Series of events announced to celebrate historic Hetton Colliery Railway bicentenary

It’s full steam ahead for a special celebration of the historic Hetton Colliery Railway.

Thursday, 28th April 2022, 12:06 pm

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Once used to transport coal from Elemore and Hetton pits to the River Wear in Sunderland, the George Stephenson-engineered Hetton Colliery Railway celebrates its bicentenary later this year.

To mark the milestone, Sunderland Culture is working with Sunderland City Council to celebrate the railway, which was the first in the world to use only steam and gravity power.

The Stephenson Trail traces the route of the railway from Elemore Park (the former Elemore Golf Course) and is being celebrated by Sunderland City Council to recognise the importance of the railway. The trail will be at the heart of this year’s 200-year celebrations.

ALL GONE: The dismantling of Hetton Colliery Railway, with workmen pictured on September 11, 1959.

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Working with partners including charity partner Hetton Colliery Railway 200 (HCR 200), The Cultural Spring is developing eight strands of a celebration programme.

Emma Horsman, Project Director of The Cultural Spring, explained: “Through Sunderland City Council’s commission we want to ensure local communities, families and children have an opportunity to learn about the history and importance of the 11-mile Stephenson Trail, and feel connected to its heritage.”

The celebrations include: a schools resources pack; a banners and flags project which will include engagement sessions at Barnes Park in Sunderland in June/July and Hetton Carnival on June 18; a music programme; a photography project; a coal mining stories and oral histories project; a trailmarkers project: which will be used at key points along the trail; A Stephenson Community Exhibition which will tour venues along the Stephenson Trail between September and November this year and a huge community celebration event taking place this autumn.

Emma added: “We hope that through this varied programme we have something to interest everyone in the communities on and around the Stephenson Trail. As with all of our work, we will look to local people to help us shape the programme and we’ve already started these discussions.

Emma Horsman from Sunderland Culture

“This is a milestone anniversary of an iconic railway and we want to make sure the celebrations reflect the importance of it to the local communities.”

Sandra Mitchell, Assistant Director of Community Resilience at Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see the wonderful events and projects that The Cultural Spring has lined up to celebrate 200 years of the Hetton Colliery Railway.

“This railway is historically significant not only for Sunderland but worldwide, and this programme of events will allow people of all ages to learn more about its important history.”

Funding for the celebration of the Stephenson Trail has come Neighbourhood Funds from Sunderland City Council’s East, West and Coalfields areas. The budget for The Cultural Spring work is £30,000 and a programme of environmental improvements to the trail is also under development.

The Cultural Spring aims to increase arts participation in areas of Sunderland and South Tyneside that don’t have a tradition of arts engagement. It is funded by Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places project and its sixpartners, the University of Sunderland, the Customs House (South Shields), Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust; Sangini, a women’s health organisation; Young Asian Voices (YAV) and The Cultural Spring Charity.

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