Chester-le-Street Heritage Group

  c Copyright - Chester-le-Street Heritage Group


Waldridge “A” Colliery

Colliery Name

Waldridge “A” Colliery

Location of Colliery

Waldridge - 5 miles NNW of Durham ½ mile SW

of Chester-le-Street via West Lane Road.

Upon reaching the village of Waldridge from Chester-le-Street the road bends left, the “A” Pit was to the left of this bend and opposite the road leading down to the Working Men’s Club. The road of course was not built then as it was not completed until Feb 1925, one year before the pit closed. The village consisted of seven streets, a Chapel and a Working Men’s Club which was situated 300 yards from the pit.

Number of Pits


Names of Pit/Pits

Waldridge “A” Pit.

Seams Worked

1894 - Busty, Main.

1914 - Busty, Hutton, Low Main, Main Coal,           Shield Row.

1921 - Brass Thill, Busty, Hutton, Low Main,

          Shield Row.

1924 - Brass Thill, Busty, Low Main

1927 - Brass Thill, Busty, Low Main

Waldridge “A” Pit

Seam Notes ……

The “A” pit worked as far as the Hutton seam.

Seams at Waldridge were also accessed from Chester Moor from 1925 as when joined up in this way it gave extra egress points in case of disaster. (The mines were often owned by the same owners, but any need for verification was abolished when the mines were nationalised in 1947.

Ignoring all shafts which are ancient or unused there were 3 shafts in 1883. The A Pit shaft 14ft in diameter sunk to the Hutton Seam at 54 fathoms, D PIT shaft 12ft 3” in diameter sunk to the Busty Seam at 100 fathoms, and an upcast shaft 12ft in diameter sunk to the Busty Seam at 98 fathoms. The upcast shaft ventilates the workings connected to the A and D Pits.


There were two other pits in Waldridge, the Waldridge “D” Pit (Busty) which opened in 1875 (see Waldridge “D” pit) and the Byron pit which opened sometime before 1857.

There were several Drift Mines on the Fell, the names of which are below, and further details of each one can be found in the “Waldridge Colliery “D” Pit” project.


1. Shield Row Drift.

2. East Drift.

3. West Drift.

4. Fell Edge Drift.

Other Drifts were opened after the A pit closed.

An old plan of the area.

The “A” pit worked as far as the Hutton seam. Seams at Waldridge were also accessed from Chester Moor from 1925 as when joined up in this way it gave extra egress points in case of disaster. (The mines were often owned by the same owners, but any need for verification was abolished when the mines were nationalised in 1947.

Ignoring all shafts which are ancient or unused there were 3 shafts in 1883. The “A” Pit shaft 14 ft in diameter sunk to the Hutton Seam at 54 fathoms, “D” Pit shaft 12 ft 3” in diameter sunk to the Busty Seam at 100 fathoms and an upcast shaft 12 ft. in diameter sunk to the Busty Seam at 98 fathoms. The upcast shaft ventilates the workings connected to the “A” and “D” Pits.

Waldridge History

Waldridge “A” Colliery was located on the hill south of Waldridge overlooking the village and the Wear valley. It opened in 1831 and closed in April 1926 having been linked, underground, to a nearby colliery at Chester Moor, the shaft and pithead gear remained until 1967 for ventilation and emergency access. The large slag heap was to the south of the colliery. There were other small drift mines on the fell. A waggonway which was in service until 1955 took Waldridge coal to the Tyne via Stella Gill sidings. The most recent mining ended in 1992 when Smithy Dene drift closed.

The Fell at Waldridge is an area of  roughly 300 acres that forms the last surviving lowland heath in County Durham and which opened as a reserve in the 1960s.

A landscape covered in heather, it is also home to large numbers of bilberry bushes, which in late summer can be seen surrounded by patient berry pickers filling their bags in anticipation of a succulent homemade fruit pie.

Whilst today the fell can be described as a place of natural beauty this wouldn’t have been the case in times gone by when the landscape was much more industrialised.

There was a pit on the fell in the 18th century – Deanery Colliery, which was operated by Dean Hedworth and later by William Jolliffe. It would have been linked by waggonway to Beamish waggonway, near Pelton where its coal would have been transported to the staithes on the Wear, near Fatfield.

