Posts Tagged ‘coal mining’

West Terrace – Esh Winning Cine-Videos

December 8, 2015 Leave a comment

Came across these Cine-Vids the other day, not quite Ushaw Moor but still Deerness Valley – Anyone fill in the gaps ?

John Sutch Of New Brancepeth

March 26, 2011 1 comment
For those interested in coal mining heritage please consider using the Durham  Mining  Museum facility. I know that some of you are already aware that the museum is on the internet and have found it interesting. 

Below is an example of local interest. Very sad and very tragic.

Sutch, John, 07 May 1931, aged 48, Stoneman. Having walked from his home at New Brancepeth to Brandon Pit House Colliery he found that the mine was idle. He had just begun the return journey accompanied by his son-in-law and a workmate when he was overtaken by a locomotive on the colliery railway, run over, and killed. The other two men had jumped to safety, but Sutch had failed to hear the locomotive approaching. It had been the custom for some time for all the men living at New Brancepeth to use the line as a short cut, Buried: Ushaw Moor Cemetary.


Taking things for granted.

March 1, 2010 2 comments

When you are young you take things for granted and you think things will never change. The Deerness Valley is still the same shape, the same length and the same height as when I was a lad but the pits, the pit heaps, and the colliery villages have almost disappeared and nature, with mans assistance, has moved back into the valley.

Seen on a clear sunny day from the crossroads above Whitehouse Court the valley is very beautiful. It is a far cry from the valley that was when I was conscripted into the Army in March 1960. The mineral railway line still ran up the valley to Waterhouses Colliery. The collieries in the Valley at that time were Ushaw Moor, Esh Winning, Waterhouses, and on the rim of the valley was Pit House Colliery and the West Brandon drift. New Brancepth Colliery had closed in the early 1950s, and East Hedley Hope Closed sometime in the 50s also. On top of these collieries were a number of open cast coal sites. The valley was really given over to the production of coal. It was said that more coal was produced in the bar at Ushaw Moor Big Club on a Sunday dinner time than was ever produced at the Colliery.

The work of a miner was hard, dirty and unrelenting. When I left school I wanted to go down the pit but my mother said “NO” and that was that. Whilst in the Army in Kenya in 1961 I read in the Durhan County Advertiser of the death of a boyhood friend who was killed at Pithouse Coliiery and I realised then why my mother was against me going down the pit.

Back to the Deerness Valley.; Collieries were dirty, ugly blots on the landscape, with steam, smoke and dust flying about. Couple this with a plant producing coke as at New Brancepeth Colliery and the pollution was very high. You took these collieries for granted and as a child or young man I never saw them as ugly. There were just part of the landscape and part of your life. I thought that when the pits closed and families were moving to Yorkshire and the Midlands for work in the pits down there that the Valley would stagnate.

The opposite has been proved with villages expanding with modern housing, schools and amenities and the scenery today is beautiful. I find it so but I think most people who live in the valley take the beauty for granted. After living on Tyneside since 1965 I still miss the closesness of a village like Ushaw Moor.

Brian Mc

Ushaw Moor Colliery

November 15, 2009 2 comments
Ushaw Colliery

Originally uploaded by Ushaw Dude

Early photo of Ushaw Moor Colliery, does this bring back any memories ?


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Loads of Coal

September 22, 2009 6 comments

A sight which has long since disappeared from the streets of Ushaw Moor is that of loads of coal lying on the road waiting to be carried in and hoyed into the coal house. Men employed at the pit received a quantity of coal free for domestic use. My first memories of coal being tipped was when our family lived at 29 Harvey Street at New Brancepeth.

Across the back steet was a home made wooden coal house next to the gable end of the netty. On arriving at Ushaw Moor in January 1947 the coal house was situated next to the outhouse. If it rained when the coal was lying on the road waiting to be “put in” to the coal house it was very heavy to carry and the coal acted as a dam and the water built up behind the coal. New Brancepeth Colliery coal was delivered by lorry, Tot Sheivels was the driver.

