Chester-le-Street Heritage Group

Waldridge “D” Colliery - (Busty Pit)

Number of Pits & Drifts

Three Pits & 6. Drifts.

Names of Pit and Drifts in area.

PITS - 1. Waldridge “A” Pit.

         2. Waldridge “D” Pit (Busty)

         3. Byron Colliery (opened approx. 1850) and             which stood to the west towards Edmondsley             named after the wife of Lord Byron a            member of the coal mining Milbanke family.



DRIFTS - 1.  Shield Row Drift.

             2. Smithy Dene Drift.  

             3. The Dene Drift (known locally as                  Nettlesworth Drift) which between 1952 -                 1974 was worked from the “A” Pit.  

             4. East Drift.  

             5. West Drift (closed 1953).

             6. Fell Edge drift.           


Seams Worked

1894 - Busty, Main.

1914 - Busty, Hutton, Low Main, Main Coal,           Shield Row.

1921 - Brass Thill, Busty, Hutton, Low Main,

          Shield Row.

1924 - Brass Thill, Busty, Low Main

1927 - Brass Thill, Busty, Low Main


Busty Seam, 4 feet thick. The Tilly Seam which was below the Harvey Seam and was only  

18”-20” thick.  

There were two coal faces, one straight West towards Sacriston, and the other towards Kimblesworth. The Busty seam was also linked to Chester Moor Colliery.

The Colliery School


This was built in 1834 by the owners and an infant’s school was added in 1893. In 1834 about 300 children attended the school.









The Methodist Chapel


This was opened in March 1868 and was later converted to a Guest House and today (2017) it is a private dwelling house.







St. Barnabas Church


Built in 1857 is now a garden centre known as

St. Barnabas' Nursery (2017).









William Street and Hylton Street


These streets were located behind the guest house and were demolished in 1960s.








The Working  Men’s Club


“Dene House” whose foundation stone was laid on the 15 July 1905,  closed in 2001 owing to large debts.

Waldridge “D” Pit - 1893

Map - Waldridge Village - c1920

Colliery Name

Waldridge Colliery “D” Pit (Busty)


Location of Colliery

Waldridge - 5 miles (8 kms) NNW of Durham, 1½ mile SW of Chester-le-Street via West Lane Road.


Upon arriving at Waldridge Village via West Lane Chester-le-Street the road turns left and after a short distance it bends right leading to Sacriston, however instead of going around this bend continue straight ahead along a country lane leading to Chester Moor, the “D” pit was on the left hand side of this road, opposite the Garden Centre (2016) The stables were on the same side as the “D” Pit. (See Map c1920).

Waldridge Methodist Chapel

St. Barnabas Church

William Street - Waldridge

Waldridge Fell School c1960

A Brief History

The Busty Seam ran for miles throughout the surrounding area and was worked by several different mines and that is why there are several other mines in the area known as “The Busty”. There were “Busty Pits” at Craghead 2.4 miles away 1839-1969 and at Pelton which was 1.1 miles away , which closed in 1965.

The shaft was sunk in 1874 and was 100 fathoms deep. It was 12 ft 6 ins in diameter and there was also a ventilation shaft 12 ft in diameter to the Busty Seam at 98 fathoms. (A fathom was 6 ft 6 ins).


Waldridge Working Mens Club 1922

Colliery Owners


1875 Sowerby, Phillips & Company.

(Royalties and relevant maps in doc 1).

    

1880s Thiedemann & Wallis.


1910 Priestman collieries Ltd.


Colliery Owners also owned.


George Sowerby & Partners also owned the “A” Pit at Waldridge.

Thiedemann & Wallis owned South Moor.


Year Opened or Sunk.


The ”D” Pit was sunk in 1874 and opened in 1875.

The Year the Pit Closed.


The last shift was worked on 16th March 1963 and the pit closed in 1964, unable to convince the NCB that the Harvey Seam could be worked and the coal could be used for commercial purposes. The NCB also stated that the workings had reached the “Boundary Line” between Waldridge and Sacriston therefore it had to close. (Waldridge D pit was also linked to Chester Moor Colliery, e.g. you could walk to the seams in the other colliery as an extra means of egress if the need arose.)

