Colliery Railways: South Hetton line or Braddyll’s Railway 1833-1984

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

The Past

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

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

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

The Strike, the longest and most bitter of them all, was calculated to stop the closure of the surviving collieries, in Durham and elsewhere. An early victim was the South Hetton line, destroyed at Parkside by local people digging for coal in that grim winter. As with the Rainton and Seaham line the nucleus of the embankments had been made with the cheapest and most readily available material at hand, pea to marble sized pieces of coal. In its time the line had carried millions of tons of coal and served six inland collieries (none of them owned by the Londonderrys), and accounted for more than one life and limb. It would have been abandoned anyway with the closure of the last of the feeder pits, Murton Colliery, in 1991.

The Present

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

The Future

There needs to be a path from Cold Hesledon to connect with the old Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool line at South Hetton. Otherwise, Seaham will be cut off from the developing national network of old railways which have been turned into walkways. Surely it is not beyond Seaham and Easington councils to obtain a strip of land no wider than 20 feet to make the connection ?

— by Tony Whitehead

Haswell Colliery & the Disaster of September 1844

Haswell Colliery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haswell Colliery Disaster of Saturday September 28 1844

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

List of 95 Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the 1950s passenger services ended on the old Sunderland to Durham & Hartlepool (via Murton Junction and Haswell) line. The track stayed in place between South Hetton (and the projected Hawthorn Shaft which would raise coal from Eppleton, Elemore and Murton collieries from 1959 to 1991) and the coast railway at Ryhope. Thus coal could still be transported from the few surviving collieries to Sunderland for export.

South Hetton Colliery closed at Easter 1983 after a working life of 152 years. As the defiant message on the giant mural you see as you drive through the village says ‘Gone but not Forgotten’. In 1991 Murton Colliery and Hawthorn Shaft combine were closed and the last section of the old Sunderland to Hartlepool & Durham railway network was dismantled. One unlucky driver, travelling on the Seaham to Houghton road at Seaton, was dazzled by the morning sunshine and failed to see the warning lights flashing at the railway crossing. He was killed by one of the last trains to pass through, whose job was to take up the railway behind it. The entire trackbed of this beautiful old railway from Ryhope (A19 Flyover) to Hart Station (some 11 miles) has now been turned into a continuous walkway. You pass Haswell and the site of its old colliery en route.

— by Tony Whitehead

Haswell Village and Colliery

Haswell Village and Colliery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— by Tony Whitehead