WHERE IS HOWDEN - LE - WEAR ?????
Church and Chapels
Railway at Howden-le-Wear
Streets and Shops
HOWDEN CHURCH CLOSED
ST MARY'S CHURCH PROJECT ENDS
HOWDEN VILLAGE HISTORY PHOTOGRAPHS BOOK
TRADITIONAL CRAFTS GROUP
Contact Information for Howden-le-Wear Local History Society
Links for Howden-le-Wear Local History Society
Industries at Howden
|The mid 1800's were times of rapid expansion for Howden-le-Wear. Prior to 1830 the settlement was very rural in nature however, there was evidence of 'Olde Cole Pitts' in the Beechburn area before then. There were remains of old Bell Pit workings in the Hargill region but these were obliterated by later opencast excavations.
Howden is at the Western extremities of the Durham Coalfield and coal seams outcrop or are very near to the surface, so miners worked shallow drifts driven into the hill sides.
In the 1800's industry was crying out for more and more coal as steam power and iron smelting developed. Following the opening of a Coal Mine at North Bitchburn by Henry Stobart in 1840, taken over and expanded by North Bitchburn Coal Company, and the arrival of the railway in 1843, there was great industrial development and the village expanded accordingly.
Pits were sunk all over the region and the hillsides on both sides of the Beechburn Valley were soon riddled with underground workings. Conditions were poor, men often worked in wet, low seams 12 to 18 inches high. Ponies were used underground for hauling tubs at the larger mines - eg. North Bitchburn.
The coal pits were relatively shallow and there was little danger from explosive Firedamp gases. Naked flame lamps CANDLES stuck into the wooden pit props, OIL LAMPS (midgies) and ACETYLENE LAMPS (carbide) were all used at various times in the many underground workings around Howden. Blackdamp gas (stythe) however was a great hazard and could easily extinguish the lamps,overcome and suffocate the miners,so, the mines were ventilated and air directed round the workings. On Constantine Hillside, a tall chimney led from an underground furnace, this created an up-draught, drawing fresh air round the tunnels. At North Beechburn, a huge fan constantly ran, drawing air round the pit there. At many other places the remains of ventilation shafts could be found in the countryside - almost all have now been filled in and little evidence remains of our greatest industry, although, just occasionally near old workings, the land subsides a little to remind us of our industrial heritage.
Bricks and Pipes
Initially, most collieries had rows of primitive coke ovens - the coal around here was of very high quality for steam raising and coke production - however this process was very polluting and often reduced the Beechburn Beck into a stinking, tarry mess, 'Blackie Beck' as it was then called.
Alongside most colliery complexes, Brick and Pipe Works were established, using Fireclay ( Seggar )mined adjacent to the coal seams
COAL-FIRED KILNS BUILT AT THE NORTH BITCHBURN PIPE WORKS
North Bitchburn Colliery
At one time, up to 700 men and boys were employed at these works, producing 700 tons of coal a day, together with bricks and salt glazed sanitary pipes from the adjoining yards.
After a gradual decline, North Bitchburn Pit closed in 1968, fireclay was brought from the Breckon Hill Drift to supply the Pipeyard but it did not survive much longer.
|Although the collieries and associated works provided employment for many, large numbers of people found work as fitters, joiners,smiths, farriers, masons, electricians etc. and in the village, shopkeepers, publicans and tradesmen of all kinds could be found. Over the years, employment has been available in Howden for builders, joiners, cartwrights, blacksmiths, schoolteachers, motor engineers, railwaymen, farm workers and after World War 2 many women found work at the new factories established at Thistleflat eg. Ramars Clothing factory ( now demolished )
Now there are NO coal related industries at Howden, but it must be remembered COAL began the development and expansion of the village.
Relics from the past can still be found, reminding of the heavy industry that once occupied this valley.
eg. OLD BOILER ENDS USED AS FARM TROUGHS
Many young men and women 'Served Their Time' with local Howden-le-Wear businesses. Excellent skilled, craftsmen/women left Gibson's (joiners), Findlay & Wilks (motor mechanics), Goldun's (builders), Miss Dent's (ladies hairdressing) North Bitchburn Colliery ( all trades )
ALAN POTTS BILL GIBSON JOHN LONGSTAFF STEVE BAKER at Gibson's Joiners Woodyard in 1950
Miners at The Drift
|A GROUP OF MINERS
AT THE ENTRANCE TO A DRIFT
Men working in 'surface occupations' were more fortunate than those underground, where the hazards were greater. This brief list of fatalities, in the pits around Howden, outlines just a few:
In 1864 JAMES BLAND Aged 12 - a Driver was crushed by a tub at Low Beechburn.
In 1865 JOSEPH FOSTER Aged14 - A Banker Out, fell down the shaft at Victoria.
In 1875 THOMAS GARGETT Aged 13 - Tub Greaser at Hargill was run over by tubs.
In 1862 WILLIAM DODD Aged 25, a Hewer at Bitchburn was killed by a fall of top coal.
( others died in the same incident )
- and so the list goes on.