages 1904-57
St. Mary, Horden (1913 St. Hilda, Horden Colliery), Burials, None

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

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


Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
…parish registers of St. Mary, Monk Hesleden, as listed above, plus…
St. Andrew, Blackhall, Banns 1925-68

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Hutton Henry, Sheraton, Hulam & Nesbitt

Hutton Henry, Sheraton, Hulam & Nesbitt


Parish Church, Hutton Henry

 Hutton Henry

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
St. Mary, Monk Hesleden, Baptisms 1578-1948
St. Mary, Monk Hesleden, Marriages 1578-1925
St. Mary, Monk Hesleden, Baptisms 1578-1908
St. Francis, Hutton Henry, Marriages 1926-54
Hutton House RC, Hutton Henry, Baptisms 1808-39
Hutton Henry Wesleyan Chapel, Baptisms 1878-1935

In the distant past, Hutton Henry was far too small ever to have its own church or even a chapel. It was in the parish of Monk Hesleden so look there for the ancient records. Now, despite its size, it has its own Anglican church, RC church and Methodist chapel.

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Hutton Henry 156 155 174 162 287 1067 392 539 1825 3151 2578

The above returns are for ‘Greater Hutton Henry’ which included the village of that name, outlying farms and Hutton Henry Colliery (c. 1869-97) which area eventually came to be known as Station Town. The above census records for 1841-1901 are transcribed and available on this site.

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

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

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

Station Town had 153 households by 1881. Hutton Henry had couple of dozen miners as well in that year for the first time. There were far more in 1891. There were 396 households at Station Town by 1891. The 1891 enumerator listed the following there: Station Lane, Gladstone Street, Wingate Station, ‘Station Town’, Collwill Building, Front Street, East Terrace, ‘Acclom’ (Acklam ?) Street, Vane Street, Rodridge Street, Gargen Street, Millbank (or Milbanke) Terrace, East View and ‘Hutton Henry Colliery’.

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


Sheraton was far too small ever to have its own church or even a chapel. It was in the parish of Monk Hesleden so look there for the ancient records. Now it is in the parish of Hutton Henry so it may also be worthwhile checking those records.

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Sheraton 99 97 116 110 147 128 139 149 176 173 158

Sheraton never had a coal mine of its own. The nearest were South Wingate (c. 1840-57), Castle Eden (1840-93) and Hutton Henry (c. 1869-97). Sheraton was one of the few communities in Easington District to be completely unaffected by the exploitation of coal reserves. There were never any resident miners according to the census returns 1841-91 inclusive. As the above three collieries all closed in the 19th. Century Sheraton has been distant from coalmining for generations. The above census figures for 1881-1901 inclusive include the returns for the tiny hamlet of Hulam.


Hulam was far too small ever to have its own church or even a chapel. It was in the parish of Monk Hesleden so look there for the ancient records. Now it is in the parish of Hutton Henry so it may also be worthwhile checking those records.

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Hulam 7 11 16 15 11 19 13 27 Merged with Sher’n

Hulam never had a coal mine. The nearest were South Wingate (c. 1840-57), Castle Eden (1840-93) and Hutton Henry (c. 1869-97). Hulam was one of the few communities in Easington District to be completely unaffected by the exploitation of coal reserves. There were never any resident miners. As the above three collieries all closed in the 19th. century Hulam has been distant from coalmining for generations. From 1881-1901 inclusive the census returns for the tiny hamlet were included in those for Sheraton.


Nesbitt was far too small ever to have its own church or even a chapel. It was and is in the parish of Hart (which is outside Easington District) so look there for the ancient records for Nesbitt. An alternative might be Monk Hesleden whose church is about the same distance away from Nesbitt but with a dene in between.

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
…those listed above for Hutton Henry, plus…
Hart Parish Registers 1577-1979

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Nesbitt 5 5 9 10 12 11 12 7 10 11 13

Nesbitt never had a coal mine. The nearest were Castle Eden (c. 1840-93), South Wingate (c. 1840-57) and Hutton Henry (c. 1869-97). Nesbitt was one of the few communities in Easington District to be completely unaffected by the exploitation of coal reserves. There were never any resident miners.

Nesbitt Dene, a former quarry, leads down from Nesbitt Hall to Castle Eden Dene. Nesbitt Hall still stands, with its 18th. Century gate. Below is the census return for the solitary Nesbitt family in 1841.

Nesbitt 1841 Census, ‘Nesbitt (HO107/313/8, folio 1a)
Swinburn Ellison, 50, Farmer
Jane E, 45
Mary E, 20
Ann E, 20
Jane E, 15
William E, 12
Eleanor E, 9
Thomas Trotter, 75
Henry Ross, 15, Male Servant
Robert Ross, 15, Male Servant
Joseph Taylorson, 65, Male Servant
Elizabeth Stephenson, 15, Female Servant

— by Tony Whitehead




St Michael, Hawthorn

 Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
St. Michael & All Angels, Hawthorn, Baptisms 1862-1964
St. Michael & All Angels, Hawthorn, Marriages 1864-1978
St. Michael & All Angels, Hawthorn, Burials 1865-1993

For other Hawthorn records before and after the opening of St. Michael & All Angels in Oct 1862, consult the parish records for Easington or Dalton-le-Dale. Hawthorn was in the parish of Easington before getting its own church.

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Hawthorn 114 118 140 162 177 183 227 268 282 330 513

The above census records for 1841-1901 are transcribed and available on this site.

It is strange that there should only be one village in England which has adopted the name of such a beautiful tree, the ‘Mayflower’ itself, the very symbol of summertime. Seatons (towns by the sea) and Murtons (Moortowns) are two a penny and there are several of each in County Durham alone. There is however only one Seaham and one Hawthorn.

