Atlas details town’s chequered past

Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland, Stuart and Marie Porthouse with Margaret Witham and members of the Hetton Local Natural History Society with the Hetton Village Atlas.

Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland, Stuart and Marie Porthouse with Margaret Witham and members of the Hetton Local Natural History Society with the Hetton Village Atlas.

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A DOCUMENT detailing the chequered history of a Wearside community has been unveiled to the public.

Hetton Local Natural History Society have created the Hetton Village Atlas.

Members of the group have put together the work over an 18-month period.

The Village Atlas project was launched last January with an appeal for villagers to scour their attics for hidden historic gems.

Maps, plans, documents and vintage photos were among the items donated, providing researchers with a “solid foundation” on which to investigate the area’s heritage.

Further research was carried out into Hetton’s geology and land history by specialists from The Archaeological Practice, to add to the atlas’s historic settlement section.

And events such as heritage walks, fossil hunts, heritage displays, wildlife mapping sessions and archaeological digs were also held as part of the project.

The atlas was officially unveiled by Mayor of Sunderland, Coun Stuart Porthouse, and his wife, the Mayoress, Marie, as part of a two-day event at the Hetton Centre to launch the publication.

It is hoped it will now help towards educating residents and youngsters in the town as well as those from further afield.

Chairman of Hetton Local and Natural History Society, Peter Collins, said: “What has been exhibited over these two days is only a small version of what is contained within the Village Atlas.

“Its content can serve to educate in local studies, evoke memories, but also help every resident to understand the historical achievements and attributes which made our town so important.”

Committee member Pat Robson said: “Everyone from the youngest primary school pupil to the oldest visitor thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

“They learned about how special the township of Hetton-le-Hole is, won prizes, and even discovered many of their relatives in photographs they had never seen before.”

The origins of Hetton are believed to date to at least Anglo-Saxon times, when the ancient manor was a rural idyll.

The hunt for coal, however, changed the area forever.

A flourishing town soon grew up following the opening of Lyon’s colliery in 1822, with more than 200 new houses for miners built, as well as shops, pubs and churches.

At its peak, in the 1890s and 1920s, the pit employed more than 1,000 men.

When it closed in 1950, almost 450 lost their jobs.

Copies of the atlas are priced at £20 and can be purchased by contacting Alan Jackson, telephone 526 2804, or e-mail alan.t.jackson@talktalk.net.