History

In 1899 the 6th Marquess of Londonderry decided to create a new colliery at Dawdon in Co. Durham. Londonderry also owned Seaham Colliery at the time, however it was proving very uneconomical to extract coal reserves situated to the South East of it, so Dawdon was created in order to tap into these reserves which stretched out for many miles under the North Sea.

In the same year Theresa, Marchioness of Londonderry and her elder son the Viscount Castlereagh cut the first sods for the new two new pits (shafts). These were to be named the Castlereagh and Theresa shafts after them.

In 1900 shaft sinking began and they would eventually end up reaching a depth of more than 1650 feet.

Dawdon Colliery officially opened in 1907.

The immediate years following the opening of the mine saw some rapid expansion of the Dawdon area. Many rows of colliery housing were created, a new welfare hall was opened in 1910, and the Church of St Hild & St Helen known as the "the Pitmen's Cathedral" was consecrated in 1912.

By 1914 Dawdon was employing over 2000 workers, with the Hutton and Low Main seams being worked. The coal produced went for various uses including Gas, Household, Manufacturing and Steam.

1914 also saw the outbreak of the First World War (The Great War) and many Dawdon workers went off to fight in the fields of France and Belgium for their country. A number of them would never return

 

The plaque to the left is displayed in the Dawdon Welfare Hall and commemorates all of those associated with Dawdon Colliery who were lost in the First World War

 

Following the First World War the colliery continued to expand, and 3 years after its end the colliery was now employing more than 2500 workers, with the Hutton, Low Main, Main Coal and Maudlin seams being worked.

The 1920's continued to see Dawdon Colliery expand and in the latter half of the decade it was employing around 3800 workers. During this period it was producing over 1,000,000 tons of hand hewn coal annually. The 1920's was also a decade of dispute with Dawdon miners being involved in industrial action in 1921, 1926 - the year of the general strike with the workforce involved in strike action that lasted for 7 months, and in 1929. The decade was to end on a sour note and in 1930 a thousand miners were laid off.

In 1925, 18.5 acres of land was given by the 7th Marquess of Londonderry for the creation of the new Dawdon Welfare Grounds, with the work being completed in 1930.

The 1930's saw Dawdon to continue to employ over 2500 workers with the Hutton, Low Main and Maudlin seams being worked. In 1933 a fire at the mine forced its closure for 4 weeks. During its lifetime Dawdon was fortunate in that it never suffered a major disaster, however it is known that at least 100 men lost their lives in pursuit of coal within its depths.

The 1940's once again brought war to the country and for all the miners of Dawdon were in a reserved occupation, many chose to once again go and fight for their country which again resulted in a reduced number in the workforce employed at the pit. In August 1940, the German Luftwaffe launched a raid on Dawdon, and whilst the pit remained virtually unscathed the surrounding area sustained some severe damage with 12 people being killed and more than 100 being made homeless. During the course of the Second World War, Dawdon was to continue to produce coal which was vital to industry and the war effort.

In 1947 the coal industry was to undergo the biggest change in its history when it underwent nationalisation with control of the colliery being handed over from the Londonderry's to the newly formed National Coal Board (NCB). At the point of handover Dawdon was still employing more than 2500 workers and producing almost 650,000 tons of coal annually.

Following the creation of the NCB the coal industry saw heavy investment in mechanisation, and throughout the 1950's Dawdon was to benefit from this. As well as substantial investment being made underground, Dawdon was also to undergo considerable change to its appearance on the surface. One of the most striking visible changes was the replacement of the old steam driven winding gear with a new Koepe electrical drum winding system being installed. This would result in the creation of the two enclosed towers of the Castlereagh and Theresa shafts that became a familiar landmark of Dawdon Colliery which were visible for miles along the coast. The winding gear broke with tradition in that the engine rooms were installed at the top of the shaft with the removal of the traditional sight of the "pit wheels". 

1951 saw the redevelopment of the Dawdon pit pond. Originally used for providing cooling to the winding engines at the pit, this gave it the unusual feature of being heated all of the time. The redevelopment saw seating areas and diving boards added of an Olympic standard and the pit pond now became a diving and swimming venue, where many a local youngster first learned to swim. The investment in Dawdon Colliery didn't end there, and in the subsequent years it continued to undergo much redevelopment with new washery equipment and rapid loading systems being installed. It truly was becoming a modern, high production colliery.

The 1960's began with Dawdon employing more than 2600 workers. The advent of modern mechanisation would have an effect on the numbers of workers employed at the colliery however the 1960's consistently saw more then 2300 workers regularly employed there. The 1960's also saw working of the high main coal seam. This was to become Dawdon's most productive seam.

The 1970's would once again be a decade of turmoil for those employed in the mining industry. Dawdon miners were involved in major strike action in both 1972 (for 7 weeks) and again in 1974 (for 4 weeks). These strikes had a major impact upon the economy, with power shortages and 3 day working being common place. The strike in 1974 also led to a state of emergency being called and the subsequent toppling of the then Conservative government. These strike actions were have to have far reaching implications for the future of the coal industry.

Investment in Dawdon Colliery continued well into the 1970's and in 1973 work on the "sea drift" was started. The sea drift was part of a joint initiative by both Dawdon and Vane Tempest Colliery's to create new tunnels out under the North Sea, to reach vast untapped coal reserves believed to lie beyond a geological fault in the strata a number of miles out. These coal reserves would ensure the long term futures of both colliery's. Unfortunately these reserves were soon deemed unviable and work on tunnelling stopped at the Vane Tempest Colliery in 1975. Tunnelling was to continue at Dawdon for many years however those vast untapped coal reserves were to remain untapped. The sea drift project was also unusual in that it was the first time an outside contractor had been used to drive the tunnelling. Thyssen were the contractor used and they provided the men and equipment with their "Mole" tunnelling machine. This was met with a mixed reaction by the men and union officials at Dawdon Colliery.

Throughout the 1970's Dawdon remained a productive mine with the opening of the yard seams also occurring during this time. It again consistently employed around 2300 workers during this period.

The 1980's dawned for Dawdon with the colliery producing high volumes of coal and this decade also saw production start in the new "c" seam. In 1980 the colliery was employing more than 2100 workers, however by the end of the decade this number had dropped to less than 1600. During this period the colliery still broke both National and European production records.

 

This picture shows one of the teams at Dawdon after they broke the National tonnage record for a longwall retreating coal face. They would also follow up by breaking the European record too.

From left to right - Bob Curtis, Harry Smith, Barry Whitfield, Benny Duck, Ronnie Miers, Ian Lodge, Barry Price and Malcolm Teasdale.

 

By far and away the biggest influencing factor in the 1980's was the miners strike of 1984-1985. In response to a program of pit closures initiated by the Conservative government of the day, the workers of Dawdon went on strike for almost 1 year. The strike would create great divisions amongst many families and friends, and would start to signal the rapid decline of the coal industry from which Dawdon was not immune.

Two other events during this decade also had a great effect on the future viability of the colliery. The E90 coalface was lost to water, and one million tons of coal had to be abandoned in the "G" seam.

In 1990 the colliery still employed 1592 workers, however the writing was very much on the wall for the colliery, and it too became a victim of the pit closure programme eventually closing is doors on the 27th July 1991.

 

Dawdon Colliery circa 1990

 

Dawdon Colliery 2014