In 1831, a new mine opened at Waldridge and many inhabitants of Chester-le-Street assembled at Waldridge to celebrate the occasion.

Shortly after noon, the first wagon load of coals was drawn off "amid loud cheers of the populace accompanied by a full band of music".

When the Stanhope to Tyne Railway opened in 1834 the Waldridge waggonway was linked to this new line at Pelton Fell and the coals now became destined for South Shields on the River Tyne for onward shipment by colliers to London and Europe.

Note the extract below taken from the Chester-le-Street Chronicle dated February 20th 1931 and referring, amongst other things, to the opening of the colliery in 1831.

Only 83 people lived at Waldridge in 1801, but there were 104 by 1831. There was already an earthenware and fire brick manufacturer at Waldridge, near "Jolliffe's New Houses" in 1831, when the new colliery opened. The colliery was a success and by 1841, Waldridge's population had jumped to 432, rising to 747 by 1851. By the 1850s, Waldridge had two collieries and the remnants of several scattered pits. One colliery, Byron Colliery, stood to the west, towards Edmondsley. Its site can be reached by a path that follows an old waggonway. It was a 19th Century extension of Jolliffe's waggonway and, around 1839, served collieries at Edmondsley and Sacriston. Byron Colliery was named after the wife of the poet Lord Byron, a member of the coal-owning Milbanke family.

In the 1850s, Waldridge consisted of four or five scattered terraces including High Row, Low Row, Red Row and houses near the colliery called The Square.

A public house, The Swan, was attached to this cluster in a street called Old Row, later becoming the Waldridge Tavern and finally the Inn on the Green. One group of terraces stood south of High Row including Chester Terrace (Chester Street). Terraces still in existence today include Oak Street, Poplar Street, Lime Street, Olive Street and Cedar Street. The colliery stood on the southern edge of these terraces.


Early mining was carried out by William Jolliffe on Waldridge Fell in 1779 and coals were exported from the River Wear at Fatfield. Later in 1831 a further two shafts were sunk and worked by Messrs' Sowerby and Co. By 1870 C.R. Thiedemann based at Newcastle operated the Colliery along with Owen Wallis who was a farmer.

In 1875 the “D” pit (also known as the Busty) was sunk and the group operated the pit until the 1880s and by the 1890s several other people bought interests in the pit. The main workings were from the A and D shafts in 1896.

1779 Hylton Jolliffe

1830 George Sowerby

1860 Sowerby, Phillipson & co

1869 Christian Rudolph, Fernando Thiedemann and Owen Wallis leased the colliery from the

        Hon Ann Noel Blunt.

1880 Charles Thiedemann and Wallis

1910 Priestman Collieries Ltd.

1911 Waldridge Fell Old Pit which had been leased from Hylton Jolliffe closed.


There was a pit on the fell called the Deanery Colliery, which was operated by Dean Hedworth and then William Joliffe in the latter part of the 18th century. However, on August the 1st in 1831 a deeper mine was opened at Waldridge called the “A” pit and many Chester-le-Street inhabitants came to Waldridge to celebrate the occasion. The church bells at Chester-le-Street rang out all day, and the children were given a day off school, a band played and dignitaries dined at The Lambton Arms to celebrate. They had roast beef, plum pudding and ale.


500 Men and boys worked their last shift in February 1925. From 1925 the coal seams were accessed from Chester Moor Colliery.


1873 - Coal,

1888 - Coal

1896 - Coal, Coking Coal

1902 - Coal, Coking Coal, Gas.

1893 - The men could average from 4tons 8cwts to 4tons 18cwts per shift and pick out the stones.

          The daily output of both the A and the D pit was over 700 tons, a third of which was converted to           coke on the premises.


Earthenware and fire brick manufacturers were located at Waldridge near “Joliffe’s New Houses” before the colliery opened.

In 1893 a small brick works for Colliery consumption only is kept at work making bricks from surface clay. By 1920 the brickworks were no longer there.


From approximately 1896 to 1902 gas was being produced.  In 1893 a small gas plant makes enough gas for the Colliery lighting purposes.


