Landmark In Peterlee, County Durham
A town with a nature reserve, memorial garden, cemetry and a reconstructed miners pit cage, celebrating the times of mining in Easington Colliery.
I first knew of Easington Colliery due it being famous for Billy Elliot and local people are proud of that. A photograph from the area also features on the album cover of the Who's 'Who's Next' from 1971. A risque one at the time!
I got to know the area due to the Easington Colliery Local Nature Reserve which was the heart of the mining back in the day. From the car park there are paths that lead you nicely on to the Durham Heritage Coastal path. There is a pleasant walk if you take the path under the railway bridge along a path and take a left turn down steps and pass a WW2 Pill Box. This leads to the beach which is mainly stones of all shapes and sizes but attractive. you will see signs of the Victorian industries from this area such as bricks, iron deposits and sea glass.
Mining heritage is well known in the area, and in its heyday some tunnels went 4 miles out to sea. There are now reminders of this past with a miners pit cage (reconstructed) where there was a mine shaft. The walk up to the cage has interesting information written on plaques which represent the miners tokens or tallies. The cage can been seen for quite a few miles as it commands a prominent position.
A splendid Memorial Garden is situated by the B1238 at the junction of Crawlaw Ave and Office Street before the entrance to the road to the car park down to the nature reserve. It commemorates those that worked at the colliery from 1899 to 1993.
The colliery was the last deep mine to close in 1993. The enclosed garden has a pithead wheel laid horizontally supported by wooden timbers. Crushed coals lie between the spokes. The metal work is particularly pleasing and between the two metal benches you can view the pit cage on the hill.
The site is known for a tragedy where 83 men died in 1951. The disaster is known as 'The Duck Bill Flare'. Duck Bill being the seam where the miners were working. There was an explosion that was likely to have been from a build-up of a methane type gas (Firedamp).
Two miners had not taken their 'flamed' lamps down with them (It was more to carry) and the lamps would have warned them of the noxious gases. The machinery could have been a trigger for the explosion as the teeth were purportedly blunt and could have caused sparks. The explosion was at a time when there were 2 shifts of miners down the pit.
The eloquent Easington Colliery Cemetery (Crawlaw Road, SR8 3NB} has a memorial to the 83.
72 of the men are actually buried there. Their ages ranged from teenagers to men in their late sixties. There are coal picks, lamps, cutting equipment and a coal tub positioned around the memorial.
Take a walk along Memorial Avenue at the Welfare park where 83 trees were planted the year after in 1952, at the Avenue of remembrance. The first one planted by the youngest lad at the pit. The trees are now over 70 years
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The whole town is a living museum to the mining industry. Head onto the beach and wander around the town.
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You can ditch your car at the Easington Colliery Coastal car park. Then you are only a short walk from the Pit Head.
Contributed by Rosalind Parker
Thanks for reading through and getting to the end of this post. I enjoy exploring the Fabulous North (Especially as a Southerner residing up North). I like 'snippets' of information, and more so, if they are obscure, amusing or meaningful. The photographs are taken on a mobile phone, without any enhancements.
Once a former chapel, but is now a museum, packed full of local heritage.
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A replica of the gibbet used to display the body of the murderer William Winter.
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