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

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

A structure known as Sailor’s Hall was constructed on the edge of the north side of Hawthorn Dene near the sea in 1787 by Admiral Milbanke, relative of Sir Ralph Milbanke of Seaham Hall (father-in-law of Lord Byron), as a summer retreat. The Admiral died in 1805 and the building fell into ruin. Later a Major George Anderson of Newcastle bought the land and erected a Gothic-style 30 room mansion called Hawthorn Cottage. He also built the two-storey look-out house on Kinley Hill which bears the name ‘Anderson’s Folly’. This mock mediaeval tower was inhabited until well into the 20th. Century.

Major Anderson died in 1831 but his widow Lucy lived on for many more years with a large retinue of servants. When she died in the late 1850s the estate was bought by the Pemberton family, who were first mentioned in the 1861 census. It was then renamed Hawthorn Towers. The Pembertons were in residence until about 1910 and then made way for Malcolm Dillon (‘Mr. Seaham’), the new Supreme Londonderry Lackey (Chief Colliery Agent) in Seaham, as a tenant. He later moved to Dene House in Seaham and the Towers tenancy was taken over by Mr. & Mrs. Henegan of South Hetton (Mr. Henegan was also a Colliery Agent ?). In 1930 the Newcastle Battallion of the Boys’ Brigade rented the Towers for week-end camps. During World War II it was used by the military and the Home Guard. After the war the Pemberton family returned once more but only briefly. It was bought in c.1949 by a South Shields man and, decrepit by then, changed hands several times over the next few years. Its last owner was a Mr. Kenneth Wilson of Hart who bought it in the late 1950s. Sadly, vandals set fire to it three times, destroying much of the structure. He was obliged to demolish the rest in 1969 after part collapsed and killed a man. Today the site of the Towers is very beautiful and a quiet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of life, especially in termtime. It was not always so. Find below the census returns for the old mansion from the 19th. century.

Hawthorn Cottage – 1841
Lucy Anderson, 55, Independent Means, N
Elizabeth Croft (?), 20, Independent Means
Ann Oldry, 25, Female Servant,N
Ann Bland, 20, Female Servant, N
Mary Greham (Graham ?), 20, Farm Servant, N
Francois Marien, 45, Male Servant, N(F)
Edward Brough, 40, Male Servant

Hawthorn Cottage – 1851
Lucy Ann Anderson, h, wid, 78, Annuitant, York
Francois Marien, Servant, 59, Butler, Belgium
Edward Brough, Servant, wid, 53, Coachman, Hawthorn
Mary Noble, Servant, 31, Lady’s maid, Netherton, Lincs.
Mary Penrose, Servant, 29, Cook, Yorks.
Jane Dudding, Servant, 23, Housemaid, Newport, Yks.

Hawthorn Towers – 1861
Richard Lawrence Pemberton, h, m, 29, High Sheriff for County Durham, Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant, Bishopwearm.
Jane Emma P, w, m, 28, St. Saviour’s, Jersey
Ellen P, d, 3, Bp. Wearmouth
Mary Lawrence P, d, 1, ditto
John Stapylton Gray P, s, 3 months, ditto
Susan Mary Stapylton Roper (wife’s sister), Visitor, 23, Balbro’, Derbyshire
Lucy Martina Bree, Visitor, 23, Myton, Yorks.
Adela Bertha Bree, Visitor, 17, ditto
Ann Horwood, Servant, 43, Housekeeper, Bampton, Oxfordshire
Charlotte Simmons, Servant, 33, Nurse, Barlbro’, Derbyshire
Patience Denny, Servant, 29, Ladies Maid, Suffolk
Mary Gibson, Servant, 60, Monthly Nurse, Gateshead
Henrietta Ashley, Servant, 21, Housemaid, Hodnet, Shropshire
Sarah Smith, Servant, 20, Under Housemaid, Newcastle
Rachel Stones, Servant, 18, Under Nurse, Barlbro’, Derbys,
Ann Askew, Servant, 13, Kitchenmaid, Kirkhaugh, Northumberland
Thomas Weallens, Servant, m, 28, Coachman, Ellingham, Northumberland
George Hutton, Servant, 28, Footman, Shincliffe
Thomas Horwood, Servant, m, 33, Labourer and helper in stables, Headington, Oxfordshire

NB: Here we have the explanation for the name of Hawthorn’s only modern-day pub, the Stapylton Arms. Clearly the maiden name of Richard L. Pemberton’s wife was Stapylton. The Pembertons themselves were coal owners who spent a fortune on their new colliery at Monkwearmouth at the end of the 1820s, which was originally called Pemberton Main and was destined to be the last coal mine in the county of Durham. The deepest mine in the country at the time, the family had to spend yet more money in a twenty year battle against flooding and quicksands. Eventually they were almost bankrupted and had to sell out at the end of the 1840s. They then bought a shareholding in the estate of the bankrupt Colonel Thomas Braddyll whose portfolio had included Murton and South Hetton collieries. By the look of things the Pemberton family moved into Hawthorn Towers not long before this census. You will notice that their children were born in Bishopwearmouth and not at the Towers. Another (?) family called Pemberton owned Belmont Hall on the eastern approaches to Durham City (which is now called Ramside Hall) and they may have been related to Richard Pemberton.

Gardener’s Cottage – 1861
Joseph Ellis, h, m, 28, Gardener, Knaresborough (?)
Emma E, w, m, 32, Shipston-on-Stour, Worcs.
Evelyn Clara E, d, 1, Easington
Mary Isabella E, d, 4 months, ditto
NB: The above dwelling is the renamed Sailor’s Hall mentioned earlier

Hawthorn Towers – 1871
John Merrell or Merrill (??), h, m, 70, Gardener, Yorks.
Rachel Johnstone (???), d, wid, 40, Myton, Yorks.
Annie J, Granddaughter, 19, Derbyshire
NB: Looks as though the Pembertons and almost their entire retinue were absent when the enumerator called in the spring of 1871.