On 11th Oct 1879 the contract for 50 Coke Ovens for the owners of Waldridge Colliery was secured by townsmen Messrs Thompson and Punshon.

In 1896 and 1902 coking coal was produced but by 1939 there are no Coke ovens shown on maps of the area which suggests the production of coking coal ceased sometime after 1902.

Waldridge Coke Oven Workers in 1900 with William Murray 3rd from the left.


There were no pit baths at the time this colliery was worked and miners were washed in tin baths in front of the fire at home. The pit baths which were shared by miners from Chester Moor were not opened until 1955.


There were several drift mines on Waldridge Fell which are covered in detail in the “D” Busty Pit project, most of them opened after the “A” Pit closed. One of the biggest The SHIELD ROW Drift produced Coking coal, Gas and Steam between 1914 and 1927 until it closed in 1928.

In 1850 The BYRON Colliery stood to the West towards Edmondsley. It was named after the wife of Lord Byron a member of the coal owning Milbanke family.


There was no works canteen during this period.



YEAR           A PIT             BELOW             ABOVE           TOTAL

1896                                  151                    28               179

1902                                  124                    10                134


An average of 320 men & boys were employed on a daily basis with output over 700 tons, a third of which was converted to coke on the premises.


Mr Stephenson worked there between the late 1800s and early 1900s, he died during the 1960s.


Bewick, Thomas, 07 Dec 1870, aged 20, Hewer, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard

Burdis, John, 25 Dec 1846, fell down staple.

Not Found

Newcastle Journal 19/12/1846 Durham Chronicle 11/12/1846

Dixon, John, 19 Apr 1859, aged 19, Hewer, fall of coal while kirving

Not Found

Newcastle Guardian 23/04/1859

Fenwick, John, 07 Jun 1895, 1:45 a.m., 6th hour of shift, aged 29, Shifter, died on rolley-way from heart disease, for which complaint he had been previously medically treated [fatality reported during the year but not classified as a colliery accident]

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard

Halliday, John, 17 Feb 1843, aged 29, Halliday and another man had got in the loop to descend Waldridge Pit, but he did not wait for the engineman to draw them up and lower them into the shaft. This caused the rope to drop about three feet into the staple, causing him to be jerked off, and he fell to the bottom of the shaft. He was recovered, but only lived about 15 minutes

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard

Heywood, Henry, 04 Jun 1858, Hand putter, fell down a staple

Not Found

BDM - Haywood

Johnson, William, 03 Nov 1867, aged 45, Engineman, killed by a boiler explosion.

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard

Lavery, Hugh, 08 Mar 1880, aged 61, Collier, fall of stone from roof while working in a jud.

Buried: Ropery Lane Cemetery, Chester-le-Street - Remove.

Lavery was a man of great physique and wonderful endurance. In order to keep his big family he at one time worked two pits simultaneously. After years of toil he was killed by a fall of stone.

He is mentioned on his wife’s Sarah’s headstone who died in 1904 aged 79 years.

Headstone C125 in Ropery Lane reads:

R.I.P. Of your charity pray for the repose of the souls of HUGH LAVERY accidentally killed at Waldridge Colliery March 8th 1880 aged 56 years

SARAH wife of the above who died October 6th 1904 fortified with all the rites of holy church aged 79 years

MAGGIE died September 19th 1905 aged 2 years

LIZZIE died October 26th 1905 aged 6 years

JAMES killed at Pelton Colliery January 24th 1907 aged 15 years.

The beloved children of JAMES & TERESA CULLEN.


Lavery in C125 - Hugh is not here as it’s too early. Could find not find where he was buried 2011.

Cullen, James, aged 14, accident 24 January 1907 died 24 January 1907 at Pelton Colliery. Occupation - Driver. When driving between the rope-end and the flat, he caught his head against a baulk and had his skull fractured.

Cemetery Records.

Lavery Sarah 79y 9/10/1904.

Cullen Elizabeth 6y 4/10/1905.

Cullen Margaret 1½y 22/09/1905.

Cullen James 14y 27/01/1907.

Mason, Edward, 27 Apr 1894, 6:45 a.m., 1st hour of shift, aged 15, Driver, Died suddenly on the rolleyway while walking in-bye to his work [fatality reported during the year but not classified as a colliery accident].

