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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Celebrating Gala Day 2020

This version of our pop-up mining exhibition, which has been a regular feature in the 'big tent' on Gala Day since 2010, is a contribution to the online celebration of Durham Miners' Gala 2020. The 136th Gala was due to take place in Durham on Saturday 11 July but was cancelled in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Featuring archives from the Durham Miners' Association (DMA), the largest miners' trade union in County Durham, the exhibition explores the powerful history of the DMA and its members over the past 149 years.

Reproduced here as pdfs, the original exhibition of 13 pull-up banners is free for community groups to borrow from the Record Office.

Miners' Gala

Mining exhibition_Miners Gala


This panel describes the history of the Durham Miners' Gala, held every year since 1871 apart from noted exceptions. It also describes attendance figures and the gala preparations of individual miners' lodges.

Miners' Gala (PDF, 529kb)

Includes images of:
Sam Watson and Hugh Gaitskell on the Royal County Hotel balcony, Gala Day, 1960 (main image)
Banners arriving at the racecourse on Gala Day, 1910
Dean and Chapter Colliery banner at Durham Miners' Gala, c.1955
Extract from Eldon Drift Lodge minute book regarding preparations for the next gala, 1958
Notice of Gala speakers, 1980
Cover of 90th Annual Gala programme, 1973
Two Gala spectators, 1983
Gala poster, 1969

History of the DMA and its headquarters

Mining exhibition_History of the DMA and its headquarters


This panel describes the early history of the Durham Miners' Association, from its formation in 1869, and its Council, made up of permanent officials and miners' lodge delegates, which was the final decision-making body of the DMA.

It also describes the union headquarters, first at the Miners' Hall, North Road, Durham (1875-1915) and then at Redhills, Durham (1915 to date).

History of the DMA and its headquarters (PDF, 613kb)

Includes images of:
The Market Tavern, Durham
Easington Memorial sculpture, Redhills, Durham
Officials, delegates and staff outside the Miners' Hall, Redhills, at the annual council meeting, 1919
Miners' Hall, North Road, Durham, 20th century
Unveiling of the statue of William Crawford at Miners' Hall, North Road, 1892
Exterior of Miners' Hall, Redhills, 2010
The Council Chamber, Miners' Hall, Redhills c.1915
Plans for the hall at Redhills, for the Durham Miners' Association, by H. Gradon, architect, 1913

DMA people

Mining exhibition_DMA people


This panel describes six leaders who shaped the history of the Durham Miners' Association:

  • Peter Lee (1864-1935)
  • Sam Watson (1898-1967)
  • John Wilson (1837-1915)
  • William Crawford (1833-1890)
  • John Forman (1822/23-1900)
  • William Patterson (1847-1896)

DMA people (PDF, 555kb)

Includes images of:
Peter Lee
Sam Watson
John Wilson
Statue of William Crawford
Statue of John Forman
Statue of William Patterson
Illustration of the representatives of the Miners' Unions who met at Blyth, 1882

Strikes and conciliation up to 1920

Mining exhibition_Strikes and conciliation up to 1920


This panel describes some of the main periods of industrial action between 1879 and 1920:
1879 April - May
1892 March - June (the Twelve Weeks' strike)
1910 January - April
1912 March - April (minimum wage strike)
1920 October - November (the 'Datum Line' strike)

Strikes and conciliation up to 1920 (PDF, 478kb)

Includes images of:
Miners at South Moor, protesting against the Eight Hours Act, 1910 (main image)
Striking miners and their families at Murton during the 1910 strike
Three Durham Coal Owners' Association notices of strikes in Castle Eden colliery and Whickham colliery, 1874

Strikes and conciliation since 1920

Mining exhibition_Strikes and conciliation since 1920


This panel describes some of the main periods of industrial action since 1920:
1921 April - July (lock-out)
1926 May - November (General Strike and subsequent miners' strike)
1972 January - February
1974 February - March
1984 March - 1985 March

Strikes and conciliation since 1920 (PDF, 571kb)

Includes images of:
Officials at Hedley Pit stoking colliery boilers during the 1926 strike (main image)
Byers Green and Binchester residents digging for coal in a railway cutting during the 1921 strike
Helpers at Kay's Soup Kitchen, Easington Lane, during the 1926 strike
Birtley miners with bread baked in a communal oven in the brickyard during the 1926 strike
The Miners' Strike factsheet distributed by the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984

Honours and awards

Mining exhibition_Honours and awards


This panel describes the gallantry and long service awards presented to members of the Durham Miners' Association:
The Edward Medal (Mines)
The Carnegie Hero Fund
The Pioneer's Diploma
National Coal Board Certificate for long and meritorious service

Honours and awards (PDF, 725kb)

Includes images of:
A miner using a pneumatic drill underground, 20th century (main image)
Front face of the Edward Medal for bravery
Page from the National Union of Mineworkers (Durham Area) General Secretary's annual report, 1953, listing meritorious service and gallantry awards
Page from Lumley Miners' Lodge minute book, 1960, recording a presentation in the Welfare Hall
Thirty retired members of Lumley Lodge presented with long service awards in 1960
National Coal Board long service certificate presented to Alfred Newcombe
Durham Miners' Association Pioneer's Diploma presented to David Gracie
David Gracie, retired miner

Mining disasters

Mining exhibition_Mining disasters


This panel describes three of County Durham's worst mining tragedies:
Seaham Colliery Disaster, 1880 (164 deaths)
West Stanley Disaster, 1909 (168 deaths)
Easington Colliery disaster, 1951 (83 deaths)

