Chester-le-Street Heritage Group

  c Copyright - Chester-le-Street Heritage Group


South Pelaw Colliery

Colliery Name

South Pelaw Colliery

Location of Colliery

South Pelaw - 6 miles NNW of Durham

Number of Pits


Names of Pit/Pits

South Pelaw Colliery

Seams Worked

In 1914 the Busty, Harvey and Maudlin

In 1930 the Busty

In 1950 the Busty, Five Quarter and Main

In 1960 the Busty, Five Quarter and Low Main

South Pelaw Colliery

Drift Mine                                                                  Places of Worship

None                                                                          None in South Pelaw

Works canteen?                                                         Numbers Employed

Yes.                                                                           In 1896 a total of 353 men were employed

                                                                                 In 1947 a total of 732 men were employed

                                                                                 In 1964 a total of 377 men were employed


Brian Cowell who also worked at the Colliery recalls that the following men also worked at the pit from 1955 onwards:


Eric Watmore.


Tom Bainbridge

Arther Hornsby

Lance Dunn

Tot Hodgson

Patrick McGee


Michael McGee

Jimmy Winn

Jimmy Harrison

Norman Harland

Jack Carter

Albert Wilde

Jack Cummins who was also the Fire Officer

Pony Putters

Brian Cowell

Derek McNeil

Tommy Jackson

Raymond Betmey

Ralph Henderson

George Thirlaway

Harry Jones

Billy McKenna

Denis Nicholson

Billy Storey

Jimmy Nichol

Hand Putters

Ernie Voutt

Merrick Greener

Josh Liddell

Jimmy Winn

Tommy Hutchinson

Tommy Goundry

Percy Goundry


Tommy Pollock

Bob Cowell

Norman Stennett

Tommy Soulsby

Peter Miller

Billy Barrass

Coal Cutters

John Hewitt

Cecil Hewitt

Bill Cunningham

Diver Foster

Stone Workers

Bobby Dawson

Johnny Dawson

George Authors

Shot Firers

Charles Authors

Tot Hornsby

Eddie Dawson

Arc Wall Cutters

Charlie Stephenson

Jack Perry

Matthew Cowell

Horse Keepers

Dryden Dawson

Dick Eldridge

Coal Hewers

Matthew Cowell

Alan Tulip

Ken McNeil

John Henry Lewis

Myles Cowell

Jack Lambert

Ronnie Baines

Raymond Elgie

Jim Burns

Jack Grieveson

George Nicholson

Jack  Nicholson

Jack Bowen

John Dawson

Arnold Wood

Billy Wood

Walter Kirk


Nicky Heron

Doug Murdoch

Ralph Adamson


Lance Trotter

Billy Dawson

Screen Workers

Cecil Kendal

Bobby Porthouse

Tom Perry


Jimmy Summers Senior

Jimmy Summers Junior


Jack Clark - Foreman

Ronnie Hornsby

Bob Dawson Junior

Fred Hall


Ken Hornsby

Lawrence Clark

Jim Armstrong

Jack Blackburn

Training Supervisors

Matt Hewitson Senior

George Hunter

Jack Maddison


Joe Taylor – Union Secretary and Check Weighman

Jimmy Stirman – Wagonwayman

Johnny Webster- Beltman

Jimmy Hutchies – Supplies

Alan Redpath – Engineer

Ralph Lidster – Winderman

Ralph Sharp – Baths Manager

Chris Price – Bath Attendant


Nichol Wetherly

Matt Dawson

Bobby Holliss

Jimmy Cowell

Dixon Wetherly

Ralph Henderson Senior

Olly Hewitson

Matty Hewitson Junior

Accidents - Information courtesy of Durham Miners Museum & Group Archives.

Ainsley, Robert – 18 March 1914. Aged 14. Driver.

Deceased was found lying between the first full tub of his set of two tubs and the side. The pony stood quiet and the tubs were on the rails. He was dead when got out, the base of his skull being fractured. Doubtless he fell off the limbers and was crushed between the tubs and props at the road side.