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard.

Oliver, Christopher, 23 Nov 1844, Driver, An inquest was held on 23 November into the death of waggon driver Christopher Oliver, who "as he was proceeding with a train of empty waggons on the railroad from Waldridge Colliery to Sacriston Engine, fell from the front of the first waggons, and was so severely injured that he died soon afterwards."

Not Found.

Durham County Advertiser 29/11/1844.

Oxley, Benjamin, 27 May 1854, fall of stone [Sunderland News reports: accident - 27 May 1854 pg 5 col 1]

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard.

Parson, Charles, 02 Feb 1860, aged 28, Hewer, killed by a fall of stone.

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard.

Toward, William, 24 Sep 1864, aged 24, Enginewright, fell part way down the shaft.

Buried Chester-le-Street Churchyard.

White, Ramsay, 08 Mar 1871, aged 25, Hewer, killed by a fall of stone.

Not Found.

BDM Ramsey.

Extract from the Chester-le-Street Chronicle in 1919:

13th June 1919: Joseph William Gardiner: The death of Joseph William Gardiner at his residence School House Waldridge Colliery is recorded.  In February 1909 when the West Stanley Colliery Pit fired

Mr. F.H. Burn the owner sent a special request for Mr Gardiner to go as electrical expert. On completing his survey of the pit, a large portion of the shaft walling collapsed and fell down the shaft and kept them standing for 3 ½ hours. He caught a severe cold and pneumonia which nearly finished him, but after seven weeks he pulled round. Until a few weeks ago when another chill seized him, he contracted rheumatic fever and pleurisy with other complications and after 15 days of heroic struggle succumbed on Friday morning.


Extract from Chester-le-Street Times  in 1875:

9th July 1875: George Cummins.


The site has returned to moorland, the road built in 1925 is in front of the site and the Waldridge Community Centre is built on part of the area.


Copies of the original documents and royalties signed when the Pit was purchased.


Map of Waldridge Village c1920 showing the “A” Pit and coke works.


Fig 1. Waldridge A Pit 1893.                                        Fig 2. Waldridge Coke Oven Workers c1900.

Fig 3. Mr. White front row middle lost a finger              Fig 4. Waldridge A Pit

           riding the wagons.

Fig 5. Waldridge A Pit


The mineral railway line from Pelton Fell to Waldridge to serve the A Pit opened in 1831 and would be worked by horse and steam, it was extended to Sacriston in 1835, and worked by a self acting incline to Waldridge whereby full trucks coming down  to Waldridge hauled the empty trucks back to Sacriston. The section from Waldridge to Pelton Fell was eventually worked by steam locomotive, the driver being Tom Burlison who lived at “The Stables”.

The railway line from Waldridge would join the Stanhope to Tyne railway at Pelton Fell where the coals were transmitted to the drops at South Shields a distance of 14 miles.

Fig. 6. 0-6-0 Steam Engine “Margaret”.

Fig 7. The Stanhope to Tyne Railway at Pelton Fell


A Banner was purchased in 1871-72 and was present at the 1873 Gala, it showed a master and workman shaking hands on the obverse and an arbitration scene” THE FINAL APPEAL” on the reverse.

A second Banner was used from 1892 until it was damaged by the weather at the 1908 Gala.

A third banner was unfurled in 1909 by John Wilson. It bore a Lion and Lamb Scene on one side and the North Road Miners Hall in Durham on the other.

Fig 8. The crowd gathered outside The Swan Inn            prior to going to the Gala. 1910.


  The following document THE HISTORY OF WALDRIDGE FELL was written by

  Mr. George Burlison.

Some History of Waldridge Fell - originally Waldridge Colliery.

Houses of the early 1800’s were built to house the miners to work the collieries. History says that, thirteen collieries have been worked on these fells, some have probably been drift mines, as well as the shaft mines.

In my time, my memories are of the two shaft pits being in the village, namely Waldridge ‘A’ Pit and Waldridge ‘D’ Pit, but only the ‘D’ Pit working in my time. This colliery closing in March 1963, and finally the pit head gear being blown down in August 1969 in the making of the BBC serial called “Germinal” about the French miners striking and them throwing things down the shaft, trapping the miners down below. This also happened in the newly opened Waldridge mine in 1831. A dispute arose and miners came out on strike, only for the company to use scab labour, so the striking miners threw stuff down the shaft trapping the scab labour.

