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