Buried Ropery Lane Cemetery in HM63 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of THOMAS AINSLEY died 27th January 1950 aged 71 years

Also his dear wife CAROLINE BURNSIDE AINSLEY died 2nd June 1950 aged 68 years

And their son BOB AINSLEY died 18th March 1914 aged 14 years

Ainsley Robert 14y 22/03/1914

Ainsley Thomas 71y 1/02/1950

Ainsley Caroline Burnside 68y 6/06/1950

Ainsley James Edward Thompson 61y 8/03/1985 14/03/1985.

Armstrong, Henry – 17 December 1883.  Aged 14, Driver.

Run over by full tubs.

Place of burial not found.

Bates, Thomas – 15 May 1944.  Aged 40, Puller up.

Buried in Pelton Cemetery in G156.

Killed by a fall of stones. Buried in Pelton cemetery.

Blews, George – 25 November 1863. Aged 11. Coupler.

Crushed by tubs in engine plane.

This could be Blue John Thomas aged 10 years and buried in Chester-le-Street Churchyard.

Bulmer, Henry. 17 February 1868. Aged 22. Hewer.

Fall of stone. The overman and deputy had shortly beforehand examined the stone.

Buried in Chester-le-Street churchyard.

Calvert, Joseph. 29 April 1926. Aged 22. Putter.

Killed by fall of stone. Buried in Pelton cemetery.

Buried in Pelton Cemetery in E288.

Carroll, John. 23 December 1918. Aged 37. Hewer.

He was filling a tub when a slip came away from the face and buried him; it took three-quarters of an hour to get him out, the stone weighed about 7 cwt.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in C251 but no Headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

Carroll Winifred 2½y 9/08/1915

Carroll John 37y 19/12/1918

Carroll Winifred 19 months 17/01/1920

Donnelly Matthew Patrick 74y 1/11/1948

Chrisp, William. 11 January 1921, aged 42. Drawer.

Killed by a fall of stone.

Chester Chronicle 14/01/1921 and 21/01/1921 shows lived in Gateshead.

Clarke, Robert. 9 December 1928, aged 15 years.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery at H696 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of ROBERT beloved son of ROBERT and MARY ANN CLARKE who died through injuries received at South Pelaw colliery December 9th 1928 aged 15 years

Also CHARLES HARLE beloved husband of ELIZABETH CLARKE killed at sea September 11th 1940 aged 32 years - WW2 death

Coates, Thomas. 28 July 1915. Aged 41. Hewer.

Killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane in H134 but no headstone.

Cemetery records show:

Coates Elizabeth 78y 26/04/1921

Brown James William 68y 18/02/1946

Curtis, Thomas. 8 October 1863. Aged 14. Driver.

Killed by a fall of stone.

Place of burial not known.

Dowson, William. 12 September 1935. Aged 31. Hewer.

Killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in E32 but without headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

Hancock Robert 3y 15/02/1914

Dowson William 31y 16/09/1935

Henderson Sarah 61y 21/03/1957

Edwards, George. 21 May 1920. Aged 34. Hewer.

He and his brother Alfred were hewing when the roof suddenly gave way and he was struck on the head by a large stone and killed on the spot.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in F323

Cemetery Records show:

Edwards George 34y 24/05/1920

Edwards Jane Ann 71y 25/03/1922

Edwards John 76y 2/04/1928

Graham, Thomas. 6 July 1909, aged 42 years.  Nighshift Banksman.

The Master Shifter shouted up the shaft to tell him to go and call the horse-keeper whom he had thought had overslept himself. He answered and then fell down the shaft. He was at the horse hole and had opened the gates to speak to the Master Shifter. There was no need to for him to have opened the gates, as he could easily talk to the Master Shifter, who was at the Mail coal level, without doing so. He had previously been warned about opening the gates.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in D717 but no headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

Graham Thomas 43y 10/07/1909

Kelly Mary Jane 42y 15/06/1913

Oates William 66y 24/11/1939

Groves, William Henry. 18 June 1922, (accident: 13 February 1922), aged 28, Deputy, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in H411 but no headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

Groves William Henry 28y 22/06/1922

Harbottle, Matthew. 14 April 1899, aged 16, Greaser, When following his occupation on the engine plane he was caught by a full set and killed. Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery, Chester-le-Street.

