A history of Bowburn Colliery

Some dates in the history of Bowburn Colliery

The following information was gathered from various sources, which are given below each entry where possible. Some of it is from verbal reports by former Bowburn miners or relatives of people referred to. Such reports have not always been verified from other sources. Much of the information is from a trawl of local newspapers, microfiches of which are kept at Durham County Council’s Clayport Library, in Durham City. That trawl is not yet complete and further information will be added to this history in due course.

The events listed here that are prior to 1932 can also be found – AND MUCH MORE! – in our book, published in 2018, entitled “Early Years of a Pit Village”. Copies of this, priced only £5 (thanks to a donation by Bowburn & Parkhill Community Partnership), are available at Bowburn Community Centre.

While every attempt has been made to be accurate in the events listed below, some sources are more reliable than others. If readers spot any errors, or can add to the information contained here, Bowburn LHS would greatly appreciate their getting in touch. Please see the “Bowburn LHS Contacts” page on our website or e-mail bowburnlhs@gmail.com.


10 October 1905

Tursdale Colliery. The Managing Director reported the need of obtaining further supplies of coking coal from this Colliery and read a report of Mr. A. L. Steavenson dated 7th October recommending a shaft to be sunk to the north of the present pits at an estimated cost of £37,000. Ordered that the Board approved of the necessary preliminary steps being taken for sinking a pit at a point to be approved by the Managing Director for working that part of the Tursdale royalties which lies to the North of the Hett Whin Dyke and that Mr. Steavenson be requested to prepare the necessary detailed plans and estimates to be submitted to the next Board meeting.

(Source: p.158 Bell Bros. Directors Minutes)

Addison Langhorne Steavenson was Bell Bros’s Agent/Engineer. He lived at Holywell Hall, on Lord Boyne’s estate, two miles north east of Brancepeth Village. Steavenson Street, in Bowburn, is named after him.

5 December 1905

£3,500 approved by Bell Bros. Directors for the erection of 20 houses for the sinkers (including street works). The first cottages were built at Coxhoe (Coronation Terrace), as there was a problem over the acquisition of land intended for colliery rows in Bowburn.

The sinkers are said to have included Harry Gales and his brothers; Tot Dawson; Ernest(?) Stapleton, and Joseph Scott Tickell, all of whom have descendents still living in Bowburn, and James Smith, whose son, Andrew Hunter Smith, was killed in an accident at the colliery in 1946.

(Sources: Bell Bros. Directors Minutes; Joyce Broughton; Bob Bellis)


The colliery village of Bowburn began to be built, prior to the commencement of shaft sinking on 23 July 1906. At the colliery itself, a temporary pit heap and engine house had been erected before the shaft-sinking began, as had brick kilns to use the clay expected, with sand, in the first 25-26 fathoms. Offices, workmen’s shops and an engine shed had also already been built by the bricklayers, joiners, fitters and labourers etc. already employed.

New dwelling houses had been built in Coxhoe for the first workmen (Coronation Terrace) and a row of “comfortable four-roomed houses with sculleries and washhouses” were under construction on Durham Road when sinking began.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 27 July 1906, p.7)

23 July 1906

Sinking of downcast pit of Bowburn Colliery began with the ceremonial cutting of turf (actually a spade-full of clay, as the topsoil had already been removed) by Miss Gertrude Bell, the noted explorer, writer and Islamicist, and daughter of Sir Hugh Bell, chairman of owners Bell Bros. Ltd.

The ceremony was also attended by Sir Hugh Bell; his son Maurice; Mr. A. L. Steavenson, Bell Bros’ chief agent (of Holywell Hall); Mr. John Ramsay, manager of Tursdale and Bowburn Collieries; Mr. Matthew Kirby, Bell Bros. ’ engineer [later agent, of Bowburn Grange]; Mr. Walls, draughtsman; Mr. E. Johnson, of Boldon; Mr. F. Barkhouse, resident engineer, and a number of the general public.

Bell Bros. Ltd. owned the adjacent Tursdale Colliery, as well as Browney and Page Bank Collieries.

The new pit was to save underground haulage to Tursdale, using a new siding from the North Eastern Railway.

The shaft was sunk by E. Johnson & Sons of East Boldon (24 July 06-15 January 08), to a depth of 110 fathoms into the Brockwell seam, passing through the Harvey and Busty seams and requiring piling because of quicksand and swelling clay.

The Busty was already worked at Tursdale. Tursdale would continue working the Busty and the Brockwell in south-east direction, with Bowburn working the East and West districts.

It was expected that an unsuccessful 19th century shaft 500 yards to the east would be used as the return shaft.

The first storekeeper was Ernest Burton and the first truck loader was Robert Lofthouse, of Coxhoe (ref. : Billy Stokoe interview.)

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 27 July 1906, p.7; DCC/N. Echo book, p.24 (with extract from N. Echo, 24 July 06); Dur. Chronicle, & Co. Gazette 27 July 1906, p.11; M. Richardson “Around Durham” p106; R. Walton (1986); J. Broughton, B. Stelling & A. Taylor; N. Echo, 16 August 1967 + Dur. Co. Adv., 10 August 1945, p.6; N. Echo, 16 August 1967.)

10 September 1906

Associates and students of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers visited Bowburn winning, to see how the new shaft was being piled and tubbed. It was hosted by A. L. Steavenson, agent for Bell Bros. Ltd. and M. R. Kirby, engineer. Piling, which was necessitated by the swelling clay, quicksand and loam, 50 feet thick, at a depth of 110 feet, was not a common practice. The contractor, James Johnson, of East Boldon, a sinker of some 50 years’ experience, said it was only the third piling shaft he had seen – including his first, at the age of ten.

Mr. Steavenson predicted that the new pit would give employment to about 500 men.

(Sources: Transactions of the Institution of Mining Engineers, Vol. XXXII, 1906-1907, pp. 385-389; Dur. Co. Adv. 14/9/1906, p.8.)

15 January 1908

Sinking of downcast pit at Bowburn Colliery completed.2nd April 1908 is given as date elsewhere.

But Mary Egglestone says there was a sign in the colliery office saying “This colliery was opened in 1907”. She remembers this because that was the year she was born.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Mary Egglestone.)

7 June 1908

First coals (16 tubs) drawn with cages at Bowburn Colliery. First coals filled into trucks on 20th July. First trucks sent out on 23rd July.

First cavils drawn on 28th August 1908. The seams worked during the next 59 years were Low Main, Hutton, Harvey, Tilley, Busty and Brockwell.

(Source: R. Walton, 1986.)

28 August 1908

First cavils drawn at Bowburn. There were then 50 hewers at the Colliery. Recorded in an old cost book held by Billy Stokoe, quoted by John North in 1967.

(Source: R. Walton (1986); N. Echo, 16 August 1967.)

24 November 1908

John Plummer’s Award was made to set hewing and other prices and conditions for working in the Busty Seam at Bowburn Colliery, following arbitration between owners and workmen – the first such formal agreement. John Plummer, a former HM Inspector of Mines, had been appointed umpire after arbitrators for the owners (T. Y. Greener, of Crook) and miners (J. Herriotts), appointed by the Joint Committee of the Durham Coal Owners and the Durham Miners Association, had failed to reach an agreement.

Local representatives of Bell Bros and the Bowburn miners were not named in the Agreement. The first such mention in Bowburn Lodge’s Local Agreements Book (published in 1935) were A. L. Steavenson and W. Harle for the owners and Thomas Foster, Robert Griffiths, John Ward, Samuel Laverick, James Griffiths and Thomas Wilkinson, on an agreement regarding band stone prices, signed on 22 February 1910.

(Source: Bowburn Lodge DMA (1935) “Local Agreements Book”.)


New upcast Shaft opened at Bowburn Colliery (?) (According to DCC/N. Echo book). Was this the shaft at Heugh Hall? Or a further development of Mr. Quelch’s shaft (site of present Mabey Plant Hire)?

(See also 14 July 1934)

(Source: DCC/Northern Echo book)

20 March 1912

Pony races on field behind Bowburn colliery. It raised money for miners’ families during the Minimum Wage Strike.

The races were the initiative of Bill (William Frederick) Gardner, the colliery’s chief clerk and cashier. In 1945, the Durham Advertiser reported that he approached the then Col. Maurice Bell, and secured his sanction to stage races. The race meeting at Shincliffe Racecourse was abandoned because of the strike, and the pit pony races were substituted with such success that several more meetings were held and drew large crowds. The race officials were Peter Harle, the colliery manager; John Gladstone Ramsay, the undermanager; William Frederick Gardner, colliery cashier; Frank Barkhouse, the colliery engineer, and Messrs. William Aitken, Joseph Waddle (WM Club Chairman). Joseph Dixon, Matt Moore, Charles Hepple [brother of Benjamin Hepple, who was killed in 1923] and Arthur Brooks.

(Source: photograph and information from Douglas Haigh, WF Gardner’s grandson.)

Although it has been suggested elsewhere that these races replaced, in some way, the Shincliffe Races, the only primary source references to pony races in Bowburn are to this 1912 meeting and to two during the 1921 lock-out.

Other fund-rasing events were organised throughout the coalfields during both disputes, including pony races – with one being held in Coxhoe in 1921 (15 June 1921).

On this first occasion (it being a Wednesday), Bowburn School was closed from noon onwards, by leave from the District Clerk because the races, it was feared, would seriously affect the attendance. Note that William Harle was still the colliery manager in November 1911 (see entry re first annual show of the Bowburn & District Caged Bird Society). So Peter Harle must have been appointed between then and March 1912.

(Sources: Durham Advertiser; Bowburn School Log Book; Dur. Co. Adv., 10 August 1945, p.6 + 17 June 1921, p.2; Douglas Haigh.)

27 June 1912

Joseph Ferguson (17), rope boy, son of Wm. Ferguson, 34, Steavenson Street, was the first miner killed at Bowburn Colliery. He was employed on an endless rope haulage system, with the rope over the tubs, his duty being to attach and detach the tubs to the rope. By some means (probably he was swaying on the rope) his waistcoat got fast in the rope and he was carried up against a guide sheave 7 feet 6 inches above the floor level– Report of Mr. Nicholson, Mines Inspector. [Note: a “sheave” was a pulley wheel, acc. to R. Preece, Coal Mining and the Camera, p.8. ]

(Sources: Co. Durham Advertiser 5 July 12, p2; Durham Mining Museum website (Reports of H. M. Inspectors of Mines - 1912 Div 3); Dave Williams; Annual Mines Inspector’s Report, p.38 (viewed at Caphouse); BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.).)

15 July 1912

Weekly payments of wages began at Bowburn Colliery. This followed request by the workmen, under rights established by §96(2) of the coal Mines Act 1911

(Source: Bell Bros. Directors Minute Book No.1 (24 January 1899-8 July 1913), p.289.)


397 were employed at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: 1914 List of Mines - Government report from the Mines Department, via Durham Mining Museum.)

20 July 1914

New main engine commenced to drive screen at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

March 1916

“The workmen employed at Bowburn Colliery have decided to pay a levy of twopence per man per week and a penny per boy, to raise funds to provide a suitable welcome for the local soldiers and sailors on their return from military and naval service. The tradespeople in the village have also decided to support the movement, the arrangements being in the hands of a committee – Chairman: JG Ramsay, under-manager; Secretary: Robert Griffiths, checkweighman; Treasurer: WF Gardner, cashier”.

(Source: Durham Co. Adv., 31 March 1916, p5.)

26 February 1921

The Bowburn Miners’ Institute was opened and a Roll of Honour, on which the names of 35 men, belonging to the district, who fell in the war, were inscribed, was unveiled by Rev. Thomas Wardle, vicar of St. Paul’s Church.

The roll of honour was on brass, mounted on marble and framed in oak.

It was dedicated by Rev. A. J. Gadd, former vicar of St. Paul’s and honorary chaplain to HM Forces. Prayers were said by Rev. G. R. Bell.

The institute was built by Bell Bros., who also donated the memorial. (According to the UK National Inventory of War Memorials (www.ukniwm.org.uk) it was an ex-army hut, given by the colliery owners.) It was later known as the Green Hut Welfare, in contrast to the one built across the road in 1961.

Under the 1920 Mines Industry Act, provision had been made for establishing a fund to improve social conditions for miners and their families. Many NE collieries opened new welfare halls and built parks, sports grounds and other amenities.

The institute was leased by the colliery company to the workmen. It comprised billiard rooms, reading rooms and a large hall. It was situated opposite the site of the modern Bowburn Community Centre (formerly the second Miners’ Welfare Hall), which was built in 1961.

The memorial plaque is now in the community centre. Four more names were added in 2001.

Co. Durham Adv., 20 May 1966 gives date of opening of the Miners’s Institute, incorrectly, as 1928. It also says James Halliday was the first caretaker. (Maybe he started in 1928?)

www.ukniwm.org.uk refers to the the County Chronicle, 21 March 1921 as its source.

The brass memorial plaque reads: “To the glory of God and in memory of those who fell in the Great War 1914-19… They fought a good fight. ” It lists the men (with initials only, not first names): John Gilligan, John George Purvis, Ernest Robinson, William Harrington, John Walsh, William Snooks, Christopher Carling Jr, Joseph Morley, Richard Blenkinsop, William Hall, David Kellie, Thomas Allison, Christopher Waugh, Michael Lowery, Robert Bell, Thomas Mitchell, Robert Morland, Robert Lawson, George H. Latue, James McKewon, Jesse Smith, John Thomas Griffiths, Harold Blackburn, Andrew Pearson, Albert J. Scott, James Lindsay, John I. Johnson, James Barker, Thmas Ramshaw, Joseph Pyke Wake, Thomas Brunskill, Henry Moore, Thomas Euen Nesham, William Blenkinsop, James Wood.

(Sources: War memorial; Durham County Advertiser 4 March 1921, p8; 30 August 1928, and 20 May 1966; www.ukniwm.org.uk.)

4 May 1921

Bowburn pit pony races held on the Bogs, west of the colliery, during 1921 lock-out.

Admission to Field 3d. Race cards 3d. Proceeds were for the Village Relief Fund. Judges: Messrs M. R. Kirby (Agent) and P. Harle (Manager); Stewards: Messrs Barkhouse, Chitby, Hepple, Galley, Iseton, R. Ramsay, Elliot, Chapman & Sowerby; Handicapper and Clerk of the Course: W. F. Gardner (Colliery Cashier). The races were for pit ponies ridden bare-back by pit-boys, with pit-bridles & reins.

(See also 8 June 21.)

(Sources: Poster published in M. Richardson (1998) “Around Durham”, p.107; Durham Advertiser; Ian Walton.)

8 June 1921

Second Bowburn 1921 pit pony races during the 1921 lock-out.

It was open to ponies that had worked in the mines for at least 3 months prior to 31 March 1921 (i. e. before the start of the lock-out). This had to be certified in writing by the colliery manager with entries, which had to be sent to W. F. Gardner (Bowburn Colliery cashier) before 4 June 1921. Over 60 entries were received.

Ponies had to be ridden bare back by pit lads, with pit bridles and reins.

The proceeds, from voluntary admission subscription, bookmakers’ toll @ 2s/6d and sale of Race Cards @ 3d, were for the Durham County Hospital.

Bowburn’s jockeys included J. Allan, W. Harker, T. Robinson P. Robinson and G. Glynn. Tursdale’s jockeys included Messrs. Denny, Allan, Williams, Scott and Westgarth.

Judges were Ivor Lowthian Johnson, Esq., Director; Matthew Robson Kirby, Esq., Agent, and Peter Harle, Esq, Manager.

Starters were Messrs. F. G. Leigh & J. G. Ramsay.

Stewards were Messrs. Chapman, Elliott, Sweeting, Barkhouse, Chitty, Hepple, Galley & R. Ramsay.

The Committee consisted of Messrs. Wilkinson, R. Willey, Clowes, Fairley, Moore, Haddock, Owens, Lockey, Jackson, Elliott, Brown, Waugh, Carling, G. Lynn, Broughton, Coates, Harrison, Fawcett, J. Willey, Freeman, Bainbridge, M. Lynn, Hughes, Dunn, Mitchell and Cowings.

Official Measurer was Mr. J. W. Edwards.

Official Number Caller was F. Owens.

Handicapper & Clerk of the Course was W. F. Gardner.

