Newcastle Now

Coals to Newcastle
Tue 21st Sept., 2009

Once synonymous with coal, Newcastle upon Tyne no longer has any working collieries. Names like Montagu Main, Coronation and Isabella are only memories, although North Walbottle pit closed in 1968

The discovery and exploitation of coal lead to the formation of housing and social resources for the workers at the pit. The mines were located at the coal, not necessarily near any existing habitation. See map of these locations.

The Walbottle Co-operative building, now a fitness club, is located at the crossroads between the colliery road and the existing Carlisle road.

Walbottle Co-op
Walbottle Co-op Crossroads
Walbottle Coronation Colliery Site

To the north of the Co-op is Coronation Colliery in North Walbottle. The North Walbottle Colliery was, confusingly, north of this adjacent to the Newcastle to Stamfordham road. The name suggests that the first shaft was sunk in 1837, the year of Queen Victoria's coronation.

Seen here from the remains of the slag heap, the colliery buildings and winding house were near the more distant trees. The path visible on the extreme left is the site of the railway line that connected all the local mines and joined the main line at Lemington where coal staithes allowed boats to be loaded. At closure in 1954, 232 men worked underground, almost the greatest number ever at this pit.

When collieries were closed and the sites cleared, the then National Coal Board planted trees and dedicated them to miners who died during their work underground.

Walbottle Coronation Pit Manager House
North Walbottle Level Crossing Site

Along nearby Coronation Road, leading to the colliery from North Walbottle Road, houses such as these were built for the mine managers and top people. The miners' back to back housing was set up in parallel rows nearby and has largely been cleared. Housing in this area is now very desirable and listed buildings and tree preservation orders abound.

The site of the railway crossing on North Walbottle Road is still visible and is used as a footpath and bridle way. Here some intrepid cyclists explore the region using the interconnected disused railway tracks.

Just out of sight around that right bend at the end of the treees is the site of North Walbottle colliery, that last of this group to close.

Blucher church

South of the Coronation pit lies the small village of Blucher. This odd name comes from Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, a general and later Field Marshal under The Duke of Wellington who lead his forces to victory against the Napoleonic French in 1815. The little pit at Walbottle was renamed Duke, after Wellington and this nearby village and its pit was named, when its shaft was sunk in 1816, after the Prussian Field Marshal whose forces saved the day at Waterloo. It closed in 1956. See map of these locations.

Blucher Pit Approaches

The waggonway leads off to the left here, and the road to the colliery is on the right. The mound to the right is the first part of the colliery site, most of which is now allotments. The main Carlisle road is to the north of the pit the little chapel nearby was built in 1906, whilst on the main road the miners' drinking club still serves northern ale to cloth capped customers.

Blucher club
Walbottle Duke Truck
Walbottle site of Duke Pit

Here at the picturesque village of Walbottle one of the underground trucks forms a planter. Evidence of the mine exists in a couple of street names, Bankhead Road and Forge Walk.

The location of the pit head is now a quadrangle of garages for the neighbourhood and the steep railway has partially vanished, but can be seen in the road past New Winning farm towards Newburn. Part of this railway served factories at the foot of the hill until the 1970s

The village green is bordered by the Percy Arms pub, The Methodist Church, and the Village Institute. I doubt if cricket would be all that successful on its rather severe slope. See map of these locations.

Walbottle Village Green
Walbottle Methodist Church

The Methodist church dates from 1867, supplanting the tiny Wesleyan chapel to the rear and the right, built in 1837. When built it was a grander Wesleyan chapel, but later, in 1881, a Primitive Wesleyan chapel to the west of the village was established. The two rival factions coexisted until 1933 when the three main branches (Wesleyan, Primitive and United) joined together nationally in the Methodist Union. The two churches came to be known as Walbottle East (pictured) and Walbottle West. The two congregations eventually coalesced in the present church during 1961 and the West Church was demolished.

The Walbottle Institute occupies the building that was originally the church Mission Rooms erected in 1801, predating all this Methodist wrangling.

Walbottle Institute

At the foot of the hill is Newburn, the major habitation in the area. It was separate from Newcastle until the 1970 Act brought it into the City's ambit. There is still evidence of the Newburn District Council in the fine, but now sadly vacant municipal building and here, below, where KB Cycles now plies its trade was once the Fire Station.

Those trees beyond the Fire Station hide the abutments of a now removed rail bridge. The main tracks lay to the right of this picture and crossed this road a little further on by a still existing bridge. A spur from this line on the Newcastle side extended into a factory complex behind the Fire Station and previously to Walbottle Duke Pit. Another spur came from the factories to the main line across the now demolished bridge. This allowed rail traffic from the factories to access the main line in both directions. Newburn had a station which for passengers was the railhead, but the line continued to Isabella Pit a little further to the west. This line was maintained until the mid 1980s, serving the Ever Ready battery factory until its closure. See map of these locations.

Newburn Fire Station

These almshouses were built in 1870, and lie next to an earlier poor house erected by Hugh Percy, Duke of Northumberland, Lord of the Manor, in 1822. The Council House (below) is of more recent date and is adorned by an elaborately scrolled NDC (Newburn District Council) above the door. Since administration for all but the local housing office has been taken over at Newcastle's Civic Centre, this building is rather surplus to requirements. I hope it will not fall into decay and that a new and socially active amenity use can be found for it. Another grand hall nearby about to become derelict was resurrected and is now the Newburn Motor Museum. It can be done.

Newburn Council house
Newburn Isabella Pit

Newburn Isabella Pit head was here where the road leading up and to the right met the railway across to the left. Its shaft was first sunk in 1867. There is eveidence of some buildings having been to the right of the railway in that clump of trees, but the pit head was to the left of the railway and is now a pasture. The seams worked were quaintly called Victoria, Beaumont, Brockwell, Hodge, Main, Stone, Three Quarter, and Tilley. The road leads to the southern part of Throckley, The Leazes, a reference to gleaning and gathering crops. The Isabella Pit closed in 1954 with 56 underground workers from a high of 256 in 1945.

A sole artefact from the 87 years of industrial fury and human effort remains.

Newburn Isabella Wheels
Throckley Maria Pit

Finally, the site of the Throckley Maria Pit is now occupied by this storage and removals depot. The road is the original approach to the colliery but all other traces have long gone since its closure in 1953, having been worked since around 1910. At its peak in 1930 there were 436 underground workers and 435 surface employees. The large number of surface workers reflected the fact that this was the administrative centre for four local pits. At closure there were 346 underground workers and 104 surface workers.

It may be that in recent times the scuffles and tension of the 1985 Miners' strike and the determination of the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, seem to have heralded the end of a golden era of native energy production by a valiant community of dedicated and expert men and women. In truth this was the end of a decline that had been in progress for over three decades. The National Coal Board, formed in 1947, intended to make coal mining a national power base, became a steward of closure. Its successor still makes good the collapses and floods caused by long abandoned underground workings.

See map of these locations.

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