Buried at Ropery Lane Cemetery in A169 and headstone reads:

In affectionate remembrance of MATTHEW the beloved son of JOHN & ELIZABETH HARBOTTLE of Chester-le-Street who was accidently killed at South Pelaw Colliery April 14th 1899 aged 16 years

Also MARY JANE sister of the above died April 30th 1900 aged 7 weeks

Also ELIZABETH HARBOTTLE mother of the above who died July 8th 1936 aged 75 years

Also JOHN father of the above who died --------1937 aged --- years

Cemetery Records show:

Harbottle Matthew 16y 16/04/1899

Harbottle Elizabeth 75y 11/07/1936

Harbottle John 78y 7/08/1937

Harris, David. 16 December 1899, (Accident 20 December 1899), aged 42, Shifter.  By some means the timber at the bottom of the downcast shaft got on fire, and deceased, who was working in the workings at the time, was so affected by the fumes that he died on the 26th from inflammation on the lungs and failure of the heart’s action.

Buried at Ropery Lane Cemetery in B404 but no headstone

Cemetery Records show:

Harris David 42y 28/12/1899

Harris Hannah 74y 11/08/1923

Long Esther 86y 14/07/1941

Hudson, Charles. 01 September 1860, crushed by a set of coal tubs.

Place of burial not known.

Hurworth, Edward, 25 May 1864, aged 10, Switch-keeper, crushed by tubs in inline plain.

Buried in Chester-le-Street Churchyard.

Jackson, John. 16 August1924, (accident 02 July 1924) aged 25, Hewer, of 4 Menceforth Cottages, Chester-le-Street. Death Certificate: “ Secondary Haemorrhage consequent upon fracture of the malor? Bone with rupture of the right internal Maxillary Artery caused by his having been struck by a fall of coal”. Died in Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in H259 but no headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

Jackson William Wilson 66y 8/09/1921

Jackson Sarah 64y 20/06/1927

Laidler, Taylor. 13 September 1913, aged 33, Shifter, deceased and another man (who was injured) were engaged in making height in a roadway; they had drawn four balks, and dropped some stone, which they were engaged in filling away, when a piece of overhanging roof stone fell, killing Laidler and injuring his companion; the stone had just been examined, but was of such weight and size that the men failed to detect its true character.

Place of burial not known but Chester Chronicle 19/09/1913 states he lived at Birtley.

Leathard, Mark. 04 April 1868, aged 45, Brakesman. Death caused by boiler explosion.

Buried in Chester-le-Street churchyard.

Lock, Thomas. 10 May 1948, aged 61, Overman, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in J115 and headstone reads:

Treasured memories of my dear husband THOMAS LOCK died May 10th 1948 aged 61 years

Also his beloved wife JANE A. LOCK died August 12th 1953 aged 73 years

At peace

Cemetery Records show:

Lock Thomas 61y 13/05/1948

Lock Jane Armin 74y 15/08/1953

Manning, William. 01 February 1865, aged 19, Hewer, killed by stones on underground engine plane.

Place of Burial Not Found although Newcastle Chronicle 11/02/1865, Shields Gazette 06/02/1865 and Teesdale Mercury 15/02/1865 all report inquest.

Morrison, Joseph.  14 March 1874, aged 59, Rapper man, run over by engine set.

Buried in Chester-le-Street churchyard.

Morrison, Robert.  1918, aged 56, Hewer.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in C382 but no headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

C382 Morrison Robert 57y 3/04/1918

C382 Morrison Alice E. 71y 9/06/1937

Murphy, John. 11 May 1927, (accident: 19 May 1925), aged 41, Deputy, died from injuries.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in D274 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of

JOHN beloved husband of MARGARET MURPHY died 11th May 1927 aged 43 years

MARGARET beloved wife of JOHN MURPHY died 18th April 1968 aged 83 years

Cemetery Records show:

Stobbs Georgina 8m 7/07/1904

Murphy John 43y 14/05/1927

Murphy Margaret 83y 22/04/1968

Neave, John (Jack). 25 January 1911, aged 31, Deputy, he was drawing a jud in company with two other deputies and when almost finished the whole roof from which they had removed the timber fell, and deceased was caught; the stone was sandstone; some chocks had been drawn and no additional props had been set; the men had a “pout” or appliance for drawing timber but has not used it at all. Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery, Chester-le-Street, D302 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of JOHN the beloved husband of EDITH ALICE NEAVE who was killed at South Pelaw Colliery January 25th 1911 aged 31 years

Also HANNAH daughter of the above who died September 10th 1904 aged 13 months.