Garden House 1871 – uninhabited

Hawthorn Towers – 1881
Richard L. Pemberton, h, m, 49, J.P., Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Durham,
Elizabeth J. P, w, m, 40, Mendham, Norfolk
Ellen P, d, 23, Bishopwearm.
Mary L. P, d, 21, ditto
John S. G. P, s, 20, Undergraduate of New College, Oxford, ditto
Jane E. S. P, d, 15, Scholar, ditto
Isabel P, d, 10, Scholar, ditto
Margaret P, d, 6, Scholar, ditto
Michael W. S. P, s, 4, Scholar, Hawthorn
Gerard W. S. P, s, 3, ditto
Anne Schwande, Lodger, 30, Governess, Hamburg, Germany
Mary J. Peasce, Servant, wid, 39, Housekeeper, Penrith, Cumberland
Elizabeth Pearson, Servant, 45, Head Ladies Maid, Norfolk
Angelina Allen, Servant, 46, Head Nurse, Wells, Somerset
Anne Kirkner, Servant, 20, Under Ladies Maid, Hamburg, Germany
Augusta M. Self, Servant, 28, Under Nurse, Port Louis, Mauritius
Silias D. Montague, Servant, 18, Nursemaid, Isle of Wight
Helen Scott, Servant, 38, Head Housemaid, Fifeshire
Primrose McDermid, Servant, 19, Under Housemaid, Lanarks,
Johanna McDonald, Servant, 23, Kitchenmaid, Carmarthenshire
Johanna Sutherland, Servant, 22, Scullerymaid, Sutherlandshire
John G. Froggatt, Servant, 38, Butler, Bristol
William Hunter, Servant, 31, Groom, London
William (Surname Blank), Servant, 22, Footman, Manton, Oxfordshire
Charles Elliott, Servant, 16, Page, Suffolk
NB: Twenty five people resident at Hawthorn Towers on census night 1881. Strange to go there now and feel the quietude and atmosphere of the site. It must have been quite a place in its day as old photos testify. The ruins stood until the 1960s when part of them collapsed on top of a man and killed him. The owner demolished the Towers shortly after. The author played in the ruins and former gardens many times as a child.

Tower Bothey (??) – 1881
James Wallace

Gardener’s House – 1881
David Martin, h, m, 31, Gardener, Scotland
Isabella M, w, m, 25, ditto
Marion M, d, 1, ditto
John M, s, 3 months, Hawthorn
Henry Hindmarsh, Lodger, 17, Gardener, Shillefield, Northumberland

Lodge Gates – 1881
Thomas Askew, h, m, 36, Gamekeeper, Kirkhaugh, Northumberland
Margaret A, w, m, 28, Alston, Cumberland
Margaret A, d, 6, Scholar, Hawthorn
John Armstrong, Visitor, 25, Joiner, Herrington

Hawthorn Tower – 1891
Richard Lawrence Pemberton, h, m, 59, Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant of the County, Bishopwearmouth
Elizabeth Jane P, w, m, 50, Meudham, Norfolk
Bertram R. S. P, s, 25, Teacher (B.A. New College, Oxford), Bishopwearmouth
Isabel P, d, 20, ditto
Margaret P, d, 16, ditto
Michael W. S. P, s, 14, ditto
John Lowis, Servant, 56, Butler, Skirwith, Cumberland
Leonard Musgrave, Servant, 22, Footman, Crake Hall, Bedale, Yorks.
Albert Palmer, Servant, 14, Page, Wortwell Harburton, Norfolk
George Railton, Servant, 25, Groom, Alnwick, N’ld.
William Watt, Servant, 28, Under Gardener, Ahvely Bridge (??), Durham
Jane Pearce, Servant, wid, 47, Housekeeper, Penrith
Mary Bickerton, Servant, 40, Ladies Maid, Longhoughton, Northumberland
Agnes Blaydon, Servant, 27, Ladies Maid, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
Catherine McColl, Servant, 39, Housemaid, Argyll, Scotland
Maggie Foubister, Servant, 21, 2nd. Housemaid, Kirkwall, Orkney
Annie Stockgill, Servant, 18, 3rd. Housemaid, Seaton Carew
Harriet Davies, Servant, 23, Kitchen Maid, Glamorgan, Wales
Mary Ferguson, Servant, 17, Scullery Maid, Alloa, Scotland
William Husbands, h, m, 57, Head Gardener, Wollaton, Notts.
Dorothy Harker H, w, m, 56, Groby, Leics.
William Keane Garbutt, Lodger, 19, Under Gardener, Cottingley, Yorks.
Thomas Haythorne, h, m, 32, Forester, Conisthorpe, Yorks.
Amelia H, w, m, 30, Byland Abbey, Yorks.
Ann Elizabeth H, d, 1, Hawthorn
Tom Luke, Brother-in-law, 22, Byland Abbey, Yorks.
NB: Twenty eight people at Hawthorn Towers in this census. Almost a village on its own. Now deserted, flattened and eerie in the moonlight. Hawthorn Tower was finally demolished in 1969. Rest in Peace.

— by Tony Whitehead

Haswell Colliery & the Disaster of September 1844

Haswell Colliery

The prospect of new collieries at South Hetton and Haswell and also at Wingate, Thornley, Cassop, Shotton, Castle Eden and Ludworth was enough to encourage the Hartlepool Dock Company to build a railway in the direction of all these proposed enterprises and beyond if possible. Simultaneously a different company, connected with Sunderland Docks, commenced a railway from the docks at Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) with a branch line from Murton to Haswell. An extension of the Braddyll Railway to Haswell further linked that booming community to South Hetton and on to the new port and town of Seaham Harbour. Thus Haswell Colliery was the target for three different railways. They all met up at the north end of old Haswell village.