A 1966 report stated that “The older men are now in their third year of redundancy payments, the younger ones continue working in the coastal mines at East Durham the Midlands or North Yorkshire, and some of the men chose to work in the factories at Team Valley”


The 18 ft. pit head shaft was blown up on 10th Sept 1969 for the TV Film Germinal. It took three blasts of gelignite before the head gear (winding wheel) fell. Several of the local miners took part as extras in the film.


(SEE THE FULL ACCOUNT OF THE FILMING LATER IN THIS REPORT).

Output.


The daily output of the “D” and “A” pits was over 700tons, a third of which was converted into coke on the premises. The Busty seam was coking coal.


1888  Coal.

1896  Coal, Coking Coal and Gas

1902  Coal, Coking Coal and Gas

1914  Coal, Coking Coal and Gas.

1927  Coal, Gas Steam.


Different coals were blended together for use in different industries.


Brickworks.


There was a brick works mainly producing bricks for use in the colliery.

1954 Chester Brick co. Ltd at Plawsworth produced sand lime bricks and it was the first of its kind in the North East. Mr. Wales the owner of the Smithy Dene Drift opened it.


Cokeworks.


Coke was produced in large quantities from Bee-hive coke ovens situated between the two pits, to meet the demands of the iron and steel industry at Consett and Middlesbrough.

There was a coke works which opened in 1876 and closed in 1900, however as the coal produced from the Busty Pit was coking coal, there was a coke works on the site throughout the history of the pit.

The contract for the erection of fifty coke ovens for the owners of Waldridge Colliery had been secured by our townsmen Messrs. Thompson and Punshon.         

(Information from Chester-le-Street Times 11th Oct 1879).

Waldridge Coke Oven Workers c1900

(William Murray is 3rd from left back row).

The “Last Shift”  16th March, 1963.

Gasworks.


1890 gas works provided coal gas for street lamps and domestic use.


Pit Baths.


On 23rd December 1955 the Durham Chronicle reported that the Chester Moor Colliery baths and canteen had just been opened. Waldridge Colliery workers probably shared these facilities


Works Canteen.


See above report, canteen opened 23rd December 1955.

Drift Mines.


There were several drift mines at Waldridge:


Shield Row Drift - opened in conjunction with the “A”                           Colliery in 1831.

                          Output 1914 -1927 Coal, coking, gas,                           steam…    closed 1928

East Drift.

West Drift.

Pump Drift.

Railway Drift.

Fell Edge Drift - See photograph opposite take 2015

Smithy Dene Drift. (Privately owned - Quarry Company)

The Dene Drift - known locally as the” Nettlesworth Drift”.                         1952-1974

Smithy Dene Drift Mine Entrance

Fell Edge Drift Mine Entrance - 2015

Entrance still visible

The Smithy Dene Drift Mine


The Smithy Dene Drift was privately owned by Charles William Wales a cousin of Luther Wales and opened in 1950 and closed in May 1992. It was situated on the right hand side of the Waldridge to Edmondsley road before reaching the pit pond. Today as of 2016 there are some metal gates at the side of the road which indicate the site.

The Smithy Dene was first worked as a Barites quarry by The Smithy Dene Quarry Co.Ltd.. Coal drifts were brought into use about 1952, working the Five Quarter seam. The Smithy Dene Co., thereafter operated the site purely as a coal mine until it’s closure. Mr R. Crooks was manager from 1972 -1990.

The mine broke into earlier mine workings where old timbering, a sledge, a hammer and parts of a leather shoe were found.

 In 1979 there were 16 men working below ground and three on the surface.

 In 1990 there were 6 men below ground and two on the surface.

When the mine closed in 1992 it ended two hundred years of mining at Waldridge Fell.