Cemetery Records show:

Neave Hannah 13 months 12/09/1904

Neave John 31y 29/01/1911

Nethercote Edith Alice 44y 2/02/1927  

Nicholson, Arthur. 08 September 1892, (accident 06 August 1892), aged 17, Putter, injury to spine by a strain, while lifting a tub onto the way.

Buried in Chester-le-Street churchyard.

Percival, George. 14 December 1923, (accident 29 Mar 1923) aged 28, Hewer, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in H335 but no headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

H335 Percival George 28y 18/12/1923

H335 Davison John 79y 13/07/1959

Pigg, Robert. 29 April 1926, aged 20, Putter, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery, Chester-le-Street at B556 and B557 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of ROBERT dearly beloved son of CHARLES & EMILY PIGG accidently killed at South Pelaw Colliery 29th April 1926 aged 20 years

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God

Also CHARLES the dear husband of EMILY PIGG died 21st June 1941 aged 58 years

Also MARY BARRAS dear mother of the above EMILY died 18th February 1944 aged 82 years

Also the above EMILY died 26th May 1967 aged 82 years.


Stone mason Smith Newcastle Bank Chester-le-Street

Cemetery Records show:

Laverick Andrew 11 weeks 13/10/1901

Pigg Robert 20y 3/05/1926

Barrass Mary 81y 22/02/1944

Roper Gladys Hilda 8m 21/03/1906

Pigg Charles 58y 25/06/1941

Pigg Emily 82y 30/05/1967

Richardson, John. 13 April 1894, (accident: 12 April 1894) aged 17, Putter, side severely crushed between tub and prop. Died on the 13th.

Buried in Chester-le-Street churchyard.

Sanderson, Robert A. 26 November 1946, (accident 25 November 1946) aged 32, Waggonway Man, crushed by tubs.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in DM23 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of ROBERT ALEXANDER dearly beloved husband of JANE ANN SANDERSON died 26th November 1946 aged 32 years.

Always in my thoughts

Flower block –Beautiful memories of my darling son BOBBIE died 26th November 1946 aged 32 years

Treasured memories of my daddy.

Separate small plaque – In loving memory of JANE ANN ‘JEAN’ died 26th March 2006 aged 85 years

Loved and remembered always.

Cemetery Records show:

Sanderson Robert Alexander 32y 30/11/1946

Gilder Jane Ann 85y 26/03/2006 4/04/2006 – cremated remains.

Straughan, James O. 05 October 1943, aged 29, Filler, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Pelton Cemetery in B239.

Tindale, Thomas. 26 March 1928, aged 59, Hewer, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in D193 but no headstone.

Cemetery Records show:

Dunn Thomas 75y 4/08/1903

Tindale Thomas 59y 29/03/1928

Miller Annie 50y 2/08/1943.

Watson, Joseph.  16 January 1940, aged 18, Haulage, struck by tubs.

Place of burial not known.

Newcastle Journal 19/01/1940 says he was a winch boy and lived at Grange Street Pelton.

Waugh, Joseph Heslop. 02 June 1905, aged 36, Deputy, while drawing timber in a jud a fall of roof came away at a slip and buried him; the place was apparently safe.

Buried: Ropery Lane Cemetery, Chester-le-Street in D528 and headstone reads:

In loving memory of JOSEPH dearly beloved husband of JANE ANN WAUGH who was accidentally killed at South Pelaw Colliery June 2nd 1905 aged 36 years

JOSEPH HESLOP son of the above died September 14th 1898 aged 9 months

In the midst of life we are in death


Joseph in B214

Cemetery Records show:

Waugh Joseph Heslop 36y 5/06/1905

West Mark 62y 12/04/1932.

Weatherley, Frederick. 14 Jan 1930, aged 39, Shifter, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Pelton Cemetery in E164.

Wilson, John Robert. 04 November 1937, aged 55, Filler, killed by a fall of stone.

Place of burial not known.