All ponies were measured on the field and handicapped at 12 yards per inch.”Judging by the brisk trade done by the bookmakers, there was plenty of money, backers freely supporting their fancies”. (

See also 4 May 21, when funds raised were contributed to the Village Relief Fund – unlike on this occasion, although the lock-out continued for another month.)

(Sources: Programme (D/Ph 175/1 in Durham Records Office); Durham County Advertiser 3 June 1921, p6 + 10 June 1921, p4; Poster.)

August 1921

Robert Griffiths, 2, Bow Street, checkweighman at Bowburn Colliery, died. A ballot to elect his replacement went to a second round after John [Jack] Coates received 58 votes in the first round, Cuthbert Morley–42, George Scott–19, John William Edwards–12 (next highest–7). J. G. Ramsay had told Parish Council that Mr Griffiths was very ill in January.

Result of second round of ballot not found in Advertiser. Morley was still President and Coates still delegate at the half-yearly lodge meeting in September.

According to Ann Golightly’s family tree on Ancestry.com, Cuthbert Morley was a checkweightman, so perhaps he won this election.

RG was a parish councillor and the Parish Council decided to invite Wm. Heron, of Tursdale, to take his place. He declined, so the vacancy was left till April 1922.

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 28 January 1921, p2 + 2 September 1921, p6 + 23 September 1921, p6 + 16 September 1921, p6 + 2 December 1921, p6.)

7 February 1922

William Kemp Wheatley, stoneman, was killed by a fall of stone at Bowburn Colliery, aged 30. He was formerly of Bearpark(?) and Durham – he was born at 20, Crossgate and later lived at 11, Lawson Terrace. He left a wife (Annie, née Wilkinson, aged 26) and four children, Tommy (8), Ellen, Florence and Doreen (6, 5 and 3). At the time of his death, he his family were living with Annie’s father, Thomas Wilkinson, at 6, Steavenson Street.

WKW had enlisted in the 25th BN, Northumberland Fusiliers (the Tyneside Irish – though he had no Irish connection), in Nov.1914 (Reg. No.702). He was wounded in April 1915 and was transferred to the East Yorks Regt., in which he was a Corporal (Lance Sergeant), Reg. No.36687. (The Durham Advertiser reported in error that he was in the DLI.)

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (the second highest honour to a VC) and the Military Medal “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” on 21 October 1918.

Coxhoe Silver Band headed the funeral procession through Coxhoe, playing the Dead March, on Sat.11 February 22, followed by officials and members of Bowburn Miners Lodge.400 attended the funeral at Quarrington Church, conducted by Rev. T. Wardle. The Last Post was sounded by buglers from the band.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; Co. Durham Advertiser 10 February 22, p.5 and 17 February 22, p.8; Bill Swinburn; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com,)


Bowburn Grange was built by Dorman Long & Co. and occupied by newly married Mathew Robson Kirby, the colliery agent. Mr. Kirby, born in Middlesbrough in 1878, joined the staff of Bell Brothers in 1898 as assistant to colliery engineer Mr. Arclough. He was apprenticed to A. L. Steavenson in 1901 and obtained his manager’s certificate in 1904.

He married his wife, Blanche, c.1923 and their first four children were born at Bowburn Grange.

Bell Bros. Ltd., owners of Bowburn Colliery, was absorbed by Dorman Long in 1923.

Bowburn Grange later (c.1967) became Bowburn Hall Hotel.

(Sources: Durham Advertiser 6 July 2002; Christine Gott [with info. from M. R. Kirby’s nephew].)

20 May 1923

Benjamin Seymour Hepple (57), stoneman, died, following a blow to the head in the Cassop district at Bowburn Colliery on 29 March 1923.

He had continued working till 14 April 1923 but was then attended to by Dr. Oliver, who advised his removal to the County Hospital. He died there five days later. The coroner’s inquiry on 23rd and 25th March was attended by Peter Harle, representing Bell Bros., W. Wainwright, Inspector of Mines and J. Chatt on behalf of the workmen. Evidence was heard from Charles Hepple (brother), Thomas Waugh (stoneman, of 10, Walker Street) and William Hayton.

Mr. Waugh said that BH “took a hack and was squaring off the top part of a large stone to make it level when a piece flew from the top of the hack and struck deceased on the forehead. He went with him to the ambulance box, where the wound was dressed, and then they resumed work.”

BH married Elizabeth J. (née Grainger) in 1895. He was born 2 October 1865, son of George Hepple (b.2 December 1858 in Low Fell) and Isabella Seymour, who had six other children. (GH also had two children by an earlier marriage. He remarried in 1865.)

The BMD (Death) Index gives name (in May 1923) only as Benjamin Hepple – not Benjamin Seymour Hepple.

The 1911 Census gives his full name, Bejamin Seymour Hepple, aged 45. He was then living at 19, Durham Road, Bowburn, with his wife, Elizabeth Jane (46), and their only then-surviving children, Isabella (16) and Georgina (13).

His brother Charles Hepple (34) and family were living at 42, Steavenson Street.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; http://www.rootsweb.com/~momacon/hepple.htm; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Census records; John Malcolm Hepple; BMD Index (via Ancestry); Dur. Co. Adv., 25 May 1923 p3.)

June 1923

Half-yearly meeting of Bowburn Colliery Miners’ Lodge Elected:–

President: C. Morley; Secretary: R. Willey, sen. ; Treasurer: Wm. Bewick

Delegate: J. Coates

Compensation Secretary: J. Chatt; Average-taker: R. Willey, jun. ; Auditors: J. Hinton and D. Sutherland; Minimum Wage Board representatives: J. Coates, J. Hinton; Pit Inspectors: J. Chatt, W. Allison; Crakeman: Matt. Willey; Committee: J. Chatt, J. Bunce, D. Sutherland, C. Austin, W. Allison, R. Willey, jun.

(Source: Durham County Advertiser 22 June 23, p.3.)

6 November 1923

Edward Cranson, pony driver, aged 15, son of Sarah Fenton (née Cranson), of Church Street, Coxhoe, died following an accident at Bowburn Colliery on 27 October 1923. EC was working in the Busty seam, Croxdale Flat on Saturday 27 November 1923. He was riding on the first of two tubs being pulled by Bobbie (pony), while John Ward, a spare putter, rode on the limmers, when the rear tub derailed. The front tub tilted and EC fell off and was partially covered with coals.

His left arm was lacerated and he was taken to the kist, where the deputy washed and dressed the wound. He walked home and reassured his mother that he was all right.

The next day he was faint and complained that his arm was painful. He improved till Thursday (3 November 23) and was attended by Drs. Brown and Moffat. Then, on 5 November 23 the doctor instructed his admission to the Durham County Hospital. There he died the next day, of tentanus. DMA’s Book of Accidents gives name as Cranston, as does the Durham Advertiser report of the inquest.

However the BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.) gives Cranson for both death and birth (Apr–June 1908, Sedgefield), as do both the birth and death certificates (d. o. b. = 4 August 1908).

Sarah Cranson married Thomas Fenton in 1908 (the year Edward was born) but no father was named on birth certificate. She was living in Coronation Terrace at the time of his birth and is undoubtedly the person listed as 12-year-old daughter of Ralph and Jane Cranson, of Blue Row, Coxhoe, in the 1901 Census. In 1911, she was listed as Sarah Fenton, but living or staying with her widowed mother. Her son was also there, named Edward Cranson (not Fenton).

[Note: Front Coronation Terrace replaced Blue Row c.1902 – R. Walton, “History of Coxhoe”, the new houses being built by Bell Bros. to replace the condemned ones. On the other hand, Dur. Co. Adv., 8 May 1931 implies that Coronation Tce. was still known as Red Row and Church St. as Blue Row, those streets being what they replaced. (Foundry Row was still always called Clarence Street, said the article.]

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) “Book of Fatal Accidents” 1920–1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 16 November 1923, p.10; birth certificate; 1901 Census; R. Walton, “History of Coxhoe”; Bell Bros. minutes 4 December 1901; Dur. Co. Adv., 8 May 1931, p.12.)

22 December 1923

Bowburn Colliery acquired by Dorman Long & Co. (from Bell Bros Ltd). By the 1930s, Dorman Long & Co. was one of the three colliery groups, all belonging to iron and steel interests, that dominated the Durham coalfield – the others being the Consett Iron Co. and Pease & Partners – although the dividends they paid shareholders were nil till 1936, when the re-armament boom began.

(Source: Supple (1987) History of British Coal Industry, Vol. IV, p.375 + 393-5.)

April 1924

Half-yearly meeting of Bowburn Colliery Miners’ Lodge: Elected:

C. Morley, president; R. Willey (sen.), secretary; Wm. Bewick, treasurer; J. Coates, delegate; J. Chatt, compensation secretary; R. Willey (jun.), average-taker; J. Hinton & D. Sutherland, auditors; J. Coates & J. Hinton, Minimum Wage Board reps; J. Chatt & W. Allison, pit inspectors; Matt. Willey, crakeman; Committee: J. Chatt, J. Bunce, D. Sutherland, C. Austin, W. Allison, R. Willey (jun.)

(Source: Durham County Advertiser 2 May 24)

March 1925

Stephen Marr, overman, Bowburn Colliery, passed his exams for the First Class Colliery Manager’s Certificate.

(Source: Durham Co. Adv., 20 March 1925, p4.)

18 September 1925

Thomas Robinson, hewer, of 12, Burn Street, was killed by a fall of stone in Busty Seam, at Bowburn Colliery, aged 27.

George Ogden was hewing while TR was leaning over a tub to level the coal. Two tons of seggar suddenly came away from the side and crushed him against the truck. Joseph Haigh, deputy, had inspected the area 20 minutes earlier.

Co. Durham Advertiser gives TR’s occupation as “leveller” (i. e. levelling coal on the tubs); Durham Mining Museum gives it as hewer.

TR lived at the home of his father-in-law, Frederick Pearson, and left a widow, Ethel.

DMA’s Book of Fatal Accidents gives accident date as 18 September 1925 and date of death as 21 September 25 but the Advertiser says he died at 1.30pm following accident at 9.30am on Monday 21 September 1925.

He was buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard, Quarrington Hill, where gravestone records give both 18 September 1925 and 22 September 1925. Peter Harle was colliery manager; Joseph Chatt was ìone of the men’s inspectors; Thomas Mitchell and John Bruce arrived shortly after shouts for help.

St. Paul’s Cemetery has grave of Thomas Robinson who died 18 September 1925, aged 27, of Bowburn.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Book of Fatal Accidents 1920–1950; Co. Durham Advertiser 25 September 1925; St. Paul’s Churchyard list of inscriptions; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

23 October 1926

George Lansbury, MP, with J. E. Swann, miners’ agent, Durham, and J. Foster, Labour agent, Durham, made surprise visit to Bowburn Colliery, “where some men and hands have been signing on to resume work”. GL addressed a crowded meeting and “at the conclusion a vote taken by show of hands in favour remaining loyal to the Miners Federation received unanimous support”.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 29 October 1926.)

29 November 1926

The Great 1926 Lock-out ended with a ballot of members of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain. Although a majority, nationally, voted to continue, it was less than a two-thirds majority. So the dispute was over.

Men at many collieries had already drifted back.99 had returned at Bowburn by 2 November 26 and 5 at Tursdale.

The Durham Advertiser reported that 393 men had resumed work at Bowburn & Tursdale before the MFGB agreed a return to work.

Bowburn Colliery management are believed to have threatened to evict miners who did not return to work. Joe Griffiths (born 1910) recalled that his family (four brothers, who lived at 38, Steavenson Street) were the last ones to go back to work, which they did after “the manager” [actually JG Ramsay, the undermanager] told them [i. e. posted a notice] that they would lose their colliery house if they didn’t.

(Sources: Temple (2001) “Above & below the Limestone”; Durham County Advertiser on 5 November 26, p.5 + 26 November 26; J. Griffiths.)

December 1928

Yearly meeting of Bowburn Colliery Miners’ Lodge appointed officers for the ensuing 12 months. Cuthbert Morley, president; Robert Willey (sen.), secretary; Wm. Bewick, treasurer; John Coates, delegate; J. Chatt, compensation secretary; John Witham, assistant weighman; J. Coates & Robert Turton, Minimum Wage Board reps. ; Charles Witham, R. Turton & Jos. Robson, average-takers; John Redfearn & Jos. Hinton, auditors; W. Ferguson, crake and doorman; R. Turton & Jos. Turton, pit inspectors; Committee: C. Morley, R. Willey (sen), J. Coates, W. Bewick, J. Redfearn, J. Chatt, C. Witham, J. Robson, John Witham & R. Turton.

(Sources: Durham County Advertiser 20 December 1928, p4.)


John Gladstone Ramsay, under-manager of Bowburn Colliery, married his second wife, Dorothy Richardson. She was cousin of his first wife, Elizabeth, who had died in 1928.

(Source: Who’s Who in Co. Durham 1936.)


724 were employed at Bowburn Colliery, according to 1930 List of Mines - Government report from the Mines Department, via Durham Mining Museum. According to “Coal Mining in County Durham”, by Durham County Council & Northern Echo, (1993), there were 636.

(This was before 1931 merger with Tursdale.)

29 September 1930

John Allison, hewer, of Steavenson Street, Bowburn, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 29. He was killed by a fall of stone and was buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Coxhoe, at “one of the largest funeral processions seen in the district for some time” (Durham Advertiser), attended by about 500 people.

JA’s father, Tom Allison, had been killed at Gallipoli in 1915.

His widow, Mary (who re-married), who died 4 June 1993 aged 88, was also buried at Coxhoe.

“BOWBURN PIT VICTIM’s FUNERAL.”One of the largest funeral processions seen in the district for some time was witnessed on Saturday, on the occasion of the interment in Coxhoe churchyard of Mr. John Allison, Steavenson Street, Bowburn, who was killed at his work at Bowburn Colliery, it being estimated that about five hundred persons were present. Previous to the cortege leaving the residence of deceased a hymn was sung by Bowburn Mission Church choir.”The procession was headed by the officials of Bowburn Miners’ Lodge, who walked in front of the Lodge banner, which was followed by Durham Shakespeare Silver Band, who rendered the Dead March as the cortege proceeded at a slow pace on the way to the churchyard. About 300 officials and workmen employed at Bowburn Colliery and the Bowburn Mission Church choir followed. A motor car loaded with flowers preceded the motor hearse containing the coffin.”Owing to the length of the cortege the services of police officers were necessary to regulate the traffic. The service in the church and at the grave were conducted by the Vicar, the Rev. D. R. Evans. Among the many wreaths were those from Crowtrees Workmen’s Club and the Pit Laddie Savage Touring Club.”– County Durham Advertiser, 10th October 1930, page 3.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Evelyn Bell; Dur. Adv., 10 October 1930, p.3; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

May 1931

Tursdale ambulance class held a whist drive and dance, with presentation of certificates etc. Presentations were by W. G. Grace, agent of Dorman Long & Co. ’s Tursdale & Bowburn collieries, introduced by G. S. Hollingworth, manager of Tursdale colliery and its under-manager, Mr. S. B. Marr. The Advertiser article includes a full list of award-winning students.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 8 May 1931, p.5.)

4 June 1931

Tursdale Colliery finished drawing coal (i. e. closed) and merged with Bowburn. It was used as man-riding shaft till 1968.

25 December 1931

New pit bottom started (in Busty seam) at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

30 May 1932

William Cowings, onsetter, of 10, Burn Street, died from injuries received (accident: 17 May 1932) at Bowburn Colliery, aged 58.

He was crushed against the shaft guide when attempting to stop moving tubs. He was buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Coxhoe, remembered by his wife Mary Hannah.

Mr. W. Wainwright, Inspector of Mines, said at the Inquiry that he had written to Dorman, Long & Co. suggesting that they instal an overhead drop safety girder, as 50% of the collieries in the county had already done. This would have prevented the accident.”The management regretted the accident very much and sympathised with the relatives. ”

Verdict: Accidental death.

Mr. Cowings had worked at the pit since it began, 24 years earlier. He was well known as a bass fiddle player. (He had played, for instance, at a W. I. dance in the Institute on 3 March 1926.)

Witness Richard Blenkinsopp Campbell, of 52, Steavenson Street, was assistant onsetter.

Mrs. Mary Hannah Cowings, widow, received £50 from the Co. Durham Advertiser and Durham Chronicle, as newsagent E. J. Thompson confirmed they were regular readers. An advert on 10 June 32 encouraged readers to insure with the Advertiser, against similar circumstances, by filling in a coupon, to be signed by their local newsagent.

