New Shildon, the 1820’s Boom Town – with railways and pits being the main employers, people flocked to Shildon from all over the country and from Ireland seeking employment, as word spread about the prospects open to those keen to work.
Many sent for their families once they were established in lodgings with stable employment and regular wages. Many of those family names can be found in Shildon today, including those of my great grandfathers, both of whom moved to Shildon from Tebay and Orton in Westmorland.
Housing in New Shildon was poor, conditions cramped and the social problems associated with poverty and overcrowding soon emerged. Drunkenness, lawlessness and the occasional murder were common place amongst the working classes.
The social problems, exasperated by the many different creeds, religions and backgrounds living in such close proximity meant that simple disagreements could rapidly get out of hand and escalate into near riots.
Hackworth’s employees were expected to be of good character and relatively ‘clean living’, Hackworth himself being a staunch Methodist and a leading abstainer against the vices of alcohol and tobacco.
Many of these immigrants were Irishmen, or navvies as they were called, who dug the cuttings and laid the tracks for the railway companies.
A small community established itself at Eldon Lane during the excavation and construction of the Prince of Wales’ tunnel, which was completed around 1842. The street of houses in which they lodged became known as ‘Paddy’s Row’ and was demolished some years ago.
Others lived in tents near to their work, each night stumbling drunkenly back from the various hostelries after spending their wages on alcohol.
Peculiarly, all of the terraced streets in nearby Eldon village are named ‘row’ for no known reason.
New row, Depot row, Pasture row, Office row, Front row, Double row, Hall’s row etc were all terraces of houses in Eldon.
Today, New Shildon has a handful of shops; its church was closed, and there is no where for the younger generation - or older generations for that matter, to socialise.