Chester-le-Street Heritage Group
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A Brief History of the Heritage Group
Chester-le-Street Heritage Group was formed in 1986, although its origins go back to the mid 1960s when it was known as Chester-le-Street Local History Society. The main activities of the Group are the study of local history issues, in particular Chester-le-Street and the surrounding area.
Our intention is to research and share information and knowledge relating to the history of Chester-le-Street throughout the ages. Wherever possible we aim to publish either in Newsletter, Book, CD or through this website, information that we feel may be of interest to amateur or professional historians, researchers into family trees or even those who only want to find out a bit more about our town.
In early August 2007, the Charity Commission confirmed that Chester-le-Street Heritage Group had been awarded Charity Status.
Registered Charity No: 1120080.
Up for sale - The site of the Civic Centre
The site where the Civic Centre once stood is now up for sale. Durham County Council has announced that the land is on the market, but the asking price is currently unknown.
The Civic Centre was opened by the Duke of Gloucester on the 6th May, 1982 and demolished in November 2014 and won awards for its design and its steel construction. There was even an attempt to save the building by having it made Grade II listed, but that unfortunately failed.
However, there has now been a call for the money raised by the sale of the land to be reinvested in the town. One suggestion is for the money to be used to directly support community buildings, which would benefit all residents and the various groups such as those running art projects and youth groups etc..
The land is now earmarked for new housing.
Rare WW1 Photos at County Hall Exhibition
Reconnaissance photographs from the 1st World War show the effects of a raid on the German trenches at Cherisy in France by the 9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.
The exhibition started on 15th September and runs until the summer of 2018. Admission is free and the exhibition is open from Monday to Friday from 9am until 4pm.
TV Screens proposal for Parish Church scrapped.
Plans to install several 50” TV screens to the interior pillars of the Parish Church have been scrapped due to opposition from members of the congregation, Historic England and Chester-le-Street Heritage Group.
The church is a Grade 1 listed building dating from the 13th Century and stands on the site of original wooden church where the body of St. Cuthbert lay before moving to Durham Cathedral.
OLD PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION
The recently held “old photographic exhibition” at the Lambton Arms, has proven to be a very popular event and will be the venue of choice for future displays.
The exhibition featured photographs from the Group’s recent research into the local Collieries, including Pelton Fell, South Pelaw, Waldridge A and D pits and there was also a collection of old photographs of teachers and pupils who attended Chester-le-Street Secondary Modern School, at Bullion Lane in days gone by.
If anyone is interested in in seeing the collections, they will be available to view when the Group restarts its Drop-In Sessions in September. (See Below).
Volunteer Centre on Osborne Road Demolished.
The Volunteer Centre on Osborne Road has now been demolished following a successful Planning Application to build fourteen new apartments. The site has now been cleared and is currently being used as a private car park until the building works commence.
Finchale Training College backdrop to George Gently
The college has been returned to normal following it being transformed into a Police Station for the new series of George Gently, the BBC’s well-loved Crime Drama due to be aired on 21st May and later this year.
Unfortunately, this will be the last series for Gently and Bacchus and will include two feature-length episodes entitled “Gently Liberated” and “Gently and the New Age”.
In December last year,the College was transformed into a 1940s period Police Station and its reception area converted into a full custody suite.
Roman Bathhouse found in Chester-le-Street
The remains of a “Roman Bathhouse” and “Hot Room” are believed to have been found in the back gardens of two adjoining homes in the town. Amateur Archaeologists were given permission from the householders to dig test holes in their back gardens, which soon revealed the remains of a wall about two feet below the surface which were identified as the rooms where the legionnaires would have changed. It has always been believed that a bathhouse must have existed near the Roman Fort in the town and these finds have been dated by experts to around 150AD , in the time of the Emperor Hadrian. The excavations have now been covered over again.
WARDLES BRIDGE INN - Demolished 13th February, 2017
This week saw the demolition of the old Wardles Bridge Inn, which at one time in the none to distant past was a popular watering hole. Recent planning permission has been obtained for the building of 10 holiday homes, each with a “sun hut” on the site.
