Exhibition digs into Sunderland’s mining history

Last shift at Wearmouth Colliery in December 1993.

Last shift at Wearmouth Colliery in December 1993.

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An art exhibition inspired by the mining industry is now on show at a Wearside museum.

More than 250,000 miners once toiled as part of the Great Northern Coalfield’s network of 400 pits. Today the industry has been confined to the history books.

The last great reminder of Sunderland's mining heritage, the D Shaft tower of Wearmouth Colliery, is toppled in 1994.

The last great reminder of Sunderland's mining heritage, the D Shaft tower of Wearmouth Colliery, is toppled in 1994.

Memories live on, however, through the Art of Mining display now at Monkwearmouth Station Museum - which features artists who began their working lives in mining.

“Much of our recent local history is founded in the mining industry,” said John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture at Sunderland City Council.

“It’s 22 years since Wearmouth Colliery, the last in Sunderland, closed and I believe everyone should take time to appreciate the role mining played in shaping today’s city.

“The display celebrates the once essential and powerful workforce, and vividly illustrates the working environment of miners through their own interpretation of life.

New overhead winding-gear being built at Wearmouth Colliery in 1957.

New overhead winding-gear being built at Wearmouth Colliery in 1957.

Coalmining in County Durham dates back to at least the 12th century, when the Boldon Book of 1183 records the mining activities of a unnamed collier at Escomb.

Small drift mines were worked across the county from medieval times and, by the 1830s, pits around Sunderland, Houghton and Hetton were producing coal for the world market.

Indeed, the pitmen of old County Durham were soon regarded as one of Britain’s major fuel suppliers and, in King Coal’s heyday of 1913, there were 304 pits employing 165,246 men.

“The legacy of mining is still felt throughout Sunderland and the wider region,” said Councillor Kelly.

The Art of Mining exhibition.

The Art of Mining exhibition.

“It is great to see that such an important part of our local history, a history we should be truly proud of, can still engender inspiration.

“I encourage everyone to go along to the exhibition and see the fantastic results inspired by this once great industry.”