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