Some of the drift mines worked during my time were “Fell Edge Drift” on the Chester Moor Road, evidence is still visible, closed about 1960.

“East” and “West Drifts” in the left side of the road going towards Edmondsley.

“East Drift” closing early 1950s.

“West Drift” now a nature reserve closed about later 1950s due to bad roof conditions, caused by working coal seams to near the surface. It was said by older workmen you often had to fill turnips or potatoes before hewing your coal.

To save the men being made redundant, other work had to be found, “Waldridge ‘D’ Pit” could not take on any more workforce as the shaft was working to full capacity and could not draw any more coal. “Nettlesworth Dene Drift” - a study of the plans found that if a drift mine could be driven at an area beside “Waldridge Workmen’s Club” and “Dene House”, three coal seams could be worked.

Some workings towards “Waldridge ‘A’ and ‘D’ Pits”, came through old workings to coal that had not been worked, (possibly due to wet conditions).

Work started in 1951 to drive a roadway 180 x at a 1 in 3 gradient to the Low Main Seam, following this another 120 x at a 1 in 3 gradient to the Hutton Seam, the total direct vertical depth therefore 100 x well below the Cong Bum.

These are deep workings for a drift mine - the mine closing in September 1974, 23 years after opening - a long time for a drift mine.

The coal from this mine went mainly to Birtley Brick-works and also for workmen’s coal. Sid Roberts a one truck operator from Chester-le-Street had the contract to deliver the miners coal, in the days when you received 1 ton per month. The lorry had three compartments and three separate doors. The man who got the first drop from the lorry, also got some of the 2nd and 3rd mans coals.

A private drift also operated on Waldridge Fell, names “Smithy Dene”, which was on the right side of the road going to Edmondsley, next to the pond. This finally closed in the 1990s.

A lot of houses have disappeared from Waldridge. The one’s before my time, but evidence still visible in my youth were “Red Row”, “The Circle”, “The Square”, “Ellen Street”, “William Street”, “Ten Houses”, “The Brick Flats”, “Dayhole Cottage” and “Undercliffe Cottage”.

Houses in my youth which have also gone are, “Low Dene Cottages”, “Hylton Street”, “High Row” (also known as “Blue Row”), “The Stables” which were Lord Lambton’s Stables and then turned into cottages, “Old Row” which adjoined “The Swan Public House”, later named the “Waldridge Tavern” and then more recently “The Inn on the Green”.

A Post Office was also at No. 1 Chester Street, run by an old lady by the name of Mrs. Gardener (can’t recall when this closed). A Post Office and General Dealers did reopen in the Swan Public House for a while by a Mr. & Mrs. Reed, but didn’t last. Eventually “The Swan” closed in 1961, the licence being transferred to the “Whitehill Public House”. “Waldridge Club” built in 1905, closed in 2001 due to large debts, reopened in 2002 as a private members club and lasted about two years, before again closing and is now a private residence.

Other buildings in my time are the Methodist Chapel, now a guest house, St. Barnabas church, now a garden centre, the Co-op now for luxury apartments (2006).

The village school, which also had two houses was sited between the chapel and the church, but were demolished around the late 1950s or early 1960s (memory not too good).

The mineral railway from Pelton Fell to Waldridge, opened in 1831 and would be worked by horses and steam. It was extended to Sacriston in 1835 and worked by a self acting incline to Waldridge whereby the full trucks coming down to Waldridge hauled the empty trucks back to Sacriston. The section from Waldridge to Pelton Fell was eventually worked by steam locomotive, the driver being “Tom Burlison” who lived at “The Stables”. The line closed in 1955, the coal then being transported by road by local haulier G. A. Bambrough.

The small coal track-beds were dug up and used by Swalwell Power Station, the haulier on this contract was Todd’s of Wolsingham.

