About Bowburn


What follows is a brief history and description of Bowburn and surrounding area. Other pages of this website have more detailed histories. These are being added to as the site is developed.

(Bowburn is about 4 miles South East of Durham City, near Junction 61 of the A1 motorway.)

Bowburn and Quarrington

Bowburn, Durham, England, is the largest settlement in the civil parish of Cassop-cum-Quarrington (C-c-Q). This was formed in 1887 by the combination of the two ancient parishes (formerly townships) of Cassop and Quarrington. (There was an outcry in Quarrington, as the annual rates trebled, from 1 shilling to 3 shillings [15p] per household!)

Unlike the ecclesiastical parish of the same name, which had been formed 21 years earlier, the civil parish never included much of Quarrington Hill, which was split between those of C-c-Q, Coxhoe and Kelloe, and was really settlement on the hill above Quarrington, rather than part of it. The whole of Quarrington Hill was put into Coxhoe Parish, by boundary changes, in 1986.

Although it is no longer known by that name, Bowburn and its colliery were built on Quarrington Moor.

The ancient township of Quarrington was centred round Old Quarrington (still known locally, by many, as “Heugh Hall”, because of the colliery once sunk there and the miners’ cottages at Heugh Hall Row). Old Quarrington, in the middle ages, had been the capital of a much larger district, called “Queringdonshire” (or Quarringtonshire), which included North Sherburn, Shadforth, Cassop, Tursdale and Whitwell. The 19th century township of Quarrington included Old Quarrington, Park Hill, Crowtrees and Bowburn – the last of which was then just a small hamlet.

The township of Cassop included not just Cassop itself (which today has its own Local History Society – see www.cassop-history-society.com – but also the “sundered land” of Tursdale.

(This map shows the township of Quarrington, in the 1850s, in grey.

The sundered township of Cassop is in red – with Tursdale to the west.

Coxhoe is in green and Cornforth in blue.)


Although agriculture was originally the principal industry of both townships, coal mining was well established in Quarrington well before the end of the 18th century. Quarrington Colliery consisted of a number of pits in the area that is now south east of the A1 motorway junction no. 61. By 1795 an expensive Newcomen atmospheric steam engine was pumping water from these workings. (It was a quarter of a mile east of what is now the entrance to Park Avenue.) By the time of the 1841 Census, over half the male population aged over 10 was employed at one of the local collieries.

This early mining was made profitable by its close proximity to the Durham-Stockton turnpike road. However with the coming of the railways in the 19th century, much wider markets were opened by access to the ports of Stockton, Hartlepool and Sunderland. By 1900, there had been at least ten significant collieries within the C-c-Q parish area – four in the old Cassop township (including Tursdale) and the rest in Quarrington. These included the first Bowburn Colliery (which had nothing to do with that of the 20th century) and those of West Hetton, Heugh Hall and Crowtrees.

The 20th century Bowburn Colliery began to be sunk after the explorer, writer and Islamicist Gertrude Bell (daughter of the Chairman of Bell Brothers Ltd.), cut the first sod on 23rd July 1906. That marked the beginning of what was to become the largest inland colliery in the Durham coalfield. In the late 1950s, some 2,500 men were winning coal from six seams – the Low Main, Tilley, Hutton, Harvey, Busty and Brockwell.

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The growth of Bowburn

Before 1906, Bowburn was a tiny settlement, consisting of a few houses around what is today the Post Office, the Hare & Hounds Inn and a large farmhouse, variously called Bowburn Hall or Bowburn House – later better known to residents as John Hare’s Farm. The Wheatsheaf Inn, formerly Crowtrees (or Crow Trees), was a few hundred yards to the south and was probably not regarded as part of “Bowburn” till the pit was sunk and the village grew.

