Our Colliery Villages III Northumberland Book


Our Colliery Villages III Northumberland Book

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Bebside (1873)

Seghill (1873)

Radcliffe and Shilbottle (1873)

West Moor and Burradon (1873)

Wylam (1874)

North Seaton (1873)

This is the third 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 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.

At Bebside “ The caller is also an institution in the village, and like most of his class makes a noise in the world.  Until lately he was a special constable; it is a constant subject of regret to him that he has lost the responsible situation, as he is now without any “legal authority” to force men and boys out of bed in the morning.  He used to describe himself as the “Grand Authority” of the village but the abolition of special constables has shorn him of much of his ancient grandeur.  Still, he thinks no “small beer” of himself, he is lord paramount on the pit heap at night, and in the early morning he goes his rounds thumping and shouting with much vigour and effect.  He pooh-poohs the claim of the Netherton “knocker” to the championship, and as soon as he is in funds will throw down a bold defiance to that individual, feeling confident that his power of lung is sufficient to counterbalance any advantage which the Netherton man may have in point of hard thumping.”


At Radcliffe the reporter makes this comment “ The ashes accumulate in heaps within easy reach of doors and windows.  They form places of deposit for all the filth of the place, and as they are seldom removed, they attain colossal proportions, so that what they are and how they smell in summer time is more easily imagined than described.  The redeeming feature of the Radcliffe houses is that they are kept in very good repair by the owners, and as clean as willing hands can make them by the female occupants.  They have each a liberal allowance of garden ground, and though they have not, as we have already stated, the advantage of thorough ventilation, their position is good.  And they get the full benefit of the salt breezes which blow from the sea, or the middle winds which come from the open country to the north and west. “


At North Seaton this comment is made “  If we enter one of these houses from the back we find ourselves in a brick floored passage, or back end, which runs the length of the cottage, separates the kitchen from the road.  As it is lighted by a window it forms a very useful adjunct to the kitchen, serving both as a scullery and wash house.  Through it we pass into the kitchen, a snug room, measuring about nineteen feet by sixteen, with a level cement floor, a front door opening onto the garden and windows large enough to admit as much light as is required. “

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