Haswell Mining Museum gives age as 58. Advertiser gives it as 59. Headstone gives 58. BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.) gives 58.

(Sources: DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Durham Mining Museum website (which gives name as "Cowlings"); Co. Durham Advertiser 10 June 1932 pp14 + 2, and 6 March 1925, p4; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

2 June 1932

One of the single deck pit cages in the Busty Shaft at Bowburn Colliery crashed 110 fathoms into the sump at the bottom, when the cage rope broke. There were two sets of cages in the shaft, one for the Harvey and the other for the Busty. No one was injured. “One of the single deck cages in the Busty Shaft of Dorman, Long & Company’s Bowburn Pit crashed to the bottom, about 110 fathoms, on Thursday night last week. ” No one was injured. “The cage, loaded with two tubs of coal, had almost reached the surface, when the cage rope broke. Fortunately, in its rapid descent, the cage kept in the guides in which it runs. The cage, which crashed into the sump at the bottom of the shaft, was badly smashed.” There are two sets of cages in the shaft, one for the Harvey and the other for the Busty Seams, the coal from both seams being drawn in the shaft.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 10 June 1932, p.13.)

9 September 1932

William Kelly, of Sherburn, became checkweighman at Bowburn Colliery. He had led the first three ballot rounds, which reduced the candidates from 18 to two. The final choice was between him and John Witham, of Bowburn.

The last four had also included George Craine (Spennymoor) and Thomas Dykes (Bowburn).

Others nominated had been John Thompson (Kelloe), Wm. Pease (Coxhoe), Thos. Morris (Bowburn), Geo. P. Kell (Sherburn Hill), Wm. Foster (Coxhoe), Robt. D. Ayton (Coxhoe), Hy. Johnson (Bowburn), Thos. Benfield (Ferryhill), Wm. Hannaby (Browney), Wm. Carlin (Bowburn), Wm. McKenna (Quarrington Hill) and Wm. Wilkinson (Sherburn Hill).

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 2 September 1932, p.5 + 9 September 1932, p.3; also 30 December 1932, p.12 + 4 November 1949, p.4 + 11 November 1949 pp.3&5.)

12 September 1932

New screening plant and coal washery started at Bowburn Colliery.

The washery had a capacity of 125 tons an hour, and the screening plant was capable of dealing with 2,500 tons of coal a day. The order for the new washery and screening plant had been placed with Simon-Carves Ltd., colliery engineers, of Cheadle Heath, near Manchester, in January. “The order for a new coal washery and screening plant for Bowburn Colliery has been placed by Dorman Long and Co. Ltd. with Simon-Carves Ltd, colliery engineers, Cheadle Heath, near Manchester. The washery will have a capacity of 125 tons an hour, and the screening plant will be capable of dealing with 2,5000 tons of coal a day. ”–[Manchester] Guardian.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Guardian 13 January 1932.)

December 1932

Annual meeting of Bowburn Colliery Miners’ Lodge.

New President = William Allison (formerly Cuthbert Morley); New Secretary = William Kelly (formerly Robert Willey, junior, who had held this position for only six months, after succeeding his father, following his death in June 1932); Treasurer: Charles Witham was re-elected; Delegate: Robert Coates was re-elected unopposed. “Mr. Cuthbert Morley, Bowburn, president of Bowburn Colliery Miners’ Lodge for some years, was re-elected to the position by a ballot taken last week, when he received 303 votes to 238 recorded for Mr. W. Allison. Later he declined to accept the position and at a subsequent meeting of members Mr. Allison was appointed.

County Councillor W. Kelly, Sherburn, has been appointed secretary, receiving 354 votes at the ballot taken as against 244 recorded for Mr. R. Willey, retiring secretary. Mr. Kelly was recently apointed as one of the checkweighmen at the colliery.

Mr. C. Witham retains the position of treasurer with 300 votes to 224 given to Mr. R. Kirkup.

Mr. R. Coates has been reappointed unopposed as lodge delegate. ”–Durham Co. Adv.

(Sources: Durham County Advertiser & Durham Chronicle, 30 December 1932, p.12; 1 July 1932, p.4.)

December 1932

Annual meeting of the Bowburn Colliery branch of the Miners’ Permanent Relief Fund. T. Wilkinson was re-appointed President; H. Johnson = Secretary; W. Carlin = Treasurer; R. Willey = Delegate; Committee = J. Arkwright, J. Ramshaw, J. Bunce & J. Redfern.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv. & Dur. Chronicle, 23 December 32, p.4.)

15 February 1933

Stephen Allison, aged 18, rope lad, of 7, Bow Street, Bowburn, died of injuries received at Bowburn Colliery on 13 January 1933. He died at Durham County Hospital from internal injuries sustained in the Busty Seam. He had been caught by a tub and crushed against an upright girder to which the rope drum was fixed.

“BOWBURN FATALITY. Rope-Boy found crushed by tub. A verdict of “accidental death” was returned at an inquest held at the Durham County Hosptial on Friday last [17 Feb 1933] on Stephen Allison (18), of 7, Bow Street, Bowburn, who died in hospital on the previous Wednesday [15 Feb 1933] from internal injuries obtained while following his employment as a rope-boy at Bowburn Colliery on January 13th.

There was no witness of the accident and from what Allison subsequently related it appears that he was caught by a tub and crushed between it and one of the upright girders to which are fixed the sheaves, or drums, which bind the ropes to the tubs.

His stepfather, John Frederick Garner, said that Allison had told him that he had been caught in the pit of the stomach, and had been greasing the sheaves at the time. Witness, who is a deputy overman, said he did not think anyone was to blame in any respect.

Andrew Taylor, deputy overman, of Metal Bridge, said he had been similarly informed. He had found Allison lying partly conscious in the Busty Seam. There were instructions not to oil the sheaves when in motion. Allison could have stopped the machinery himself and he could only oil the sheaves on one side not being in danger. The tubs could easily be heard approaching.

Allison was stated to have suffered sever internal injuries and he had undergone two operations.–Durham Advertiser.

(Sources: Bowburn Lodge DMA book; DMM; Dur. Adv., 24 January 1933.)

June 1933

Charles Taylor, Front Coronation Terrace, Coxhoe, was seriously injured by fall of stone in the Busty Seam, Tursdale District, Bowburn Colliery. He sustained broken collar bone, broken left leg and scalp wounds and was taken by ambulance to Durham County Hospital.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv. & Dur. Chron., 30 June 33, p.4.)

September 1933

Safety Classes for young mineworkers began, in connection with the Coxhoe Evening Classes Centre. They were organised at the suggestion of Mr. T. Greenland Davies, divisional inspector of mines.

Nearly 50 boys (aged 14–17) attended from East Hetton Colliery, about 20 from Thrislington and over 20 from Bowburn. The Bowburn classes were on Saturdays, with Mr. Henry Taylor as instructor.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 20 January 1933, p.5.)

13 October 1933

Robert (Robbie) Moore, belt lad, of 8, Carnaby’s Buildings, Tursdale, was killed on the screens at Bowburn Colliery, aged 14 – the pit’s youngest fatality. His father was Joseph Edward Moore.

RM was cleaning up on the belts and went beneath one of the machines. He was caught and crushed between the belt and a roller, dying of a broken neck and other injuries.

His earnings of 8s/0d a week had all been given to his parents, his father, Joseph Edward Moore (47) receiving only £1/7s/3d unemployment benefit, and his mother (44), brother (13) and sister (10 ) having no income. His father was awarded £15 funeral expenses.

Buried in Cornforth Churchyard.

Robert Moore Close, on The Grange estate (the former Cape asbestos factory site) was named after him in 2010. It is a close of ten Aged Miners Homes Association bungalows.

Joseph Edward Moore and Frances Eleanor Moore later (1939) lived at 32, Park Hill Estate and then (1951) at no.11.

The inspector’s report read:

“Accidents by Machinery. There was one fatal accident causing one death. This fatality occurred at Bowburn Colliery, Durham. A belt lad, with 14 weeks’ experience on the screens, crawled through an aperture, 18 inches high by 39 inches wide at floor level, in an expanded metal fence guarding one end of the tension drum and rollers of a rubber-belt conveyor, with the apparent intention of removing an accumulation of coal-dust beneath the drum. His left arm was drawn between a roller and the belt travelling at 180 feet per minute and he was instantly killed. The aperture had been left to facilitate cleaning at week-ends by the chargeman, when the machinery was at a standstill, and a long-handled brush was provided for the purpose. It was no part of deceased’s duty to clean inside the fence and he had received instructions not to go anywhere in the close proximity of the machinery whilst it was in motion. Following the accident complete and permanent enclosure of the aperture was at once effected.”

(Sources: Mines Inspector’s Annual Report for 1933 (on Durham Mining Museum website); DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; DMA Minutes – Arbitration Committee 29 December 1933 (Case 2682); BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Death certificate; Dur. Co. Adv., 20 October 1933, p.9 & 27 October 1933, p.16.)

January 1934

Harry Taylor, fore-overman at Bowburn colliery, was appointed under-manager at Sherburn Hill colliery. (Both collieries were owned by Dorman Long.)

HT served under his father at Page Bank and then at Browney and Bowburn. He qualified as a manager while at Bowburn and then went to Vancouver, then Australia, then back to Canada, before returning to Browney and then Bowburn again.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv. & Dur. Chron.19 January 1934, p.11.)

January 1934

“The whole of the boys employed at Bowburn Colliery examined in connection with the Safety First Class, organised by the Durham County Education Committee”, held at the colliery, passed. They were J. Thompson, T. Peat, T. Ugden, G. Elsbury, – Brownless, J. Robson, J. Longstaff, R. W. Freeman, R. Robinson, John Young, A. Wood and D. Jones.

Mr. Harry Taylor was the instructor.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv. & Dur. Chron.19 January 1934, p.4.)

January 1934

William Kelly, checkweighman at Bowburn Colliery, was one of 112 candidates to become DMA agent, following the death of James Robson in September. Another candidate was Wm. Kelly jnr., of Sherburn Hill.47, checkweighmen.56 miners, 6 ex-checkweighmen and 1 deputy were nominated.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 23 January 1934, p.2.)

March 1934

Tursdale Colliery Ambulance Class held its annual whist drive and dance, with presentation night, at the Club Hall, Tursdale T. Burns and Ed. Bryan were MCs for the whist; Geo. Hoff and W. E. Gowland for the dancing, which was to Cutty’s band, until the ealy hours of Saturday morning.

Prizes were presented by Mr. & Mrs. P. L. Richardson (manager of Bowburn Colliery).

Under-manager Mr. S. B. Marr presided.

Dr. Moffatt, the class lecturer, was presented with an instrument bag and J. Loston (secretary and instructor) and Wm. Bell (instructor) also recieved presentations.

Certificates were presented to a large no. of successful students: Jos. Turner, Wm. Harrison, Lawrence King (preliminary certs.); Geo. Harrison, David Allen, Cuthbert Allen, Edward Bryan, J. Heslop, Geo. Williams, Thos. Harle, Harold Harle, Alec Wood, Albert Wright, Eric Bell, L. Jopling, Morris Batty, Thos. Mordue and Robt. Golightly (1st year certs.); J. T. Weir, Jas. W. Brown, Alf. B. Brown, Wm. Edgecumbe, Kenneth Johnson, J. Sparks, Thos. Prest, Arthur Attley, Thos. Turner jnr., (vouchers), and Thos. Burns, Thos. Wilson and Cecil Bell (labels).

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv. & Dur. Chron., 9 March 1934, p.11.)

23 March 1934

Students attending Bowburn Colliery First Aid Class were presented with certificates by Mr. W. G. Grace, agent for Bowburn Colliery, in Bowburn Welfare Hall.

His wife presented badges.

They had been examined by Dr. Moffat the previous week.

Dr. A. Harrison (Sherburn) was their lecturer and Mr. F. Cannon their instructor.

Mr. Grace paid tribute to Mr. Baker, former ambulance man at the colliery but now retired, for services to the classes. Mr. Grace referred to the good record at Bowburn Colliery, with 15% of employees holding first aid certificates. He paid tribute to Mr. Baker, formerly an ambulance man at the colliery, for his services to the first aid classes.

After the presenations, Mr. W. F. Richardson, HM Inspector of Mines, gave an address. He said this was the first year training was being given to boys on how to avoid accidents in the mines. Support for the Mines Department in running these classes had been given by the Education Authorities.

Thanks to both officials were accorded by J. G. Ramsay, under-manager of Bowburn Colliery, and, P. L. Richardson, manager.

Mr. Ramsay and W. F. Gardner then acted as MCs for the whist drive and a dance followed.

1st year certificates were awarded to Alf. Harrison, Jn. T. Llewellyn, Sidney Elliott, Thos. Canavan, Martin Tunney, Jn. T. Curry, Peter S. Wilson, Jn. R. Wilson, Jn. Tipling, Wm. B. Sutherland, Jos. S. Smith, Wm. H. Haigh, Jos. D. Nicholson, Harold P. Marr, Jas. Griffiths, Ralph Garner, Geo. Hepple and Young Cook.

Vouchers were presented to Thos. Ross, Norman Melvar, Thos. H. Cookson, Robt. Wilkinson, Geo. W. Egglestone, Jn. G. Embleton, Arthur Miller, Robt. Moore and Gordon W. Robinson.

Wm. Brown received a Medallion and Labels went to A. Smith & J. Brown.

Badges were also presented, by Mrs. Grace, to boys employed at the colliery who had passed an examination in safety principles. They were W. Crosier, J. Stoddart, F. Davison, T. Peat, J. Young, C. Elsbury, J. Thompson, J. Robson, J. W. Longstaff, R. F. Robinson, R. W. Freeman, T. Ogden, D. Jones, N. Sharpe, A. Wood and H. Brownless.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 23 March 1934, p.13, and 30 March 1934, p.14.)

4 June 1934

Scott Barlow, cutter man, of Quarrington Hill, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 26. He was electrocuted. SB was dragging a 4-core cab-tyre sheathed trailing cable up a longwall face, carrying over his left shoulder the plug which was to be attached to the machine. Owing to a misunderstanding his mate inserted the plug at the other end of the cable into the gate-end panel and switched on the current whilst deceased was still some distance from the machine. The handle of the unfortunate man’s electric lamp made contact with one of the phases in the plug and he was electrocuted.

Full liability was admitted, for £534/6s/0d.

SB left a widow, Edith Barlow, aged 24, and a son, William Scott Barlow, aged two weeks.

He was buried in St. Helen’s Cemetery, Kelloe, where his headstone also commemorates his brother Fred, who was a, P.O.W. in Thailand and died at sea on 12 September 1944, aged 29. (Their parents were Fred and Elizabeth Barlow of Cassop.)

“A fatality occurred at Bowburn Colliery, Durham. A coal cutterman was dragging a 4-core cab-tyre sheathed trailing cable up a longwall face, carrying over his left shoulder the plug which was to be attached to the machine. Owing to a misunderstanding his mate inserted the plug at the other end of the cable into the gate-end panel and switched on the current whilst deceased was still some distance from the machine. The handle of the unfortunate man’s electric lamp made contact with one of the phases in the plug and he was electrocuted. Written instructions have since been given to all machinemen to the effect that the leading man must himself attach the cable to the coal-cutter, and then return to the gate-end panel, insert the plug, and switch on the current.”

(Source: Mines Inspector’s Annual Report for 1934, from a copy held in the Scottish Mining Museum, Newtongrange, Midlothian. (Reproduced on Durham Mining Museum website); DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; DMA Minutes – Report of Proceedings of Arbitration Committee 31 July 1934 (Case 2735); Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

14 July 1934

Commenced to change the workmen at the upcast pit of Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

17 November 1934

George Connaughton, cutterman, of Thinford Road, Coxhoe, died in the Durham County Hospital of injuries received at Bowburn Colliery, aged 36. He had been in the hospital since being injured in a fall of stone on 23 July 1934. He had been operating a coal-cutting machine, assisted by John Harker, of 19, Old Row, Tursdale, when a prop supporting part of the coal face was accidentally knocked out. A large stone fell from a slip and caught GC on the back.

He left a widow and two daughters, Elizabeth and Winnie, and was buried in Metal Bridge RC Cemetery. The service, in West Cornforth RC Church (SS Joseph, Patrick & Cuthbert), was conducted by Father S. Stack.

GC was an active member of the Catholic Young Men’s Society, forty of whose members headed the funeral procession.