There were also some small shops in Waldridge built within the persons houses, one in Olive Street which was owned by Pearson, probably closed in the early 1950s, one in Chester Street owned by Curry’s and one in Pine Street owned by Slater’s. I think these were probably closed in the 1960s as bigger shops like Walter Wilson’s opened in Chester-le-Street, making the shops unable to come by  -Mr. Joe Mulchaie, done out very nicely and reopened as the Waldridge Tavern, also serving meals. Later a bigger eating area was added. I think the brewery serving this pub was Greenall’s.

Eventually in difficulty, it was taken over by Vaux Breweries.

Waldridge also once had a fish and chip shop, which was a tin hut on wheels, I think this was originally owned by someone called Virgo.

(Courtesy George Burlison).


This uprising was very well documented at the time, full page reports were recounted in both the local Durham Advertiser (see PDF files in the attached photograph collection) and in the National Newspapers. (see attached newspaper cuttings.)

On 24th December 1831 the men revolted against the infusion of competitive labour from 60 lead miners who had been brought in from Cornwall, Wales and Ireland. The lead miners were not being paid as much as the coal miners and were therefore not sympathetic to their cause. It was reported that the miners had tipped coal wagons full of blazing fuel down the shaft, but I have been unable to find any reference to this incident in the transcript of the trial. The witnesses at the ensuing trial said that the men had rushed into the engine house and cried” stop the engine or we will smash her.” Jacob Beck one of the men who gave evidence said that there would have been about 24 men down the pit at the time. At about 3 o’clock things started to be thrown down the shaft, sleepers, props, corves, three water tubs, a cistern and a wooden box, the items came down the front side of the brattice. The men put them partly out the way. The engine stopped after which the water started to rise in the pit, at about 4 o’clock he and his colleagues reached the bank, the water would have been ankle deep in parts and in one place nearly knee deep.

The Military and a troop of the Queen’s Dragoons or Queen’s Bay were brought in to quell the rebellion, and the lead miners were allowed to work unmolested. On 6th January 1832 the Colliery Owners offered a reward of 250 guineas for the apprehension of those responsible, this was a huge sum of money but no one was unmasked. Then the Home Secretary Lord Melbourne added another 250 guineas to the reward making it 500 guineas in total, and a free pardon for accomplices in return for information about the ring leaders, as a result the culprits were found and tried at Durham. (I have been unable to ascertain as to whether the reward was actually paid, I very much doubt whether anyone would dare to claim it)

 Six men were put on trial at Durham Spring Assizes on March 2nd 1932:

Thomas Moore, John Rippon, Samuel Browne, David Kelly, John Middleton and James Beckett.  

At the trial it was proved that the men did not intend to drown the lead miners, as there are two seams in the shaft, one the Hutton Seam and 13 fathoms above that another seam. The men below ground could have reached the other seam by putting their backs against the pump and laying hold of the brattice, thus instead of taking seven hours to drown it would have taken several days. It was also pointed out that the shaft is divided into two parts by means of a partition, at one side the corves (wicker baskets) go down and at the other side the water is drawn up. If they had intended to injure the men they would have thrown the items down the side that the water comes up.

The six men were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour.  Moore, Rippon, and Browne were sentenced to 15 months, Kelly and Middleton to 12 months, and Beckett to 6 months.

A newspaper article from the time reads:

Waldridge Colliery Dispute - 1831

December 24th 1831

Upwards of 1000 pitmen assembled at Waldridge Colliery in a riotous manner and while thirty men were at work in the mine, stopped the engine which pumped out the water. They then threw large iron tubs and iron cisterns, corves (wicker baskets for coal), and other articles down the shaft. The workmen below ground were placed in some danger from these actions.

For apprehending and bringing to justice the persons concerned in these outrages, HM Government offered a reward of 250 guineas and a free pardon to accomplices, and the owners of the colliery also offered a reward of 250 guineas to anyone willing to name the ring-leaders.

Six men were eventually brought to trial and punished with imprisonment. It appears that the dispute arose as a consequence of the owners refusing to accept that miners were in dispute and unwilling to work. This resulted in the hiring of black-leg labour, mainly lead miners, to break the strike.

(This item was obtained from Local Papers).

Fig 6 Waldridge Bank Foot.

Note: Pelton Fell Working Men’s Club in background.

Fig 9. Again, crowds gathering          outside the Swan Inn.