In 1832 an Act was passed which permitted the Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company to build a line from Moorsley near Houghton-le-Spring, to the new docks at Hartlepool to exploit the growing coal export trade in East Durham. This line was projected to run past the planned Haswell Colliery. Estimated cost about £200,000. George Stephenson designed the new line which was to have branches to Cassop via Thornley, sites of two more projected deep collieries, and to existing pits near to Ferryhill. On its opening day on November 23 1835 the track from Hartlepool had only been completed as far as Haswell and just one branch line, to Thornley & Cassop, was ready.

By now the Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) Railway was almost ready and the main branch of this was also projected to run through Moorsley, site of another projected deep pit and one of the targets of the Hartepool Company. Also the Sunderland Company were constructing a branch line from Murton Junction to Haswell, so that they could tap into the new concern. Faced with this the Hartlepool Company promptly abandoned its plan to venture further north and west than Haswell. By 1836 the two railways almost met at Haswell and it was possible to travel from Hartlepool to Sunderland – but there were two different railway companies, with two different stations, each at a different height above sea level ! By 1855 both companies had been gobbled up by the new giant NER and engineering works took place at Haswell to properly join the two lines up so that through trains run by the same company could operate at last. Now Haswell had just one railway line and one station. The first shipment of coal from the new colliery passed down the waggonway to South Hetton and Seaham Harbour on July 2 1835. A year later the first waggon passed over the newly-completed Durham and Sunderland Railway on its way to the

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

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

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

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

Haswell Colliery Disaster of Saturday September 28 1844

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

List of 95 Dead

1. Joseph Gibson, 50, Hewer
2. John Gibson, 22, Hewer
3. Ralph Gibson, 15, Putter
4. William Gibson, 12, Putter
The above were a father and three of his sons. They can be found in Butcher’s Row in the 1841 census.

5. George Hall, 38, Hewer, Left a wife, Quarry Row 1841
6. Robert Hall, 12, Driver, Quarry Row 1841
The above were father and son

7. Hans Ward, 29, Hewer, Pregnant wife and 5 kids, Salter’s Lane 1841
8. John Ferry, 35, Hewer, Wife and 5 children
9. George Ferry, 14, Putter
The above were father and son

10. Robert Douglas, 22, Hewer, Wife and 4 children, Quarry Row in 1841
11. John Williamson, 34, Deputy, Pregnant wife & 6 children, Long Row in 1841.
12. Robert Williamson, 19, Putter, Butcher’s Row 1841.
The above were brothers

13. John Noble, 40, Hewer, Wife and 4 children
14. John Curling, 30, Hewer, Wife and child
15. Wanless Thompson, 55, Hewer, Wife & large family
16. Elliot Richardson, 38, Hewer, Wife & family
17. John Richardson, 14, Putter
The above were father and son

18. William Dixon, 15, Putter, Low Row in 1841
19. John Dixon, 16, Putter, Low Row in 1841
The above were brothers

20. John Wolfe, 25, Hewer, Wife and 1 child
21. Peter Wolfe, 20, Putter
The above were brothers

22. William Elsdon, 22, Hewer, Long Row in 1841.
23. George Elsdon, Salter’s Lane in 1841
The above were brothers

24. Henry Mather, 19, Putter, Chapel or Mary Street in 1841.
25. Christopher Teasdale, 21, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.
26. John Teasdale, 19, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.
27. Stephen Teasdale, 17, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841
The above were brothers

28. Michael Thirlaway, 18, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.
29. Ralph Surtees, 19, Putter, Cousin of the below two, Butcher’s Row in 1841.
30. John Surtees, 17, Putter, Butcher’s Row in 1841.
31. William Surtees, 12
The above two were brothers

32. Mark Davison, 16, Putter, Sinker’s Row in 1841
33. Thomas Nicholson, 16, Putter, Low Row in 1841.
34. William Nicholson, 11, Driver, Low Row in 1841.
The above two were brothers

35. George Dryden, 18, Putter
36. Robert Dryden, 16, Putter
37. James Dryden, 25, Hewer
38. Thomas Dryden, 22, Hewer
39. Edward Nicholson, 16, Putter
The first four of the above five were brothers. The fifth had been brought up as their brother

40. Robert Hogg, 20, Putter
41. George Heslop, 20, Putter
42. Michael Clough, 14, Putter
43. Henry Clough, 12, Putter
44. Matthew Clough, 10, Putter
The above three were brothers

45. John Willis, 20, Putter, Lime Kiln Row in 1841.
46. Thomas Willis, 18, Putter, Lime Kiln Row in 1841.
The above two were brothers

47. John Willis, 12, Putter, Low Row in 1841.
48. William Gilroy, 16, Putter
49. John Gilroy, 13, Putter
The above were brothers

50. John Brown, 42, Hewer, Sinkers Row in 1841.
51. Daniel Lemmon, wife and 1 child
52. Thomas Briggs, 61, Long Row in 1841.
53. John Briggs, 25, Sinkers Row in 1841.
54. James Briggs, 10, Sinkers Row in 1841
The above represented 3 generations of the same family – a boy, his father and his grandfather

55. William Barrass, 32, Wife and 4 kids, Sinkers Row in 1841.
56. John Barrass, 10, Sinkers Row in 1841.
The above were father and son. John Barrass had been taken down the pit by his father on the fateful day to have his first look at what would soon become his workplace.

