History of Hetton-le-Hole
a superficial glance at the Hetton of today may lead one to
think it is a place with little or no history, this is not the
case. The history of the area can, in fact, be traced back for
up to a thousand years. The unusual name of Hetton-le-Hole derives
from two Anglo-Saxon words, which were spelt together "Heppedune"
or Bramble Hill. Various other spellings are "Hepedon",
"Hepdon" and "Hepton". The name gave rise
to a local landowning family the le Hepdons;who owned part of
the Manor from the very earliest times. The ancient manor, which
was bounded by that of Elemore, was, in fact, divided into two
parts known as Hetton-on-the-Hill and Hetton-in-the-Hole the
second and more sheltered part was that in which the village
ultimately arose. Until the early 17th century, however, the
two sections co-existed as one integral state.
Norman times the manor house was on Bramble Hill (near the present
Thompson's Farm) and in the valley below were the huddled houses
of the village. The villagers owed their allegiance to the Lords
de Hepdon and from them received their lands on lease. Around
both the manor house and its grounds and the village were the
common grazing lands and beyond that the extensive forest lands
that then covered much of this part of Durham. The population
of the village was quite small and in all probability the Lord
of the Manor and his household formed almost as large a community.
Life in the village and estates was self-sufficient and contact
with the outside world (which, with poor tracks in use, would
have been arduous anyway) was very limited.
exist of the many holders of the manor right back to the 14th
century. William de Hepdon, we find, held half the Manor by deed
in 1363 and in 1380, William de Dalden held the other half. However,
even earlier charters go back to 1187 and make mention of the
early village of Heppedune, its people, houses, crofts, ox-gangs
and strips of land for the villagers in the three great fields
around the settlement. In 1187 Bertram de Heppedune held the manor
for the King and the other de Hepdons were his descendants. At
some early period the de Hepdons sold part of the estate to the
de Latons of Sedgefield with them thus becoming part owners of
Hetton. The de Latons were ancestors of the Musgrave family who
held much of the land from about 1600 onwards. Part of the manorial
lands were also surrendered to the monks of Finchale Priory (the
most important monastic establishment in the country to-day, with
ruins beautifully set above the River Wear). After the Dissolution
of the Monasteries, however, much of this land was returned to
its original owners. The early manorial estates held their own
courts at which those who broke the manorial laws and customs
were dealt with. These laws;in fact our earliest 'Bye-Laws' carried
penalties of up to forty shillings fines (a large sum in those
days). Fines or other punishments could be imposed for those who
trespassed; who ploughed the waste lands; who illegally kept greyhounds;
who blocked-up the watercourses; who harboured beggars; who allowed
his fowls to wander or who did not repair his hedges or walls.
A strict code indeed!
1380 William de Laton's daughter Elizabeth married Piers Tylliol
and the descendants of this union may be traced the Colville,
Morseby and Musgrave families, all of whom were landowners here.
The part of the estate belonging to the Musgraves was purchased
by the family of Bishop James of Durham and later passed to the
Spearmans who lived in Hetton Hall. In 1746 the estate was again
sold, this time to the Countess Dowager of Strathmore whose sons
and grandsons lived in Hetton Hall. Finally the estate passed
to the late Honourable Frances Bowes-Lyon, the Queen's uncle.
Several memorial tablets and windows to this family are found
in the parish church of neighbouring Houghton-le-Spring.
exact date of construction of the earliest manor house building
is not known but an early historian describes it as "standing
low to the West of the village and surrounded by soft wooded grounds
and almost on the edge of a lake formed by the Hetton Burn".
This site corresponds exactly with to-days Hetton Park and with
the former Hetton Hall. Some time in medieval times the mansion
was built and, as already related, it became associated with the
Bowes-Lyon family. For many years after 1812 the house was empty
but Nicholas Wood, the eminent colliery engineer, bought it and
lived there with his son, later Sir Lindsay Wood. After his death
in 1865 the hall was seldom occupied and was finally demolished
after the First World War. Pictures of the house show it to have
been a mansion in the classical manner and thus its destruction
was a great loss.
the mid-17th century a change had come to this part of Durham,
which was losing its wooded aspect and was seeing its agriculture
decline quite rapidly. Local villagers were losing their holdings
on the land as the great fields were enclosed. Sheep farming was
carried on to help foster the country's wool trade, then its prime
this time too industrialisation was beginning to "rear its
head". Coal Mining had, in fact, been carried on since Roman
times and by 1180 there were coal "smiths" at Bishopwearmouth
and Sedgefield and in 1239 at Newcastle. Coal was obtained by
drift mining at first but by the 14th century shafts were used
and coal-getting activities had spread to East Durham and the
Ferryhill-Gateshead-Sunderland area. The River Wear was a coal
exporting centre for supplies mined around Chester-le-Street and
areas directly north of Hetton.
