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