Thornley

Thornley

Thornley did not have its own Anglican church until 1843, so before then look in the parish registers for Kelloe.

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
Kelloe, Parish Registers 1693-1991
St. Bartholomew, Thornley, Baptisms 1843-1948
St. Bartholomew, Thornley, Marriages 1844-1989
St. Bartholomew, Thornley, Burials 1843-1977
Thornley Primitive Methodists, Baptisms 1863-1929
Thornley (East Durham) Wesleyan Methodists, Baptisms 1909-36
Thornley Wesleyan Methodists, Baptisms 1867-1936
Thornley Methodists, Baptisms 1932-70
Thornley Bow Street Methodists, Marriages 1914-63
Thornley Waterloo Street Wesleyan Methodists, Marriages 1875-80

Population changes in the 19th. Century were:

 Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Thornley 56 58 60 50 2730 2740 3306 3059 3132 2070 2938

All of the census records for 1841-1901 are transcribed and available on this site.

The sinking of Thornley, third colliery in Easington District, was begun in 1835 by John Gully and partners. Bristol born, Gully had made a fortune as a bareknuckle boxer and from 1807 to 1809 he had been Champion of England for his weight. He retired undefeated to become landlord of a London pub and racehorse owner. He owned two Derby winners and later became M.P. for Pontefract. He married twice and sired 24 children. Late in life he decided to sink his fortune in the El Dorado of the concealed Durham coalfield. The new pit took several years to complete and production seems to have started in c. 1839.

On August 5 1841, seven weeks after the first census to record personal details, an explosion at Thornley Colliery killed 9 young men. All except one were under the age of 18. They were: Peter Graydon, George Ord, Thomas Haswell (Adult), Robert and John Gardiner (Brothers), Thomas Hall, Jonathan and George Graham (Brothers) and John Armstrong. George Crozier and James Maudlin were badly burnt and expected to die but they both pulled through. Thomas Pyle was lamed. With the exception of James Maudlin all of the above 12 were mentioned in the 1841 census.

The inquest was held at the Thornley Colliery Inn. Verdict: Accidental Death. Thornley did not have its own church yet so all nine victims were buried at nearby Kelloe in a single ceremony. The entire villages of Thornley and Kelloe turned out for the grim occasion.

In 1843 the men of Thornley Colliery came out on strike because of the harshness of their Bond conditions. The owners of the colliery at the time were listed as Thomas Wood Rowland Webster, John Gully & John Burrell. Arrest warrants were issued against 68 men for absenting themselves from their employment on November 23.

At the subsequent trial a number of named miners were called to give evidence. These were:
John Cockson (Coxon)
Matthew Dawson
Thomas Dermot Moran
John James Bird
William Wearmouth
George Nesbitt
William Henderson
John Stephenson
Joseph Longstaf
Newrick Walton
John Cresswell
William Wilkinson
William Turner
William Anderson
William Ord
William Kay
John Bates
William Toplis
Augustus King
Robert Toplis
Robert Walton
Reuben Forster
Charles Willet
George Edwards
Henry Willis
Joseph Burnett
William Parkes
Joseph Kirk
Edward Clarke
Joseph Walker
Robert Parker
Robert Richardson
Andrew Hope
Jabez Wonders

Some of these can be found in the 1841 census.

All gave similar evidence at the trial, choosing to go to jail rather than work under the existing Bond. The magistrates duly obliged, sentencing all 68 to 6 weeks imprisonment. Immediately after the case however their lawyer, Mr. Roberts, obtained a writ of Habeas Corpus and the men who were in prison were removed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in London where, upon an informality (a technicality) they were acquitted. They all returned to County Durham as heroes but the Bond remained.

In the 1841 census the enumerator mentioned Front Street (later called Hartlepool Street), Waterloo Street, Back Waterloo Street, John Street, Wood Street, Stable Row, Pit Row, Dyke Row, Queen Street and Quarry Row so the nucleus of the pit village was clearly in place very early. The enumerator also mentioned several other streets which were not repeated in later censuses and these probably changed their names at some unknown later point: Donkin’s Street, Pigsford Street, Woodbank Street, Tradesmens Row, Brick Row, Cross Row, ‘Roadside’, Square Avenue and High Row. He also mentioned Charles Street, mentioned again in 1851 and 1861 which then disappeared in later censuses.

In the 1851 census the enumerator mentioned Blacksmiths Row, Sea Row and Grey Street. No later census mentioned these. He also mentioned Princes (or Princess) Street which reappeared once only, in 1861. They must have changed their names. No new streets were mentioned for much of the enumerator’s work was lumped together as ‘Thornley Colliery’.

In the 1861 census Corvers Row, Wellington Street, Ludworth Row, Trafalgar Street and William Street appeared. None of these was mentioned again in later censuses. South Street, Chapel Street, Vine Street, East Street all appeared for the first time. In the 1871 census the enumerator mentioned more new avenues: Park, Swinburn, Bowman (later called Durham Street), Water, Henry, Nelson, Collingwood, Albert and Percy Streets. By 1881 Cooper Terrace had appeared. The colliery village was completed with the additions of Bow and Thomas Streets in 1891. Thornley Colliery closed in 1970. Now the nearest coalmine is a hundred miles away.

