Wearside Echoes: Long lost industries

HYLTON COLLIERY: Opened by Wearmouth Coal Company in 1900 and employing 1,800 men by 1930. It closed in 1979 and a retail park now stands in its place.

HYLTON COLLIERY: Opened by Wearmouth Coal Company in 1900 and employing 1,800 men by 1930. It closed in 1979 and a retail park now stands in its place.

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THE long-lost industries of Wearside and County Durham are the focus of a new book.

North East Industries Through Time, penned by Dr Stafford Linsley, provides an insight into the history of local industry through a mix of archive and modern photographs.

“The industrial fortunes of North East England were built on its coal, lead, iron, shipbuilding, engineering and chemical industries,” said Stafford, who was born into a County Durham coal mining family.

“But the collieries, brickworks, gasworks and steel mills have now largely gone, replaced by business parks, call centres, service industries and leisure and tourism facilities.

“There have, of course, been some recent industrial success stories, such as the Nissan plant, the growing number of computer software industries and offshore engineering technologies.

“But these have none of the visual impact of the older industries – our present industrial landscapes are much less fascinating than they once were.”

Archive photographs of industries across Wearside, Northumberland and County Durham are included in the book, together with new pictures of what the sites look like today.

Potted histories of industries such as Wearmouth Colliery, Seaham Harbour, Fulwell Mill, Cold Hesledon Pumping Station and Houghton Brewery are also featured.

“Many of our former industrial sites are now manicured grassy spaces, or gaps in the built environment,” said Stafford, who has seen his old home, school, cinema and local pit bulldozed over the years.

“While there is little to be gained by bemoaning the fates of those that failed to survive, it is fortunate at least that industrial decline was accompanied by a growing interest in industrial heritage.

“Windmills and watermills have been preserved, as have railways, pumping stations and colliery buildings, while other structures have been incorporated into museums or reused.”

Among the industrial sites to find a new lease of life – as mentioned in the book – are Fulwell Mill, Killhope lead mine, Houghton Brewery and Washington F Pit.

Other industrial landmarks such as Roker Pier, Seaham Harbour, Cold Hesledon Pumping Station and Marsden Lime Kilns are still standing too – but many others have disappeared over the decades.

“The images in this book represent a world we have left behind, for good or ill,” said Stafford, a retired lecturer in industrial archaeology.

“By contrast, they also show the world we now inhabit; a very different world, but one where we can still find reminders of a not-too-distant industrial past.”

l North East Industries Through Time, by Stafford M. Linsley, is published by Amberley Publishing. The book is available from bookshops and online at £14.99.