Heritage trail tells tail of Seaham’s history

Members of Seaham Heritage Association . Pictured l-r are Linda Baker sec., Fred Cooper Chairman, Carol Hindmarch and Bill Baker tresaurer.
Members of Seaham Heritage Association . Pictured l-r are Linda Baker sec., Fred Cooper Chairman, Carol Hindmarch and Bill Baker tresaurer.
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A HERITAGE trail has been set up across a town in celebration of the stories its landmark buildings can tell.

After two years of work by historians, blue plaques have been installed on a dozen locations in Seaham, with two walks set up to take people on a tour of the sites.

Seaham Heritage Associatiomn blue plaques - Birkbeck Villa, Station Road, Seaham.

Seaham Heritage Associatiomn blue plaques - Birkbeck Villa, Station Road, Seaham.

They include those associated with its colliery industry, such as the Londonderry Offices in North Terrace, since transformed into flats after a time as a police station, and others linked to the founding family of the town, such as Londonderry Dene House in Harbour Walk and The Londonderry Arms in South Crescent, which is now Massimo’s restaurant.

Birbeck Villa, on the corner of Station Road and Northlea Road, which opened in 1886 as a home and Post Office for Joseph Birbeck, a postmaster, clerk and choirmaster, and Vane Hall, in Blandford Place, which was opened in 1862 as Seaham’s first Drill Hall and HQ for the Seaham Voluntary Artillery, built by Lady Frances Anne, are also highlighted.

The Mill Inn, the only building to previously have a plaque on its side, is featured because it was the scene of a siege during a parliamentary election campaign in 1974, while Woods and Co Bank, now the Black Truffle cafe, and its attached Bath Terrace is included as it was designed by Newcastle architect John Dobson.

St Mary’s Church, Seaham Hall, Seaham Harbour Cricket Club and the North Dock also feature.

The trail is the work of Seaham Heritage Association with the aim of preserving the town’s history for generations to come who have no knowledge of its links to industries including brickworks, bottleworks, pottery, its iron foundry and chemical works as well as its mines, and to foster a pride in its rich and diverse culture.

It also brought together the association with other history groups, which contributed photos and information, as well as the owners of the building.

Fred Cooper, chairman of the association, said: “Seaham is a wonderful town to stroll around and find hidden gems, interesting buildings and architecture, industries that have flourished and declined and visit places where historical events have played out in the past.

“Wherever we stand in the town we are surrounded by history.

“Sometimes that history is highly visible.

“Other times it lies beneath the surface and requires a journey of exploration for the unique character of our town to be truly appreciated.

“An ideal way to start that journey is to flow the blue plaques that have been erected on buildings of historical significance. These offer a taste of what went before and, when viewed as a group, begin to build a picture of the town’s past.

“Walking between each blue plaque building the route takes you on a journey past many points of interest, spectacular coastal views and other buildings that will enrich the walkers’ understanding of Seaham’s remarkable history.”

One of the walks takes 90 minutes to complete, the other two hours.

Maps are available at the town council’s office and the library, with schools to get copies and a download to be available via www.seaham.gov.uk.

The project was funded thanks to the County Durham Community Foundation and REG Windpower’s South Sharpley Community Benefits Fund and supported by Durham County Council’s economic development team and Seaham Town Council.