Radcliffe and Shilbottle (1873)
West Wylam (1872)
Mickley and Prudhoe (1872)
This is the fourth 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 Bedlington: Down a court at the top end of the front street, there are more wheels within wheels, yards within yards, more mud and more ashes. Planted in the midst of all this, is a little chapel, over the door of which is an inscription informing us that it is a Baptist Chapel and was built in 1839. It is a stunted looking little place and has the additional misfortune to be very badly situated, so that it looks as if its growth had been interfered with by the surrounding mud.
At the opposite side of the street appears a very curious erection, known locally as the “Ould Ha,” which appears a curious mixture of a ruined workhouse and a ruined barrack. At some period of its history it must have been a gentleman’s hall and an additional wing had been stuck on to the original structure, something in the form of a keep or an observatory. In connection with which there is a tradition to the effect that it was built by a gang of coiners.
From Cowpen he said: In this necessity, then, we find the origin of the old and celebrated Cowpen Square, one of the most noted spots in the Northumberland coal field. The houses then erected were built from the prevailing model, though when they were constructed they were considered an advance upon all previous erections. They were indeed considered in their infancy splendid houses, and happy was the ancient hewer who, favoured by fate or the colliery viewer, obtained a residence in one of the row of houses forming the west flank of the square.
When this square was first built there was no Cowpen Quay as we at present understand it. The flood tide used to flow up nearly to the houses themselves, which had to be protected by an embankment from the encroachments of the water, and we have no doubt that the ancient lime kiln which still stands like a grim old sentry at the entrance of the square often had its fallen ashes cooled with the topmost wave of an ambitious spring tide. The eastern side of the, square is built parallel with course of the river, and though now the swelling tide rises several feet up the foundation wall, yet when the houses were first built they were protected from the river by a gently sloping mound of earth from whence the male inhabitants used to bathe their grimy persons in the flood.