I can remember that coals was from Ushaw Colliery at one time was delivered by horse and a two wheeled cart. The coalman lived in Durham Road. All heating at this time was coal fired. This was long before central heating and the (recent?) arrival of natural gas into the valley I cannot recall the weight of free coal alloted to each worker and I would also query my use of the word free as colliery owners were not renowned for their generosity to their workmen.

In the summer months the coal house was always full but in the winter months the coal house could be half empty. The coal was usally carried off the street and into the coalhouse in buckets. Wooden boards were placed across the front of the coalhouse so the coal could build up behind the boards and there was a gap at the bottom of the boards to push the shovel in to this gap and retrieve the coal and put it into a bucket. On winter evenings two buckets of coal were filled before darkness fell and were ready for use during the evening. Toast never tasted so good as when it was toasted on the toasting fork in front of the coal fire. I can still taste it. Coal was also supplied by coalmen to homes where no one was employed at the Colliery. Rowlands Bros. whose garage was situted at the top of Unthank Terrace at New Brancepeth was one and another coalman was Mr. Grady from Cornsay Colliery. Brian Mc.

Ushaw Moor in the 40’s and 50’s Part1

April 26, 2009 15 comments

There is so much to write about the 40’s and the 50’s  I thought I would write about my memories of Ushaw Moor using the businesses which existed  then as a framework.The main business of course was the pit.I know Wilf placed the wives of pitmen as among the top 7 heroes of Ushaw Moor but to me the pitmen should also figure.44 fatalities by the time the pit closed but others’ lives wrecked by their work. Pneumoconiosis, silicosis,broken or lost limbs are a testimony to this.They used to hew coal in low seams-my father(Buller Graham) had a” party piece “to show how low these seams were by crawling under a stick chair and demonstrate how he worked with a pick.I remember miners walking back fron the pit  to the village all black in their full pit gear until baths were installed presumably after nationalisation-until then it was out with the bath tin unless they were lucky and had a proper bath.When I got older I remember I would be sent to collect my father’s pay from the colliery.Can you imagine doing that now?People were mainly honest then.You could leave your door open without fear.We used to have a key hanging down just inside the letter box to let ourselves into the house.I was also given the job to pay the union dues in a room at the top of the stairs in the Memorial Hall.It was often a long and frustrating wait so sometimes I would go to the house of Mr. George Connor who was the secretary to pay.He lived in Flass Avenue overlooking the green and next to the cut down to the back of Durham Road.However, we were grateful for the allowance of coal which was dumped outside the house and we would set to,picking out the roundies first  and then shovelling the rest into buckets and  throwing it into the coalhouse. Mining was a terrible job but it was the only job miners knew so when the local mines closed off they went to work in Nottinghamshire and other coalfields.
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Some Mining Personnel Of Old

March 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Direct memories of its coalmine are fast fading in the village. Quite a few of the current generation are  employed in the service industry and covet designer goods rather than work in a dangerous and dirty mine with jam sandwiches at ‘bait’ time. Perhaps that is a good thing! I wonder if the following details are of some interest to the ‘young ones’ [as Cliff would describe them]:

The Colliery Manager, before Nationalization in 1947, was responsible to the colliery owner’s agent. He had to complete monthly and annual reports, construct plans and create estimates. He required a very good knowledge of mining engineering – even though he would have  professional engineers on site to cover electrical and mechanical aspects of the mining operations. He would have an under manager; I believe that after WW2 many of the newer under managers were ex university men. If you look on the Durham Mining Museum site you will have the opportunity to take one of the old colliery management exam papers –  set over a hundred years ago, if my memory serves me right.

Overmen could be described as supervisors. Their main aim was to ensure good coal outputs. They allocated work and monitored the number of men working for pay purposes. They kept an eye on conditions in the mine and ensured that the right materials were available at the right time. They were often wary of the manager and supported each other by ‘covering each others backs’ when necessary!

Deputies were usually promoted from the hewers , that is from the winners of coal.By their nature they were trusted and respected. They were required to write reports and keep the Overman aware of the conditions in the mine. Part of their role was to remove redundant props and that made it one of the most dangerous jobs in the pit because of the danger of roof collapse. A significant number of deputies were accidentally killed over the years.