(Source: Bowburn Lodge DMA book; Dur. Co. Adv., 23 November 1934 pp.3 & 13.)


2,176 were employed at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: 1935 List of Mines - Government report from the Mines Department, via Durham Mining Museum.)

30 January 1935

James Lawson, stoneman, died of fatal injuries at Bowburn Colliery received the previous day (29 January 35), aged 46. He was injured by a fall of stone.

He left a widow, Edith Lawson, and was buried in Rock Road Cemetery, Spennymoor. His headstone reads: “In loving memory of James, beloved husband of Edith Lawson who died through injuries received at Bowburn Colly 30th Jan 1935 aged 46 years.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; headstone.)

12 July 1935

John Pennock, hand putter, aged 19, of 14, Heugh Hall Street, died in the Durham County Hospital, having sustained fatal injuries on 25 June 1935 at Bowburn Colliery. A fall of stone fractured his spine in the Harvey seam. He was sitting in the mother gate, five yards from the face, with Thomas Graham and Mr. Smith (helpers-up) and Martin Luke (filler), waiting for the deputy to fire a shot,. A large piece of stone flashed from the roof without warning and caught JP as he made a dash for safety.

He was buried in Quarrington Churchyard.

Son of Alfred and Ethel Pennock of Heugh Hall Row [then Street]. Alfred & Ethel May Pennock, later of 5, Cambridge Terrace, lived at Heugh Hall Street, acc. to 1939 Electoral Register; JP had two brothers, Reg & Alfred, and one sister, Mrs. Jean Hodgson.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Headstone (Monument 186), St. Paul’s churchyard; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 19 July 1935, p.5; Paul Pennock.)

14 December 1935

Joseph Platts, coal cutter, of Hawthorn Crescent, Quarrington Hill, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 51 years. He was killed by a fall of stone in the Harvey seam. He left a widow with two sons and five daughters (William, John, Martha, Maria, Ruth and Alice. He was buried in Quarrington Churchyard, where his widow, Margaret (née Marr), who died 19 July 1954, aged 65 years, was also later buried.

The service was conducted by Rev. T. Wardle, assisted by Rev. R. Tuesday. Gravestone, Quarrington cemetery, also remembers his widow Margaret, who died 19 July 1954, aged 65 years.

She was born in Kelloe in 1889.

Joseph was born in 1885, the son of Wm & Maria Platts, in Quarrington Hill.

They had six children according to the Trimdon website (William, John, Martha, Maria, Ruth and Alice) but seven according to the Durham Advertiser, including “D” [Dorothy]. William, however, was probably his nephew, son of Joseph Thomas (Thomas) Platts, JP’s brother.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Headstone (Monument 62), St. Paul’s churchyard; http://www.trimdon.com/html/tree/marr_john/pafg05.htm; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 20 December 1935, p.2.)


A cage containing one empty tub fell down the shaft at Bowburn Colliery.

No one was hurt. “At Bowburn Colliery, Durham, a cage containing one empty tub was leaving the surface but was not clear when the banksman pushed the keps in. The top hoop of the cage caught on the keps and before the winding engine could be brought to rest about 24 feet of slack winding rope accumulated and fell over the cage side into the shaft. The rivet in the detaching hook was sheared – probably by the hook striking a bunton. The cage hung on the keps for a few seconds then fell down the shaft. As the cage fell away the bridle chains were fractured – probably because they were wound around a bunton. Little damage was done to the shaft but the cage was smashed.”–1936 Mines Inspector’s Report (quoted on www.dmm).

18 May 1936

Christopher Smallwood, stoneman, of Broom Lane Terrace, Ushaw Moor, was killed by a fall of stone in the Harvey seam at Bowburn Colliery, aged 51. He was working with Lane Wilson, stoneman, of Castle Street, Bowburn, at about 1.00am, and they were clearing away stones after a shot had been fired when a fall of stone buried him. He was dead when extricated.

W. H. Dixon, deputy, said at the inquest that he examined the district after the shot was fired and the roof appeared safe.

CS was interred in Ushaw Moor Cemetery, with his wife Elizabeth Ethel, who died 18 days later, on 5 June 1936. “A stoneman was killed at Bowburn Colliery, Durham. He was building a gate pack 7 ft. long by 11ft, wide, on a hand got longwall face in a seam 2 ft.2 in. thick. A stone 8 ft.9 in. long, 3 ft.3 in. wide and 1 ft.3 in. thick, fell in the pack area from two concealed induced parallel slips in the blue shale roof. He had withdrawn two steel straps from within the pack area and left the roof unsupported over an area of 77 square feet.”–Mines Inspector’s Annual Report for 1936 (on Durham Mining Museum website).

(Sources: HM Inspector of Mines, 1936; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 22 May 1936, p.10.)

18 May 1936

George Edward Lynn, deputy at Bowburn Colliery, of 31, Durham Road, Bowburn, took the secretary and treasurer of the Bowburn Miners” Lodge, William Kelly and Charles Witham, to court. He claimed 25/- pocket money in connection with his visit to Conishead Prory, which had been refused.

The Judge awarded him this amount and ordered the defence to pay his costs. Mr. Lynn, and other deputies (and non-members of the Lodge) had, about four times a year, paid 2d levies to a fund that paid expenses to Lodge members who attended the mners” convalescent home. However a decision of the Lodge in 1932 made only members of the Lodge eligible to receive such payments.

The Judge made acid comments (throughout the trial) about what this arrangement, which he said was “un-English, horrible and un-Christian” and ruled for the plaintiff.

(He gave leave to appeal. The result of that appeal, if one was made, has not yet been found.)

More than 180 Bowburn miners had gone to the home since it opened in 1930. [A dispute between Deputies and the DMA was reported as reaching a climax, eight years later (Dur. Co. Adv., 6 October 1944, p.1), in connection with a case at Birtley. Perhaps the Lynn case was related to a wider deputies vs. DMA antagonism.]

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 22 May 1936, p.11.)

5 November 1936

Record day’s output to date at Bowburn Colliery, before the working of Low Main Seam, of 3,033 tons.

Output for the week was a record 16,029.25 tons. (See also 11 July 57.) On W. F. Gardner’s retirement, in 1945, he recalled that output had peaked at 3,500 tons a day in 1935. However Bob Ramsay’s records may be more reliable.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Dur. Co. Adv., 10 August 1945, p.6.)

March 1937

Durham RDC was informed that about 1,000 workers, all householders, were travelling 2 to 8 miles to work, many of these to Bowburn Colliery.

The need for more houses in Bowburn was stressed by Cllr. J. G. Ramsay, ìwho claimed that, from an industrial point of view, Bowburn was one of the bright spots of the county, in that the future life of the colliery was estimated at 60 years. [It close 30 years later.] Cllr. Ramsay said that a bus had failed to turn up at Ushaw Moor, one day during the previous week, resulting in 22 men missing their shift. He urged the Council to rescind its decision of some time earlier, not to take advantage of an offer of the N. E. Housing Assocation.

This was opposed by Labour councillors. Cllr. Gowland said the Council should get subsidised to build houses, not the housing association, and Vice-chairman Cllr. M. Tate said he would never be a party to the Council building them through a housing association.

Discussion closed when Mr. Frank Kirby, the Clerk, pointed out that housing subsidy could not be restored just by going to the Ministry. It could only be obtained by legislative enactment, he said.

(The issue did not go away. See 5 December 1938.)

(Source: Co. Dur. Adv., 5 March 37, p.11.)

22 March 1937

The Coronation Drift to the Low Main seam was started at Bowburn Colliery.

It drew coal from the Low Main and Harvey seams and was virtually a separate mine from the downcast shaft, which itself had two winding arrangements – the Harvey level winder, which (at 1962) drew from the 8th West Harvey and the North Harvey (Gusto) districts, and the Busty level winder, which (at 1962) drew from the Tilley, Busty and Brockwell seams. The Coronation Drift went 20 yards west of the upcast shaft, then you walked on the level past the shaft for about 40 yards, then down the back drift (started 1943) to the Hutton seam. The first wall was started in Hutton in 1948.

It was completed to the floor of Low Main seam on 9 May 39, a distance of 276 yards.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Bob Bellis; NCB Durham Division Area 4 Manpower Profile of Bowburn Colliery, 1962.)

29 May 1937

Retirement of John Gladstone Ramsay, under-manager of Bowburn Colliery since 1908.

According to the Durham Chronicle, & Advertiser, he and his wife then went to live at Seaburn, Sunderland. However they were living at 14, Tweddle Terrace, Bowburn, in 1951, and that was his address when he died in 1952.

J. G. Ramsay (1870-), born in Page Bank, the son of George & Eliza Mary Ramsay, was a member of Durham Rural District Council and chairman of Cassop-cum-Quarrington Parish Council for 20 years. One-time Master of the Bowburn Conservative League, he lived at Oak Lea, Durham Road North.

He had worked for Bell Bros. and successors Dorman Long & Co. for 54.5 years, having started work at Page Bank Colliery at 12.5 years. Before moving to Bowburn in 1908 he had been back-shift overman at Page Bank for 15 years.

He had been Durham Rural District Councillor for over 20 years and a Parish Councillor for 25 years (20 as chairman), retiring from both at the 1937 elections.

He was for 7 years an Executive Committee member of the Northern Counties’ Colliery Officials Association and secretary and treasurer of the Bowburn branch; secretary of Bowburn Miners’ Welfare Committee; chairman and founding member of the Bowburn Nursing Association; past member of the Bowburn National Conservative League and representative to the Grand Lodge, and overseer for the parish (till overseers were superseded by the new rating authority).

During World War I he was chairman of the local Pensions Committee; treasurer of the local War Savings Committee; chairman of the Soldiers & Sailors Fund; local food officer; responsible for compiling the National Register and the enrolment of suitable recruits for HM Forces, a special constable and in charge of the Bowburn area.

From 1930 he was a Commissioner for the Peace for the County and from 1933 a member of the Juvenile Court Panel.

In March 1934, the Durham Advertiser published what was effectively an election address for JGG, with photograph, for the County Council elections on 6th March. It drew extensively from Who’s Who in Co. Durham:

“Mr. J. G. Ramsay, who is contesting the Sherburn Division at the Durham County Council election on March 6, has devoted himself, during the greater part of his busy life, to the service of the public in a variety of capacities. An unostentatious personality, but sound in his views and thoroughly conscientious in his multitudinous activities, Mr. Ramsay is the vice-chairman of the Durham Rural District Council, on which body he has served for many years. He represented his district on the old Board of Guardians, and is now a member of the Guardians’ Committee.

Among the many other appointments he holds are: Member of the Executive Committee of the Northern Counties Colliery Officials’ Associations (fourth term) and secretary and treasurer of the Bowburn branch; secretary of the Miners’ Welfare Committee; chairman and one of the founders of the Colliery Institute; chairman of the Bowburn Nursing Association, and delegate to the County Nursing Association; chairman of the Bowburn Parish Council for twenty years; postmaster of the Bowburn, National Conservative League and representative to the Grand Lodge; was for many years overseer for the parish until the overseers were superseded by the new rating authority; was during the war and afterwards chairman of the Local Pensions Committee; treasurer of the local war savings committee; chairman of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund, local food officer and was entrusted with the compilation of the National Register and also with the enrolment of suitable recruits for H. M. Forces.

Mr. Ramsay was a special constable during the war, and was placed in charge of the Bowburn area.

In 1930, his name was added to the Commission of the Peace for the County and last year was placed on the Probation Committee. Since the Children’s Act, 1933, came into operation, his name was placed upon the Juvenile Court panel.

It will thus be seen that Mr. Ramsay has devoted himself assiduously to the public weal and now he offers his services in the wider capacity of County Councillor.”

(The Labour candidate was reported at the bottom of the same article: “Mr. William Kelly, who is the Labour nominee, has been a member of the County Council since 1928 and also occupies a seat on the Public Assistance Committee.” [END!])

Kelly, the checkweighman at Bowburn Colliery, was elected.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 28 May 1937, p.16.)


The first skip machine was used at Bowburn Colliery in 1938, but there was one at Browney before that.

(Source: Bob Bellis.)

5 September 1938

Aerial ropeway started work at Bowburn Colliery. Total length = 3,395' 6" (each way), with 8 towers (highest = 150'). The ropeway was demolished in Nov.1964.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

1 December 1938

Joseph Hutchinson, stoneman, of West Cornforth, was killed in the Harvey Seam at Bowburn Colliery, aged 43. He was working with Lawrence Wilson, of Castle Street, Bowburn, clearing away stone brought down by shot firing the night before. He was putting in the packers when he was buried by a fall of stone from the side.

At the inquest (5 December 1938), John Inman Edwards, deputy overman, of Wylam Street, Bowburn, agreed with Mr. Wilson that vibration caused by a coal cutting machine might have dislodged the stone.

JH died of injuries to the spine, in Durham County Hospital, a few hours later.

He was buried in Cornforth Churchyard. The deputy on duty was Billy Bainbridge.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Book of Fatal Accidents 1920–1950; DMA Exec. Committee Minutes 5 December 1938, p.197; Dur. Co. Adv., 9 December 1938, p.12; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; gravestone, Cornforth Churchyard.)

9 December 1938

About 270 miners at Bowburn Colliery shared a £2,500 back-pay award, after it had been discovered they had been paid at the wrong rate. It had been found that the Third East Busty Seam had belonged to Tursdale Colliery. So an agreement of 27 October 1927 governing yard work prices for cutters on longwall faces applied, not Bowburn prices – though the seam had been worked from Bowburn for 10 years. J. P. Hall, under-manager for that district, had been paying 1s/2.5d per ton, instead of 1s/8d.

The seam was now being worked by machines, not hewers, so the union willingly accepted a 2d per ton increase (i. e.1s/4.5d per ton), back-paid for six weeks, as well.

The manager at the time was P. L. Richardson.

The agreement, dated 18 October 1938 but effective from 8 August 1938, read: “It is hereby mutually agreed between the Owners of Bowburn Colliery and the Durham Miners’ Association acting on behalf of the Workmen of Bowburn Colliery, that Messrs. Dorman Long & Co. Ltd., shall pay and the Durham Miners’ Assocation shall receive a sum of two thousand five hundred pounds in full and final settlement of a dispute concerning the tonnage price payable for hewing in the Cassop West Hetton District at Bowburn Colliery as shown edged in red on the plan attached hereto, and that the Agreements dated the 3rd March, 1920, and the 21st April, 1927, in so far as they relate to the hewing price payable in the West Hetton and Cassop West Hetton Districts mentioned therein are hereby cancelled, and that in future whilst the conditions of work remain the same as those stipluated in Plummer’s Award in relation to Bowburn Colliery the hewing prices in the West Hetton and Cassop West Hetton Districts shall be for whole work 1s/4.5d per ton and for broken work 1s/2.5d. per ton.”

It was signed by D. R. Brooks for the Owners and by Sam Watson, J. Gilliland and W. Kelly for the Workmen.

(Sources: Co. Dur. Adv., 2 December 1938, p.4; DMA record of Urgency Committee meetings 1937–39 (case no.16); Copy of Agreement.)

24 December 1938

Michael Richard Marr jnr., suction plant worker, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 21. Son of Michael Richard & Mary Marr, of Dinsdale House, Tursdale (later of 50, Ramsay Street).

He was killed by a fall of stone in the Harvey seam, while working with Thomas Hector Thornton, of Park Hill Estate. Mr. Hector, with deputy John Lynn, of Durham Rd, Bowburn, were praised by the coroner (Mr. T. V. Devery) for attempts to save him. They almost freed him once, before a second roof fall inflicted fatal injuries. Movements were greatly hampered, as the height of the seam was only 18 inches (Co. Dur. Adv., ) Steel props were subsequently used instead of wooden ones.

MRM was buried in Cornforth Roman Catholic Cemetery, Metal Bridge.

His name is given in error as R. M. Mart in the DMA’s Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950, and (correctly) as Michael Richard Marr in Co. Dur. Adv., His headstone and other sources give 23rd December as date of death. Bob Bellis, a work colleague, was certain it was Christmas Eve and so are members of his family.

He was one of nine brothers and sisters, including John, Steve (winder man at Bowburn) and Catherine (mother of Mgt. Jackson, who married James Harper, formerly of Sherburn Village, who moved to a Council house in Bowburn as a travelling miner).

His father (Michael Richard snr.) was an overman – hence Dinsdale House residence). He lived in colliery streets in Bowburn first, then moved to Hett, where most of the family were born, and then to Tursdale. He and his wife moved to a bungalow at Park Avenue after he retired. He died in 1957 and Mrs. Marr died in 1975.