Wilson, Robert. 19 January 1928, aged 46, Filler, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in CM39 and grave marker reads:

In loving memory of ROBERT B. WILSON died 1928

Also a dear wife of above MARY A. WILSON died 1972

Cemetery Records show:

Wilson Robert Bolam 46y 21/01/1928

Wilson Deborah 3m 3/02/1971

Wilson Mary Annie 88y 10/05/1972.

Young, John William. 30 December 1912. Aged 27, Assistant Banksman, some broken tubs had been sent down to the surface level from the heapstead and it appears that deceased’s water bottle had gone with them; deceased put his head over the shaft gate to look down, regardless of the fact  that the banksman had shouted to the engineman to raise the cage again, with the result that the ascending cage lifted the gate and crushed his head against a cross piece of the pulley framing.

Buried in Ropery Lane Cemetery in A483 but no headstone:

Cemetery Records show:

Young George 67y 30/11/1905

Young John Wm. 27y 25/12/1912

Young Mary 67y 18/11/1917

Current Use  -  Housing – Hilda Park Estate.

Fig 12. Photographs of some of the men who worked at South Pelaw Colliery.

Leaving South Pelaw for Durham Gala.

Names Listed: Matty Cowell, Mrs. Cowell, Jim Harrison, Nick Wetherley and Mrs. Smith.

Railways servicing South Pelaw Colliery.

 A photograph of South Pelaw Junction where a number of lines servicing numerous pits came together.


South Pelaw Colliery Miners Lodge en route to

Durham Miners Gala

A large group with South Pelaw Miners Banner.

 Below some of the names are as follows:

Tommy Soulsby               Jimmy Hutchie

Ralph Sharp                    Billy Storey

Noel Holyoake                George Burns

Bob Nation                     Otter Nicholson

George Davison              Joe Taylor

Ronnie Baines                Dave Liddell

Tommy Pollock Junior    Josh Liddell

Tom Pollock Senior        Matt Hewitson

Stan Austin                   Nichol Proud

Andy Armstrong


Memories of Robert (Bob) Fletcher – as remembered by his son David and daughter Anne.


Bob often told us about the interview he had for his first job, aged 14, at South Pelaw Colliery.

South Pelaw (or South Peela as Dad pronounced it) was a ‘family’ pit, so if you were related to someone who already worked there, you had a better chance of a job.  The interviewer didn’t recognise the Fletcher surname, so he asked Dad about his father and whether any of his uncles or cousins worked at the colliery.  Of course none of them did and it was obvious that the interviewer wasn’t sure whether or not to take him on. Then Dad told him his grandfather was Doc Kirkup and everything changed. ‘Oh, you’re a grandson of Doc Kirkup?’ Doc was well-known amongst the mining community and although he had never worked at South Pelaw, he and the reputation of his many sons (all miners, but at the Busty Pit, Pelton) was a good enough reference.

On the first day that Dad worked he was on the screens picking stones off the belt when one of the older lads thought he’d have a laugh and threw a stone and hit Dad’s hand. It hurt, so Dad was going to have him as soon as the belt stopped. He jumped the belt to get at him.  Dad was a big lad for his age and the others were taking bets as to how this would turn out.  However, I (Anne) seem to remember that his supervisor took him to one side and explained it was not worth pursuing the matter which could have cost him his job.

When the tubs came up they would have something like a 2’x2’ box on the top. One of Dad’s first jobs was to count the number of stones he found in the box.  If there were too many stones (i.e. over a certain number) then the tub would be put to one side and the person who filled it (they were all tallied) would not be paid for that tub. Dad was so conscientious that far more tubs were put on the side than usual and his supervisor had to let him away early before the men came out or they would have killed him.  The men were angry but he stood up for Dad and told them he was only doing his job and that he had been right in what he had done.

When Dad was working at bank he had to move the full tubs and set the empty tubs in their place.  He would set the empties off down an incline and they would click into place. As the empty ones went down the full ones would come up. On this occasion Dad had set the empty tub away ready for the next tub arriving but the winder had over wound and so instead of going along the track the empty tub went straight down the shaft and stopped all the work.

When Dad had his accident aged 15 it was discovered that he shouldn’t have been doing that particular job until he was 18.  He was a big lad and they hadn’t realised he was so young.