Today Bowburn is by far the largest settlement in the parish. It grew:

  • firstly, with the erection of the first 189 colliery houses (in Durham Road, Steavenson Street, Clarence Street, Wylam Street and Walker Street – the last four named after Bell Brothers’ Agent & Agent and three of its ironworks) and others along the Durham-Stockton road, when Bell Bros Ltd first sunk its colliery;

  • then, in the 1920s, with further streets behind the Hare & Greyhound (as the re-built Hare & Hounds became after 1909), as well as Bell Bros’ Agent’s house, Bowburn Grange (now Bowburn Hall Hotel – and not to be confused with the earlier Bowburn House);

  • then, starting in the 1930s, with the first Council estate, at Park Hill, and another at Old Quarrington (“Heugh Hall Row”), and then new private estates either side of Crowtrees Lane and north and east of the Hare & Greyhound;

  • then with the large post-war “North Bowburn” Council estate and the further expansion of Park Hill;

  • then with new private estates, in the 1970s and 1990s, near Bowburn Hall Hotel and on the old Landsdowne School site, and

  • finally with 21st century developments on various sites in the north of the village.

There are now about 1,900 houses north of the motorway, and the number is set to rise by at least another 200. There is also a 78-bed care home.

Today there are two primary schools (a juniors and an infants & nursery) and a day nursery. The Infant & Nursery School was originally the Bowburn School, built in 1909 and designed by the noted Durham architect H.T. Gradon (who also designed the Durham Miners’ Hall, a listed building, at Red Hill). It became an elementary school and took all non-scholarship secondary pupils till Bowburn Modern School opened in 1958. The latter became part of the split-site Landsdowne Comprehensive School in 1976, which closed in 1985.

(Bowburn School about 1913)

The first Miners’ Welfare & Institute was built in 1921, in part as a memorial to the Bowburn miners who died in World War I. This was replaced by a new one in 1961, which is today Bowburn Community Centre.

There are also a library (opened in 1968), a post office (now in The Leazes but formerly in Durham Road West and then in Oxford Terrace), a youth club (opened in 1963) and a bunglow-area communal room. There is a part-time police office.

There are two pubs – The Cooperage (formerly The Wheatsheaf, which is older than most of the village) and The Oak Tree (which opened in 1957 on the “new” Council estate) – and a working men’s club – Crowtrees Working Men’s Club (which moved to its present site in 1921, though it had to be re-built, after a fire, in 1923); a hotel and two guest houses; a restaurant and five other take-aways, plus a bakery, which is also an additional take-away.

The first Co-operative store was opened on Durham Road West, by the Coxhoe Co-operative Society, in 1924 or early in 1925. This later became part of the enlarged Methodist Chapel. Today’s Co-op was opened by the Sherburn Hill Co-operative Society in 1957, on the “new” Council estate. In those days it had several departments and occupied the whole building; it is now just a general store, occupying just part of it. There are two other general shops (including newsagents), two hairdressers and a barber shop, and a bookmakers.

There are two churches in the village. Bowburn Methodist Church was formed in 1964, when the two Methodist societies joined. Before that the building now used was the Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1910, while the Primitive Methodists’ had their “tin chapel”, opened in 1908, on the site now occupied by Lambs Place.

The first Anglican church in the modern parish was at Quarrington Hill, built in 1867, although the vicarage (now “Grey Gables”) was nearer to Bowburn. (Before that our parish church was at Kelloe.) Bowburn’s own St. John’s Mission Church was built in 1926; it is now a private residence, near the former Hare & Greyhound. It closed when Christ the King Church (the “pineapple church”, with its “Rocket City” landmark spire) was built, between 1963 and 1978. (It took a long time!) That, in turn, was demolished in 2007 and the new church stands on the same site.

(The original Christ the King Church – now gone)

There are a GP practice (2002), a dental practice (2010), a pharmacy and a chiropodist’s. There is one local garage (fuel and small shop) and, just outside the village, a motorway service station.

