BEAMISH has welcomed new pit ponies to its site.
Crowds gathered at the open-air heritage museum as part of a four-day celebration to welcome the seven animals.
The ponies have been brought into the Pit Village area of the museum to mark the role they played in North-East colliery life in the years leading up to the First World War.
Visitors can see the daily routine of the stables that were home to pit ponies working underground and colliery horses, who carried out a range of tasks on the surface, from delivering coal to pulling the colliery manager’s carriage.
A grand parade from The Town to The Pit Village marked the occasion, featuring brass bands, miners’ banners and a host of costumed folk, invited guests and visitors.
Ferryhill Brass Band marched with the parade, and banners included those from Easington, Murton, Shotton and Silksworth.
Richard Evans, Beamish’s museum director, said: “This is another piece of the jigsaw of our rich mining heritage and the stories we tell at Beamish.
“Pit ponies are among the most iconic and emotive symbols of mining life.”
The new ponies include Flash, who can trace his ancestry back to Lord Londonderry’s Seaham stud.
All seven are pedigree Shetland ponies, a breed which was commonly used across the Durham coalfield.
In addition to daily tasks such as mucking out, feeding and grooming, objects and documents are on display – the horse keepers’ paperwork, regulations from the 1911 Mines Act and a medicines cabinet.
Ponies working down a deep shaft mine would spend most, if not all, of the year underground because it was often difficult to transport them.
They only usually came to the surface when the mine closed for a holiday or work was halted because of a strike.
Miners respected their ponies, including the “sixth sense” for danger the animals seemed to possess.
Pitmen were reportedly saved from injury because their ponies stopped and refused to go on, then suddenly the roof collapsed in front of them.