1790 these earlier workings were exhausted and, with the growth
of railways, it became possible to tap new seams of coal farther
from the ports. The first venture in the Hetton area was in 1815
when an unsuccessful attempt was made to mine coal near Rainton
Bridge. Success came in 1822 when the Lyons colliery at Hetton
was opened though not without controversy and heart searching.
It was a highly controversial point with geologists as to whether,
in fact, coal even existed beneath the 38 yards depth of magnesium
limestone, which covers this area. If it did it might prove to
be worthless. Deep coal mining was still frowned on at that time
and the Houghton and Hetton projects were experiments. The sinking
of the Hetton Lyons shaft was a major scientific job involving
the penetration of no less than 94 beds of strata. However, this
difficult task was achieved and 296 yards below the surface a
seam of Hetton or Wallsend coal two yards thick was found.
1819 the Hetton Coal Company was formed by a group of local people
and the first sinking operations began a year later. Subsequent
co-partners in the Company listed on 31st December 1857 included
Edward Shipperdson of South
Durham; Hannah Jane Cochrane (Widow) Standish House, Gloucester;
John Burrell, Durham City; Jane Darnell, Clifton Grove, York;
Martin Dunn, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; William Erskin Cochrane (Major
in H.M. Army), Albany Street, Regents Park, Middlesex; William
Lynn Smart, Linden, Bedfordshire; John Mounsey (Merchant), Bishopwearmouth;
Ralph Park Philipson, Newcastle; Nicholas Wood (Colliery Viewer),
Hetton Hall; Archibald Hamilton Cochrane, Radcliffe Hall, Leicester;
John Dalton, Long Hall, Yorkshire, and George Smithson, Newcastle.
first shipment of coal from the Lyons mine was made from Sunderland
Staiths in November 1822 along the specially built railway via
Warden Law. The building of this railway was, in fact, as remarkable
an achievement as the sinking of the pit shafts.
was in 1819 that the Hetton Coal Company owners decided to build
a wagon-way from their new Hetton mine to the River Wear at Sunderland.
It was to be built in the style of a shorter but very successful
line at Killingworth Colliery. George Stephenson was chosen as
the engineer of the new eight mile long line (he had also designed
the Killingworth track) and after long consultations with his
brother Robert he decided to keep to the natural contours and
to use both locomotives and stationary engines. The methods he
adopted were still used until 1959, as was even some of the original
line, which included five self-acting inclines, two stationary
engines and five locomotives took time to build but at last in
1822 the first train load of coal was transported over its seventeen
trucks full of coal weighing sixty-four tons and all at an average
speed of four miles per hour. The local press described the event
Hetton Coal Company effected the first shipment of coal to their
newly erected staiths on the banks of the River Wear at Sunderland.
The wagon-way, which extends eight miles from the Colliery to
the Wear, and in so doing crosses Warden Law, one of the highest
hills in this part of the country, was crowded with excited spectators,
gathered to witness the first 'operations' of the skilful and
ingenious machinery employed for conveying the wagons. Five of
Mr. George Stephenson's patent travelling locomotives, two sixty
horsepower fixed reciprocating engines, and five self-acting inclined
planes under the direction of Mr. George and Mr. Robert Stephenson,
the Company's resident engineers, simultaneously performed their
various and complicated offices with a precision and exactness
of the most simple machinery, exhibited a spectacle at once interesting
to science and encouraging to commerce. After the line had been
formally opened and the business of the day completed, the owners
of the Hetton Colliery and about fifty of their friends dined
at Miss Jowsey's Bridge Inn, Bishopwearmouth."
pioneering efforts did much to lay the foundations of the railways
of the world and were evidence of the skill of the engineers of
the day and of the faith and foresight of the local men who had
made an 'impossible colliery' a success. These activities led
to a great and rapid increase in the size of Hetton and over 200
houses for the miners were built at once. Conditions, however,
in the mines themselves were appalling, men, women and children
toiling for long hours below the surface for mere token wages.