— by Tony Whitehead

South Hetton

South Hetton

Holy Trinity, South Hetton

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

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
Holy Trinity, South Hetton, Baptisms 1838-1971
Holy Trinity, South Hetton, Marriages 1863-1966
Holy Trinity, South Hetton, Burials 1838-1961

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

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

All of the above census returns for South Hetton/Haswell 1841-1901 have been transcribed and are available on this site.

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

In the same year that the sinking of South Hetton Colliery and the construction of the Braddyll Railway began the Sunderland Dock Company began to push through a passenger and freight line in the direction of Durham via Murton, with a branch line to the projected new collieries at South Hetton and Haswell. This passed through South Hetton which was given its own station. 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 then pulled uphill, stopping at Seaton on the way. At Murton the chain was changed for another one connected to Haswell fixed engine house. To get to Durham was even more complicated. It was necessary to change trains at Murton Junction and gravity brought the coaches (still connected by a chain) downhill to Hetton. From there to Durham (Shincliffe) via Pittington, Broomside and Sherburn House was comparatively flat but there were several more fixed engines to attatch to en route. It was barely quicker than walking but this method of transport was used some 20 years after the development of powerful locos which could do the entire journey on their own regardless of the gradients.

From 1835 onwards therefore, a very early date in railway history, the infant community of South Hetton was directly connected to the outside world. Sunderland was now just 35 minutes away and London could be reached within a day. Though hundreds of thousands of people must have used South Hetton station in its heyday few photos of it are known to have survived.

South Hetton Miners Killed in the Murton Colliery Explosion of 1848

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

Matthew Besom, 16 (No Trace in 1841 census of SH (South Hetton) & M (Murton)
John Dickenson, 12 (No Trace at SH & M 1841)
Edward Noble, 23 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
Edward Haddick or Haddock (No Trace at SH & M in 1841)
William Raffell or Raffle, 32 (Family present at South Hetton 1851)
Christopher Raffell or Raffle, 10 (Family present at SH in 1851)
William Baldwin, 25 (No trace at SH & M)
James Hall, 40 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
Thomas Stubbs, 27 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
Joseph Tones, 66 (No Trace at SH & M)
Richard Bloomfield, 20 (His family were at South Hetton in 1841 ?)
David Rumley, 12 (Resident at South Hetton in 1841)
John Robson, a boy (age not specified in newspapers) (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
Thomas Lawson senior, 41 (Resident at South Hetton 1841)

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

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

Henry Pace, Overman (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
Anthony Gray (Resident at South Hetton 1841)
John Robinson (At least four man and boys with this name were resident at South Hetton & Murton in 1841; we know only that the 15-yr-old son John of Stephen and Isabella Robinson of South Hetton was not the John who was killed, because he has been traced forward)
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’

We can perhaps still learn much from the parish records about the early history of the village, but there are precious few clues from the available census returns. In 1841, eight years after the first coal was produced, the enumerator noted the existence of ‘East Side’ (Quality Row, Colliery Row, West Railway Street, Long Row, Waggon Row and Bridge Street), then ‘West Side’ (with no further addresses given). As none of these streets was ever mentioned again in later censuses the information is virtually useless to us. However he was downright informative compared to the efforts of the enumerators in the next three censuses, each of whom described everything in the village as ‘South Hetton’. So the first four censuses, 1841-71 inclusive, tell us almost nothing. We have only the censuses of 1881 and 1891 and the map of 1897 to draw upon for additional information.

In 1881 the enumerator at last mentioned Front Street (East & West), William Square, Gale Street, Chapel Row, Dyke Row, Overmans Row and the infamous ‘Eight Rows’, all of which recur in 1891 and on the map of 1897. He also blotted his copybook by mentioning Waggonmans Row, Cross Rows East # 1-4, Cross Rows West # 1-4, Randy Row, Green Row, Stell’s Row and Station Row, none of which were mentioned again in 1891 and do not feature on the map of 1897. These must have changed their names.

In 1891 the enumerator mentioned Railway Street, Butcher’s Row, Chapel Row, William Square, Edward Street, Prospect Place and Overman’s Row, none of which were mentioned on the map of 1897. He mentioned Rawsthorn Terrace, Inman Street, Silverdale Street, Morley Street, Front Street (Low Side), Thomas Street, Clarence Street, Braddyll Street, Dyke Row, Gale Street, Richmond Street, South Street and ‘Eight Rows’ which consisted of James Street, Smith Street, White Lion Street (called Hall Street on the map of 1897) and Forster Street. All of these are on the map of 1897.

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

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

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

In 1991 Murton Colliery and Hawthorn Shaft combine were closed and the last section of the old Sunderland to Hartlepool & Durham railway network was dismantled. 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.

Some South Hetton Street Names

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Shotton and Shotton Colliery

(Old) Shotton

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
St. Saviour, Shotton-with-Haswell, Baptisms 1854-1968
St. Saviour, Shotton-with-Haswell, Marriages 1854-1979
St. Saviour, Shotton-with-Haswell, Burials 1854-1967

Population changes in the 19th Century (includes Old Shotton, Shotton Colliery and outlying farms):

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Shotton 250 286 264 272 603 1607 1871 3130 2131 1975 1917

All of the census records for 1841-1901 are transcribed and available on this site.