(Sources: Co. Dur. Adv., 6 January 1939, p.7; Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; Gravestone; Electoral Register; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Mgt. Jackson.)

January 1939

P. L. Richardson, manager of Bowburn Colliery, left for new appointment in Derbyshire. He was presented with a silver tea service by G. A. Strong (Dorman Long’s Agent) who, with Mr. Brooks, showed appreciation of Mr. Richardson’s work at the colliery.

On behalf of Bowburn miners, who had raised over £40, T. Davison proposed vote of thanks, seconded by Mr. Holiday. 1,200 miners had contributed [an average of 8d each]. Entertainment was provided by W. D. Pickels (tenor), G. Warren (conjuror & ventriloquist) and C. Baker (short stories).

W. Cheetham chaired and T. Brown was pianist.

(Source: Dur. Co. Advertiser, 27 January 1939, p.4.)

7 November 1939

Thomas William (Tommy) Kendle, deputy, of Park House Gardens, Sherburn, was killed in the 14th North, coming out of the Tursdale Harvey, at Bowburn Colliery. He was aged 31. TK died leaving his wife (Edna Maud, née Nicholson) with one daughter, Cynthia, and another, Gloria, was born two days later.

He was buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard in Sherburn.

TWK was a keen footballer and referee and sang in the church choir. His brother, Jack, was the village cobbler and played the violin. His daughter believes he was killed by a fall of stone. However Bob Bellis reported that TK was riding back of the setter (i. e. on set of tubs), carrying his oil lamp round his neck. The lamp strap caught a hook, he said. Mr. Bellis located the accident as in 14th North, however the Advertiser refers to TWK’s workmates from Tursdale Harvey.

Bob was not sure whether it was on man-riding sets or before these were put in there. Though he gave a different year, George Lloyd’s version suggests it was before man-riding sets.

The Durham Mining Museum says he was killed by a fall of stone – possibly based on information from TWK’s daughter. The Advertiser report is of the funeral (giving a long list of mourners), not the inquest, which doesn’t seem to have been reported.

(Sources: Paul Dawe (info. from George Lloyd); Bob Bellis; DMM website; Cynthia Conolly; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Adv., 17 November 1939, p.5; Alf Hare.)

15 November 1939

Edward L. Hewitt, coal filler at Bowburn Colliery, of 28, Durham Road, Bowburn was killed by a lorry mounting the footpath, while he was on his way to work. He was 38. The driver, Robert H. Gordon, of Elswick, Newcastle, appeared to have had a fit. He was driving at 40 mph down past the colliery, first colliding with a telegraph pole on the right and then swinging to the left and hitting a concrete standard and killing Mr. Hewitt.

Eye witnesses included David Peele, milk roundsman for East Durham Co-operative Dairies, from Sherburn Hill; James H. Freeman, of 25, Clarence Street; Charles Dunn, of 8, Grange Park Crescent, and the waggon boy, Robert Collingwood, of Newcastle.

P. C. Oliver attended.

The body was identified by Mr. Hewitt’s brother-in-law, Harry Carr, ambulance driver, of Shincliffe.

The lorry belonged to Messsrs Chas. Leech Ltd., of Newcastle, and was carrying confectionery.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 17 November 1939, p.4 + 22 December 1939, p.5.)

20 December 1939

Nicholas (Nichol) Swainston, datal worker, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 20 years. He was crushed by tubs in the Harvey seam.

Name given as R. Swainston by Durham Mining Museum and DMA’s Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950, in error.

NS was known as Nichol but death register (i.e. BMD Indiex) gives Nicholas. Brother of Alfie Swainston.

He was decapitated by tubs rolling back under the bridge from which coal was dropped into the tubs from the long-walling skip. He had been freeing their wheels of coal on the track.

He was carried back by Bob Bellis, Jake Latue, George Berresford and Kenny Ridley.

According to his brother Alfie (when aged 85), NS was a talented footballer and musician. His family only got £7 for funeral expenses – not enough to transport him back to Meadowfield, where he was buried on top of his mother.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Alf Swainston; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)


2,358 were employed at Bowburn Colliery, according to 1940 List of Mines.

(Sources: Government report from the Mines Department, via Durham Mining Museum, and “Coal Mining in County Durham”, by Durham County Council & Northern Echo, 1993.)

17 August 1940

William Thompson, stoneman, of High Blocks, Metal Bridge, died at Bowburn Colliery, aged 55. He was killed by a fall of stone in the Tursdale Harvey Seam.”According to custom, the pit was laid idle for the day.” (Durham County Advertiser)

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; Durham Co. Adv., 23 August 1940; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

December 1940

Bowburn Colliery St. John Ambulance team won the Donald Bean Shield. The team comprised Jack Armstrong, Tony Cannon, Charlie Pragnell, Harold Raisbeck, Jos. Wright and one other.

(Sources: Co. Durham Advertiser, 12 December 1985.)

23 January 1942

Mr. J. P. Hall (under-manager at Bowburn Colliery) left to become manager of Horden. He was replaced by Mr. Edward Fletcher (Manager’s Certificate No. 3252).

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook and Keith Fletcher, via this website’s Guestbook.)

18 February 1942

Robert William Stapleton, filler, died at Tursdale (Bowburn Colliery), aged 43. He was killed by a fall of stone. Buried in Shincliffe Churchyard.

Durham Mining Museum gives date as 16 February 42, DMA as 18 February 42.

RWS was living with his parents at 5, Durham Road, Bowburn, in 1911 but moved (possibly to Shincliffe?) later. His brother Charles was still (or again) living at Bowburn, at 28, Durham Road, with his wife, Lily, and family.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

18 February 1942

Joseph Ranson (19), hand-putter, of 30, Steavenson Street, Bowburn, was fined a total of £15 or three months’ imprisonment in default, for absenting himself from work at Bowburn Colliery. He was prosecuted by the Ministry of Labour and National Service and the trial took place at Durham County Court.

He had worked only 32 shifts out of a possible 119 since June 1941 and appeared before the Pit Production Committee, but “would not obey anybody, even his own father”, said Mr. C. G. Charlton, for the MoL&NS.

JF said, “Six months ago I had an accident through a fall of stone and I hate working underground. I dare not go down.”

This was one of many such prosecutions. Indeed, two others were reported in the Durham Advertiser on the same page. Josepth Banks (33), of West Cornforth, a surface worker at Thrislington Colliery, pleaded guilty to refusing to work underground, ignoring a declaration from the Ministry of Labour after he had unsuccessfully appealed against his instruction to do so.

Two datal workers at Mainsforth Colliery were also fined £5 each for failing to comply with a Min. of Lab. declaration.

In one case, two years later, a 19-year-old from New Durham was sent to prison for two months for failling to go to work at Kimblesworth Colliery.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 20 February 1942, p.5 + 4 February 1944, p.5.)

30 April 1942

William Scott, haulage hand (datal worker), of 87, The Grove, Coxhoe, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 19. He rode an empty timber tram at the back of a set of 28 full tubs at the end of a shift in the Pastures district of Tursdale Colliery. On reaching the outbye landing he attempted to leap off and was caught between a girder and a full tub. He suffered severe injuries and died shortly after admission to Durham County Hospital.

Witnesses at the inquest included James E. Thompson, haulage hand, of Park Avenue, Coxhoe, who also rode in the tram; George Vernon Heaton, of Railway Cottages, Shincliffe, who was waiting at the landing for the set, and John Rudd, back overman, who attended to WS before he was removed to bank and thence to hospital. WS died from traumatic asphyxia, shock and haemorrhage. His thorax was severely injured and the left collar bone and ribs on both sides were fractured.

Thompson said it was the first time Scott had ridden on the sets.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 8 May 1942, p.6.)

19 May 1942

First visit of T. H. F. Adams, new manager of Bowburn Colliery. Mr. Adams came from Chilton.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

23 January 1943

Mr. Lancelot Stewart became under-manager of Bowburn Colliery, in place of Mr. Edward Fletcher.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

January 1943

Joseph C. Connell (21), pony putter, was fined £3 and ordered to pay £1/11s/6d doctor’s fees, for absenting himself from work at Bowburn Colliery without reasonable cause. George Frederick Hornsby, an official of Dorman Long & Co., gave evidence that JCC had lost five shifts in three months. JCC pleaded guilty to three of these – 10 October 42, 15 October 42 and 7 November 42 – for which he was fined. He said he had been unwell but the doctor did not confirm this.

JCC was married, with one child, and lived in Oak Avenue, New Durham. His wages were 23/- per shift.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 5 February 1943, p.5.)

February 1943

Walter Coates (26), coal hewer, was fined £8 for absenting himself from work at Bowburn Colliery without reasonable cause. WC pleaded not guilty to unjustifiable absences on 19 October 42, 31 October 42, 4 November 42 and 7 November 42 but fined £2 for each. He said that, after he injured his hand a year earlier, he had returned to work after 12 weeks but later had to absent himself because of the pain. Dr. Young gave evidence that, despite some deformity, WC had full strength in his arm and hand. His defence argued that the doctor had only gripped his hand lightly. WC was of good character and keen to work when he could and had attended hospiral for an X-ray on one of the occasions.

WC’s wages were £1/10s/8d per shift.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 26 February 1943, p.5.)

March 1943

Daniel Thomas (21), haulage hand, of Oak Avenue, New Durham, was fined £6 for absenting himself from work on three shifts at Bowburn Colliery without reasonable cause.

This was contrary to the Essential Work (Coal Mining) Order made by the Minister of Labour (Ernest Bevin), under the Defence Regulations. 0n 15 May 1941 George Frederick Hornsby, of Dorman Long & Co., gave evidence that DT had missed ten shifts in three months. DT pleaded guilty to three of these, for which he was fined £2 each.

WC’s wages were 15s/5d per shift.

Mr. A. E. Pridden, prosecuting for the Ministry of Labour, said that ìthere was a serious shortage of that class of labour at the pit and it was therefore vitally important that haulage hands should work regularly.

The Mayor, announcing the decision of the Bench, said that absenteeism from places like Bowburn Colliery must cease.

An editorial in the Durham Co. Advertiser the next week asked “What is wrong with the collieries?” It said “Magistrates in many parts of the County of Durham are kept extremely busy in dealing with the numerous cases brought before them under the Essential Works order, especially from the coalmines. Week by week, the number of young miners proceeded against is growing. It is distressing that at a time when our men folk in the army, navy and air force are risking their lives in the Battle for Freedom, there should be those who still persist in laying off work and further depressing the serious drop in production, which is causing alarm in offical circles.”

Will Lawther, President of the MFGB, was reported as saying, “We cannot understand how men, at this hour, when it is essential for coal to be produced, will allow anything to stand in the way of 100% production.”

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 5 March 1943, p.5 + 12 March 1943, p.4; Page Arnot, The Miners Book 4, p.54.)

3 May 1943

Joseph (Joe) Blythe, shifter, of 66, High Street South, Langley Moor, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 57. He was injured when caught by a runaway set in the second south landing in the Low Main Seam and died in the County Hospital. The empty sets took the wrong turning at the points and ran into the full side, instead of on to the empty tracks, and knocked a set of full tubs on to JB.

Witnesses included Richard William Wilkinson, putter, of 12, Pond Street, Shincliffe, who was in charge of the points.

He left a wife, Susannah, and son, Frederick, and was buried in Meadowfield Cemetery. He died in the next bed to Bob Bellis.

His wife Susannah was later remembered on the same headstone. His son Frederick identified the body.

(Sources: Bob Bellis; Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 7 May 1943, p.6.)

June 1943

Back drift begun from Low Main to bottom section of Hutton at Bowburn Colliery. Fore drift begun 14 August 43.

The first wall was started in Hutton in 1948.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Bob Bellis.)

December 1943

Four putters at Bowburn Colliery were fined for attempting to obtain money by false pretences from Dorman Long. They were Thomas Wager (20), of Londonderry Avenue, New Durham, Ralph Gleeson (21), of Gilesgate; Frederick Laverick, of Renny’s Lane, and Horace W. Baker, of Belmont. TW put three putters’ hewing tokens on tubs filled by other workmen on 26 November 1942. On 27 November 42, the back overman, John Atkinson Rudd, saw TW and RG beside a tub in the North Landing of Brockwell seam and caught TW in the act of substituting a token.

If they had not been detected, they would have got 3s/6d [each?] to which they were not entitled.

When the master overman, John Wm Fawcett, investigated, he found FL had put on 13 putters’ tokens, for which he would have been paid 3s/1d, and HWB had put on five (for which he would have been paid 1s/2d.

The tubs had been filled by fillers who worked in a pool in a different place to that where the defendants were employed. Defendants came upon the tubs when going in bye and attached their own tokens hoping to benefit financially.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 1 January 1943, p.5.)

23 May 1944

Wm. Dennis Gibson (18), skip hoist driver/hoist attendant/hoist lad, died from asphyxia, following an explosion in the fourth South cross gate in the third West districts of the Harvey seam at Bowburn Colliery.

He had lived at 60, Moorlands, Durham with his parents, William (a railway porter) and Mary Gibson. DG was a datal worker, who had been working at the colliery for two years.

There had been a 10-yard fall of stone about 200 yards away earlier in the night. This was reported by Frederick Truby, Front Street, Bowburn, deputy overman, to Scott, the back overman, who inspected it but found no gas or impedence of ventilation.

Joseph D. Nicholson, of Coxhoe, acting shot firer, tested for fire damp at 11.15 and 11.45pm but found no trace.

Deputy overman Arthur E. Bloomfield, of 39, Steavenson Street, went on duty at midnight and assisted Nicholson with shot-firing. He did not know about the fall and admitted to the coroner that he had not made the pre-shift inspection for the fore shift, which he should have done, nor look at the report book.

He gave a rap to Gibson from the mothergate to set the hoist away but there was no reply. He gave one on the rapper to let the hoist stand. Then Gibson came round to meet him and said he was going to square up the hoist. There was a hitch on the left-side face and Bloomfield wanted duff clearing. They parted and Bloomfield gave Gibson a rap. The ropes moved and AB hung the skip on the left-side face.

Then he felt a gust of wind from the hoist gate. He and deputy Watson* went to investigate but met fumes and had to wriggle out backwards.

Overman George Hogg, of 9, Burn Street, managed to reach Gibson, and dragged him free from the narrow seam, but he could not be revived, even with oxygen equipment.

D. R. Brooks, of Mainsforth, chief agent for Dorman Long, and W. B. Brown, Durham senior Mines Inspector, and others descended the pit. Firemen from the Houghton-le-Spring Colliery Fire & Rescue Brigade stood by on the surface.

[*Could this be the Joseph Watson who was killed four months later, on 27 Sep 1944?]

The funeral, at St. Giles, Durham, on 27 May 1944, was attended by a guard of honour formed by NCOs and men from A Coy, 11th Bn (Durham), Home Guard, which DG had joined a year earlier. He is buried in St. Giles churchyard.

Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance and DMA Gala Programme 1965 wrongly give date as 1943, rather than 1944.

DG had been a keen swimmer and skater. Durham Mining Museum gives age as 19.

Dur. Adv., 26 May 44 reported WDG to be the son of William (a railway porter) and Mary Gibson but in the 30 June 44 report of inquest it just gives parent as Mary A. Gibson. The grave headstone just says “In loving memory of my [sic] dear son”, which suggests that only one parent was alive/present at the time of DG’s death – presumably his mother.

The first story was that Dennis was driving the skip hoist, at about 5.00am, when the skip caught a plank which fell across its path. This caused coal to pile up in its way, between the wall and the goaf. The ventilation passage was blocked: air could not be drawn from behind the hoist across the face and out via the mother gate. A spark (from the hoist itself?) exploded the gas that had built up around him.

However the inquest heard that there had been a fall earlier in the night, but that no gas had been detected. A spark was supposed to have been caused by a switch, which was faulty in that it had a concealed hole in it, allowing gas to penetrate. The switch was faulty when installed and electrician Albert Victor Chitty blamed this on “the exigencies of the war”, which excuse was not accepted by the coroner. He also blamed Arthur E. Bloomfield, of Steavenson Street, who as deputy overman (for 15 years) had failed to make a pre-shift inspection. The verdict, however, was accidental death.

(Sources: Bob Bellis; R. W. Ramsay notebook; Durham Mining Museum website; Dur. Co. Adv., 26 May 1944, p.4 + 2 June 1944, p.4 + 30 June 1944, p.3; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; headstone.)

