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The Waldridge Wagonway or Waggonway
|The closest waggonway to Chester-le-Street, its origins are not exactly known since there is no definitive documentary evidence. Initially it probably started as a waggonway serving a colliery on Waldridge Fell prior to 1787. This was the Deanery Colliery, so named because it was on land owned by the Deanery of Chester-le-Street church. It is almost certain that the original waggonway was worked by horses with an incline running down to the Cong Burn from the Fell.
How much coal was mined from the colliery is not known or even where the coal was finally taken.
It seems likely that the coal was moved north in the direction of the Tyne rather than the Wear, since the former was the most influential river in the 18th Century. By 1820 the coalfield close to the western boundary of Chester-le-Street was being exploited and when Waldridge Colliery opened in 1831 the owners were faced with the fact that they had to transport coal to the Tyne or the River Wear.
They decided on the Tyne and constructed a waggonway which led to the Ouston "A" Colliery. It then linked in with the Ouston Waggonway which opened in 1815 and ran north towards Birtley and eventually via the Springwell Colliery Railway to the staithes at Jarrow.
The line from Waldridge Colliery was 2.75 miles in length. The first half mile from the colliery was worked by horses, to a point where the Waldridge Engine worked a length of line a mile long, down to Pelton Fell. At this point horses again took over the haulage for the remaining stretch to Brackenbeds
(On the eastern outskirts of Pelton), then as far as Ouston "A" colliery.
The link between Pelton Fell and Ouston was short lived since by 1834 with the opening of the Stanhope and Tyne Railway, the owners promptly linked it to the railway at Stella Gill after it went under the railway just past the Twizell Burn.
The first coals, a total of 410 tons were shipped via the rail link in November 1834.
The opening of the rail link was an important development in as much that other collieries south and
west of Waldridge were opening and they too needed an outlet for their coals. In 1833 Sacristan Colliery was opened followed by Charlaw Pit a short time later. Edmondsley Colliery opened soon after this. In spite of the fact that the pits had different owners they co-operated to transport the coal
and they soon constructed a link to the Waldridge Waggonway.
The waggonway opened in August 1839 and was called the Sacriston Waggonway. A self acting incline connected the waggonway to the Waldridge Waggonway from the top of Daisy Hill.
The Waldridge Waggonway continued in operation until 1955 when it finally closed as a working railway. Coal production on Waldridge Fell continued until 1990 when the last drift mine closed.
Route of Waldridge Waggonway
Waldridge Colliery Dispute - 1831
December 24th 1831
Upwards of 1000 pitmen assembled at Waldridge Colliery in a riotous manner and while thirty men were at work in the mine, stopped the engine which pumped out the water. They then threw large iron tubs and iron cisterns, corves (wicker baskets for
coal), and other articles down the shaft. The workmen below ground were placed in some danger from these actions.
For apprehending and bringing to justice the persons concerned in these outrages, HM Government offered a reward of 250 guineas and a free pardon to accomplices, and the owners of the colliery also offered a reward of 250 guineas to anyone willing to name the ring-leaders.
Six men were eventually brought to trial and punished with imprisonment. It appears that the dispute arose as a consequence of the owners refusing to accept that miners were in dispute and unwilling to work. This resulted in the hiring of black-leg labour,
mainly lead miners, to break the strike.
(This item was obtained from Local Papers).
Waggonways of Chester-le-Street DVD's & CD's
|Should the above article on the Waldridge Waggonway have whetted your appetite for more information, then the following should be of interest.
Over recent weeks, the Heritage Group has produced a number of DVD's and CD's for use with computers entitled "The Waggonways of Chester-le-Street".
A full DVD with three walks is priced at £6.00, while single DVD's or CD's containing one walk each are available at £3.00 each. Postage & Packaging are included in the prices for U.K. only.
If you would like a copy of any of these, then please make contact through the Mail Form section of this web site.
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