Nettlesworth Dene Drift surface works c1968

The Dene Drift - (known as the Nettlesworth Drift)


The Dene Drift opened in 1952 and closed in 1974. It was accessed via a country road which ran past the East side of The Swan Inn (later The Inn on the Green) and continued down to the Cong Burn at the bottom of the bank. Half way down this bank on the left hand side was the Working Men’s Club and Dene Cottages built in 1894.The road leading into the Drift ran between these two buildings. The correct name for this drift is “The Dene Drift”, however when the West Drift at Nettlesworth closed the workers were transferred to the Dene Drift and as most of the men employed came from Nettlesworth it became referred to locally as the “Nettlesworth Drift”. This lead to a lot of confusion as it was actually at Waldridge. Several of the newspaper cuttings and photos refer to it as the Nettlesworth Drift.  The Dene Drift worked a seam left from the old Waldridge “A” Pit.

The stables for the pit ponies from the drift were situated along the Waldridge to Chester Moor road beside the “D” Pit. The men would walk the pit ponies up the bank to the stables at the end of their shift. There were 21-24 pit ponies in 1963. A photographer (in 1963) took some very atmospheric photos of the miners leading the ponies up the bank in the morning mist.

These can be accessed at: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Some of the miners from the Drift took part in the in BBC TV film Germinal in 1969. (See later article covering the filming of Germinal).

Entrance to Dene Drift between Dene Cottages and the Working Men’s Club.

The Dene Drift (known as the Nettlesworth Drift with Dene Cottages on the left.

East Drift.


The East drift was situated on the left hand side of the road if travelling from Waldridge to Edmondsley. It closed early 1950s.


West Drift.


The West Drift was situated on the same side of the road to the East Drift and closed in 1950 due to bad roof conditions caused by working seams too close to the surface. The men who worked here were mainly from Nettlesworth and when this drift closed the men were transferred to The Dene Drift at Waldridge, hence the reason why the Dene Drift was known locally as the “Nettlesworth Drift.”

 

Fell Edge Drift.


The Fell Edge Drift was situated on the road to Chester Moor and closed in approximately 1960.


Waldridge Fell Drift.


In 1930’s it was owned by the Waldridge Coal Co Ltd.

In 1947 it was owned by the National Coal Board.

Output in 1950’s was coal and gas.

Employment 1940 - 1998 …76 Below Ground and 22 Surface workers.

1950 …. 2 below ground, and 1 surface worker.

1950 …. The seam worked was the Main Seam.


Number of Employees.


Dene Drift. 113 Underground. 25-30 Surface workers. They worked 3 coal seams, which was deep for a drift. The shifts were 7am-2.30.pm. 3pm.-10.15pm & 12 midnight-7.15am.

Names of Employees.

We would like to express our grateful thanks to George Burlison for remembering the names of all the following people who worked with him at The Dene Drift in the 1970s and prior to its closure in 1974.


George Burlison.                       Deputy.

G. Clasper                                Overman

W. Hitch.                                 Deputy.

H. Hall.                                     Deputy.

R. Rawlings.                              Deputy

W. Davison.                              Deputy

J. Stanger.                                Deputy.

R. Hodgson.                              Pony Putter.  (Filled the tubs                                                which the pony hauled)

G. Evans                                   Pony Putter

D. Hutchinson.                          Pony Putter.

W. Oyston.                               Pony Putter.

E. Dunn.                                   Pony Putter.

J. McQuiggan.                           Pony Putter.

E. Gibson.                                Pony Putter.

R. Robson.                               Coal  Hewer.

T. Dazely.                                Coal Hewer.

H. Willis.                                  Coal Hewer.

J. Willis.                                  Coal Hewer.

E. Willis.                                  Coal Hewer.

A. Nicholson.                            Coal Hewer.

W. Blakey.                               Coal Hewer.

W. Savory.                               Pumpman.

J. Cutmore.                              Pumpman

D. Nixon.                                  Horse Keeper.

A. Cuthbert.                             Horse Keeper.

Robert Glenwright.                   Horse Keeper.

Robert Jamfrey.                       Blacksmith.

