Ashington and Pegswood (1873)
Longhirst and Widdrington (1873)
Barrington and Sleekburns (1873)
This is the second part of our serialisation of articles that appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle during 1872 and 1873 detailing life in the many Northumberland, Tyneside and County Durham colliery villages. The Chronicle was a newspaper with working class sympathies and readership. Life in the pit villages was not well known to outsiders. The vast majority of would have no business that would take them into a pit village. In fact, the reporter for the series mentions that even the poorest labourer in many areas may be shocked at the living conditions of the mineworkers. We are sure you will too when you read these detailed accounts.
Here are some examples from the reporter that visited the colliery villages at the time. At Barrington he said on housing “The houses in this row each contain four rooms, two on the ground floor and two above, one of the upstairs rooms being ceiled, the other immediately under the slates and in most cases used as a lumber room. At the back is a pantry attached to each house and further back still, at a distance of twelve or fifteen yards from the back door, are the ash pits, privies and piggeries. Which in their turn are backed up by the kitchen gardens for the dwellers in this row are both florists and horticulturists, with a strong predilection for big cabbages and prize leeks.”
On Ashington Colliery he said “ At Ashington New Colliery, operations are being carried on at an amazing rate. At present only the high seam of coal is being worked. Nearly 250 hewers are employed in it, and they manage to send to bank some 600 tons of coal per diem, which is run down the waggonway to the North Eastern main line, and whirled away to the docks or to such other places as the requirements of the market may demand.”
When he visited Pegswood the reporter made this comment “The next apartment, which originally formed a second apartment to this woman’s house, was vacant, but some one from Morpeth was coming over and take possession of it ere night. Part of its wall had fallen or been blown down, and the great gap had been simply filled up with loose stones. Next door to this was a similar kennel, which a broken down looking woman in vain attempted to make decent by a plentiful sprinkling of the damp uneven floor with sand, a process which only served to show the open character of the walls and roof, by defining the course of the rivulets which had flowed from the walls to the pool in front of the fireplace. The poor old body seemed to be afflicted with hypochondria, and in a quavering voice, and with quivering eyelids, she informed me that she had lived eighteen years in the place, “her and her husband, and now they did not like to leave it, though God knows last winter she had to stand with a broom in her hand and sweep out the water as it rushed in.”
There is so many interesting detailed facts in his visits to the colliery villages that they will give you a fascinating insight into what they looked at and what it was like to live in them in 1873.