Once when Dad was on the face he could hear banging and a man came out of a passage and told him not to go down there because he could hear the breaking of the timbers.  When Dad was finished he wondered whether to chance it as it was a long walk all the way around (three quarters of a clock) to get to where he wanted to be.  He decided to go the long way round and half way back the roof fell in and closed the other passage like a box.

At one point when Dad was on the face he was acting as putter for an old man of 76 (pushing the tubs in).  Dad used to help him to fill the tub or the old man would have had very little money.

Because Dad worked the hauler he was one of the few allowed a cap lamp, the rest had carbide lamps.

Dad had a marker on the hauler so that he could stop the tubs at exactly when the high point was reached so that the men inside could get out.  At any other point the men would not have been able to get out of the man sets.

Dad’s team didn’t usually use the pony they were given to help with the work, so he was tied up and usually stayed in the same position the whole of the shift.  One day, for some unknown reason the pony stood on the track and was run over and killed when the tubs were brought up.

I remember Dad talking about one particular pony called Curry. The men and boys were not meant to ride the ponies but sometimes they did. If you gave them their head they would go full gallop back to the stables. On one occasion Dad was doing this and hit his head off a girder and carried a blue scar on his ear ever after.

Around the time that Dad was asked to go on the course at Sheffield the managers were starting to mechanise the colliery.  They had one side mechanised, the other not.  In those days fitters to service the machines only came down to the face to work on a job.  What the colliery wanted were trained fitters who would stay on the face and do repairs on the spot.

When Dad returned from Sheffield he often walked with the deputy down the back road ways to do inspections with him and between shifts turned the cutters. Once a cutter broke down and it was considered so important to have the broken component replaced that the Manager asked Dad to stay with the machine so that as soon as the part arrived he could put it straight on. It took so long for the part to come that the Manager had gone home, slept and returned the next day and Dad was still at his post. When the Manager found this out he made the under-manager give dad his bait.  In all Dad worked around 36 hours without coming out.  When he came to be paid the Office would not believe he had worked that length of time and refused to pay him. Dad had an awful job convincing him even though he told him that the Manager could vouch for him.

On a lighter note – Dad was once eating his bait at the shaft bottom.  It’s cold there and Dad was wearing long legged, baggy trousers. Suddenly a mouse ran up his trouser leg and he couldn’t catch it!

Dad’s favourite bait was apple sandwiches. He said the apple tasted different down the pit.

As Dad was about to leave the pit, having taken a post with the Northumberland and Durham County Fire and Rescue Brigade, a man asked him if his father would like a little job in the lamp cabin. Dad never told his father, wanting to shield him as he was already in his early seventies, or his father would have been there like a shot.

Dad spent over 30 years as a Rescue Brigadesman, serving at Crook, Benwell and Ashington Rescue Stations and finished his career as a mining instructor, giving new recruits their basic training before they went down the pit, at Ashington Collieries training centre.

Joe Loughlin’s Memories.

Joe Loughlin who still lives in South Pelaw has kindly provided us with memories of his time working down South Pelaw pit as a Putter from the early 1950’s until its closure in 1964.

Joe was born in 1938 in Birtley and left school at 15 to start work at the Ravensworth Ann Pit in Birtley. His father was no longer working as he was ill with cancer and as his three brothers were all in the armed forces Joe needed to work as his wages were needed to help support himself and his Mam and Dad. His first job on his first day was working on the screens where Joe had to remove stones from the coal which passed along on a conveyor belt. This was hard work and as it was above ground it was really cold during the winter. Joe recalls also working some days at this time in the token cabin where a token system was used both to identify the men who were below ground and also how much coal they had dug out to calculate their wages.