There is a children’s play area, multi-sports area and recreation ground, and a park that includes two football pitches (adult and youth), with pavilion, a bowling green and a sensory garden. All these are on the original Bowburn Colliery Welfare ground, opened in 1930.

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Park Hill

Park Hill was once one of the main farms in Quarrington, extending from Four Mile Bridge, near the bottom of Coxhoe, in the South, to the bottom of Durham Road West, Bowburn, in the North. It was progressively built upon throughout the 20th century and split by the A1 motorway in 1968. This separated most of the former farm area, as well as Bowburn Cemetery (which had been established by the parish council in 1945), from the rest of Bowburn, and Park Hill is now generally regarded as a separate settlement; it even has a new name: “Parkhill”.

Today the settlement has about 300 houses, one general shop and a pub, the Kicking Cuddy – though this is due (in 2012) to be closed for re-furbishment and is expected to re-open next year with another new name. (It was originally Clarence Villa.) There is also a garage (service, not fuel). There are two play areas, one for small children and one for juniors / seniors.


Once larger, the hamlet of Tursdale now consists of one street, with 25 houses, including those in the converted school. Only Ramsay Street remains of the houses occupied by the families of miners at Tursdale Colliery, which was sunk in 1859 and ran independently of Bowburn till 1931, when the two were amalgamated. Other Tursdale miners lived in Metal Bridge, Cornforth, Coxhoe and Cornforth Moor & Park Hill.

Some years after Tursdale Colliery and its coke ovens closed, new workshops were built by the National Coal Board, first to serve the rest of the Area and later nationally. They were officially opened in 1959 and closed in 1994. The site is now a business park.

There are no shops or other services in the hamlet.

Old Quarrington

Once the capital or Queringdonshire, Old Quarrington was primarily an agricultural village. You can still see mediaeval ridge & furrow just west of the hamlet. There were also racing stables here early in the 20th century.

Many residents worked at nearby collieries, however, even early in the 19th century, and Heugh Hall Colliery (believed to be the second of that name) was sunk here, probably in the 1820s.

Old Quarrington is today a hamlet of 23 dwellings, including the 16 former Council Houses that replaced the miners’ cottages at Heugh Hall Row in 1939, plus two associated with what is now just one farm.

There are no shops or other services.

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In addition to those mentioned above, there are a few more isolated farms. In total, there are today 13 farms, of various sizes, in the parish (i.e. including Cassop, and Tursdale, as well as Quarrington).


For some 200 years, coal mining was by far the biggest source of local employment. The village of Bowburn, as we know it today, was built from 1906 onwards to accommodate the families of those working at Bowburn Colliery. But even before that the main male occupation was in mining.

Sunk in 1906-08, the colliery reached its peak in the late 1950s. 2,432 were employed there in 1957 and a record-breaking week’s output of 16,387.8 tons was achieved in w/e 13th April 1957. However, after a rapid run-down, the last coals were drawn on 20th July 1967 and, after salvage work, the pit closed completely the next year. Many miners then travelled to other pits and some left entirely, to live and work in the Midlands.

Durham County and City Councils bought land from the National Coal Board to establish Bowburn North Industrial Estate and, in particular, attracted two new factories, Capes and PC Henderson.

(Cape Unicem factory at time of closure)

Universal Asbestos Manufacturing Co. (later Cape Unicem) started building their asbestos cladding factory in 1964. It closed in 1989, with the loss of 170 jobs, and was demolished in 1993. PC Henderson built its sliding door factory in 1969 and moved all its UK sliding gear and garage door production to the site in 1994. After becoming part of the Cardo Door Group in 2000, the garage door business was sold in 2008 to the Cardale Group, which went into administration the next year. PCH retained its sliding gear business, however, which is still based in Bowburn.

The site of Bowburn Colliery itself was bought by Land Developments (Mincroft) Ltd, later known as Ogden Properties Ltd. After demolishing the colliery buildings, they established Bowburn South Industrial Estate, the biggest employer on which, filtrations specialists PSI Global, was founded in 1976.