T. Bell.                                    Blacksmith

T. Cutmore.                             Wagonwayman.

P. Wardle.                               Wagonwayman.  (Rope repairs                                                and track repairs and laid new                                                railway tracks as workings                                                progressed deeper into the                                                mine.)

J. Graham.                              Hauler Driver.

G. Coulson.                             Hauler Driver.

William Graham.                      Surface worker.

William Marrs.                         Chargehand.

Harry Eddy.                             Chargehand.

F. Maughan                              Electrician.

H. Hunter.                               Mechanical Fitter.

J. Gibson                                 Datal worker

C. McKenzie                             Datal worker.

R. Patterson.                            Datal worker.

A. Graham.                              Datal worker.

E. Wilde.                                 Datal worker.

John Bell.                                Lamp Cabin Man.


NOTE.  Deputies……most Deputies had tickets to be a shot firer, however some shot firer’s did not want to be Deputies as they did not want the responsibility of writing reports.

Brothers Joe and Richard Bell worked at the “D” Pit in 1940s.

Accidents.


John Morley age 61 yrs. Born 1885 was accidentally killed at Waldridge Drift on 7th Jan 1946.

He is buried at Pelton cemetery.

William Johnson age 48 yrs. Boiler man killed in explosion. See newspaper cutting.

George Cummings age 44 years.  See  below:

Jim Hodgson-Hutton died 18. July 1939.

Documents.


GERMINAL

In 1969 a BBC film crew came to Waldridge to film Emile Zola’s book “GERMINAL”, this told the story of an uprising at a pit in France in the 19th century.  

Some of the miners who worked at Waldridge Dene Drift were hired as film extras. They had to finish their shift at the drift before turning up for filming which they were keen to do as they were paid £6.6p a day as an extra, and they earned £5 per day as a miner. A lot of them bought BBC 2 aerials for their TVs so they could watch the film in colour.

The film required the pit head wheel to be demolished in an explosion, so they had to reshape the headgear to make it look authentic 19th Century period. The original pit head wheel was removed and preserved in Beamish Museum, so in the photos of the shaft head being blown up it should be noted that the winding gear on top was not the original. The crew also fashioned braziers, old wooden tubs and cobble stones made out of rubber. Crowds of local residents turned up to witness the explosion, however it took three blasts of gelignite before the head gear fell, 20lb then 60lb and finally the following day 200lb. One of the onlookers was heard to comment that any shot firer could have brought it down in one.

The filming attracted a lot of local interest and there are several newspaper cuttings relating to the subject in the attached photographic archive.

Faces in the photograph:


Back Row - L/R:

O. Coulson, J. Whittaker, T. Bellamy, M. White, ??, H.Eddie, H.Snaith, ??, H.Snaith Jnr., R. Scott, Robert Glenwright, W. Graham, T. Calvert, ??, T. Dazely,

J. McQuiggan.  H. Graham.


Front Row = L/R:

R. Robson, ??, L. Bowen, J. Hall, ??, ??, ??, G. Evans, D. Hutchinson, W. Herring, W. Davison.

Another unrelated explosion happened in 1937

when the Busty chimney was demolished.

Jim Hodgson-Hutton

Demolition of the “Pit Head Wheel” which took three attempts.

PHOTOGRAPHS.

WALDRIDGE PITS By GEORGE BURLISON


The “D” Pit was situated on the Waldridge to Chester Moor road. On the right hand corner of the road is a large private house with wrought iron gates leading into a courtyard, this was previously a Guest House and was originally the site of the Methodist Mission Chapel. Next to this house is a Garden Centre (2016) on the site of St. Barnabas’s Church. The D pit was opposite the Garden Centre and the stables for the pit ponies were next to the D pit. When the owner of the Garden Centre was digging the foundations of his house (Wannister House 2011) he discovered that the site had previously been one of the pit ponds. There were originally two pit ponds which were both clean water as they were used to drive the steam driven machinery needed to raise and lower the cages. (Some of the pit ponds were dirty water which had been pumped out of the pits) When the steam driven winding mechanism changed to Electricity the boiler houses were no longer needed. If you look at a photo of a pithead wheel and there is a steel frame (or sometimes a triangle) surrounding the wheel it means that it has been converted  to electricity. Some headgear had two wheels indicating that there were two cages side by side in the shaft. There were three shafts at Waldridge A, C and D. One was an air shaft, one for pumping water and the third was for “men riding” and tubs.