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

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

Shotton Grange Colliery

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

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

In the census for 1841, the year in which coal was ‘won’ the enumerator mentioned the following: ‘Shotton’, Low Hills, Shotton Tilery, ‘Shotton Grange Colliery’ (17 households, all ‘Sinkers’) and Donnison Row (28 households, mostly ‘Sinkers’). None of these however was mentioned again in later censuses so the information is almost useless to us. His successor, the enumerator of 1851, left us even less information about these early years. He described everything as ‘Shotton Colliery’. At last the enumerator of 1861 mentioned 1st, 2nd., 3rd. and 4th. Low Rows; 1st., 2nd., 3rd., 4th., 5th. and 6th. High Rows; and 1st., 2nd. and 3rd. West Rows. West Rows had become Chapel Rows by 1871.

By 1871 there were 323 households at Shotton Colliery village. The enumerator for that year mentioned: Albert St.; Front St.; 1st. – 4th. Low Rows; 1st. – 6th. High Rows; 1st. – 3rd. Chapel Rows; 1st. House Row; 1st & 2nd. School Rows; Sunderland Row; Railway Row; Reading Room Row; and 1st. & 2nd. Stable Rows. He then moved on to cover a new community called ‘Haswell Moor’ where there were 130 more households – Front Row, 1st. To 3rd. North Rows (all tiny), 1st. New Row (North), Middle New Row (North), South New Row (only 1 household). I have not been able to locate the community of ‘Haswell Moor’ on the 1897 map. There was also a ‘Haswell Moor’ at Haswell and Easington to complicate matters.

The accepted date for the closure of Shotton Colliery is November 3 1877 but it may have been earlier for the enumerator of 1881 stated that the pit had been closed about 6 years. The date therefore may have been more like 1875. The enumerator of 1881 went on to mention the following, which indicates a wholesale change of street names in the previous 10 years: Sandgate (or Sandygate); Albert Terrace; Quarrymens Terrace; ‘Front Row below Railway’; Policemens Row; Back Policemens Row; Callers or Colliers Row; Back Row; Office Row; Low Quality Row; Quality Row; Randy Row; Old Post Office Row; Smokey Row; South Front Row; Cowley’s Row; ‘Sixteen Houses’; Doctors Row; School Row; Sunderland Row; Railway Row; Tarbutts Row, Wesleyan Chapel Row; Primitive Chapel Row; Reading Room Row; Colliery Farm Cottages; Grange Farm; Grange Buildings; St. Saviour’s Church; and The Vicarage. He concluded his tint at a much expanded ‘Haswell Moor’ where he noted: 1st – 6th. Rows and Front Street. Some of these street names were probably connected to the owners of the colliery. From the number of uninhabited dwellings in the 1881 census, taken some 4-6 years after the pit closure, it is clear that he was wandering round a ghost village. Things got worse over the next 10 years.

In the 1891 census the enumerator mentioned Cowley’s Row, 1st – 4th. Old Rows; Quality Row; Office Row; 1st – 4th. Low Rows; Albert Terrace; ‘The Town’ (North Side); Sandygate; Back Sandygate; Railway Row; Sunderland Row; School Row; Doctors Row; ‘Sixteen Houses’; ‘Six Houses’; Post Office Row; Colliery Farm Cottages; Farm Houses; Station Road; the Vicarage; Old School Row; Wesleyan Chapel Row; Primitive Chapel Row; Reading Room Row; and Goynes Yard. All of these can be located on the map of 1897 though some of them bore different names by then. The enumerator finished his stint at ‘Haswell Moor’ which still consisted of 1st – 6th. Rows and Front Row. By now, 14-16 years after the closure of Shotton Colliery, its village must have seemed an eerie place. Entire streets were boarded up. Some streets had only one or two inhabitants. The village somehow survived another nine years until the arrival of the Cavalry.

In 1900 the colliery was reopened by the new and giant concern the Horden Coal Company which also planned super-pits on the coast at Blackhall and Horden. The pit village came back to life after 23 years, like some latter day Rip van Winkle. Astoundingly there had been no vandalism in a quarter of a century and most of the housing was ready for habitation within weeks. Imagine that happening today. Them were the days.

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Seaton-with-Slingley

Seaton-with-Slingley

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office
St. Mary the Virgin, (Old) Seaham, Baptisms 1646-1861
St. Mary the Virgin, (Old) Seaham, Marriages 1652-1967
St. Mary the Virgin, (Old) Seaham, Burials 1653-1966

Seaton has never had its own church or Methodist chapel. It has always been in the parish of St. Mary the Virgin at (Old) Seaham. Consult the registers for St. Mary’s (which commenced in 1646) for further information on Seaton residents. These registers are all available as part of this site.

Population changes in the 19th Century were:

 Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Seaton-with-Slingley 96 126 95 134 175 200 236 228 196 228 259

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

The hamlet of Seaton was first mentioned in documents in AD950. It was considered part of the manor of Seaham until the division of 1295 when half of each village was allotted to the families of Hadham and Yeland. As the centuries passed ownerships changed hands several times. One line eventually led to the Collingwoods, Milbankes and Londonderrys and the other ended up with different owners, such as Colonel Lancelot Gregson. Thus much of Seaton was never owned by the Londonderry family unlike most of the rest of Greater Seaham. The village has never had its own church or even a chapel and has always been in the parish of (Old) Seaham.

