Home | Ushaw Moor Colliery

Ushaw Moor colliery, in 1879, was bought by Henry Chaytor of Witton Castle and it was during his ownership that we find the most turbulent colliery strike in the Deerness Valley taking place. When the shaft was sunk to the Busty seam in 1881 the colliery manager was Thomas Robinson. He seems to have been at variance with both the village community and the law. Mr. Henry Chaytor was from the old school of employers, demanding complete obedience from his work- force. He was utterly opposed to the formation of the unions and sacked their elected representative, Thomas Westoe, for allegedly sending sub-standard coal to bank which had been filled from a hitch*. This victimised dismissal and eviction from his tied cottage was resented by the workmen who gave their now legally required two weeks notice to terminate their employment. This insolence so infuriated Mr. Robinson that he brought a number of policemen into the village, and the next morning. began to evict the strikers, their families and furniture. It is well to remember that at the time subjection of the workforce by management was normal and often accepted without rancour. *Hitch - a geological.fault.

The Durham Chronicle gave graphic accounts over the following three years as the strike continued. It appears that in the June of 1881 a strike had taken place at the colliery because the owners were reluctant to pay back money they owed to some putters. Thomas Westoe had been elected to inspect the mine on behalf of the D.M.A. and in the weeks following the men's?s return to work he was watched for some pretext on which he could be sacked. Henry Chaytor, the owner of the colliery, published a long letter in the Chronicle dated 28th December, 1881 stating that, in his opinion, the men were getting their money too easily and were almost taking over the colliery for themselves. At this stage some two hundred men were employed, many of whose notices expired on 23rd December.

It was a mild December and on Friday, 30th, Mr. Chaytor the owner, 34 year old Mr. Robinson the manager and Mr. Robert Curry the engineer directed the police and -a number of 'candy men' from the colliery to remove the furniture from houses in the middle rows of the colliery streets. First to be turned out was the secretary of the men's representative, Henry Smith, with his wife and five children, next John Lee the president, with his wife and five children, then Joseph Eden, his wife and three children, George Yates, wife and four children, and so on, until a total of twelve families had their belongings piled in the street and doors and windows boarded up. The next day, Father Fortin the priest in charge at Newhouse, visited the village. He offered his school as shelter for the wives and children, and the Rev.C. Gillow, president of Ushaw College, allowed the men to pitch a large tent in a field owned by the college. By the following Tuesday thirty-seven families had been evicted. There was a fair amount of taunting but no violence from the miners as they watched their belongings being heaped up in the streets. In fact, the evictors were cheered when they allowed a family with a sick member to remain. This was not to be the case for very long however, and after a fortnight, carts from the colliery took the furniture and piled it up in a field near the Flass Inn. More evictions took place. one particularly unpleasant event recorded was when Mr. L. Chaytor, nephew of the owner, acting as agent went to the house of Walton Jones accompanied by Mr. Robinson and Mr. Curry. Jones had a son 8 or 9 years old lying in bed with a diseased hip aggravated by running ulcers. After the house had been cleared of furniture, Mr. Robinson lifted the boy from his bed and indicated that Mr. Chaytor and Mr. Curry should carry the bed Outside. They made no move and Mr. Robinson replaced the lad but pulled the bed into the middle of the floor. The door between the front and back rooms was then nailed up and the window boarded over. The three men then left leaving the front door wide open.

Many of the miners who kept pigs had continued feeding them in the sties or 'crees' which were on colliery property. They were very upset one morning to find -the pigs had been turned loose and the crees smashed beyond repair. N.B. Cree= a small shed.

A great deal of support was given to the Ushaw Moor miners from other collieries, many mines imposing a levy on their workforce. Cartloads of food or clothing continued to arrive during the months, which followed, turning into years. On March 3rd, 1882, the Chronicle recorded that two men with plenty of money had tried to bribe miners at New Copley colliery to go and work at Ushaw Moor where 178 workmen had been evicted.

From this time, the situation became more serious. On March 18th Benjamin Bailey, who was working on the screens at Ushaw Moor, was attacked at Broompark where he lived. Three strikers were accused of the assault, they were John Dawson, Thomas Westoe and John Lee. The evidence against the men was inconclusive but suspicion lingered.

Mr Chaytor, sick of the years of industrial unrest, sold Ushaw Moor colliery to Pease & Partners in 1883. From this time, the workmen and community had an easier life, the new owners helping rather than opposing them. The new manager in 1894 was Michael H. Wardle and the engineer Mr. R. Curry. It is recorded that at that time half the output was being converted into coke. It may be of interest at this point to mention that unlike Esh Winning and Waterhouses who used branch horses to pull the trucks between the beehive ovens, Ushaw Moor had its own 'tankey' or railway engine. Over the years three steam engines served the colliery; they were GEORGE built in 1871 by Kitsons of Leeds, CAROLINE built in 1891 by Black and Hawthorne and NUMBER 6 built in 1894 by Robert Stephenson. The seams and some of their various districts are worthy of mention. In the Busty seam were Huntleys Crosscut, Sleetburn Ballarat, Third Victoria, Straight North. In the Brockwell seam the districts were Mafeking, Drag, Ladysmith Crosscut, Quarry Way, College Way and Frenches Landing. Mr. Stobart was manager for many years with Mr. Trotter undermanager of the Brockwell and Jack Nightingale undermanager of the Busty. The colliery also mined a small amount of Barytes and operated a crushing plant as at New Brancepeth.

Jack Rowe was one of the last workmen at Ushaw Moor colliery before it closed in 1960. Now, at 81, he looks back on events and happenings. "I started work at Ushaw Moor colliery when I was 14 in 1915. Most lads who were not apprentices went first onto the belts where the coal coming out of the pit was sorted and screened. Picking stone was my first job alongside older men. As I became used to the noise, which was frightening at first, the keeker, or foreman, who was in charge of the bank head, moved me to the shaft taking tokens off the tubs.


Ushaw Moor
                              Colliery Chimney Demolition

George Connor, Billy
                            Thompson and Mat Strong

steam driven dynamos.

Ushaw Moor Miners Lodge

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