After 12 months on the screens and in preparation for working below ground,   Joe then did 12 months training at Greencroft Colliery. He remembers two shafts at Greencroft, one was for the miners and one which led to a worked out seam was used for training. Here Joe learnt how to drill and cut coal and fill tubs etc. When his training was completed he went back to the Ravensworth Ann Colliery.  Joe began courting and although he was still only 19 he and his girlfriend were offered a house next door to his girlfriend’s Aunts house in Furnace Terrace on Pelton Fell Road, Chester-le-Street. The house was in a row of twelve houses and was a one up one down with one cold water tap. There was a catch though and that was that Joe had to be married before moving in. So he and his girlfriend married and moved in. Joe would walk along to the bottom of Chester to catch the colliery bus to Birtley as he still worked at the Ann Pit. However the bus would frequently not stop and Joe would lose shifts and therefore money through no fault of his own. This was no good to Joe so he arranged a transfer to South Pelaw Colliery and started there in the late fifties as a pony putter. This work involved taking empty tubs which were pulled by ponies to the miners at the coal face and then taking the full tubs to the shaft for transfer to the surface. Joe was a pony putter at South Pelaw until it closed in 1964. Joe was given a fortnights notice and was told he was to be given a job at Waldridge Drift mine. When he turned up at the drift mine he was told there was no job for him. Actually this suited Joe as by now he had set his heart on joining the Derek Crouch Company who had offered him a job, working on a pipe line to be laid from Lamesley to Barley Mow. However before he could start for Derek Crouch he needed his P45 form from the NCB and he was told to go the Bearpark Colliery Offices who would give him the necessary forms. When he got to Bearpark he was surprised to hear they had a job for him and he should have started it 3 weeks ago!  Joe refused it and was relieved when some gentleman appeared on the scene and sorted everything out for him, handing over his P45, holiday pay and backdated wages. Joe had never been so rich and with his wife went out and bought a new 3 piece suite. He then started work for Derek Crouch.

Joe recalls it was the seam he worked on was always a wet seam, especially when it rained. He also recalls when there was open cast mining going on at the back of the Plough Inn. He can also remember a lucky escape on one shift when he and his “marras” were underground and he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. He was sure the pit props were moving but thought it was maybe his eyes playing tricks on him in the darkness. He shouted for someone else to come and have a look and sure enough his eyes weren’t deceiving him, the pit props were about to give way. So the shout went up to evacuate and they all ran out. Shortly after this the roof caved in.

Joe remembers losing part of his finger in an accident when a full tub fell on his hand. He was taken by the colliery ambulance to Durham County hospital by Arnold Milner who was called out especially to take him. Joe was off work for 4 weeks.

Joe remembers with fondness the pit ponies who he worked with. Some were good and did their work with the minimum of fuss, but others were bad tempered and would bite the hand that fed them if they could. Joe would take in apples for them and they would be fed corn and maize and get molasses as a treat. They all knew their own stalls and he recalls one actually sucking an orange dry that was in the pocket of a jacket hanging up on the stable wall much to everyone’s amusement.

Happy days indeed.

Consett to Tyne Dock Railway which was opened originally as the Stanhope to Tyne Railway in 1834.

Left to Right:

Matty Cowell, Jim Harrison and a relative from Belgium outside the Pit Baths with the South Pelaw Colliery Banner.

Left to Right:

Matty Cowell, Jim Harrison, Nick Wetherly, with the South Pelaw Colliery Banner outside the Pit Baths.

ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP - An 1895 map below of South Pelaw Colliery.

Brief History

The place South Pelaw is really an extension of Chester-le-Street and it is not certain how it got its name. However an extract from the book, History, Topography and Directory of The County Palatine of Durham, dated 1894 by Francis Whellan states the following:

Pelaw, listed within Fatfield Parish, is an estate which, as early as 1360, belonged to John De Pelawe, who some years later sold it to the Elmedens, with whom it remained till the middle of the 16th century, after which it became the property of Sir Bertram Bulmer by marriage.

Sir Bertram sold it in four parcels and in 1726 it was held by Francis Carr, who devised it to the Carr’s and Millbank’s. The Lambton family are now the proprietors.

A map from 1860 shows the following named abodes all slightly North of the current Blind Lane and which would have been in the Fatfield Parish: Pelaw Farm, Pelaw House and Pelaw Cottage. If this area was Pelaw then it is fairly simple to deduce, how South Pelaw being been near to and south of this area got its name.