Centuries of rural tranquility came to an abrupt end in 1828 when the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry built a waggonway to connect his wife’s Rainton and Penshaw pits to their new port and town of Seaham Harbour. This skirted the southern outskirts of Seaton and brought newcomers to operate the line. No sooner was it completed in 1831 when the Sunderland Dock Company pushed through a passenger and freight line in the direction of Durham, with a branch line to the new pit at South Hetton and the projected new colliery at Haswell. This passed just west of Seaton which was given its own station. Completed by 1835 the Sunderland to Durham (Shincliffe) and Haswell Railway passed under the Rainton and Seaham at Seaton Bank Top, and a junction was effected. 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 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, Seaton was directly connected to the outside world. Sunderland was now just 15 minutes away and London could be reached within a day. Seaham Harbour would not have a passenger railway for another 20 years so Seaton, being the nearest station, catered for Seaham Harbour traffic as well during that period. The Londonderry Seaham & Sunderland Railway opened in 1855. Seaton station at once lost all of the Seaham Harbour traffic and became a quiet backwater of the NER system. Its busiest day of the year after 1871 was always the Durham Miners Gala when tens of thousands of East Durham mining folk would travel on the line to the county town. Seaham miners and their bands would march in procession to Seaton station to board the special trains provided. Though hundreds of thousands of people must have used Seaton station in its heyday no photos of it are known to have survived.

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

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

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

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Seaham Colliery Disaster of 1880

On the fateful evening of Tuesday September 7, 1880, Joseph Birkbeck (or Birbeck), choir master and organist at Christ Church (New Seaham), slept through his ‘knocker’ at his home at 19 Post Office Street and thereby missed his shift and of course forfeited his pay. The decision, conscious or otherwise, was to save his life and enable him to live until his nineties. His father and namesake (17 Mount Pleasant) was not so fortunate.

Corporal Hindson (22 John Street, Seaham Harbour), the crackshot, had a premonition of his own death. Three times he started out for work on that dreadful night and twice he returned home. The third time he did not return.

John Hutchinson (15 Post Office Street) went to work even though he was poorly because he knew the financial result of any failure to attend. His condition deteriorated however and he felt obliged to return home before the end of his shift. He abandoned his place of work in the Maudlin seam minutes before the explosion, leaving his marrow Pat Carroll (Cooke Street) alone, but had to sit down for a rest on his way back to the pit shaft. He actually fell asleep and was roughly awoken by the prodding of a stick by the overman Walter Murray who told him to go home if he was unwell. At the shaft bottom Hutchinson talked for a while with Laverick the onsetter whilst waiting for the cage to descend. He had barely stepped from the cage at the surface when the pit blew. The ground shook, waking up people in the neighbourhood. The sound of the explosion was heard on ships in Seaham Harbour and as far away as Murton Colliery and the outskirts of Sunderland. Some men saw a great cloud of dust blown skywards out of the shafts. The Marquess heard the noise at Seaham Hall and was among the first on the scene.

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

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

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

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

“September 8 1880
E.Hall and J.Lonsdale died at half-past 3 in the morning.W.Murray and W.Morris and James Clarke visited the rest on half-past nine in the morn and all living in the incline,
Yours truly,
W.Murray, Master-Shifter”

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

“Five o’ clock, we have been praying to God”.

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

“The Lord has been with us, we are all ready for heaven – Ric Cole, half past 2 o’ clock Thursday”.

The second message, much fainter, read:

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

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

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

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

Of the other victims John Southeran (or Sutherland, 12 Australia Street) left a widow and 9 children. Crackshot Corporal Hindson (22 John Street, Seaham Harbour) was carried shoulder-high again – this time in his coffin. His arms and legs were blown off by the blast and identification was based on his flamboyant beard. There was no Volunteers band at his funeral at St.John’s for it had lost five of its best musicians. The Hendersons of 10 Cooke Street lost the father Michael and three of his sons. Thomas Hutchinson (18 Seaham Street), survivor in 1871, was not so lucky this time. The Durham Chronicle reported:

“One of the first of the bodies recovered was claimed by his widow to be that of Harry Ramsay (or Ramshaw). At home (20 Vane Terrace) the pet dog refused to approach the corpse, barked ceaselessly and was ill at ease. The body was duly buried. A few days later the real Ramsay was found and positively identified by the army boots and straw belt which he always wore at the pit. This time the dog showed every sign of recognition and even licked one of the dead man’s boots….the unfortunate widow had to pay for a second funeral and needed to be advanced money for the purpose by Vicar Scott.”

The only thing wrong with this story is that according to the 1881 census Harry Ramsey was a single man living with his parents! Another enigma we shall never get to the bottom of. We now know, from very recent research that one of the victims, Henry Turnbull, aged 23, was actually Henry Bleasdale. He was a ‘marked man’ who had previously given trouble to colliery owners and had already masqueraded as one of his in-laws, Ben Wright, at Hetton Colliery. He had been detected there and so moved back to Seaham Colliery (where he had been brought up) and this time masqueraded as one of his half-brothers who were called Turnbull (his mother had married twice). After he was killed his widow Jane came clean to the authorities and his death certificate has Henry Turnbull crossed out and Henry Bleasdale substituted by the Registrar. Henry’s descendants live in Seaham and elsewhere today and have only recently become acquainted with his remarkable story.