Different shifts may have worked different seams, but only one seam at a time, the Day shift may have worked one seam and the night shift another. If the seam was narrow e.g. the Tilley Seam, 18-20” high a conveyer belt was used instead of pit ponies (this seam closed as it was not viable.) In a deeper seam like the Busty which was about 6 ft wide you worked in a 25 yd square up the right side, along the top, down the left side, you advanced about 6 ft per day. 20 tubs were filled at a time and transported to the shaft where the railway lines converged into a circular arrangement around the cages. One cage went up full while the other one came down empty. On the surface the tubs were emptied onto” the screens” these were conveyer belts which ran over coal hoppers stationed below, about 20 men (depending on the Colliery) worked on the screens picking out the stones and dropping them into the hopper below, from there the waste was transported to the pit heaps. Sometimes if another shift came on and the coal was left on the screens, the men cleared the conveyer belt dropping the coal into the hoppers as well. This meant that there was loads of good coal dumped on the pit heap which could cause the heap to burn through spontaneous combustion; a heap could smoulder for many months. Pits heaps were “out of bounds” although some children managed to play on them. It was illegal to remove coal from the pit heaps. The story is told of one very elderly gentleman who was caught removing coal in his wheel barrow, they were sympathetic because of his age and acknowledged that he couldn’t afford to buy coal, so instead of prosecuting him they cut the handles off his wheel barrow to stop him.

The men took bottles of water or flasks of cold tea to drink down the pit, Lots of men took jam and bread to eat, but these had to be secured in a bait tin (later plastic containers) to stop the mice from eating them, (or the pit ponies) it was useless to put any food in a jacket pocket. There were hundreds of small mice down the pit which were brought down in the horses choppy(hay) there were rats in the Dene Drift but none down the pit. At Westoe Colliery during the miner’s strike 1984-85 the horses were brought up to the surface and there wasn’t any food or scraps for the mice to eat, so they starved and ate each other. When the strike was over there weren’t any mice left down the pit.

No miner ate much underground, the crouching position in which men worked caused heartburn if the stomach was too full, nothing fried was ever eaten underground or just before going down.

Some History of Waldridge Fell - originally Waldridge Colliery.


Houses of the early 1800s were built to house the miners who were to work in the collieries. History says that, up to thirteen collieries have been worked on the fells, although some have probably been drift mines, as well as shaft mines.

In my time, my memories are of their having been two shaft pits in the village, namely the “A” pit and the “D” pit, with only the D pit been worked in my lifetime. The D pit closed in March 1963, with the pit head gear finally been blown up during the making of the French film Germinal. This film dealt with striking French miners throwing equipment and other things down the shaft to trap the miners working below. This mirrored true life in Waldridge when not long after the opening of the A pit in 1831 a dispute arose and miners went on strike. The mining company used scab labour so the striking miners threw things down the shaft trapping the scab labour below.

Some of the drift mines worked during my time included the Fell Edge drift on the Chester Moor road, of which evidence still exists, and which closed about 1960. East and West drifts on the left side of the road heading towards Edmondsley with the East drift closing in the early 1950s.

West drift, now a nature reserve closed about the end of the 1950s due to bad roof condition, caused by working the coal seams too near to the surface. It was said by older workmen that you often had to dig out turnips or potatoes before hewing your coal.

To save the men becoming redundant, other work needed to be found for them. This wasn’t easy as D pit could not take on any more men as the shaft was working to full capacity and could not draw any more coal. Plans for the Nettlesworth Dene drift showed that if a drift mine could be driven into the area beside Waldridge Workmen’s club and Dene House then three coal seams could be worked.

