Early coal mining in the Bowburn area

It is hoped eventually to produce a detailed history of early coal mining in the Bowburn area. The significance of the township of Quarrington, and the adjacent one of Coxhoe, in the mid-19th century battle between rival railway companies and coal-owners, should not be under-estimated. (It’s certainly a compelling tale!)

Fortunes and reputations were made and ruined, for those who ventured their capital. And, inevitably, lives and limbs were lost, in the process, by those who worked underground…

The “five 19th century periods” summary, below, is taken from some notes written for one of Bowburn Local History Society’s guided walks.

Those notes, with map, can be read here: An Old Collieries Walk.

The notes go into some details about the following five periods, while pointing to relevant features in the local landscape. (This summary is taken from a hand-out given to those going on the guided walk.)

Five 19th century periods of coal mining in Quarrington (and Coxhoe)

Pre-1824: Landsale – Coal was transported by turnpike road to S. Durham and N. Yorkshire. John Burdon, of Hardwick and Coxhoe Halls, owner and lease-holder of local coal royalties, died c.1792. The first Tees & Weardale Railway Bill failed in May 1824. (T&WR was forerunner of Clarence Railway.) William Hedley, of Wylam, returned from giving evidence to Parliament, in support of the Bill, and sub-leased coal royalties in Quarrington.

1824-1834: Hedley – The Railways are coming! – In 1827, Henry Blanshard, a big investor in the Clarence Railway, bought the Coxhoe coal royalties from the Misses Hale, Burdon’s heirs, and acquired the leases of royalties in Quarrington, Cornforth and Cassop. He then leased or sub-leased mining rights to various colliery owners – including Hedley and Nicholas Wood & partners. The Clarence Railway Co. was formed in 1828. The first coals from Crowtrees colliery – presumably the new one, in Quarrington vale, not the original landsale colliery near Bowburn Beck, at Crowtrees – were shipped at Stockton, for London, via the Clarence Railway, in January 1834. A new Heugh Hall colliery was sunk at Old Quarrington.

• 1834-1844: DCCC – Railway rivalries and Joint Stock adventures – Durham County Coal Co. was formed in 1836. Various DCCC directors and shareholders (Barrett, Darling, Philipson, Tennant, Rayson, Quelch…) bought and sunk collieries in Quarrington and Coxhoe (Crowtrees, Heugh Hall, West Hetton, Bowburn, Clarence Hetton, Coxhoe [Joint Stocks].) Competition with Clarence Railway… In 1839, the new Crowtrees Colliery, bought from Hedley, was first to use Quarrington Hill incline to ship coal at Old Hartlepool, via Hartlepool Dock & Ry. Co.’s line. The Great North of England, Clarence & Hartlepool Junction Ry. opened in 1839. Hartlepool West Harbour Dock Co. was formed in 1844.

• 1844-1866: Jackson – The rise of West Hartlepool – In 1846, West Hetton, Crowtrees and Heugh Hall were acquired by John Robson & Ralph Ward Jackson. Others in the area bought soon after. All coals then transported via Clarence Ry. and Stockton & Hartlepool Ry.; Q. Hill incline closed. The West Hartlepool Harbour & Ry. Co. was formed from S&HRC and Hartlepool West Harbour & Dock Co. in 1853. Robson died in 1856. Collieries ownership was transferred to WHH&RC in 1860. Jackson downfall: resigned in April 1862. WHH&RC taken over by NER in 1863. Bowburn, Coxhoe, West Hetton, Crowtrees, Heugh Hall and South Kelloe collieries were bought by James Morrison & Co. (later Rosedale & Ferry Hill Iron Co. Ltd.) in 1866. (Morrison was an associate of Wm. Hedley’s sons.)

• 1866-1877: Morrison – Coking for the iron industry – Iron industry flourished at Coxhoe, Cornforth and Ferryhill. Trade depression closed all remaining collieries in 1877 –  though Joint Stocks Colliery may have briefly re-opened and closed again c.1878-79. (Meanwhile, Bell Bros., ironmasters of Middlesbrough, had sunk Tursdale South Pit, in 1859…)

We hope that the links below, to other pages on this site, are also helpful:

A brief history of local coal mining, by Don Wilcock

Three Bowburn Collieries

Other Local History Walks