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

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

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

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

In February 1881 a special ‘court’ was held at Seaham Police Station to deal with charges in connection with the disturbances.The Reverend Angus Bethune was the presiding magistrate. The other magistrates were Colonel Allison and Captain Ord. Colonel White, Chief Constable of the County, also occupied a seat on the bench. Bethune made all the decisions, primed no doubt by his ‘associates’. This far from saintly individual, who now rests in St.Mary’s churchyard, was in fact little more than a Londonderry family retainer. He lived into his 90s and was one of Seaham’s leading citizens for 60 years, christening three generations of Londonderrys (usually in London not Seaham). I leave it to my readers to decide whether or not this was a kangaroo court. Watching the entire proceedings (and taking copious notes for future reference no doubt) were the new manager of Seaham Colliery, Barret, and his boss the Head Viewer of all the Londonderry coal concerns Vincent Corbett. Over 50 men were summonsed. Five men were charged with assaulting an alleged blackleg William Scott of 41 California Street. For this offence one Simeon Vickers (8 Cornish Street) got two months hard labour, the others (Thomas Morgan, William Aspden, Robert Dunn and Thomas Lannigan) got 1 month hard labour. Vickers was further convicted of an additional three assaults on 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.

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

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

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

The Seaham Colliery Disaster – Facts & Figures

Of the 164 men and boys killed in the 1880 disaster, 32 were not resident at Seaham Colliery. 28 of these (William Barress, Thomas Cassidy, Richard Cole, George Dixon, Robert Haswell, Thomas Hindson, Edward Johnson, James Kent, Joseph Lonsdale senior, John Owens, Michael Owens, Mark Phillips, Edward Pinkard (or Burns), Benjamin Redshaw, William Richardson, John George Roper, James Slavin, Christopher Smith, Thomas Smith, Luke Smith, Joseph Walker or Waller, Benjamin Ward, Frank Watson, John Wilkinson, David Williams, John Whitfield, Thomas Gibson and John Hunter) 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.

This left 132 as officially resident at Seaham Colliery at the time of their deaths. Of these the families (if any) of a further 14 had left the village by the time of the census on April 2 1881, 7 months after the explosion. These fourteen men and boys were, apart from Alexander Sanderson, single men or widowers, or left only a wife. Some of them were undoubtedly lodgers in a colliery house. The 14 were: Wiliam Berry (14 California Street, left a wife); Joseph Bowden (8 Post Office Street, single); Patrick Carroll (Cooke Street, widower); John Dinning (11 William Street, widower); George Diston (47 California Street, widower); Lees Ball Dixon (23 California Street, single); Richard George (18 Doctor’s Street, widower); Dominic Gibbons (17 Vane Terrace, widower); John Grey (51 Doctor’s Street, left a wife); William Hancock (6 Doctor’s Street, single); James Hedley (52 Doctor’s Street, single); John Kirk (Cornish Row, single); Robert Graham (Butcher’s Street, single); Alexander Sanderson (16 Post Office Street, left a wife and 6 children).

Eliminating these 14 leaves 118 men whose families can be found in the census of Seaham Colliery in 1881. Following is a list of all these individuals in the order in which their families or host families occurred in the census:

