Wearside Echoes: A look at village life

FUN TIMES: A fancy dress party at Waldridge Mission Church in 1951.
FUN TIMES: A fancy dress party at Waldridge Mission Church in 1951.
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A RICH vein of history has been mined for the first time to create a new book focusing on two County Durham pit villages.

Local historians Dorothy Hall and George Nairn have joined forces to produce a 128-page paperback packed with dozens of old pictures of Chester Moor and Waldridge.

“This is the first book ever written about the two villages, and we have enjoyed putting it together,” they said.

George and Dorothy have drawn on school log books, archive material, memories of residents and newspaper reports.

Postcard views, many dating back several decades, have also been reproduced, together with pictures of schools, teams, miners, streets, houses, churches and events.

“Although we have had to leave out many photographs and text, we hope readers get a flavour of life in Chester Moor and Waldridge in years gone by,” said the authors.

The original rural hamlet of Waldridge grew up on Waldridge Fell several centuries ago, but the current village dates to the 19th century, in the shadow of Waldridge Colliery.

The pit, which once employed hundreds of local men, opened in 1831 and closed in April 1926, having been linked, underground, to a colliery at Chester Moor.

“Waldridge occupies a somewhat isolated situation. It contains a mission chapel, a pretty structure of stone and wood,” reported Whellan’s History, Topography and Directory of Durham in 1894.

“The coal in this township is being wrought by Messrs Thiedemann and Wallis.

“There are about 320 men and boys employed and the daily output is over 700 tins.”

The village of Chester Moor also grew up around a colliery, which was opened in 1889 by Messrs Thiedemann and Wallis.

At the height of its success, between the 1930s and 1950s, it employed more than 700 pitmen. The closure of the colliery, in 1967, proved a severe blow to the area.

“It is hard to imagine in 2011 how different the two villages were 100 years ago.

“Now they are quiet extensions, although separate, of Chester-le-Street,” said Dorothy and George.

“But then they were both busy, vibrant places with collieries, schools, shops, chapels and churches, with many more houses and families.”

* Chester Moor and Waldridge, by Dorothy A. Hall and George Nairn, is published by Summerhill Books at £9.99.