Hewers were brave and super energetic coal producers – often over 21 years old. They dug the coal out and filled it into the coal tubs  provided by what was called the ‘putter’. For the sake of brevity I am not going to descibe developments in mechanized coal getting – such as shearers etc.

Some of the workers around the colliery yard included masons, fitters, joiners, painters, tub menders, saddlers, farriers and electricians.

It was a very important industry and  the jewel in the crown that made the Industrial Revolution possible. Without coal miners the young ones of today would very probably not be part of an advanced nation. Even people on welfare benefits are wealthy compared to the vast majority of humans on this planet of ours and much of that is surely down to the heritage of coal  and  the raw courage of the miners.


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Church Ladies Enthralled By Coal Miners

January 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving a presentation to twenty two ladies of a local church concerning  some economic and social aspects of coal mining. This was my third such talk; the previous ones had been at Surrey University and the University of the Third Age.

I emphasised the importance of coal to the Industrial Revolution and contrasted the advantages of coal over wind power and water. Wind power was spasmodic and unreliable; water storage was expensive and businessmen had the problem of having to locate to fast flowing streams that were often in remote locations. I put the view that railways created a double demand for coal. It was needed for smelting the iron used in railway construction and for the running of locomotives. Industry demanded more and more coal as steam power  and mechanization become more general between 1830 -1850. There was also increasing domestic consumption. Demand was met by working existing mines more deeply and extensively. In addition new mines were created and some abandoned ones were reactivated. The coal industry demanded and got more labour and capital.

Coal Production in Great Britain – expressed in millions of tons:

1700   2.50

1800  10.00

1830  23.00

1856   65.00

1913  285.00

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An Ushaw Moor Lad’s Experience in the Cumberland Coalfield 2/2

October 30, 2008 Leave a comment

I managed to wake up[4.45 am] in time to make my way to Lowca Colliery for a 6am start in my new job as weighman. It turned out to be an incredibly monotonous job. I was required to keep a paper record of the weight of all the individual coal tubs that past by my little cabin, by reference to a big scale, and then total them for submission to the Colliery Manager’s Clerk. I did that for twelve hours a day, five days a week [excluding breaks for lunch]. The money was good but the job was way beneath the potential of any human being. I respected a man called Pat – he had lost the sight of one eye, probably in a mining accident.  Part of his job was to ensure that the coal tubs, which were freshly drawn from underground, got to me from the pit top without coming off the rails – and he did it in a very vigorous and efficient manner.  I remember another strongly built lad who appeared quite fresh in the morning but always took on a gaunt and haunted look by late afternoon. I sometimes spotted him in the street after work; with the benefit of a shower and smart clean clothing he looked almost a different person. Even in 1964 ‘screen lasses’ were employed at the pit to extract metals and stone from coal. They got tired and dirty but again I admired the fact that they put so much effort in for such low wages.

On the 7th of April 1964 I got out of bed at 4.45 am – Groundhog Day – I guess that you have seen the film – and eventually got to the bus stop to wait for the Lowca Colliery works bus. Two policemen approached me and one of them said to me “good morning sir, may I ask you what you are doing at a bus stop at quarter past five in the morning?” I replied that I was waiting for a bus. He expressed surprise and said ‘waiting for a bus – at this time – what is the number of the bus sir?” I explained that being a works bus, with Lowca Colliery as its destination, it did not have a number. He looked at his colleague – thanked me – and they both walked on. When I got home I told my mother about the incident and she replied that a man, John Alan West, had been brutally murdered, in his home, at about 4am. His house was not much more than thirty yards from the bus stop I used to wait for the bus. What had happened was that Peter Anthony Allen and his wife, together with their lodger Gwynne Owen Evans, had travelled from Preston to Seaton that morning. While Mrs Allen stayed in the car [thinking that the men were seeking a loan from Mr West] they went into his house and stabbed and battered him to death.  They stole two bank books and a watch. Evans left his raincoat behind and within it was a medallion – which was inscribed with his name!  Needless to say they were soon arrested and charged with Capital murder. They pleaded not guilty but the jury took only three hours to find them both guilty. They were hanged a few months later. It is notable that no further judicial hangings have taken place in the United Kingdom.  So I had been interviewed in a murder enquiry!
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