57. James Robson, 11, Sinkers Row in 1841.
58. Henry Wheatman (Weetman), 42, Wife and 1 child, Thompson’s Row in 1841.
59. William Wheatman (Weetman), 14, Sinkers Row in 1841
60. William Dobson, 50, Wife, Long Row in 1841.
61. John Avory, 39, Wife & family
62. Robert Rosecamp, 33, wife and four children
63. William Rosecamp, 22, Wife
The above were brothers

64. George Dawson, 53, Wife & 6 children, Low Row in 1841.
65. Thomas Moody, 25, Salter’s Lane in 1841.
66. Joseph Moffat, 25, Wife, Sinkers Row in 1841.
67. George Bell, 31, Wife, Sinkers Row in 1841.
68. Jonathan Bell, 28
The above were brothers

69. William Taylor, 21
70. William Dawson, 26, Wife and 3 kids, Long Row in 1841.
71. William Dixon, 46, Wife & family, West Blue House in 1841.
72. John Dixon, 21, West Blue House in 1841.
The above were father and son

73. John Padley, 28, West Blue House in 1841.
74. John Parkinson, 28, Quarry Row in 1841.
75. Robert Carr, 26, Wife & child, Butcher’s Row in 1841
76. William Farish, 30, Wife
77. James Maughan, 23, Long Row in 1841.
78. John Whitfield, 31
79. John Whitfield, 10
The above were father and son

80. George Richardson, 29, Wife & child, Butcher’s Row in 1841.
81. William Jobling, 29, Wife
82. Thomas Bottoms, 17
83. John Brown, 17, Low Row in 1841.
84. Peter Robinson, 21
85. Thomas Turnbull, 22, Long Row in 1841
86. James Turnbull, 12, Sinkers Row in 1841
The above may have been brothers. If they were they were living in different households in 1841.

87. William Routledge, 18, Butcher’s Row in 1841
88. William Nicholson, 18, Low Row in 1841.
89. William Harrison, 13, Salter’s Lane in 1841.
90. John Harrison, 12, Salter’s Lane in 1844.
The above were brothers

91. James Laylands, Wife and 2 kids
92. John Sanderson, 24, Wife
93. James Richardson, 41, Wife and 4 children, Long Row in 1841.
94. James Sanderson, 40, Wife and 2 children
95. John Hall, 10, Long Row in 1841.

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

The hundred men of Haswell,
They all died in the same day;
They all died in the same hour;
They all went the self same way.

And when they were all buried,
Came a hundred women, lo,
A hundred women of Haswell,
It was sight of owe !
With all their children came they,
With daughter and with son:
‘Now, thou rich man of Haswell,
Her wage to everyone !’
By that rich man of Haswell
Not long were they denied:
A full week’s wages he paid them
For every man who died.
And when the wage was given,
His chest fast locked up he;
The iron lock clicked sharply,
The women wept bitterly.

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

In the 1841 census the enumerator for ‘Haswell Colliery’ mentioned the first streets of the new community – Chapel Row, Lime Kiln Row, Quarry Row, Butchers Row, Long Row and Sinkers Row. His successor in 1851 unhelpfully described everything as ‘Haswell Colliery’. Four years later in 1855 the North Eastern Railway (NER) took over the whole of the branch line from Hartlepool to Sunderland via Haswell. A new station at Haswell replaced the old two and through services between the two towns and ports was possible for the first time. Haswell coal could now go to Hartlepool as well.

In the 1861 census the enumerator mentioned New Row and Low Row, which must have been constructed at some point between 1841 and 1861. In the 1871 census there were no new streets at the colliery village proper but a new hamlet at ‘Haswell Plough’ appeared (later officially called Haswell Terrace). This had expanded considerably by the time of the 1881 census. Haswell Colliery closed for good in 1896 and the populations of both Haswell Colliery and Haswell Terrace soon decamped for pastures new. In 1896 the redundant colliery hamlet at Haswell Moor (Haswell Terrace?) was acquired by the Durham Miners’ Homes for their aged members. Today the site of Haswell Colliery has returned to the fields and the nearest coal mine is over a hundred miles away.

In the 1950s passenger services ended on the old Sunderland to Durham & Hartlepool (via Murton Junction and 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 from 1959 to 1991) and the coast railway at Ryhope. Thus coal could still be transported from the few surviving collieries to Sunderland for export.

South Hetton Colliery closed at Easter 1983 after a working life of 152 years. As the defiant message on the giant mural you see as you drive through the village says ‘Gone but not Forgotten’. In 1991 Murton Colliery and Hawthorn Shaft combine were closed and the last section of the old Sunderland to Hartlepool & Durham railway network was dismantled. One unlucky driver, travelling on the Seaham to Houghton road at Seaton, 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. You pass Haswell and the site of its old colliery en route.

— by Tony Whitehead

Haswell Village and Colliery

Haswell Village and Colliery

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
St. Saviour, Shotton-with-Haswell, Baptisms 1854-1968
St. Saviour, Shotton-with-Haswell, Marriages 1854-1979
St. Saviour, Shotton-with-Haswell, Burials 1854-1967
St. Paul, Haswell, Baptisms 1867-1963
St. Paul, Haswell, Marriages 1869-1974
St. Paul, Haswell, Burials, None
Haswell Methodists, Marriages 1929-41
Haswell Plough Methodists, Marriages 1970-76

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

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Haswell & Sth Hetton 93 114 115 263 3981 4356 4165 5623 6156 6276 5512

All of the highlighted census returns for South Hetton/Haswell 1841-1901 are in our transcribed collection.

The original village of Haswell (Anglo-Saxon Hesse-welle, ‘Hazel Well’ or ‘Hazel Spring’) was sited at what is now called High Haswell, where the rounded hilltops offered an outstanding look-out place and also a very defensible position. On Pig or Pick Hill, between High Haswell and Easington Lane, earthworks of a pre-Roman settlement have been found.