Mining disasters (PDF, 641kb)

Includes images of:
Postcard commemorating West Stanley Pit disaster, 1909 (main image)
Engraving of bringing up the first body at Seaham, 1880
The message on Michael Smith's tin bottle, Seaham Colliery disaster, 1880
Miner Leslie Kears, a survivor of the Easington Colliery explosion, and his family, 1951
Memorial to Seaham Colliery disaster, 1880
Easington Lodge banner being carried off Durham Racecourse, 1988


Mining exhibition_Leisure


This panel describes miners' educational and recreational pursuits during their free time:
Evening classes and residential courses run by the Durham Miners' Association
Drama groups
Sport and welfare facilities
Traditional miners' pastimes including pigeon fancying
The National Coal Board's Coal Queen of Britain beauty competition

Leisure (PDF, 503kb)

Includes images of:
Pelton Fell Miners' Institute Cricket Club, 1926 (main image)
Notice advertising Durham Miners' Association annual tutorial class, 1969
Rose McLachlan, first Coal Queen of Britain, 1969
Members of Boldon Colliery Leek Club, c.1920
Members of Boldon Colliery Homing Club, c.1920
Coal Queen poster, 1969

Pit ponies

Mining exhibition_Pit ponies


This panel describes the history of pit ponies and their work hauling coal tubs underground until they were replaced by locomotives and conveyors in the 20th century:
Pit pony numbers
Animal welfare
The last pit pony

Pit ponies (PDF, 710kb)

Includes images of:
Waterhouses Colliery pit ponies brought to the surface during the 1926 strike (main image)
Underground stables at Newfield Colliery, 1984
Bob Dixon bringing the last pit pony to the surface at Adventure Pit, Rainton Colliery, 1978
Programme for Bowburn Colliery Races, 1921
Durham Miners' Association Committee and Council minutes, notice of dismissal of Westerton Pit horse-keeper for cruelty, 1912
Extract from Inspector of Mines Report regarding ponies turned out to grass during the annual holidays, 1954
Pony and keeper underground at Bowburn Colliery, c.1910
Underground and overground photographs of Pip (believed to have been Britain's last surviving pit pony) taken on the closure of Sacriston Colliery, 1985


Mining exhibition_Welfare


This panel describes the welfare facilities provided by the Durham Miners' Association for working, convalescent and aged miners and their families:
Convalescent homes
Aged Miners' homes
Pithead baths
Welfare funds

Welfare (PDF, 531kb)

Includes images of:
Conishead Priory, Ulverston, c.1930 (main image)
Floor plan of Conishead Priory Convalescent Home, 1930
Miners Pat Carr and Jim Evans in Shotton colliery pit baths, c.1979
Crowds at the opening of Brancepeth and Oakenshaw Aged Miners' Homes, 1913
Durham Aged Mine-Workers' Homes Association poster for the opening of 12 new homes at Shildon, 1911

Family stories

Mining Exhibition_Family stories


This panel describes the work of the Durham Miners' Association to compensate the dependents of coal miners who were injured or killed at work. Two stories are featured:
The Copeland family from Dawdon Colliery who ended up in Easington workhouse (1915-1921)
Henry Higham from Twizell Colliery, who was totally blind by the age of 22 and was helped by an anonymous benefactor, mine owner Major William Joicey (1908)

Family stories (PDF, 5Mb)

Includes images of:
Dawdon Colliery buildings, mid-20th century (main image)
Page from Reports of Inspectors of Mines, giving details of mining deaths, 1896
Extract from Durham Miners' Association Arbitration Committee minutes regarding the death of Hudson Copeland, hewer at Dawdon Colliery, 1915-1917
Extract from Durham Miners' Association Arbitration Committee minutes regarding payments to the dependents of deceased miner Hudson Copeland, 1920-1921
Extract from Durham Miners' Association monthly circular regarding Henry Higham of Twizell Colliery, 1908
Extract from Durham Miners' Association monthly circular regarding the death of Major Joicey, 1912
Ordnance Survey map showing Easington workhouse, 1919

About Mining Durham's Hidden Depths, a volunteer indexing project

Mining exhibition_About the project


This panel describes the 2009/10 Mining Durham's Hidden Depths volunteer indexing project and its aim to unlock the secrets of the Durham Miners' Association archives at County Hall. It also describes how people volunteered, and the contents of the online index produced by the project.

About Mining Durham's Hidden Depths, a volunteer indexing project (PDF, 580kb)

Includes images of:
Workmen building the first colliery houses in Esh Winning, 1860s (main image)
Books from the Durham Miners' Association archive in County Hall, Durham
Volunteers in an archive strong room
Website page showing mining records search results
Volunteers on a visit to the Record Office
Volunteers learning about document conservation

Records deposited in the archives

Mining exhibition_Records deposited in the archives


This panel describes the participation of two local history groups in the Mining Durham's Hidden Depths project run by Durham County Record Office in 2009/10. Volunteers helped to index records from Murton Heritage Society and Bowburn Local History Society.

Records deposited in the archives (PDF, 779kb)

Includes images of:
Impact ripper (coal cutting machinery), Murton Colliery, 1974 (main image)
Murton Heritage Society's website homepage
Pages from Murton Colliery (South Hetton Coal Company) signing-on book, 1937
Pages from a Northern Colliery Officials' and Staffs' Association minute book
Durham County Record Office's overhead camera
Page from a witness statement regarding Murton Colliery explosion, 1942
Plan of Murton Colliery