Together with the business park at Tursdale, these industrial estates now cover a total of about 70 acres (28 hectares) of land. There are existing outline planning permissions for the development of about 7 acres of land, for employment use, on part of the former Cape factory site (most of which is being used for housing, however) and for a 76-acre business park south west of the village (Durham Green Business Park). An application for permission to develop a much larger Durham Green site, linking Bowburn and Tursdale and including a rail-road freight interchange terminal, is expected in due course.

Nonetheless, the majority of local residents now travel to work outside the parish. This is helped by a good network of roads and, for Bowburn itself, at least, of public transport.

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Bowburn has always been on important transport routes. Indeed it is believed that the Romans’ Cades Road crossed Bowburn Beck (as it was later called) near what is now Bowburn Bridge – near today’s Library.

The old Durham to Stockton road (later the A177) then passed through here for many centuries. Before the coming of the railways, this turnpike road made it possible to find markets for “land sale” coal, from the Quarrington and Coxhoe collieries, in the south of the county and in North Yorkshire.

A branch of the Clarence Railway, terminating in Quarrington, was opened for the transport of coal to Stockton, and thence to London, in 1834.

The original East Coast Main Line passed just west of the village and there was a station, still standing today as a private residence, at Shincliffe. This section of what came to be called the Leamside Line was opened in 1844 and was the main North-South railway route till the “new” Main Line opened, through Croxdale and Durham City, in 1872.

Shincliffe Station was used by trippers and holiday-makers from Bowburn till it closed to passenger transport in 1941. The line itself continued to be used, not least by Bowburn Colliery, for freight but finally closed in 1990.

(Sidings from Bowburn Colliery connected directly on to the Leamside Line.)

Trips and outings – and, indeed, commuting – more commonly used a variety of local bus services, including Gillett Brothers, Scarlet Band (which still operates) and Trimdon Motor Services.

Today, Bowburn, Parkhill and Tursdale are served by Arriva North East buses and Scarlet Band. There is no bus service to Old Quarrington.

The A1 motorway through Bowburn was completed in 1969. It meant the loss of a popular pub, the Pit Laddie, as well as Lambs Close farm and Bowburn’s forge. Arguably, the motorway divided the village; it certainly split Quarrington in two. But it brought easy access for car-users and traffic to and from the industrial estates, and is for many their route to work today. The Roadchef service station opened in 1994.

In 2008, a new A688 Wheatley Hill to Bowburn link road was opened, to connect the A1(M) Junction 61 at Bowburn with the A19 and Peterlee. This completed as East-West link across County Durham, from Weardale to the coast, which had already included a straightened Bowburn to Tursdale road in the 1990s.

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The Bowburn community

When the colliery was thriving, there was a vibrant community with both formal and informal networks. This was probably most so before World War II, when the first generation had grown up together but before the colliery, and its workforce, had grown to their peak. With the growth of North Bowburn, to house those who would otherwise have been traveling miners from a much wider area, things undoubtedly changed. (It would make a very interesting historical study to examine this in detail: a project for the future!) But it was still essentially a mining community.

A bigger change no doubt occurred after the pit closed. Much of the population left entirely. (At least a quarter of the houses in the original colliery rows were unoccupied in the late 1970s.) And the number and scope of formal community organisations undoubtedly declined. However, thanks in part to a Council-led regeneration project, there has been a noteworthy revival and a number of community groups now play an important part in the social life of local residents.

One of these, BVC (which stands for “Bowburn Village Celebration”) has produced a quarterly newsletter, Bowburn Interchange, since 1996. This reports on much current local activity. Current and back copies can be read on-line at: www.interchange.bowburn.net/pastissues.htm and are a useful resource for the village’s most recent history. (The smaller newsletter that BVC produced between 1994 and 1996 can also be downloaded from that site.)