The original Inn was located further along the road and still stands today, although it is now a private home and was in existence in the 1850s. The name “Wardles” probably derives from that of the Wardel family who owned nearby Edmondsley in 17th & 18th Centuries.
HSBC Bank Closed
The HSBC Branch at 101, Front Street, Chester-le-Street, closed its doors for the final time on Friday 20th January, 2017 at 2.30pm..
All accounts will have been transferred to their Bridges branch at: 49-51, The Bridges Shopping Centre, Market Square, Sunderland and staff will have been transferred to the HSBC branches at Durham & Sunderland.
Mendip House undergoes demolition - 19/09/2016
This week sees the demolition of Mendip House on West Lane, which was previously a nursing home that closed earlier this year.
Built in 1959, Mendip House provided 28 beds which were all single rooms, but were not en-suite. The two story building also included spacious lounges and dining areas.
Civil War Skeletons to be re-buried
The remains of around 17 to 28 sets of skeletons which were discovered during the course of building works on Palace Green, Durham in 2013, are to be re-interred at Elvet Hill Cemetery.
The skeletons are those of Scottish prisoners who were captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. They were apparently forced to march from south east Scotland to Durham City. Many died during the journey, some however escaped, but others were executed or died of disease or malnutrition while imprisoned.
It is possible that there are more mass graves lying uder the current University buildings.
Dainty Dinah Memorabilia in St. Cuthbert’s Walk
Chester-le-Street Heritage Group have set up a mini exhibition of Dainty Dinah and Horner’s memorabilia in the vacant display windows at St. Cuthbert’s Walk shopping mall.
DLI Museum & Art Gallery Closed
The DLI Museum in Durham closed its doors for the last time on 31st March for the final time. The collections will be transferred to a storage facility Spennymoor. Durham County Council are proposing to then demolish the museum and sell the land for housing.
This follows the recent announcement that County Hall is to be moved to new headquarters at a cost of £50 million.
Auckland Castle - Restaurant Dome Approved.
Plans to build a domed restaurant in the former private gardens of the Bishop Of Durham at Auckland Castle have been granted by Durham County Council. The work will begin in September 2016 when the £10m scheme designed by Japanese Architects SANAA will involve the installation of large glass domes which is part of the £60m development of the Auckland Castle Site.
Bede’s World Saved!!
This remarkable tourist attraction was first opened in 1993 at a cost of £10m on a site which covers some 11 acres. The facility features a Museum, Replica Buildings and Farm Animals. It appears that the complex was no longer financially viable as a result, in part, to the cuts in Government funding and now South Tyneside Council who own the land and building are looking at a range of options in the hope that the site can be secured for the future. The good news is that the charity “Groundwork South Tyneside & Newcastle” has stepped in and will take over the running of the Museum and hopefully will save the jobs of 27 people. (March 2016).
Lottery Funding To Resurrect Hylton Castle
The historic “Hylton Castle” in Sunderland which has been described as a “Forgotten Gem” along with an old Fire Station have been awarded a £5.4m cash boost by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Hylton Castle which dates from the 14th Century, but stands today as an empty shell, is set to become a Community, Educational and Visitor attraction with a £2.9m grant and a further £1.5m from Sunderland Council. Sunderland’s old Fire Station is to receive £2.5m to make it into an Arts & Heritage Centre.
Lambton Estate £28.5m plans set to secure its future.
It appears that a planning application put forward to secure the future of the Lambton Estate is expected to receive approval. The plans included building around 400 (mainly executive) homes at the estate’s southern edge along with shops, offices and a community hub.The money raised would be used to restore the Grade II listed Lambton Castle, the Lamb Bridge and some of the stables. Biddick Hall located within the Lambton Estate, was the setting for the recently televised BBC drama production “The Paradise”.