Isaac Ditchburn, 18 Mount Pleasant
Joseph Birbeck (or Birkbeck), 17 Mount Pleasant
Samuel Wilkinson, 15 Mount Pleasant
George Brown, 15 Mount Pleasant
Nathaniel Brown, 15 Mount Pleasant
William Strawbridge, 50 Doctor’s Street
John Miller, 42 Doctor’s Street
Joseph Straughan, 35 Doctor’s Street
Robert Straughan, 35 Doctor’s Street
James Clark, 23 Doctor’s Street
James Clark junior, 23 Doctor’s Street
William Henry Taylor, 2 California Street
John Potter, 14 California Street
Robert Clark, 19 California Street
James Walker (or Waller), 34 California Street
Robert Lawson, 39 California Street
John Nelson (or Nilsam), 40 California Street
Thomas Grounds, 56 California Street
John Grounds, 56 California Street
William Moore, 59 California Street
Robert Johnson, 63 California Street
William McLaughlin (or McGloughlin), 54 California Street
John Short, 51 California Street
John Spry, 49 Australia Street
James Higginbottom (or Higginbotham), 48 Australia Street
Richard Defty, 42 Australia Street
William Bell, 35 Australia Street
William Spanton, 33 Australia Street (not 13 as in official list)
John Southern (or Sutherland), 12 Australia Street
William Crossman, 3 Australia Street
Thomas Cummings, 2 Australia Street
William Hall, 9 Cornish Street
John Mason, 10 Cornish Street
Joseph Cowey, 17 Cornish Street
Thomas Keenan, 20 Cornish Street
James Ovington, 22 Cornish Street
Thomas Roberts, 27 Cornish Street
Alfred James Turner, 32 Cornish Street
Thomas Foster, 36 Cornish Street
William Venner, 53 Cornish Street
Samuel Venner, 53 Cornish Street
William John Redshaw, 56 Cornish Street
Michael Smith, 54 Henry Street
Walter Dawson, 49 Henry Street
Anthony Scarfe (or Scarff), 35 Henry Street
John Riley, 32 Henry Street (not 22 as in official list)
Michael Keenan, 22 Henry Street
John Lonsdale, 10 Henry Street (not 2 William Street as in official list)
William Hood, 5 Henry Street
Anthony Greenbanks, 4 Seaham Street
John Jackson, 10 Seaham Street
William Roxby, 12 Seaham Street
Thomas Hutchinson, 18 Seaham Street
George Lamb, 30 Seaham Street
William Breeze, 32 Seaham Street
George Page, 36 Seaham Street
Matthew Charlton, 38 Seaham Street
John Thomas Patterson, 40 Seaham Street
Joseph Cook, 41 Seaham Street
Anthony Ramshaw, 46 Seaham Street
Robert Dunn, 56 Seaham Street
Thomas Wright, 57 Seaham Street
Joseph Lonsdale, 2 William Street
Robert Rawlings, 3 William Street
William Morris, 4 William Street
John Vickers, 10 William Street
George Shields, 17 William Street
James Best, 22 William Street (not 25 as in official list)
Joseph Lonsdale jun., 28 William Street (not 2 as in official list)
John Copeman, 3 Butcher Street
Joseph Clark, 8 Butcher Street
William Simpson, 13 Butcher Street
John Batey, 16 Butcher Street
William Sigh (or Sawey), 18 Butcher Street
William Wilkinson, 24 Butcher Street
William Fife, 5 Post Office Street
George Roper, 10 Post Office Street
Charles Horam, 10 Post Office Street
George Hopper, 20 Post Office Street
George Sharp, 4 Church Street, (not 2 School Street as in official list)
Henry Elesbury (or Elseberry), 6 Church Street
Thomas Hays junior, 14 Church Street (not 15 as in official list)
Joseph Theobald, 18 Church Street
Jacob Fletcher, 22 Church Street (not 23 as in official list)
Thomas Hays senior, 1 Hall Street
John Lock, 6 Hall Street
William Potts, 10 Hall Street
Thomas Alexander, 25 Hall Street (not 24 as in official list)
(His wife is called Elizabeth Ann in the census and not Isabella Ann as in the official list).
Thomas Lowdey (or Lowery), 36 Hall Street
Thomas Foster, 37 Hall Street
James Brown, 39 Hall Street
Edward Brown, 40 Hall Street
Robson Dawson, 44 Hall Street
Joseph Chapman, 45 Hall Street
Walter Murray, 4 Model Street
James Johnson, 5 Model Street
Silas Scrafton, 9 Model Street
Robert Potter, 15 Model Street
Charles Dawson, 20 Model Street
Anthony Smith, 21 Model Street
Thomas Greenwell, 2 Vane Terrace
George Norris, 19 Vane Terrace
Henry Ramsey (or Ramshaw), 20 Vane Terrace
Richard Drainer, 6 Cooke Street
Thomas Henry Williams, 8 Cooke Street
Michael Henderson, 10 Cooke Street
Roger Henderson, 10 Cooke Street
Michael Henderson junior, 10 Cooke Street
William Henderson, 10 Cooke Street
Joseph Pickles, 18 Cooke Street
Henry Turnbull (Bleasdale), 9 Bank Head Street
James Dodgin, 19 Bank Head Street
Robert Shields, 4 School Street
James Shields, 4 School Street
William Wilkinson, 12 School Street (not 14 Cornish Street as in official list)
John McGuinis or McGuinness, 12 School Street
John Weir (or Weirs), 23 School Street
Joseph Rawling, 26 School Street

The death toll in terms of streets in the census of 1881 was:

Mount Pleasant 5
Doctor’s St. 6
California St. 10
Australia St. 10
Cornish St. 11
Henry St. 7
Seaham St. 13
William St. 7
Butcher St. 6
Post Office St. 4
Church St. 5
Hall St. 10
Model St. 6
Vane Terrace 3
Cooke St. 7
Bank Head St. 2
School St. 6
Total 118

Newspapers of the time do not give the ages or addresses of the survivors, only names. Including John Hutchinson (‘the man who came out bad’) there were 68 survivors of the Seaham Colliery Disaster. 26 of them are missing from the census of April 1881 either because they ordinarily lived elsewhere or they had left the village because there was no work or, as in the case of Thomas Burt, they had been evicted. The 26 were: Ralph Marley; George Thompson; Charles Wilson; Richard Bell; William Kirkbright; William Telford; Robert Nelson; George Young; William Riley; Samuel Forsyth; Joseph Quayle; J.Cairns; P.Dillon; Thomas Henry; T.Greener; Gardiner (?); Alexander Kent; Thomas Dodds; Matthew Chapman; Matthew Muncaster; Thomas Smith; J.McKay; George Andrews; David Mann; Thomas Burt; Thomas Taylor. That leaves 42 men and boys who are mentioned in the census. Unfortunately some of the names are very common ones and two or more men in the village might have been the actual survivor. Where there is such doubt I have below put the names in bold.