fact, they were slaves in all but name. Gradually, however, humanitarian
ideas prevailed and conditions improved. New inventions eased
the toil and made the mines safer. Hetton Colliery has, in fact,
suffered few explosions. One occurred in 1836 and another in 1860;both
resulted in the loss of 22 lives. Water was always a trouble and
flooding was a constant annoyance. By 1897, however, a steam pump
was at work drawing out one thousand gallons a minute!
the mid 19th century years serious disturbances occurred among
miners who, not unnaturally, were unhappy with the poor and only
slowly improving working conditions. Strife and strikes resulted;as
throughout the mining areas—but out of the turmoil came
better conditions, higher wages and the birth of the strong miners
idea of the growth of Hetton caused by its industrialization can
be gained from the census returns. The first census in 1801 gave
the population as 212, in 1811 it had only risen to 264 but by
1821 it stood at 919 and, with the colliery established was growing
rapidly. The village had, however, no government of its own and
was still a part of Houghton parish (eventually it and five other
parishes were "carved" out of Houghton). Hetton however,
despite its population of just under a thousand, had in 1821,
no less than 30 public houses and 5 breweries! There were also
eight private schools or academies in Hetton and Easington Lane
(state schools were unknown) and local business folk included
farmers, a miller, blacksmiths, a printer and publisher, tinsmith,
stonemason and joiners. There were many shops and a physician;indeed
the trade facilities seem enough for a town many times bigger
conditions had improved though no railway for passengers existed.
Carriers provided services on certain days each week to Sunderland,
to Newcastle and to Durham and Bishop Auckland. These carriers
also conveyed passengers on market days. Stagecoaches for Durham,
Sunderland, Newcastle and even London left from Houghton-le-Spring,
the "fast" journey to London taking about a day and
transport came in 1836 when the Durham to Sunderland line was
opened &; at first using the rope and incline plane system
but later reverting to normal working. Now, of course, this line
is closed and thus has the course of history turned full cycle.
glimpse of the constituent parts of the present urban district
as they were in the middle of the Victorian era is given in a
Gazetteer published in 1866. This says of Hetton-le-Hole:
township comprises, 1,739 acres. Has real property worth £30,478
of which £24,700 are in the mines and £652 in railways.
Population in 1861: 6,419. 1,318 houses. Hetton Hall belongs to
the Hon. Mrs. R. Barrington and is occupied by N. Wood, Esq."
describing the rise of the coal industry, the reference concludes:
chapelry is conterminate with the township; was constituted in
1832 and made ecclesiastically parochial in 1847. The living is
a rectory in the diocese of Durham;value £280. The church
was built in 1832. There are several chapels, a national school
and three reading rooms and libraries."
same reference describes East Rainton as a township of 1,965 acres
with 339 houses and an 1861 population of 1,505. Its value was
£5,870 and most of its inhabitants were miners. The district
had a church and chapel.
was also referred to as a "township" with 588 acres,
185 houses and a population of 973. Some of the inhabitants, we
were told, were employed in neighbouring collieries and quarries.
are the "bare bones" of the facts but some details can
be filled in from contemporary accounts. Though such streets as
Front Street, John Street. Hetton Square and Pemberton Street
were in existence there were many open spaces in the town area.
The oldest part of the town, of course, grew up around Hetton
Park and the Church. The early streets were long and dreary with
rows of grey stone or local brick cottages. The streets were largely
unpaved and undrained and such sanitary facilities as existed
were shared as was the water supply.
the 19th century advanced so the township progressed, roads were
improved, bus and train services were provided and new churches,
schools and other buildings erected. The Urban District was formed
by an Order in Council dated March 30th, 1895 and it then consisted
of the Hetton, Hetton Downs and Easington Lane Wards;the population
was 12,726 and the rateable value £20,475.
is pleasing to note that one block of twelve former mining cottages
from Francis Street in Hetton Centre, was demolished and re-erected
stone by stone at Beamish Open Air Museum, Stanley, near Chester-le-Street,
where visitors may view the housing conditions, including gardens
and pigeon crees, of the former Hetton miners.
original houses were built between 1860-1865 and were occupied
by miners and their families until 1976.
Hetton Lyons Colliery Locomotive (1822-1913) is on display at
York Railway Museum.