A new book - A DURHAM MINER & HIS WIFE
This is the new book by Dorothy Rand. It tells the story of Jack and Bella Lawson, later Lord and Lady Lawson of Beamish. Jack was a miner and lived locally 1910-1965, he worked as a member of the DMA, as a County Councillor and as our MP to improve the working and living conditions of miners and other workers. He was known as "The Champion of the Working Man". Bella pioneered Child Welfare Clinics in County Durham after WW1. New information provides interesting accounts of local events, including the story of the Lawsons' adopted son Clive who was killed by the Beamish Bomb in 1942.
Mine Shaft found at Birtley School
During the course of redevelopment of Ravensworth Terrace Primary School in Birtley, workmen discovered an old mineshaft.
The mineshaft is suspected as being that of an old 18th Century colliery known as “The Prospect Pit”. Fortunately, the shaft is not in the area of the schools proposed new building, but before any further work can be carried out on the redevelopment, the shaft will be capped as soon as possible.
New £50m Council Headquarters Proposed
Durham County Council are considering investing £50m of tax payers money into new headquarters. Apparently the current building at Aykley Heads is considered to be oversized and inefficient in a report to be discussed by cabinet. The report also suggests that the move would create up to 6,000 jobs and could put £1m into Durham City’s economy.
Souter Lighthouse Restoration.
Souter Lighthouse which is located on the North East Coast near Marsden, South Shields is to receive £120,000 of renovation.
The lighthouse was the first in the world to be powered by electricity and was brought into service in 1871, with the metal & glass domed Lantern Room being installed in 1915. Now after 100 years the original diamond shaped glass panes and metalwork are to be renovated. The Lighthouse is run by the National Trust and the work is expected to take approximately 10 weeks to complete.
The Chester Chronicle 1917 and 1918 Editions now available.
The Heritage Group have just completed the 1917 and 1918 Editions of the Chester-le-Street Chronicles which are now available on DVD. These digitised pages provide a fascinating insight into the period of the 1st World War and the effects it had upon our local community.
The new ‘Pelton Memorial’ unveiled Friday 20th March.
The new ‘Pelton Memorial’ has been installed opposite the entrance to the Lavender Centre in Pelton Village and was unveiled at 2pm on the afternoon on Friday 20th March, 2015. Kevan Jones MP, local Historian Dorothy A. Rand and Council dignitaries attended the unveiling.
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CAN YOU HELP?
Did you attend Chester-le-Street Grammar School in 1960?
Can you help identify the pupils and teachers in a collection of school photographs from Chester-le-Street Grammar School dating from the school year 1960? If so, we would very much appreciate your help. Just click on “View Photos” above to see the collection.
THE COLLIERIES PROJECT “The Chester Marras”
Did you work in the collieries? if so we need your help.
This project is the latest undertaking by the Heritage Group and covers the surrounding collieries of Chester-le-Street. The aim is to detail collectable information about the collieries and to display the results on this website. Just click on the READ MORE button.
Heritage Group Meetings
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Interested in “LOCAL HISTORY” ? Need help with your RESEARCH?
Then why not join “CHESTER-LE-STREET HERITAGE GROUP”.
Just click on the button below to find out more:
GRAMMAR SCHOOL 1960 Photographs
The “COLLIERIES” PROJECT
“FREE” Drop-In Sessions are held on Tuesday mornings
10am to 12 noon
in the Salvation Army Citadel on Low Chare.
The next Drop-In Session will be:
TUESDAY 21st November, 2017.
Bring your memories, photographs & memorabilia along,
meet the Members & view the Group’s Archive of our town.
Free Tea/Coffee and Biscuits
Click here to find out more:
The next meeting will take place on:
15th November, 2017.
In the Library on the Front Street
From 7pm to 9pm.
A discussion about the future of the towns
Heritage Trail & the Group’s next project.
(Small charge of £1.00 for Members and £2.00 for non-members).
Tea, Coffee & Biscuits included.
Click here to find out more:
“FREE Drop-In Sessions”