4 June 1944 (or 8 February 42?)

New workmen’s canteen opened at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

21 June 1944

Richard (Dick) Hewison, stoneman, of Old Row, Tursdale, aged 45, was killed by a fall of stone at Tursdale (Bowburn Colliery). According to the DMA’s Book of Fatal Accidents, he was injured on 1 June 1944 and died three weeks later but his son Geoffrey is certain he was killed outright on 21 June 1944.

He was buried in Coxhoe cemetery. RH’s son, Geoffrey Hewison, was 1 year 5 months old at the time of the accident. His mother used to say that she was cleaning the step of her house, on the longest day of the year, when men came and told her his father had been killed.

RH’s widow, Florence, moved to 44, Park Avenue, of which GH later became the tenant. She later re-married, to Bob Denney (brother of Fred Denney). She went to work at Coxhoe School, as a cleaner, but was then asked by DJ Evans to go and work at Bowburn School. GH used to go with her, to help.

Her mother-in-law, Isabella Hewison, went to live with her daughter, Jennie Rutter, at no. 42 , where there were no steps.

Geof later moved across the road, to no. 29, when they were modernised.

Mrs. F. Hewison went to work at the Church school in Coxhoe, as a dinner lady, when Geof started school, and then became caretaker/cleaner at Bowburn School, at DJ Evans’ invitation.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Maisey Taylor; Geof Hewison; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

22 September 1944

Robert William Thompson (25), of Front Street, Tudhoe, returned his safety lamp Bowburn Colliery unlocked and with a rivet missing. He was prosecuted the next month and fined £8. The lamp was an electric cap lamp.

The incident was reported to Thomas Henry Adams, manager, and the next day Thompson was watched. A spare selector and some metal polish were found in his pockets.

It was reported at the court case that some workmen unlocked their lamps and polished the reflectors, to get a better light. This was dangerous as a short circuit could cause a spark.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 13 October 1944, p.5.)

September 1944

Mr. W. Todd, secretary of the Dean & Chapter Colliery Miners’ Lodge, chaired a meeting at Ferryhhill about the problem when Bevin Boys refused to join the Durham Miners’ Association in the hope of getting out of mining. Sam Watson, treasurer of the DMA attended the meeting, supported by Ald. W. Kelly (Bowburn), Mr. R. C. Gray and lodge officials.

(If Bevin Boys did so refuse, they were transferred to other coalfields where there was no closed shop.)

[Did Billy Kelly’s presence imply that there were Bevin Boys at Bowburn Colliery, and that this problem had perhaps arisen there?]

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 29 September 1944, p.1.)

27 September 1944

Joseph Watson, hewer, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 39. He sustained a fractured skull while working in the Busty Seam. Book of Fatal Accidents gives age as 40; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com., gives 39.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)


2,224 employed at Bowburn Colliery (1,878 underground and 346 surface workers).

(Source: 1945 List of Mines - Government report from the Mines Department, via Durham Mining Museum.)

21 April 1945

Naisbett Wilson, stoneman, of 14, Bishop’s Close Street, Spennymoor, was fatally injured at Bowburn Colliery, and died the same day in the Durham County Hospital, aged 37. He sustained a fractured skull in a fall of stone in Tursdale Harvey Seam.

Matthew Hall, deputy, of Heugh Hall, had inspected the timber at the scene of the accident at 12.30am and found it in a satisfactory condition. It was not possible to set more timber because of the position of the stone on which the men had been working prior to the fall.

NW was kneeling when the stone fell, at about 1.45am, striking him on the back of the head and knocking him unconcious. He was brought to the surface and thence to the hospital.

Witnesses included John G. Wright, stoneman, of 8, High Blocks, Metal Bridge, and William Kelly, of 9, Harle Street, Browney, who had been filling tubs when the stone came down without warning. Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance gives name as William, in error; Durham Mining Museum and DMA’s Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950 correctly give it as N. Wilson.

Death Certificate and Durham Advertiser confirmed first name as Naisbett and the Spennymoor address.

Inquest was on 24 April 1945. Fatal Accident Book reports that he sustained a fractured skull. Death Certificate says only “injuries accidentally sustained as a result of a fall of stone”.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Death Certificate; Dur. Co. Adv., 27 April 1945, p.1.)

11 July 1945

Edwin Laverick (21), of 127, Park Avenue, was fined £1 each on three counts of absenting himself from work as a putter at Bowburn colliery. He had lost 18 shifts out of 154 in the six months from January, mostly on Saturdays, according to Col. Swinburne, for the Ministry of Labour. Henry Morley, the colliery trainer, said EL had no medical notes submitted.

EL blamed his lack of food. “Have you ever been in Bowburn canteen?”, he asked. Thomas Johnson, the investigating officer, said “Yes, both the old and the new, and I have had meals there.” EL: “In my opinion, Bowburn canteen wants closing down”, because he could not get anything at the canteen.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 13 July 1945, p.6.)

August 1945

William Frederick (Bill) Gardner retired. He had been Chief Clerk & Cashier at Bowburn Colliery throughout its history.

He was succeeded by J. L. Miller, from Sherburn Hill Colliery. WFG was born in Langley Moor c.1880. He joined the office staff at Browney in 1897 and came to Bowburn in February 1906, in preparation for the sinking of the shaft and the erection of dwellings for workmen.

He and his wife (Dorah Matilda) stayed at first at Bowburn Farm, then occupied by Mr. Friend Shields, and had an office in (what is now called) Langley House, which was later his home but was then that of the colliery engineer, Mr. Barkhouse. (Mr. Barkhouse subsequnetly moved to The Elms when that was built.)

The Durham Advertiser reported: “As this mining community grew, Mr Gardner threw himself heart and soul into the many and varied activities which go to make up village life. He served for a long period on the Cassop-cum-Quarrington Parish Council, became secretary of show committees and of sports events, was a prime mover in the miners’ welfare schemes, and has given his services freely in many other directions, notably in connection with charitable organisations. Indeed it is not too much to say that the name of Bill Gardner and Bowburn are synonymous.”No man is more popular in the district. Many of the people of Bowburn will recall him as the pioneer of pit pony racing” [See 1912.]

“Mr. Gardner is a staunch Conservative, being a past master and treasurer of the now defunct local branch of the National Conservative League. His father, Richard, was born in Barlow, nr. Winlaton c.1843. He came to Langley Moor with his brother, Cuthbert, as contractors and the two were concerned in the construction of railway viaducts in the area before RG became Surveyor and Inspector with Brandon & Byshottles Urban District Council – a dual office he held for 40 years.

Richard Gardner was described in the 1901 Census as a Surveyor & Mines Inspector.

One of WFG’s brothers, John Henry, was surveyor to Willington Borough Council and another, Thomas R., was still living in retirement in Neville’s Cross. WFG also had two sisters, Ethel and Edith, both of whom were living with their mother (Mary Jane, aged 95), at Piercebridge, in 1945.

Two Wm. Fred. Gardners were found in the BMD marriages in relevant years, both in Oct–Dec 1901, one in Southwark (i.e. London) and the other in the Isle of Wight.

Dur. Adv., refers to his occupancy of Bowburn Farm. This was confirmed by his grandson, Douglas Haigh, who said WFG lived there before moving to Langley House, which was initially the colliery office. (Frank Shields was living at Bowburn Farm @ 1901 Census; George Westgarth was there @ 1914 Electoral Register – at which time WFG’s address was just “Bowburn”.)

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 10 August 1945, p.6; 1891 & 1901 Censuses; BMD (via Ancestry); 1914 & 1951 Electoral Registers; Douglas Haigh.)

25 August 1945

Pony Races were staged on a field behind the colliery by the committee of the Bowburn Welcome Home Fund.

There were five events: Ponies under 14 hands, Ponies 14 hands ond over, Consolation Race, Novices Race and Potatoe Race. The officials were: Judges – Messrs L. Stewart & Lorrison (under-managers); Starter – Mr. W. F. Gardner (recently retired chief clerk & cashier); Handicapper – Mr. F. Dowson (head horse-keeper); Stewards – Messrs J. Hare, W. Storey, R. Storey, R. Oxley, J. Millar, R. Atkinson, A. Oliver, J. Laing, S. Storey, J. Dixon, J. H. Stephenson (local farmers) and members of the Fund committee; Secretaries – Messrs. W. Stokoe & H. [sic] G. Ramsay.

The Welcome Home Fund, opened in January 1945, now exceeded £300. There were currently over 100 men from the village serving in the Forces.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 31 August 1945, p.4.)

15 December 1945

Alexander (Alec) Weir, aged 26, of 74, The Grove, Coxhoe, was killed in the Coronation Drift, Bowburn Colliery in a accident on the sets. He left a wife (aged about 23) and two children, Norman (b.1942) and daughter (b. Feb.1944).

He is buried in Cornforth cemetery but there is no headstone.

Known as “Codger”, AW was a keen footballer, playing in goal for Coxhoe Athletic. According to his son, the top of his head was sliced off. Acc. to Sammy Thompson (whose father Arthur was with him) and Bob Bellis, he was (illegally) riding the front of the sets. Sammy said AW was in Tursdale Harvey North but Bob is sure it was in the Drift. He said the accident was under the end of short Burn Street, where the roof was lower because of running sand defences.

Death Certificate reports inquest on 17 December 45 and 17 January 46, and that death was due to “fracture of the left frontal parietal bones accidentally sustained as a result of coming into violent contact with a roof girder”; AW’s son Norman also thought his father died aged 23 in December 1944, before his sister was born. Death Certificate says he was 26 and that it was a year later.

(Sources: Norman Weir; Sammy Thompson; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Death Certificate.)

16 May 1946

John Adair Halliday, apprentice joiner, of 13, Burn Street, was fatally injured by a locomotive at Bowburn Colliery, aged 20 years. He was the son of James and Louisa Halliday of the same address.

Loco 120 (“Carlton”) was being driven down the No.1 main line between the ropeway and the washery, at about 11.00am, by George A. Smith, a locomotive driver for 45 years, of 11, Oxford Terrace.

JAH was carrying some timber on his shoulder, about 15 yards away, when GS blew the engine whistle and thought JAH was sure to have seen him. He proceeded at about 10 mph and heard something strike the cab. He stopped and found JAH between the rails.

Other witnesses were James Smith, of 18, Hall Gardens, Sherburn, locomotive shunter, who was in the cab, and James W. Longstaff, labourer, of 34, Clarence Street. R. W. Ramsay’s notebook and Durham Advertiser give 16th May; Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance incorrectly gives 10th May.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook ; Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; 1939 Electoral Register; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 24 May 1946, p.1.)

12 August 1946

Andrew Hunter Smith (of 25, Durham Road, Bowburn) was killed by fall of stone at Bowburn Colliery, aged 54. He was buried in St. Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Shincliffe, remembered by his widow, Mary, and five adult children.

AHS’s headstone gives his age at death as 54; the Cathedral Book gives 55 and BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com., gives 53. Andrew & Mary Smith were living at 25, Durham Road in 1945 Electoral Register with their son, Andrew and three daughters, Freda Smith, Mary R. Dodd and Constance M. Storey & their son-in-law, George Pearson Storey.

AHS’s father, James Smith, was one of the sinkers of Bowburn Colliery and lived at 1, Durham Road. He and his wife, Elizabeth Jane, had already lost two other sons in colliery accidents, Billy (at Rising Sun Colliery, Wallsend) and James (in the Doncaster area). (James Smith jnr. had gone to Doncaster after being blacklisted in the Durham coalfield.) [AHS’s mother had also lost her father in the Trimdon Grange colliery disaster.] AHS also had two sisters, Mary Claughan and Lavinia Stokell. His father died broken-hearted not long after AHS’s accident.

AHS’s sister Lavinia’s son and daughter, George Stokell and Mary Scott, attended the Mining Memorial Dedication on 16 December 2006, having seen it publicised in the press and come from Blaydon.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Mary Scott & George Stokell.)

26 October 1946

William Errington Lorrison, under-manager of Bowburn Colliery, died. He was born on 1 Jan 1901, at Wingate, Durham. His wife, Hannah Lorrison (née Maudling), who was living at 1, Newburn Avenue, Bowburn, in 1951, died on 7 Jul 1998.

(Source: Headstone in Bowburn Cemetery.)

28 November 1946

James W. Knight, filler, died, aged 61, having sustained fatal injuries at Bowburn Colliery on 14 December 1944. He was hit by a runaway tram.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)


2,283 were employed at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: 1947 The Colliery Year Book and Coal Trades Directory. Published by The Louis Cassier Co. Ltd., via Durham Mining Museum.)

18 January 1947

George T. Hogg, stoneman, aged 59, died of injuries sustained in a fall of stone at Bowburn Colliery, on 27 January 1944. [His family and origins have not yet been positively identified.]

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Reginald Hogg (phone conversations) 3 September 2006 + 10 November 2006; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

28 February 1947

William Joseph (“Bill”) Bateson, driller, of Long Row, Coxhoe, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 29. He was electrocuted by handling an electric drill that was live, possibly while standing on a skip motor or a protruding earth wire. Arthur Bell was working with him at the time. According to George Lloyd (via Paul Dawe), some people alleged a cover-up, because the body showed no signs of burning, however that was in fact normal.

WJB was buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Coxhoe, where his headstone calls him a “well known boxer”. WJB was a well-known flyweight boxer (known as "Bobby Bates"), fighting sixty fights, all over the country, between 1937 and 1947.

He was due to be fighting in Grimsby the next night (Saturday 17th) but was killled at c.12 noon on the Friday.

He left a widow, Audrey (née Rogers), and three children: Bobby, Valerie and Yvonne.

Bobby, Yvonnne and grandson Paul were all noted entertainers. Indeed all the family were musical – including nephews Mel and Maurice Lindsay, who were members of the Bow Belles. Mrs. Bateson remarried. Tony Henderson is WJB’s step-son.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Jim Madgin; Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; http://www.boxrec.com/boxer_display.php?boxer_id=106540; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Tony Henderson, Terence Jobling.)

12 July 1947

First visit of William Lee Lowson, from Sherburn Hill Colliery, the new manager at Bowburn. The son of a Sunderland ship’s chandler, Mr. Lowson served articles with Londonderry Collieries at Dawdon Colliery. After serving in the 1914-18 War, he gained his B.Sc. at Armstrong College and went to Dean & Chapter Colliery, first as foreoverman and then undermanager. He was appointed manager of Sherburn Hill Colliery in 1936.

Manager’s Certificate No.1,982.

Mr. Lowson and his wife Evelyn lived in Bowburn Grange, formerly the colliery agent’s house (and later Bowburn Hall Hotel).

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Co. Durham Advertiser 14 June 1963, p.11.)


Jack Galloway broke his back in a roof fall at Bowburn Colliery. (His death in 1962, aged 67, was not a result of that accident.)

(Source: “Galloway family of miners in County Durham”, by David Hillerby, on Durham MinerProject website; Doreen Galloway.)

26 January 1948

John T. Rose, cutter, died, aged 39, from injuries received on 15 October 1936 at Bowburn Colliery. He was injured by a fall of stone. The Fatal Accidents Book gives age as 39. That is confirmed as the date of death (rather than accident) by BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

6 February 1948

The Durham Advertiser reported on “A Day with Patch at Bowburn”. “An energetic worker for the NCB at Bowburn Colliery is ‘Patch’, a nine-years-old black and white, smooth haired terrier, owned by Mr. Pat Gilmore. Each morning for the last eight years, Patch has arrived at the colliery at 7 o’clock just as the bank hands clock in.

After a friendly greeting he starts his day’s work. This consists chiefly of ratting. He displays each kill proudly to all the men, and his record up-to-date is 17 rats killed in 11 minutes.–(Dur. Co. Adv., 6 February 1948, p.1.)

9 March 1948

Sidney Blackburn (aged 22), bank hand, fell 468ft down Harvey shaft at Bowburn Colliery, dying instantly. He was the youngest son of William Blackburn snr. and the late Mrs. Blackburn (who had died 10 weeks earlier), of 56, Steavenson Street, Bowburn.

The Coroner brought a verdict of suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed. This was attributed to an accident he sustained at the colliery in 1940, when he fell from a gantry and factured his spine, suffering temporary paralysis; to another accident in 1943, when he broke a leg, and to his mother’s recent death.