With regards to mining operations there is a reference in the book History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham 1820 by Robert Surtees which states that the Flatts, a large brick house with enclosures to the East of Pelton, was a seat of a branch of the Allan family of Grange. The Allan family can be described as one of the “incomers” to Chester-le-Street who came to exploit the coal here. The family were originally from Staffordshire and settled in County Durham in the middle of the 17th century when George Allan became established at Blackwell Grange near Darlington. His eldest son Thomas (1631-1717) acquired the Flatts near Chester-le-Street and made a fortune from combining the coal and cattle trades. One means by which Thomas Allan promoted the good of the County was by developing and using a waggonway from Flatts Colliery to the North bank of the Wear. This was an important route, long known as “Allans Waggonway” connecting to the staiths at Fatfield and opening in about 1693. This waggonway was extended to Pelton Common by 1746.

Many years later the Perkins family started operations here in 1860, when sinking a 65 fathom shaft, later in 1890-1, a new sinking to the Busty was made, for Thomas Gilchrist; the upper level seams remained unworked. The South Pelaw Coal Company operated the pit until finally the NCB took over in 1947.

Colliery Owners

1860s Perkins & Co

1880s E.M. Perkins & Partners

1890s South Pelaw Coal Co. Ltd.

1947 National Coal Board

Colliery Owners also owned


Year Opened /Sunk

An exact date of when the colliery opened is unclear although evidence shows that operations of some sort started in 1860 but also that South Pelaw Colliery was restarted 1890 and sunk to the Busty Seam. This suggests it may have closed before 1890.

However the following newspaper article also suggests that the colliery was open as early as 1845:

Year Closed



Coal, Coking, Gas, Fireclay






Yes at Stella Gill nearby.

Pit Baths

The pit baths were opened in September 1940 by Mr H. Kellett, Managing Director of South Pelaw Colliery and Chairman of Durham County Miners Welfare Committee. There were both boot greasing and cleaning rooms, and a bottle filling room.

Welfare Hall

This newspaper cutting shows the

Welfare Hall was opened in 1929.

Aged Miners Homes

The following newspaper cutting is dated 1939.


 Ex-Miner Joe Loughlin’s NCB training certificate.

Newspaper Articles

Durham County Advertiser Feature from February 1892

South Pelaw Colliery near Chester-le-Street the property of the Earl of Durham and which has been standing idle since the expiration of the Birtley Iron Company’s lease five or six years since will shortly be at work again. The lease of the colliery has been acquired by the South Pelaw Coal Company and under the direction of their manager Mr Thomas Gilchrist two new shafts have been sunk to the Busty seam by Mr Coulson of Durham. The whole of the surface machinery and works are of the most modern and improved description and the colliery will be worked upon entirely new lines. Both above and below ground the whole concern is lighted by the electric light. The work of laying out the mine is now being proceeded with and Mr Gilchrist hopes that by the end of the year the output will be 1000 tons per day. As the company have about 1800acres of royalty and the colliery is intended to be worked on an extensive scale Chester-le-Street trade cannot fail to be benefited by the enterprise.

Bachelor Twins of South Pelaw Colliery

Durham Chronicle 06/09/1940 - opening of Pithead Baths.

Small-Pox death of Colliery Worker

Fig 1.  South Pelaw Colliery.

Fig 2.  General View of South Pelaw Colliery

Fig 3. Ponies and drivers at bank head.

Fig 4.  South Pelaw Colliery Pit Baths

Fig 5.  Farming at South Pelaw in 1930 with Colliery in background

Fig 6.  South Pelaw Colliery Band at Durham Big Meeting

Fig 7.  South Pelaw Miners 1

Fig 8. South Pelaw Miners 2.

Fig 9.  South Pelaw Miners Trip 1

Fig 10.  South Pelaw Miners Trip 2

Fig 11. Band and Banner outside the Pithead Baths leaving South Pelaw Colliery heading for the           Durham Miners Gala.

            Note: (The Pithead Baths are shown in the background).

Left to Right:

Jim Harrison, Joe Taylor, Billy Baker, Kit Price.

Men and Women on their way to Durham Gala from South Pelaw Colliery with Mrs. Cowell in foreground.

Left to Right:

J. Liddle, Ned Dawson, A. Armstrong

Noah Holyoake, Jim Harrison, Jim Armstrong.

Left to Right:

Colliery Secretary A. Armstrong, Noah Holyoake, Jim Harrison.

Rollover to enlarge

John & Joseph Bainbridge - they were identical twins born in 1844.

Photograph courtesy of George Nairn & Dorothy Hall.