In the order in which they appear in the 1881 census the 42 survivors in the village were:

Robert Procter, 60 Doctor’s Street
Robert Strawbridge, 50 Doctor’s Street
Thomas Dixon, 16 Doctor’s Street
Robert Procter, 13 Doctor’s Street
William Wilson, 5 Doctor’s Street
Mark Foster, 1 Doctor’s Street
Stephen Howe, 8 California Street
John Mason, 27 California Street
George Wood, 37 California Street
William Winter, 64 Australia Street
Robert Young, 46 Australia Street
Joseph Taylor, 36 Australia Street
Edward Smith, 25 Australia Street
William Cummings, 2 Australia Street
Edward Surtees, 6 Cornish Street
John Mason, 10 Cornish Street
James Northway, 16 Cornish Street
Edgar Crane, 21 Cornish Street
John Gatenby, 25 Cornish Street
Henry Pellew, 41 Cornish Street
Henry Lamb, 45 Cornish Street
Thomas Johnson, 26 Henry Street
George Wood, 20 Henry Street
Thomas Vickers, 16 Seaham Street
Robert Wilson, 48 Seaham Street
Henry Miller, 54 Seaham Street
Robert Osborne, 7 William Street
William Morris, 18 William Street
Jacob Steel, 38 Butcher Street
John Stephenson, 12 Post Office Street
John Hutchinson, 15 Post Office Street
John Turnbull, 23 Church Street
Robert Wardle (or Wardell), 10 Hall Street
Thomas Horsfield, 15 Hall Street
John Turnbull, 35 Hall Street
John Graham, 46 Hall Street
William Johnson, 5 Model Street
William Hartley, 8 Model Street
Robert Wilson, 16 Model Street
William Hunter, 4 Vane Terrace
Ralph Curry, 7 Vane Terrace
Robert Curry, 11 Vane Terrace
Thomas Wilkinson, 12 Vane Terrace
John Turnbull, 14 Vane Terrace
John Hall, 16 Vane Terrace
Robert Young, 18 Vane Terrace
William Laverick, 5 Cooke Street
William Cowley, 10 Bank Head Street
Robert Young, 10 School Street
George Brown, 17 School Street
Joseph Hall, 28 School Street
Joseph Turnbull, 32 School Street

According to Troubled Seams there were 10 ‘Sacrificed Members’ who were sacked and blacklisted across the Great Northern Coalfield for their part in the strikes and disturbances which followed the disaster. I can find only five of these in the census of April 3 1881.These were:

Thomas Banks, 4 Mount Pleasant
Ralph Pallister, 29 Doctor’s Street
Stephen Turnbull, 26 Doctor’s Street
William Turner, 32 Cornish Street
Thomas Brown, 39 Hall Street

The following five were not mentioned in the census of 1881: John Bell; Thomas Burt; David Corkhill; John Furness; Robert Newham.

According to McCutcheon, two of these five, Thomas Burt and Robert Newham, were evicted from their homes at Seaham Colliery on April 29 1881, i.e. 26 days after the census was taken. Therefore they should have been in the village for the census but for some reason they were absent. I doubt we will ever figure this one out. I suspect there are several inaccuracies in the ‘official’ list of the dead supplied by the Northumberland and Durham Miner’s Permanent Relief Fund.

— by Tony Whitehead

New Seaham (Seaham Colliery)

New Seaham (Seaham Colliery)

new_seaham1

Christ Church, New Seaham

In September 1828, the town and port of Seaham Harbour were founded. As this was part of the parish of Dalton-le-Dale, most of the baptisms, marriages and burials from the new community were recorded at St. Andrew’s in Dalton village. St. Mary the Virgin continued to serve only [Old] Seaham village, Seaton-with-Slingley and outlying farms. In 1845, St. John’s at Seaham Harbour opened its doors after a new parish was created and detached from St. Andrew’s. Henceforth most of the events of Seaham Harbour were recorded at St. John’s.

  • 1838 – Sinking of Murton Colliery began. Events from this new community were recorded at St. Andrew’s.
  • 1844 – Sinking of Seaton Colliery commenced. Events from this new community were recorded at St. Mary’s.
  • 1849 – Sinking of Seaham Colliery began. Events from this new community were recorded at St. Mary’s.

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

Available Parish Registers at Durham Record Office

St. Mary the Virgin, (Old) Seaham, Baptisms 1646-1861
St. Mary the Virgin, (Old) Seaham, Marriages 1652-1967
St. Mary the Virgin, (Old) Seaham, Burials 1653-1966
Christ Church, New Seaham, Baptisms 1857-1967
Christ Church, New Seaham, Marriages 1861-1970
Christ Church, New Seaham, Burials 1860-1954
Wesleyan Methodist, New Seaham Cornish St., Baptisms 1870-1946

Also incorporated this site are the following records which are not currently available at Durham Record Office.

St. Cuthbert Roman Catholic, New Seaham, Baptisms 1934-1999
St. Cuthbert Roman Catholic, New Seaham, Marriages 1934-1999
St. Cuthbert Roman Catholic, New Seaham, Burials 1934-1999

Clergymen of New Seaham Christ Church
Edward F. Every, 1894-99
Alexander Ramsbottom, 1899-1912
Richard R. Fenning, 1913-21
Samuel Kearney, 1921-46
Oswald Hogg, 1946-60
William Herbert Jefferson, 1960-72
Douglas W. Pharaoh. 1973-76
Peter C. Holland, 1977-89
D.G. Kennedy, 1990-92
D.A. Roberts, 1994-??

Population growth of New Seaham over the decades:

1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Seaham (Old & New) 115 121 103 130 153 729 2591 2802 2989 4798 5285

The above census records for 1841-1911 are transcribed and available on this site.