Witnesses at the inquest included Henry Bell, banksman, of 20, Grange Park Crescent, and Robert Laverick, bank-hand, of 127, Park Avenue.

The banksman, to whom SB was an assistant, was James Savage – Michael Richardson’s grandfather.

SB was buried in Bowburn Cemetery, following a service at the Central Methodist Church, conducted by Rev. W. S. Weddell.

(Sources: Durham Mining Museum website; P. Atkinson, “Memories of a Bowburn Miner”; L. Schofield, “Lily’s Story”, in Bowburn Interchange; Billy Tickell; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Dur. Co. Adv., 19 March 1948 pp.6 & 8; Michael Richardson.)

18 March 1948

Frederick W. Crossley, aged 41, stoneman, of 58, Park Avenue, was killed by a fall of stone in the Busty seam at Bowburn Colliery (Tursdale workings). The pit was loosed out in accordance with the County Agreement of 8 November 1907 and idle for the rest of the day.

FC was from Sacriston but now lived at 58, Park Avenue.

His wife had died (aged 38) two years earlier and he left two children, Joe, aged nine, and Iris, aged eight. Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance gives name as F. Rossley, in error, and age as 41. Miners’ Lodge correspondence gives age as 42. BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.) gives 41. Son Joe is not sure.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Jackie Johnson; Letter dated 18 March 1948 from DMA to Lodge secretary; Walter Hinton; Bill Higgins; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Electoral registers; Joe Crossley; Dur. Co. Adv., 19 March 1948, p.3.)

26 May 1948

James Beattie Bell, filler, aged 46, of 5, Durham Road, Bowburn, died in Sunderland Royal Infirmary, having suffered fatal injuries at Bowburn Colliery on 4 May 48. He died from an open hernia. He left a widow, Jane Bell, and a daughter, Doreen.

Rev. H. P. Hanson officiated at his funeral. Age given as 47 in Fatal Accidents Book and in Durham Advertiser but, incorrectly, as 46 in BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com – that death is recorded at Sunderland, as he died in hospital there.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; DMA (1995) Fatal Accidents Book 1920-1950; Electoral Register; Dur. Co. Adv., 4 June 1948, p.6.)

October 1948

Thomas William Knox (25), of The Grove, Coxhoe, was fined £5 for stealing timber from Bowburn Colliery to make a garage on 4 October 1948, on the evidence of Robert S. Shields, colliery engineer, The Elms, Bowburn Dur.

(Source: Co. Adv., 12 November 1948, p.3.)

5 November 1948

Cuthbert Ralph (Cud) Morley, former miners’ leader at Bowburn Colliery, died, aged 71. He was buried at Coxhoe.

He had been born in Coxhoe c.1878 and married Isabella Bowerbank in 1898. His father and mother were Thomas Morley (b. c.1849 in Bishop Auckland) and Ann Morley (b. c.1852 in Coxhoe).

He had three brothers, Thomas, John G. U. and Robert W., and three sisters, Annie M., Margaret E. and Sarah E.

(Sources: Joyce Malcolm; 1881–1911 Censuses.)

January 1949

Thomas V. Willey, of 37, Wylam Street, and George Wall, of Low Spennymoor, were fined 20/- each for being in possession of contraband (a match and a cigarette) in Bowburn Colliery on 13 December 1948. They were caught when searched by W. Cheetham, fore-overman.

It appears from other press reports at the time that there was currently a drive to cut down on such contraband.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 7 January 1949, p.3.)

25 October 1949

Thomas Stoker was killed by the fall of a very big stone at Bowburn Colliery, aged 55. He was working in the Harvey seam (Crosscuts – 8th West / 3rd West). Cathedral Book and DMM give year as 1949. Bob Bellis was sure it was 1948, as he helped carry TS out, and he and others went to the drift after that. However BMD Index confirms it was 1949.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

3 November 1949

Alderman William Kelly died at his home, Greystones, aged 71. Ald. Kelly had been checkweighman at Bowburn Colliery for 16 years, a County Councillor for 20 years, a member of Durham Rural District Coucil since 1925 (being Chairman 1942-43) and Chairman of Cassop-cum-Quarrington Parish Council for 13 years.

(Sources: Durham County Advertiser 4 November 1949, p.4 & 11 November 1949 pp.3&5 + 7 May 1943, p.6; Headstone, Bowburn Cemetery.)


2,293 were employed at Bowburn Colliery, according to 1950 List of Mines - Government report from the Mines Department, via Durham Mining Museum. A figure of 2,353 was given in “Coal Mining in County Durham”, by Durham County Council & Northern Echo, (1993).

January 1950

Death of Albert Victor Chitty, formerly head electrician at Bowburn Colliery. He lived at Tweddle Terrace, and previously at 29, Durham Road.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 20 January 50, p.4.)

17 July 1950

Start of Bowburn Colliery annual holiday week. The Infant School log book recorded that this resulted in a maximum of 36 children being present on any one day that week, out of 114.

(Source: School log book, via “Snippets”, a leaflet produced by Bowburn Infant School to mark its 75th anniversary in 1984.)


2,102 employed at Bowburn Colliery (1,810 underground and 500 surface workers).

(Source uncertain.)

29 January 1951

New lamp cabin, with self-service lamps, opened at Bowburn Colliery. (A similar cabin opened at Tursdale on 30 July 51.)

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

30 November 1951

Edwin Bryan was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 53. He was buried at Duncombe Cemetery, Ferryhill, with his wife Dorothy, who had died 18 April 1946, aged 46.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

19 March 1952

Tilley man haulage commenced operating at Bowburn Colliery. (Completed 28 July 1958.)

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook + K. Sheild’s notebook, p.126.)

7 April 1952

William Morgan, deputy overman, killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 49. Mr. Morgan lived at 17, Mavin Street, Durham. He was killed by collision with a runaway tub while working in the Low Main drift, dying a few hours after admission to the County Hospital. Bob Bellis said WM was crossing between the tubs to catch men who were leaving work early, going the other side of the tubs to avoid being seen by him.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Durham County Advertiser 11 April 1952, p.6; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

9 July 1952

Henry Morton was killed by a fall of stone in the Hutton seam at Bowburn Colliery, aged 25. He left a widow, Elizabeth.

Buried in St. Lawrence’s Churchyard, Pittington. Bob Bellis said this was the only fatal accident in the Harvey. HM was only wearing a slush cap (not a hard hat) and was killed by quite a small stone. It was only three days before he was to take his children on their first holiday in holiday week. [Note, though, that this was 1952 and other sources say the first holiday fortnight was in 1953. Perhaps this was only a week in 1952.]

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

9 February 1953

Joseph Bunce was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 44. He was asphyxiated by “bad air” though, when he was found in water, it was at first thought he might have drowned.

He was buried at Coxhoe Churchyard.

JB was unmarried and, with a brother and a sister, was living with his mother in Cornforth Lane. She received £1,000 compensation. JB was favourite uncle of Rene Fawcett, being her mother’s brother.

RF says the family came from Middlesbrough in 1940, to get away from the air raids. (Her grandmother was terrified of thunder and lightning, and even more of bombs.)

She says the family took the £1,000 compensation to be an admission of culpablity by Dorman Long, although they had claimed that JB was where he should not have been and told not to go. The family believed that was not like him, however.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Rene Fawcett.)

18 January 1954

The pit head baths, medical centre and extension to the canteen at Bowburn Colliery stated operating.

The baths had been officially opened by Mr. Nattrass, NCB Divisional Labour Director, two days earlier (Saturday 16 January 54). The engraved stone read






The opening ceremony was chaired by W. Welsh, No.4 (South West Durham) Area General Manager.

Sam Watson, CBE, DL, JP, General Secretary of the NUM (Durham Area) spoke on behalf of the NUM.

A vote of thanks to Mr. Nattrass was proposed by W. L. Lowson, Manager of Bowburn Colliery, and seconded by J. R. [Reg] Brown, Secretary of the NUM (Bowburn Lodge).

The baths had 2,706 lockers (@ 19 April 1961)

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Engraved stone on the Baths wall; The Bather’s Handbook; R. Shield’s notebook, p.131 + 165.)


2,318 were employed at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: 1955 Guide to the Coalfields published by the Colliery Guardian, via Durham Mining Museum.)

16 February 1955

Joseph Clark, of 61, Park Avenue, was summoned to appear in court on 16 March 1955, charged with theft of an axe, a mell and a saw from Bowburn Colliery.

He had taken them home on Friday 11 February 1955 and said that, being the end of the quarter, this was the only way he could keep himself provided with gear. John J. Ramshaw, NUM Lodge Secretary, wrote to Sam Watson, DMA General Secretary, asking guidance in dealing with this injustice. He said Management had been told on numerous occasions that it was wrong that men had to take their gear home but that this was still allowed and was still the usual practice.

(Source: Letter from J. J. Ramshaw to S. Watson 7 March 1955.)


The Flight Machine, from Scotland, was first used at Bowburn Colliery in 1956 or 1958. It was the first flight machine, i. e. one that threw the coal onto the belt. Before that, all coal was hand filled.

(Source: Bob Bellis.)

19 May 1956

Musscamp coal cutter picks were put into use in all seams at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: K. Shields notebook, p.156.)

28 May 1956

Ralph Carter, of 33, Kepier Crescent, Gilesgate Moor, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 49 years. He was working in the Harvey Seam and is believed to have been killed by a detonator.

Buried in Belmont Parish Cemetery, where his widow Jenny was also buried. (She died 15 January 1993, aged 83.) Acccording to Bob Bellis, a verdict of suicide was considered but not given.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Bob Bellis; Headstone; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

14 June 1956

Hugh Bryden was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 18 years. He was pony putting, probably riding the limmers, when his head was crushed, probably between the tub and a pit prop. (No one saw it happen but his body was found afterwards.)

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Barry Tickell; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

20 June 1956

Mr. Fedor Antonovich Berebanov, an official of the Soviet Ministry of Coal, visited Bowburn Colliery, with 10 other members of the Russian technical mission, acccompanied by Mr. Welsh, No.4 Area General Manager and others. They were taken to the 2ft 2ins Harvey seam to see a scraper-plough in operation. This was designed to bring the benefits of power-loading to thin seam mining. It had been developed in West Germany and was being pioneered by the Durham Divisional Coal Board.

There was six other units in the Durham coalfield: two at Morrison Busty, two at Brandon Pit House, and one each at Heworth, Lilley Drift and Bowburn.

At Bowburn it worked a 200yd face and produced an average of 4 tons per manshift, compared with 50cwt, in similar conditions, by conventional methods.

Bowburn was regularly exceeding its 14,228 tons-per-week production target at that time – by 323 tons, for instance, during week-ending 9 June 1956.

(Sources: Durham Co. Adv., 22 June 1956, p.15 + 15 June 1956, p.4.)

12 April 1957

Highest ever output for a single day was achieved at Bowburn Colliery: 3,327.35 tons.

The record-breaking week’s output (w/e 13 April 57) was 16,387.8 tons. The pit had been consistently beating its weekly target of 14, 228 tons for some time. Topping it by 2,059, however, was an all-time record.

All six seams were operating: Low Main (1,851tons 13cwt), Hutton (3,443tons 3cwt), Harvey (6,877tons), Tilley (1,203tons 15cwt), Busty (1,598tons 10cwt) and Brockwell (1,813tons 15cwt).

Bowburn was easily the biggest producer in South West Durham, the other 25 collieries in the Area producing 93,904 tons between them (an average of 3,756 tons). The next biggest was Dean and Chapter, at Ferryhill, which produced 12,818 tons.

The highest producer in No.5 Area was Brancepeth, which that week achieved 9,006 tons.

The biggest pits in the Durham coalfield were on the coast, in Mid-East Durham Area. Even so, in March 1957, only three of them were producing more than Bowburn. In week-ending 23 March 1957, for instance, Murton produced 18,344 tons (less than its target of 18,500), Dawdon produced 17,966 tons (target 16,000) and Vane Tempest 16, 502 tons (target 13,500). Bowburn that week produced 15,112 tons.

(Sources: R. Shield’s notebook, p.148; Durham Co. Adv., 19 April 1957 pp.1, 7 & 12 + 29 March 1957, p.1 +, p.9.)

29 June 1957

M. Pollock became under-manager of Bowburn Colliery, in place of Mr. B. Hardman. Mr. John got Mr. Hardman’s old job.

(Sources: R. Shield’s notebook, p.150 + 153.)

4 October 1957

Surtees Simpson, deputy, of 123, Park Avenue, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 57 years. He was killed by a fall of stone, possibly in the Busty Seam.

Buried in Bowburn Cemetery after a funeral at St. John’s Church, Bowburn, conducted by Rev. J. T. Lee-Warner.

Mr. Simpson had been a deputy for 17 years, having moved to Bowburn from Page Bank 27 years earlier.

He left a widow, Evelyn Simpson.

Matthew C. Hall, of Woodlands Crescent, Kelloe, had told SS, his deputy, that he wanted timber for roof support.

There was a shortage of timber (reported by William Tickell, deputy, on the previous shift) and the nearest new timber was at the shaft two miles away. So SS tried to draw some. He was using an axe, instead of the proper long-handled tool.

He handed two props to MCH, who then heard him hammering to withdraw another, about 7 yards away. There was a fall of stone and SS was trapped under a piece 10ft by 8ft. Workmates levered this off.

The inquest was held in Bowburn Miners’ Institute on Friday 11 October 57, by coroner Mr. T. V. Devey.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Headstone in Bowburn Cemetery; Durham Mining Museum website; Dur. Co. Adv., 11 October 1957, p.3 and 18 October 1957 pp.1&5; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)


Bill Stokoe, chief clerk at Bowburn Colliery, retired, aged 65 years. BS had started as an office boy at Bowburn Colliery in 1906, aged 13 years.

BS remained Clerk to Cassop-cum-Quarrington Parish Council, which he had been since the mid-1930s, till his 80th birthday in 1972. (See 1973.) He died in 1977. Tom Stokoe gave date of father’s retirement from Clerk as 1972. Northern Echo, gave 1973.

(Sources: Tom Stokoe; Northern Echo, (or Durham Advertiser?) 28 September 1973; N. Echo, 16 August 1967.)


Richard P. Smith became Undermanager at Bowburn. Colliery Manager’s Certificate no.5,602.


The no. of people employed at Bowburn Colliery reached its peak, at c.2,950, according to unconfirmed verbal recollection. This included about 234 officials.

(Source: Bob Bellis. Note that this figure is higher than any found in official records.)

30 August 1958

No.4 Area produced 75,316 tons of coal in the week-ending 30 August 1958. The highest production was at Bowburn Colliery, with 12,934 tons.

Two weeks later, the Area’s production rose to 98,588 tons, of which 13,870 tons were at Bowburn.

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 5 September 1958, p.11 + 19 September 1958, p.14.)

2 September 1958

John William (Bill) Hutchinson was killed by a fall of stone at Bowburn Colliery, aged 41 years. He lived at 61, Ramsay Street, Tursdale with his wife, Elsie M. Hutchinson and family.

Buried in Cornforth Churchyard formerly of 47a, School Street, Tursdale.

DMM (and Cathedral Book?) give age as 42, however grave headstone says 41, as does the BMD Index. This was confirmed by his son, Colin, who was 13 at the time.

According to Colin, his uncle, Harry Woods (a union man) said his mother got no compensation because he was said to have removed the props himself. He was working a seam 9" high, in 8" of water, after all other men had been withdrawn from that face. He thought it shouldn’t be closed yet and continued to work it, peeling off from the others when they went to work and coming out when they whistled it was time to finish. On the day he was killed, he did not respond to their whistles.

(Sources: Colin Hutchinson; Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Headstone, Cornforth Churchyard; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

September 1958

“Sandy”, from Bowburn Colliery, won the Pit Pony Championship Cup at the Wolsingham Show, handled by Walter Espin, horse keeper, of 29, Bow Street. In June 1956, when six ponies from the Durham coalfield (none from Bowburn) were about to take part in the Royal Show, the Durham County Advertiser reported:

“Year by year, with the process of mechanisation developing, the number of ponies in the pits of Britain gets smaller. In 1927, 56,000 were working in the mines. Today, the number is about 12,000. They work a maximum of 48 hours a week in shifts of 71/2 hours or less. There are no blind ponies in the pits in any circumstances. They are protected by law; indeed, no other horse working for its living is protected by such stringent legislation.”

(Sources: Dur. Co. Adv., 12 September 1958, p.1 + 29 June 1956 – County Press (supplement), p.2.)