One of which would work towards the A and D pits, through old workings to coal that had not been worked, possibly due to wet conditions. Work started in 1951 to drive a roadway 180 feet long at a 1 in 3 gradient to the Low Main seam, followed by another one 120 feet at a 1 in 3 gradient to the Hutton seam. The total vertical depth was therefore more than 100 feet which was well below the Cong Burn. These are deep workings for a drift mine. The mine eventually closed in September 1974, 23 years after opening, which is a long time for a drift mine.

The coal from this mine went mainly Birtley brick works and also for workmen’s coal. Sid Roberts was a one truck operator from Chester-le-Street and had the contract to deliver the miners coal, in the days when miners received one ton a month. The lorry had three compartments and three separate doors. The man who got the first drop from the lorry, also got some of the second and third mans coal.

A private drift also operated on Waldridge Fell, named the Smithy Dene, which was on the right hand side of the road heading towards Edmondsley, next to the pond. This finally closed in the 1990s.

A lot of houses have disappeared from Waldridge. The one’s before my time, but of which evidence was still visible during my youth, were Red Row, The Circle, The Square, Ellen Street, William Street, Ten Houses, The Brick Flats, Dayhole Cottage and Undercliffe Cottage.

Others which have also gone include, Low Dene Cottages, Hylton Street, High Row ( also known as Blue Row), The Stables which were Lord Lambton’s stables and then turned into cottages. There was Old Row which adjoined the Swan Public House, later named the Waldridge Tavern and then the Inn on the Green. It now lies empty.

A post office was also at No. 1 Chester Street, run by an old lady by the name of Mrs. Ada Gardiner ( I cannot remember when this closed) A post office and general dealers did reopen in the Swan public house for a while and was ran by a Mr and Mrs Reed, but didn’t last long.    See newspaper cuttings below:


The Swan was bought by Mr Joe Mulchaie, done out very nicely and reopened as the Waldridge  Tavern , also serving meals. Later a bigger eating area was added. I think the brewery serving this pub was Greenhall’s. Eventually in difficulty it was taken over by Vaux Breweries. The Swan was closed in 1961, and the licence was transferred to the Whitehill Public House built at this time on the road leading east to Chester-le-street. Waldridge Workingmen’s club built in 1905, closed in 2001 due to large debts, and although reopening in 2002 as a private club it only lasted for another couple of years. Sadly it now lies derelict.

Other buildings in my time are the Methodist Chapel, now a guest house, St Barnabas church, now a garden centre and the Co-op, now luxury apartments. The village school, which also had two houses was sited between the chapel and the church, but they were all demolished around the late 1950s or early 1960s.

The mineral railway from Pelton Fell to Waldridge, opened in 1831 and would be worked by horses and stem. It was extended to Sacriston and the colliery there in 1835 and worked by a self acting incline whereby the full trucks coming down to Waldridge hauled the empty trucks back up to Sacriston. The section from Waldridge to Pelton Fell was eventually worked by steam locomotive, the driver being Tom Burlison, who lived at “The Stables”. The line closed in 1955, the coal then been transported by road by local haulier G. A. Bamborough.

The small coal track beds were dug up and used by Swalwell Power Station, the haulier on this contract was Todd’s of Wolsingham.

There were also some small shops in Waldridge ran from within people’s houses, one in Olive Street which was owned by Pearson’s and which probably closed in the early 1950s. There was another in Chester Street owned by Curry’s and another one in Pine Street owned by Slater’s. I think these probably closed in the 1960’s as bigger shops like Walter Wilson’s opened in Chester-le-Street and the small house shops could not compete.

Waldridge also once had a fish and chip shop, which was a tin hut on wheels, I think this was originally owned by someone called Vigo.



George Burlison.

During the 1921 strike, several appeals for financial help were made.

Waldridge Colliery before demolition. This shows the triangular metal frame around the head gear indicating that the mechanism had been changes from steam to electric.

Waldridge Colliery at a time when steam was used to operate the lift cage.

Waldridge “D” Pit 1893 - Men with some of their garden produce.

The railway line leading from Waldridge Colliery, past the Working Men’s Club to Pelton Fell.

