The Brownie (Browney) (1874)
This is the first in our serialisation of articles that appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle during 1872 and 1873 and 1874 detailing life in 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 .
At Ryhope the reporter says: “Let us step over the road and examine the Ryhope Colliery Industrial Store. It is a goodly, business like building and is evidently managed with considerable business ability. They report and divide profits half yearly. Their last report was the twenty-second issued and it shows the sale of goods for the six months at the rate of £250 a week, dividing 2s 3d in the pound, besides the usual interest on paid up shares and a fair contribution towards the reduction of the building account. “
When visiting Seaham “ Near the eastern boundary we observe a long, rough mound and inquiring from some bright young putters playing at pitch and toss not far off, we were informed that this mound was known as “the taty pit,” and certainly it does look rather more like the burial place of turnips and potatoes than that of Christian martyrs to the glory of modern science. Yet so it is. There, sleeping their last sleep are nearly two dozen out of six and twenty who lost their lives by the explosion of October, 1871. Nor are these bones to lie long under the shadow of seeming neglect. Subscriptions have been made and paid sufficient to defray the cost of a monument to commemorate the melancholy fact of their destruction. All the necessary preliminaries have been completed, but the quarrymen are too busy to supply the stone. Presently they will be able to attend to this order. Let us hope that they will even make a push out of respect to the memory of their fallen brothers and then the place of rest will grow green and seemly. “
At Springwell: “ There is an ashpit or midden stead for those fifty dwellings, indeed, we fancy there is one at each end of the Mount. But this is the full extent of the accommodation for the lower necessities of human beings. There are no fronts and no backs to the houses. Perhaps, however, it would be more correct to say that the fronts are backs and the backs blank walls. The latter, apparently, built of loose stones, which, if it be the case, must be the real reason why fever does not continually rage in the place. “