November 1958

M. Pollock, senior under-manager of Bowburn Colliery, left to become area spare manager.

(Source: R. Shield’s notebook, p.162.)


2,254 were employed at Bowburn Pit, according to 1960 Guide to the Coalfields published by the Colliery Guardian, via Durham Mining Museum. The number was 2,102, according to “Coal Mining in County Durham”, by Durham County Council & Northern Echo, (1993).)

14 January 1961

W. L. Lowson, manager of Bowburn Colliery, retired. He continued to live in Bowburn Grange, for a while at least (Stanley Charlton, the new manager, lived at Tursdale), before moving to The Haven, Whitburn. His wife died soon after. (She had been seriously ill, with cancer, before his retirement.)

Mr. Lowson died on 6 June 1963 (at Penryth acc. to Bob Ramsay, at his home in Whitburn acc. to Durham Advertiser).

They had two sons, Derek and Ronald.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Electoral register; Co. Durham Advertiser 14 June 1963, p.11; Bill Stainthorpe.)

19 February 1961

First visit of new manager of Bowburn Colliery, Mr. Stanley Charlton, from East Hetton Colliery. He remained manager until the colliery closed, after which he returned to be manager of East Hetton.

Manager’s Certificate No.7,220.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)


Low Main + Bottom Hutton seams abandoned at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: Coal Authority.)

20 February 1962

James L. Ellerby, puller, suffered a fatal acccident in the Low Main Seam at Bowburn Colliery. He died in the Durham County Hospital four days later (24 February 62), aged 50 years. JE lived at 51, Prince Charles Avenue.

Jos Wright, the NUM lodge secretary, was with him. The acting deputy on duty was Charlie Waile, shotfirer.”The injuries were caused through a face belt gear head turning over on to him whilst they were coupling the belts together. He left a widow, Mary, who lived in Prince Charles Avenue. His brother Ken lived in Philip Avenue.

The accident, according to Bob Bellis, happened when JE was trying to connect the belts.

Age given as 50 in Cathedral Book but as 52 in BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com. – though that death is recorded at Newcastle.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Letter from J. J. Ramshaw, lodge secretary, to S. Watson, DMA general secretary, 26 February 1962; Electoral Register; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

2 August 1962

William (Billy) Peverall, aged 48, died from injuries received from a fall of stone in the 1st North Harvey Seam, Bowburn Colliery, in 1943. He lived at 70, Wakenshaw Road, Gilesgate, and left a widow, Irene, and four children, Jean, Colin, Steven and Gwen.

He died at Shotley Bridge Hospital. Officially he was going to “do his business” in the goaf but Bob Bellis says he was trying to retrieve a prop.

Bob thought the year was 1943, on the basis that he (Bob) was on datal work in 1st North, after being in hospital for most of the preceding two years. The only other time Bob worked in 1st North was about 1961.

WP is described as “unemployed miner” on death certificate, with death attributed to toxaemia, carcinoma of sacral regions, chronic ulceration and paraplegia following spinal injury (accidental). Inquest was on 3 August 1962.

His son Colin reported that WM was injured c.13 years before he died.

(Sources: Bob Bellis; Colin Peverall; Death certificate; obituary of daughter, Jean, on This is the North East deaths archives website 3-9 April 2006.)

11 August 1962

Bowburn colliery workmen started their annual fortnight’s holiday. There was “a varied choice of holiday resorts for the miners and their wives and families. While some will go abroad, a good number have booked for tours. Many still favour Blackpool, Scarborough and Morecambe. Those at home will take advantage of coach tours.”–(Dur. Co. Adv., 10 August 1962, p.6.)

11 September 1962

Charles Stapleton (61), of 28, Durham Road, Bowburn, was admitted to the County Hospital with an injury to his right thumb. He received the injury while working at Bowburn Colliery and was said to be comfortable the next morning.

(Source: Dur. Co. Adv., 14 September 1962, p.14.)

October 1962

Bowburn Colliery’s aerial ropeway ceased operating. Since September 1938 it had carried 4,952,274 tons. British Rail had instructed train drivers to look out for increased use of the level crossing since April 1962.

The ropeway was scrapped in November 1964. The BR Miscellaneous Notice for the Shincliffe occupation level crossing at 4 miles 26 chains, on the Ferryhill & Pelaw Branch, was effective from 7 April 1962. It read: “Until further notice, there will be increased use of the above level crossing, which is situated between Bowburn and Shincliffe Station signal boxes, by NCB dumper trucks conveying spoil from the colliery to the waste heap on the opposite side of the railway. The crossing will be in the charge of a lookout man and drivers of trains approaching the crossing must keep a sharp look out, sound horns or whistles and be prepared to act on any hand signals which may be exhibited.”

(Sources: R. Shield’s notebook, p.166; BR–NER Supplementary Operating Instructions, Miscellaneous Notices, p.6.)

13 May 1963

Mr. Nicholson became under-manager of Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook.)

20 May 1963

George (“Micky”) Milburn, of 1, Margaret Court, Bowburn, was fatally injured in Brockwell seam, Tursdale side, Bowburn Colliery, aged 42 years. He was killed by fall of stone. After the funeral service (Rev. C. Moore officiating) at St. Mary’s Church, Shincliffe, he was buried in Bowburn Cemetery, where his widow, Agnes (Chilly) was also buried after she died 6 April 1996, aged 76. “ìMr. Milburn was a keen member of a pigeon club and local leek clubs.”–(Dur. Adv.) He died in Bill Higgins arms, after about 50 tons of post stone fell on him. Bill and ANOther leapt under the Joy loader but Mick was too far away and didn’t make it.

The Durham Co. Advertiser (24 May 1963) and the Durham Mining Museum website give his age as 42 years. He died a month before his 43rd birthday, which would have been 29 June 1963. His wife thought he had finished his shift and gone to his pigeon cree.

(Sources: R. W. Ramsay’s notebook; Bill Higgins; Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Headstone in Bowburn Cemetery; Durham Mining Museum website; Durham Co. Adv., 24 May 1963, p.10; Eunice Pragnell; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)


Tilley seam abandoned at Bowburn Colliery. Information received by the Bowburn NUM Lodge from Redhills on 21 February 1964 was that the colliery was to be re-organised, reducing manpower from 1,335 in September 1963, to 1,287 at 21 February 64, to 1,203 by the end of 1964 and 885 by March 1965, the reductions to be made by “normal wastage”. A survey of future workings had been carried out and the Croxdale Harvey District was to cease production at the end of March 1964, the Harvey Shaft subdivision would cease to operate around September 1964 and the Tilley Seam would become exhausted in March 1965.

(Sources: Coal Authority; Miners Lodge memo 21 February 1964.)

11 November 1964

Thomas Corner, deputy, of 12, Steavenson Street, was killed at Bowburn Colliery, aged 50 years. He was operating a Joy Loader in the Brockwell seam, Tursdale.

Rev. G. Kemp, of Durham, and Mr. B. Elliott, Bowburn, officiated at his funeral service, at Bowburn Methodist Church, before his interment in Bowburn Cemetery.

TC was a noted bowls player (see 1947) and a keen cricketer, and a member of the Crowtrees WMC committee. TC was decapitated, after sticking his head into a gap of old working, to flash his head lamp down behind.

As a deputy, TC always carried 10 detonators and he used to start by going to where Jack Barker worked and getting rid of them there. That day, Jack was off, as it was the day his son was born, so TC went somewhere else, and was killed.

TC’s widow, Vi, re-married, to Bill Higgins.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Headstone in Bowburn Cemetery; Durham Mining Museum website; Bill Higgins; Durham Co. Adv., 13 November 1964, p.15 + 20 November 1964, p.16; Bob Bellis; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Jackie Barker.


1,122 were employed at Bowburn Colliery.

(Source: 1965 Guide to the Coalfields published by the Colliery Guardian, via Durham Mining Museum.)


Brockwell seam abandoned at Bowburn Colliery. The NCB announced on 10 March 1966 that the whole of the Tursdale End of the colliery would close with effect from w/e 21 May 1966. This would reduce manpower required at the colliery to 592, including 27 on salvage at the Tursdale End.

About 360 jobs were lost.

(Sources: Coal Authority; Letter 10 March 1966 from JDM Bell, NCB Northumberland & Durham Division, to A. Hesler, DMA.)


Part of the A177, Durham Road, collapsed when ground above the Coronation Drift of Bowburn Colliery subsided. The first morning bus fell into the hole. People came from all around to observe. Dave Stothard, who told this story, dated the incident approximately by giving his age as about 15. (He was still at school.)

He also said that, as children, he an others used to use the Coronation Drift as “a playground”. They could easily get through its steel doors and used to walk down the drift and, if there were enough of them, push a tub up the incline and then ride in it back down again, until it hit whatever got in its way!

(Source: David Stothard.)

2 May 1966

Tommy Charlton Calder, stoneman, of 45, High Street, Carrville, was killed by a fall of stone at Bowburn Colliery, aged 50 years. Mr. Calder lived at 45, High Street, Carrville, according to DMA / Miners’ Lodge records and Durham Advertiser, but in the Chains, Gilesgate, according to the DMM website. He left a widow, Meggie Ede (née Scales), and a 24 year old son, who had recently married.

He was killed by a fall of stone, roadside, in the main gate of 4th North East Croxdale District (Harvey Seam). The coroner, Mr. Heron, said, “All the precautions had been taken. It was impossible for the supporting girders to be put in place before firing had taken place and nothing more could have been done until the stonemen had done their work.”

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Alan Snook; Durham Co. Adv., 20 May 1966, p.6; Letter dated 3 May 1966 from DMA to Bowburn; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com; Bob Bellis.)

12 May 1966

Adam H. Cowley, salvage worker, of 19, George Street, Sherburn, was fatally injured in the Busty Seam, at the Tursdale section of Bowburn Colliery, aged 60 years. He died in hospital. According to the Dur. Co. Advertiser (20 May 1966), he was found “wedged between a coal tub and the roof of a coal shaft, having been in charge of a pony hauling two coal tubs.” However John Barker said he was crushed against the side of the road.

Before he died, AC said the pony [Jacky] had pulled away and he had tripped and fell. But the coroner’s jury, returning a verdict of accidental death, felt there was insufficient evidence as to how the accident happened.

He left a widow, Eleanor, aged 57.

(Sources: Durham Cathedral Book of Remembrance; Durham Mining Museum website; Dur. Co. Adv., 13 May 1966, p.20; Letter dated 3 May 1966 from DMA to Bowburn Miners’ Lodge; John Barker; BMD Index, c/o Ancestry.com.)

26 November 1966

Manpower at Bowburn Colliery was reduced, from 534 (519 Colliery + 15 Washery) in w/e 10 September 1966, to 382 (369 + 13) in w/e 10 December 1966.

This saw the completion of the reorganisation of the colliery, which took effect in w/e 26 November 1966. 67 men transferred to Metal Bridge + 21 to East Hetton + 14 to Trimdon Grange + 13 others. 13 were made redundant and 11 went on “voluntary wastage”: 2 retired, 8 left through ill-health and one had died.

(Sources: Letter dated 22 December 1966 from G. L. Atkinson, NCB Industrial Relations Officer, to A. Hesler, DMA General Secretary.)


Harvey + Top & Bottom Busty seams abandoned at Bowburn Colliery

(Source: Coal Authority.)

16 March 1967

Article in Northern Echo, about Walter Espin visiting Trigger (aged 19) three times a week. WE, of Bow Street, Bowburn, was NCB South Durham Area Group’s head horsekeeper prior to his retirement.

Trigger (19), a grey pit pony, formerly of Bowburn Colliery, was now living on a small holding at Byers Green.

(Source: Northern Echo, [or Durham Advertiser?] 16 March 1967[?].)

17 May 1967

A special meeting of the Bowburn Colliery Consultative Committee was held in the Miners’ Welfare Hall to learn the NCB’s plans for closure of the colliery.

The meeting was addressed by Mr. Potts, NCB’s Area Director, who announced that 30 June 1967 had been fixed as the date when the colliery would finally close. Of 340 men currently employed, 40 to 45 would be required for salvage, said said Mr. Potts, leaving about 300 to find jobs for. There were 102 jobs available in the South Hetton Group of Collieries but they may be filled from elsewhere if Bowburn were kept open any longer.

Because of a difference between the holiday dates at Bowburn and those at South Hetton, management agreed that notices be issued to terminate employment on 31 July 1967.

Also in attendance from management were Mr. Mills, Deputy director (Ops); Mr. Tomlin, Area Manpower Officer, and Mr. Atkinson.

Also mention in the minutes of the meeting were Mr. Hall, who opened and closed the meeting; Mr. Robison, who replied to Mr. Potts’ announcement and asked, at one time, for a ten minute break so members could discuss what had been announced; Mr. Ramshaw, Bowburn Miners’ Lodge, who asked for the closure to be put back six months, and Mr. Harrison, Secretary of the Bowburn Welfare Committee, who said that enquiries had begun some time ago about the future of the Bowburn Welfare and Community Centre.

(Sources: Letter to Lodge Secretary dated 12 May 1967; minutes of the special meeting on 17 May 1967.)

22 July 1967

Bowburn Colliery closed. Last coals were drawn on 20th July.

Demolition of Tursdale downcast pit gear began on 27 February 68.

Winding ropes were taken off Bowburn upcast pit headgear on 29 May 68.

Final abandonment 1 June 1968.

Manpower at 13 May 1967 had been 346 and was estimated to be 338 by the end of June..40 would be retained for salvage.

At 16 May 1967, 133 of the men working at Bowburn Colliery lived in Bowburn and 44 at Coxhoe.28 lived at Sherburn, 24 at New Durham and 17 in Durham; 14 each at West Cornforth and Gilesgate, 10 at Brandon, 8 at Gilesgate Moor, 6 each at Kelloe, Framwellgate Moor and Shincliffe, 5 each at Tursdale and Littleburn, 4 each at Spennymoor and Quarrington Hill; 3 each at Belmont, Langley Moor and Meadowfield; 2 each at Carrville and Croxdale, plus 2 others = 361.

(Sources: Manpower figures from memos dated 15 & 16 May 1967 (NCB?) reference IJ/EP; Dur. Co. Adv., 21 July 1967.)

June 1968

Bowburn Colliery was finally abandoned.

30 July 1969

Bowburn Colliery site (west of Durham Road) was sold by NCB to Land Developments (Mincroft) Ltd. [later known as Ogden Properties Ltd]. Demolition of the pit head buildings followed, by Ogdens, who developed the site as Bowburn South Industrial Estate.

(Source: Conveyance document.)


The site of the upcast (man-riding) shaft and associated buildings of Bowburn Colliery were sold to Mabey Johnson Ltd, who opened a depot there that year. The site was operated till 2010 by Mabey Hire Ltd (formerly Mabey Ltd, formerly Mabey Johnson Ltd), who store and supply ground-shoring equipment. They successfully applied for outline planning permission for residential development on 23 January 2009 and this was renewed on 11 October 2012. Mabey Hire Services moved to Hetton-le-Hole in November 2010.

(Sources: Land Registry title no. DU120627; Mabeys’ outline planning applications for housing on the site, 23 January 2009 & 5 April 2012.)

23 October 1972

Durham County Council bought the Bowburn colliery pit heaps from the National Coal Board for the purpose of reclamation. The Council also acquired fields to the south and the heaps were duly reclaimed, by removing topsoil, leveling the heaps southwards and then recovering them, in the mid-1970s.

The part east of the railway was sold in 1998 to Marjorie (wife of Jeff) Stephenson of Peat Edge Farm, and the western part was leased to Robin Stevenson of Tursdale House Farm until it was sold to Mr. Laing of High Grange Farm, Shincliffe c.2000. Both sales included woodlands and bridleway.

(Source: Contract of Sale.)

16 December 2006

A new memorial, to men killed and injured in accidents at Bowburn Colliery, was dedicated in Bowburn Community Centre. It was donated by members of Bowburn Labour Party. 15 miners lodge banners and the Fishburn Band, together with guest speakers and local ministers were in attendance at the ceremony.

19 December 2007

A memorial to “Mick” Milburn and to all who worked at Bowburn Colliery, in the form of a refurbished 10cwt coal tub, was ceremonially opened near the junction between Prince Charles Avenue and Durham Road (A177), by Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP. The tub was donated by Jimmy Milburn, in memory of his father, who was killed at Bowburn Colliery in 1963, and installed by Cassop-cum-Quarrington Parish Council.