Waldridge Bank Foot. In the background Pelton Fell Working Men’s Club and in the far distance the Bust Bridge.

The Waldridge Miners Banner in front of the “Swan Inn”, later to be named “The Waldridge Tavern” and then “The Inn On The Green”. The two men in the bowler hats to the right of the banner were Mr. George Hall and Mr. Thomas Hollows.

This banner is the 3rd to be unfurled in 1909 by John Wilson and was produced by “Tutill” and bore a Lion & Lamb scene on one side and the North Road Miners Hall in Durham on the other side.

George Burlison - a man who is “a mine of information”.

Click on the Newspaper Cutting to enlarge.

Click on the Newspaper Cutting to enlarge.

The following document THE HISTORY OF WALDRIDGE FELL was also written by Mr. George Burlison.

Bait Time on the coal face - jam and bread, washed down with water was popular to avoid heartburn and indigestion.

Click on MAP to enlarge

Mrs Ada Gardiner Retires.

Durham Chronicle 30-04-1956

Waldridge Post Mistress dies

Durham Chronicle 07-06-1956

Click on cutting to enlarge:

Click on cutting to enlarge:

A Woman’s look at Waldridge


In February 1985, Mrs Mary Coates (nee Usher) died, aged 82. She was born in Poplar Street, Waldridge and has left as her epitaph, a graphic and detailed account of her childhood in her beloved village.


This is her story:


Waldridge was a very happy community; every­body knew each other and many families were un­ited in marriage.

I was 12 when a new school was built right out­side the village and we travelled in the winter with the snow up to our waists. There weren’t Wellington's then and we wore laced boots.

In the summer it was alright, we took our baits and a tin bottle of tea and warmed in beside the stoves until flasks came into use.

On Sundays, in the after­noon we were taken for a walk with my father while mother baked. We used to meet the ice cream man Mr. Citrone, he had a little square cart he stood in the middle of and we got a “Vid Cornet” and it was a real treat.

Those were the good old days in spite of what people say today, it made men work and work hard, it was not an easy life, but it brought the best out of everyone.


There was a little dance hall hut beside The Swan Inn and many a good night was passed there.

The cobbler was Mr. H. Wright and his little house was called Belle Vue Cot­tage, he had a beautiful garden with apple and plum trees.


This is a little insight of our beautiful village 70 years ago which has now been rebuilt with many new houses.

The best thing that hap­pened was when they dis­pensed with the earth closets, and got flush toilets. It was when they pulled the houses down which belonged to the Col­liery.



There were 100 houses done away with, then they closed the pit and the min­ers had to travel to Chester Moor and many left to go to the other pits.

The houses pulled down were Low Row, The Stables, High Rows, Brick Flats and the Square. The rest of the other houses were in streets named after trees. There was Oak Street, Elm, Lime, Cedar, Poplar, and Chester Front Street and Blue Row. They were up and down houses and the newly married couples got them.

The coke ovens were al­ways kept going and the tramps made for them to spend the nights where it was warm.



There was a drift mine and the horses pulled the coals out of there and when it was home time the horses made for their stables. It was like a race course, everyone had to scatter.


There is only the Primi­tive Chapel left and it cele­brated 110 years this year (1985).

We loved hay stacking time - the stack yard held about three stacks. The hay buggy was popular; after it was unloaded we were given rides, what fun we had.

People used to sit on the Fell and enjoy the horse going round and round and the elevator taking the hay up.

We had picnics and we played hide and seek.

When any family had a bereavement, everybody walked with the hearse and cabs to Chester-le-Street. Two men walked in front for a woman and two women if it was a man.

They used to bring the coffin outside and put it upon two chairs and have a service at the door.

Black edged cards and letters were sent out to friends, which cost ½d  for cards and 1d for letters. Everyone in the village was told by two ladies of every­one else’s troubles, they were called Bidders.

People kept pigs and poultry and they killed the pigs in the street on a wood cradle.



Mrs. Mary Coates.

The Chester Post: 7th March, 1985.