Later the epicentre of the village moved downhill to the site of the modern village of Haswell which sits astride Salter’s Lane, an ancient highway which ran from the Tyne to the Tees via the Wear, the A19 of its day. For countless centuries Haswell remained a tiny agricultural community connected to the outside world only by the Lane which brought not only news, developments, improved technology and ideas but also disease. The Black Death came this way in the 14th. century and almost wiped out the population of Haswell and the rest of East Durham. The population of Haswell was never large enough to merit a church of its own. The nearest place of worship was Easington village.

The exposed Durham coalfield lay a few miles to the west but Haswell sits on top of the thick limestone escarpment which divides the exposed and concealed sections of the Durham coalfield. Until the 19th. Century the area had never seen coalminers. These were a phenomenon of west and central Durham.

The first exploitation of the concealed Durham coalfield was at Hetton (and later its sister pits Eppleton and Elemore) in the early 1820s, followed by Pemberton Main (Wearmouth) at the end of that decade. Inspired by these examples the sinking of a new colliery commenced at Haswell early in 1831, the first in modern-day Easington District. As had been the case at the Hetton combine and Pemberton Main however the Haswell Coal Company encountered great technical difficulties coping with water and quicksands and the project was abandoned after just a few months. In 1833 Colonel Thomas Braddyll opened his new colliery at South Hetton, linked to the new town and port of Seaham Harbour by a waggonway, thus pipping Haswell as the first coal mine in Easington District. In the meantime further borings were tried at Haswell in a field apparently obtained from the South Hetton Coal Company and these were successful.

Haswell Colliery had a brief but eventful life, finally closing in 1896. All that remains of this vanished industrial dream is the old engine house. The population of Haswell had collapsed by the time of the 1901 census. The coalminers went elsewhere. Most of them would eventually find work at the super-pits (Dawdon, Easington, Horden and Blackhall) which appeared on the Durham coast a decade later. The village of Haswell Colliery is long since demolished but Haswell village lives on. It is now a quiet semi-rural community and the nearest coalmine is over a hundred miles away.

— by Tony Whitehead

Easington District History

History of Easington District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down the centuries after the Conquest the various manors, estates and labouring serfs within Easington district changed hands many times, sometimes by outright purchase, other times by inheritance or marriage. As the countless generations of labourers tended the fields they cannot have guessed that the greatest harvest of all lay far beneath their feet. Other than the churches none of the mediaeval structures in the district have survived to the present day, though there are ruins at Dalden Towers (near Dalton-le-Dale) and at Ludworth which lies just outside the modern boundaries of the district. Ancient churches stand at Old Seaham (c. AD 800 ?), Dalton-le-Dale (c. AD 1150 ?) and Easington (c. AD 1100 ?). Another (c. AD 1300 ??) stood at Monk Hesleden but was mysteriously and inexplicably demolished by the Council one day in 1968. At Castle Eden there is an 18th. Century church constructed by the local landowners the Burdon family. No new churches or chapels were erected until the first coalminers arrived to transform and populate the empty district in the early 1830s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sub-District/Census 1801 1811 1821 1831
Dalton-le-Dale 40 52 49 73
Dawdon (Seah. Harb.) 22 27 35 1022
Seaham (Old & New) 115 121 103 130
Seaton-with-Slingley 96 126 95 134
Cold Hesledon 48 31 55 112
Hawthorn 114 118 140 162
East Morton (Murton) 75 71 72 98
Easington 487 542 593 693
Haswell & Sth Hetton 93 114 115 263
Shotton 250 286 264 272
Castle Eden 362 257 281 260
Monk Hesleden 150 148 164 176
Nesbitt 5 5 9 10
Sheraton 99 97 116 110
Hulam 7 11 16 15
Hutton Henry 156 155 174 162
Wingate 135 151 131 115
Thornley 56 58 60 50
Total 2310 2370 2472 3857

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

Woman from the Seashore

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

Districts, Boundaries, and Population

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

1. (NW and North), Chester (le-Street) Ward, (included Bedlingtonshire, now part of Northumberland)
2. (East), Easington Ward
3. (South East), Stockton Ward
4. (South West), Darlington Ward

Two settlements were considered large enough and important enough to run their own affairs – Durham City and Sunderland Town

In addition, for historical reasons, County Durham included three districts of what we now regard as the county of Northumberland:

1. ‘Islandshire’ (Holy Island) Ward.
2. Norhamshire Ward.
3. ‘Bedlingtonshire’ (administered as part of Chester (le-Street) Ward.

County Durham also included several other small enclaves in other neighbouring counties, such as Easingwold in Yorkshire.

Easington District was clearly much larger than it is now and included such far-apart places as Bishopwearmouth Panns, Penshaw, South Biddick, Lambton, West Rainton, Pittington, Sherburn, Coxhoe, Kelloe and Trimdon. Virtually a quarter of the county !

The population of the entire old district in 1841 was about 24,000.

October 1844 was the date the new Act of Reorganisation took effect (Act of 7 & 8 Victoria. C.61), rationalising the boundaries of the counties and removing many of the strange and ancient anomalies (such as Easingwold) that had existed.Thereafter the new district of Easington assumed more or less its present shape and size (Greater Seaham, Murton, Dalton-le-Dale, Cold Hesledon, Hawthorn, Easington Village, Castle Eden, Monk Hesleden, Nesbitt, Hutton Henry, Wingate, Deaf Hill, Wheatley Hill, Thornley, Shotton, Haswell and South Hetton). The population of the new district in the census of 1841 was only 15,491. In 1801 the same area had just 2,310 people.

