Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Durham Aged Miners' Homes

Marley Hill planters Oct 11 2

A couple of weeks ago we had the official unveiling of the coal tub planters in Marley Hill, a village in my ward in Gateshead. Marley Hill is a former pit village. The pit closed in 1983. It was the last in the North East to use pit ponies. Two coal tubs from the mine were placed outside the village school and used as part of a floral display after the mine closed.

The closure of the school in December meant that the 3 ward councillors - myself, John McClurey and Marilynn Ord - had to think about what to do with the coal tubs. We had funding available for the restoration of the tubs from our community fund. Tanfield Railway carried out the repairs and the Durham Aged Miners Homes Association also made a donation to the project and agreed to site the restored tubs outside the Marley Hill Aged Miners' Homes.

The above photo was taken earlier this month when the Mayor, Joe Mitchinson, came to Marley Hill to unveil the tubs in their new location.

For me, one of the interesting points was the history of the Durham Aged Miners' Homes Association. My great grandfather, Henry Wallace, was first chairman of Whickham Urban District Council and first County Councillor for Whickham, back in the late Victorian period. He was land agent to Lord Ravensworth, one of the great coal owning families of the Victorian North East. I was vaguely aware of his involvement in the creation of the Durham Aged Miners' Homes Association. I chatted about this to some of the officers from the Association who told me they had an official history written by a local historian George Atkinson and they would be happy to send it to me.

I was emailed a copy and had the opportunity to read through parts of it today. I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how closely my ancestor was involved in creating this Association as an organization dedicated to housing retired miners. And whilst Henry wasn't involved with the building of the homes in Marley Hill, (they were built many years after his death), his support for the creation of the Association was recognised when various new streets of homes built by them were named after him, including Wallace Village in Wrekenton in Gateshead.

Family histories can be very interesting!

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