Growth of the Village of New Seaham 1861-91

1861 Census 1871 Census 1881 Census 1891 Census
West Row (23) School Row/Vane Terrace (25) Vane Terrace (23) Vane Terrace (23)
Infant Row (6) Reading Room Row (6) Infant Row (7) Infant Street (7)
California Row (68) California Row (68) California Street (68) California Street (68)
Mount Pleasant (20) Mount Pleasant (20) Mount Pleasant (20) Mount Pleasant (58)
Australia Row (82) Australia Row (66) Australia Street (66) Australia Street (66)
Londonderry Engine Cottages (2) Londonderry Engine Cottages (2) Londonderry Engine Cottages (2) Londonderry Engine Cottages (2)
Office Row (53) Office Row (37) William Street (30) William Street (30)
Butcher’s Row (40) Butchers Row (39) Butcher Street (40) Butcher Street (40)
German Row (22) German/Doctors Row (66) Doctor’s Street (66) Doctor’s Street (66)
Bownden Row(23) Daker’s Row (21) Post Office Street (21) Post Office Street (21)
Church Row (23) Church Row (25) Church Street (26) Church Street (57)
Double Row (32) Double Row (32) School Street (32) School Street (32)
Single Row(24) Railway Row (22) Bank Head Street (22) Bank Head Street (22)
Model Row (35) Model Row (27) Model Street (26) Model Street (26)
New or Cornish Row (57) Cornish Street (57) Cornish Street (57)
Henry Street (59) Henry Street (59)
Seaham Street (59) Seaham Street (59)
Hall Street (50) Hall Street (50)
Cooke Street (20) Cooke Street (20)
Viceroy Street (61)

History of Seaham Colliery

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

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

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

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

History of New Seaham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 1850s saw the building of several streets in the vicinity of the two pits and the creation of a tight-knit community. Window tax was abolished in 1851 and mechanised brick production (with machine-pressed bricks) was developed in 1856, both of which made the process cheaper and easier. The typical ‘through terrace house’ at Seaton/Seaham Colliery had one room downstairs and one upstairs (often divided into two by a partition to provide separate sleeping accomodation for boys and girls). The downstairs room served for cooking, bathing, meals, general living and as sleeping space for parents. The back yard had a dry closet privy (a netty) and a coal shed. Social life centred on the back alley. Some of the streets were built and owned by the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company, proprietors of Seaton Colliery. The rest were constructed and owned by the Londonderry family, owners of Seaham Colliery. At this distance in time it is difficult to tell who owned what. The first streets, all of which were mentioned in the 1861 census, were:

West Row: which was later called School Row and later still became Vane Terrace.
School Row: which is not to be confused with School Street (see the below Double Row).
Infant Row: Very small. Only six dwellings.
California Row: 1849 saw the California Gold Rush.
Mount Pleasant : which may have been named after a place in northern Ireland near the Londonderry mansion at Mount Stewart or simply because it occupied a good vantage down to the sea.
Australia Row: Australia was a principal destination for British emigrants in this period, especially miners from the northeast of England. Many of them promptly commemorated their roots by naming their new communities after the ones they had left behind. A Newcastle, a Sunderland, a Murton, a Ryhope and yes even a Seaham, were created in New South Wales and survive to this day.
Office Row: which was later called William Street.
Butcher’s Row: Butcher may have been a director/official of the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company
German Row: later called Doctor’s Street, which in the direction of Sunderland had a fine view of the North Sea (The German Ocean.).
Bownden Row: later called Daker’s Row and later still renamed Post Office Street. Bownden may have been a director/official of the North Hetton and Grange Colliery Company.
Church Row: which faced the new Christ Church
Double Row: later called School Street
Single Row: later called Railway Row, later still renamed Bank Head Street
Model Row: Presumably the builders and owners were proud of this street and gave it a magnificent title.Or maybe they had just run out of names!

Seaton and Seaham Collieries (New Seaham) and Seaham Harbour remained quite separate communities, divided by fields, and connected only by the Rainton & Seaham Railway and a dirt track and the fact of shared ownership by the Londonderrys. 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 Greater Seaham was still a family fiefdom.

The Danger of the Mines

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

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

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

Colliery Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— by Tony Whitehead

Continue to Part Two: The Sep 1880 Disaster

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

The Coal Miner’s Bond

Lest we Forget – The Miners’ Bond

courtesy:sulfa

For those of us Northeasterners with coal mining ancestors, there is another little-known tool available to pinpoint their movements beyond certificates, the census returns, and parish registers – the existence of the Miners Bond. To use this tool, you need not visit any distant record repository or consult any learned tome or index. All you need is a basic knowledge of the history of local mining and the application of four important dates.


The main source for the following notes was: The Miners of Northumberland & Durham”, by Richard Fynes, 1873.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 California Row, Seaham Colliery, 1871 (April) Census
James Hogarth, head of household, married, 48, Coal Miner, born in Long Benton, Northumberland
Sarah H, wife, married, 40, Haswell
James H, son, 4, Haswell Colliery
John H, son, 3, Seaham Colliery

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

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

© Tony Whitehead 1997

Hawthorn

Hawthorn

hawthorn1

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,
Bishopwearmouth
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