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 (Seah. Harb.) 22 27 35 1022 2017 3538 6137 7132 7714 9044 10163
Seaham (Old & New) 115 121 103 130 153 729 2591 2802 2989 4798 5285
Seaton-with-Slingley 96 126 95 134 175 200 236 228 196 228 259
Cold Hesledon 48 31 55 112 83 117 89 99 108 682 899
Hawthorn 114 118 140 162 177 183 227 268 282 330 513
East Morton (Murton) 75 71 72 98 521 1387 2104 3017 4710 5052 6514
Easington 487 542 593 693 812 916 1073 1428 1260 1262 1731
Haswell & Sth Hetton 93 114 115 263 3981 4356 4165 5623 6156 6276 5512
Shotton 250 286 264 272 603 1607 1871 3130 2131 1975 1917
Castle Eden 362 257 281 260 558 491 535 693 880 1257 1354
Monk Hesleden 150 148 164 176 490 1495 1533 1636 2421 3819 1302
Nesbitt 5 5 9 10 12 11 12 7 10 11 13
Sheraton 99 97 116 110 147 128 139 149 176 173 158
Hulam 7 11 16 15 11 19 13 27 Merged with above
Hutton Henry 156 155 174 162 287 1067 392 539 1825 3151 2578
Wingate 135 151 131 115 2625 2456 2143 3104 5949 4463 8005
Thornley 56 58 60 50 2730 2740 3306 3059 3132 2070 2938
Total 2310 2370 2472 3857 15470 21523 26668 33069 40057 44725 49480
Greater Seaham Total 273 326 282 1359 2433 4550 9066 10290 11017 14204 16046
G.S. as a % of E. D. 12 14 11 35 16 21 34 31 27 32 32

Easington District Censuses 1841-1901


1. Total number of entries for Easington District 1841-91 = 181,692.
2. Total number of entries for Easington District 1841-1901 = 231,194.
3. The huge rise in the population of Dawdon in 1831 was due to the founding of the town and port of Seaham Harbour in 1828.
4. The large increase in the population of Seaham (Old & New) in 1851 was due to the sinking of Seaton Colliery in 1844 and the adjacent Seaham Colliery in 1849. The two collieries merged as ‘Seaham’ in 1864.
5. The rise in Cold Hesledon’s population in 1891 was due to the recent expansion of nearby Murton Colliery.
6. The fall in the population of Haswell & South Hetton in 1901 was due to the closure of Haswell Colliery in 1896.
7. The fall in Shotton’s population in 1881 was due to the closure of Shotton Colliery in 1877 (opened 1840). The colliery reopened in 1900.
8. The huge fall in Monk Hesleden’s population in 1901 was due to the closure of Castle Eden Colliery in 1893 and Hutton Henry Colliery in 1897.
9. The rise and fall in Hutton Henry’s population 1841-1901 was due to the opening and closing of South Wingate Colliery (1840 ? -57) and Hutton Henry Colliery (1869 ? -97).
10. Thornley Colliery was partially closed in 1891 which explains the population fall in the census of that year.
11. The fall in Wingate’s population in 1891 was due to the recent closure of Wheatley Hill Colliery (1884). The colliery reopened in 1890 but this was too late to greatly affect the 1891 census figures.

Collieries and Censuses

Sub-District 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 Collieries
Dalton-le-Dale ‘Dormitory’ for Seaham & Murton collieries
Dawdon (Sea Hr) X Dawdon 1899-1991, Vane Tempest 1923-93
Seaham (Old & New) XX XX X X X X Seaton/Seaham 1844/49 – 1983 (merged 1864)
Seaton-with-Slingle y ‘Dormitory’ for Seaton/Seaham after 1850
East Morton (Murton) X X X X X X X Murton 1838-1991
Cold Hesledon ‘Dormitory’ for Murton Colliery after c.1885
Hawthorn Took overflow from Murton & Easington colls
Haswell & Sth Hetton XX XX XX XX XX XX X Haswell 1835-96; Sth. Hetton 1833-1982Hawthorn Shaft 1959-91
Shotton X X X X X Shotton 1840-77, 1900-72
Easington X Easington 1899-1993
Castle Eden Took overflow from Castle Eden Colliery
Monk Hesleden X X X X X X X Castle Eden 1840-93; Horden 1900-87, Blackhall 1913-81
Nesbitt No connection with coalmining
Sheraton No connection with coalmining
Hulam No connection with coalmining
Hutton Henry X X X X X South Wingate 1840 (?) -1857;Hutton Henry 1869 (?) -1897
Wingate X X X XXX XXX XXX XXX Wingate 1837/40-1962Wheatley Hill 1869-77, 1878-84, 1890-1968; Deaf Hill 1870 (?) -1967
Thornley X X X X X X X Thornley 1835-1970
Totals 8 10 9 11 10 10 11

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

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

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

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Easington Colliery & Easington Village

Easington Colliery & Easington Village

St Mary the Virgin, Easington Village

St Mary the Virgin, Easington Village

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office

St. Mary, Easington Village, Baptisms 1571-1952
St. Mary, Easington Village, Marriages 1570-1987
St. Mary, Easington Village, Burials 1570-1956
Our Lady RC, Easington Village, Baptisms 1865-1953
Our Lady RC, Easington Village, Marriages 1872-1933
Our Lady RC, Easington Village, Burials 1866-1992
St. Mary RC, Easington Colliery, Baptisms 1923-44
Easington Methodists, Marriages 1947-56

Our Lady of Victories & St. Thomas RC church at Easington village was constructed in 1865. It later also served the new community of Easington Colliery. In 1923 St. Mary’s RC was built at Easington Colliery and a new parish created for it out of the old. In 1978 the church of Our Lady RC was constructed at Easington Colliery and replaced both of the former churches with a united parish.

Population changes in the 19th Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Easington 487 542 593 693 812 916 1073 1428 1260 1262 1731

All of the above census returns for Easington 1841-1901 inclusive are transcribed and are available on this site.

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

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

Easington Colliery Village

Our Lady of Victories & St. Thomas RC church at Easington village was constructed in 1865. It later also served the new community of Easington Colliery. In 1923 St. Mary’s RC was built at

Easington Colliery and a new parish created for it out of the old. In 1978 the church of Our Lady RC was constructed at Easington Colliery and replaced both of the former churches with a united parish.

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Dawdon (Seaham Harbour)

Dawdon (Seaham Harbour)

St John's, Dawdon, Seaham Harbour

St John’s, Dawdon, Seaham Harbour

The new town and port of Seaham Harbour was founded in 1828. The community did not have its own Anglican church until the construction of St. John’s in 1840. From 1828 to 1840, the parish church was Dalton-le-Dale. Early Seaham Harbour records are contained in the parish registers for St. Andrew’s at Dalton-le-Dale.

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office

St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Baptisms 1653-1917
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Marriages 1653-1971
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Burials 1653-1893
St. John’s, Seaham Harbour, Baptisms 1845-1972
St. John’s, Seaham Harbour, Marriages 1847-1978
St. John’s, Seaham Harbour, Burials 1841-1936
St. Mary Magdalene RC, Seaham Harbour, Baptisms 1857-1915
St. Mary Magdalene RC, Seaham Harbour, Marriages 1871-1919
St. Mary Magdalene RC, Seaham Harbour, Burials -1984
St. Hild & St. Helen, Dawdon, Baptisms 1912-71
St. Hild & St. Helen, Dawdon, Marriages 1912-74
Dawdon Mission Church, Baptisms 1911-12
United Methodist, Seaham Harbour Church St., Marriages 1950-1968
United Methodist, Seaham Harbour Church St., Baptisms 1864-1968
Methodist, Seaham Harbour Parkside, Baptisms 1960-66
Methodist, Seaham Harbour Stewart Street, Baptisms 1957-60
Methodist, Seaham Harbour Tempest Road, Marriages 1912-60
Primitive Methodist, Seaham Harbour, Baptisms 1888-1948
Wesleyan Methodist, Seaham Harbour, Baptisms 1876-1942

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
22 27 35 1022 2017 3538 6137 7132 7714 9044 10163

All of the 1841-1901 census returns for Dawdon (Seaham Harbour) are transcribed and available on this site.

History of Seaham Harbour

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 Gateshead, Stockton, Hartlepool, Sunderland, Durham and Darlington 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 when they opened in the 1840s and 50s. Another wave came in the 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 Seaham Colliery Pit Village. 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 act as strike-breakers, and more evictions followed 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 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.

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 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.

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 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, Cold Hesledon and the new Seaham Harbour, regarded as part of Dawdon township).

7. Events 1841-65

On August 23 1843 the township of Dawdon was severed from the parish of Dalton-le-Dale, and made into a separate chapelry, and in 1845 was created into a separate incumbency, 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. He is buried at St. Mary the Virgin.

In the 1851 census therefore the figures for Seaham Harbour were separated from Dalton-le-Dale. 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’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 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, 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 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. 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.

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 (the 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.

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 on Castlereagh Bridge. Seaham Harbour and Seaham Colliery men flocked to the colours. Drill Halls were also constructed by Frances Anne or her heir 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. 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 in 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 decade from 1871 to 1881 was one of almost continuous disaster for the ordinary people of Greater Seaham. It seems that no sooner was one tragedy over than another began. The Seaham Colliery explosion of Wednesday October 25 1871 occurred at 11.30 pm, otherwise the death-toll of 26 would have been much higher – by now the pit 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 (in his house) 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.

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 long 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 day long 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 for unknown 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.

In the baking 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 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. The shifts were: 1) Fore Shift, from 4 a.m. to 11.30 am; 2) Back Shift, 10a.m. to 5.30 p.m.; 3) Night Shift, 4p.m. to 11.30 p.m. 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 10p.m. to 6.a.m., when the colliery was comparatively quiet, was the maintenance shift, which employed far fewer workers. Fortuitously the 1880 explosion took place at 2.20 a.m. 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, the second worst in the long mining history of County Durham and the third worst in the history of the Great Northern Coalfield, could have been much much worse, dwarfing the great disasters at Hartley and West Stanley.

On the fateful evening of Tuesday September 7 1880 Joseph Birkbeck (or Birbeck), choirmaster 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. One man’s good luck story stands head and shoulders above the rest. 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, on the look out for shirkers probably, 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 a.m. 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. 48 more survivors were brought out this way. Of the 231 workers only 68 had thus been rescued by midnight of the first day, leaving 164 unaccounted for. None of these survived. 169 men 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 mob gradually drifted away to other entertainment. The bereaved were left alone waiting for news, any news, of their loved ones. For a fuller report on the Seaham Colliery Disaster and its aftermath see the chapter/essay on Seaham Colliery (New Seaham).

In February 1881 a special ‘court’ was held at Seaham Harbour Police Station to deal with charges in connection with the strike and disturbances at Seaham Colliery. 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’. 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 William Scott of 41 California Street. For this offence one Simeon Vickers (8 Cornish Street, Seaham Colliery) 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 the alleged blacklegs William Shipley, William Harrald (sic) and an individual called Roxby. 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.

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. 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.

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 therefore 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.

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 Peter Lee.

Though he was back in the driving seat at Dawdon and Seaham collieries once more 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. 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 one 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-Labourer government. Sidney Webb, 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 Liberal 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.

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 M.Ps. 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, 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.

At it’s 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.

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 has come 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.

— by Tony Whitehead



St Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Baptisms 1653-1917
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Marriages 1653-1971
St. Andrew’s, Dalton-le-Dale, Burials 1653-1893

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

All of the above census returns 1841-1901 are transcribed and available on this site.

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 outlying farms. The largest of these and the parish seat was Dalton-le-Dale, described in c. AD700 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 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 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 40s. annually for life.

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 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. 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.

— by Tony Whitehead