Dawdon Colliery

Dawdon Colliery  also Dawdon underground

The decision to create a new pit at Dawdon was taken by the Marquess of Londonderry in the late 19th century, due to problems at his collieries in nearby Seaham. As Seaham Colliery’s workings pushed out to the south-east, it became increasing expensive to mine the reserves from the old pit’s shafts.

It was therefore decided to sink new shafts in the rocky coastal area of Noses Point, close to the ancient settlement of Dawdon. Sinking work began in March 1900, but soon ran into problems. Water-bearing rocks proved difficult to excavate, which meant freezing techniques had to be used. The colliery finally opened for production in October 1907. Dawdon reached the peak of its employment in 1925, when 3862 men and boys helped to produce over one million tonnes of coal annually.

The men of Dawdon Colliery were forced into several industrial disputes with those who wanted to maintain their profits, but escaped the major tragedies suffered by pits at Seaham and Easington. Many of Dawdon’s men did die within its depths, but usually from individual accidents.

Dawdon was a major coal producer for the Londonderry family throughout their ownership, and was later a jewel in the crown for the National Coal Board too. Under nationalisation, the government claimed that the mines belonged to the miners. This proved to be a nonsense as later industrial disputes proved. However, as the mining industry went into decline in the 1980s, Dawdon suffered too. The colliery was eventually closed in July 1991.

Home to a rich industrial past relating closely with its near neighbour Seaham, Dawdon was home to the Seaham Harbour Blast Furnace, in Dawdon Field Dene. The original Seaham Bottle Works was situated here in 1855. The blast furnaces closed in 1865 but were soon replaced by the Chemical Works.

In 1920 the new colliery, Dawdon, employed 3,300 workers and produced over 1 million tons of coal per year outstripping its local competitors. The ironworks and colliery sites have recently been reclaimed and a modern industrial estate launching Dawdon into the 21st century.


1900 March – started sinking of shafts.

1907 October – completed sinking of shafts. 5 October – colliery opened.

1910 Welfare Hall opened. Twenty streets of colliery houses built.

1912 Church of St Hild and St Helen, known as “The Pitmen’s Cathedral” erected by the Londonderry family.

1914 Low Main and Hutton seams being worked.

1921 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

1921 8 August – Triple Alliance of Miners, Railwaymen and Transport Workers started. 30 June – strike called off plunging Durham into a trade depression that left 20% of miners and over 100 collieries idle.

1925 Employment peaks at 3862

1926 May – General Strike started. November – Durham Miners returned to work having held out for 7 months.

1927 12 Aged Miners’ cottages built in Dawdon.

1929 2 March – Dawdon Miners locked out in dispute over piece work rates. 4 November – Dawdon Miners reluctantly return to work.

1930 1000 Dawdon miners laid off. Seaham Colliery closed for 2 years to ensure production at Londonderry’s new Vane Tempest Colliery.

1930’s Dawdon Welfare Park completed.

1935 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

1940 15 August – Dawdon bombed by Luftwaffe. 12 dead, 119 people homeless, 5 houses destroyed, Dawdon Church, Vicarage and 230 houses damaged.

1947 Nationalisation of Coal Industry. 2556 miners employed at Dawdon. 647,555 tonnes of coal produced.

1950 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

1950’s Steam winders replaced by electric Koepe winders.

1960 2348 miners employed. Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton, Main Coal and High Main (Dawdon’s highest producing seam) seams being worked.

1969 13 October – Dawdon on strike for 3 days in support of Yorkshire Miners demanding shorter shifts for surface workers.

1972 High Main and Yard Seams being worked. 8 January – National Strike begins demanding substantial wage rise. 28 February – successful conclusion to National Strike.

1974 9 February – 6-week strike began. Again for improved wages and conditions.

1975 High Main and Yard seams being worked.

1980 2106 miners employed. High Main, Yard and Main coal seams being worked.

1984 14 March – All Durham collieries on strike against the threat of pit closures by the Thatcher Government and it’s planned and premeditated attack on the miners

1985 3 March – National Strike over without agreement. Dawdon Miners returned to work behind their banner and promptly marched back out as a gesture of defiance. Only 133 men had returned to work early. High Main, Yard, Main Coal and “C” seams being worked. 2186 miners employed.

1986 E90 Face lost to water.

1988 1700 miners employed. One million tons of coal abandoned for safety reasons in the “G” seam.

1990 1592 miners employed. High Main, Yard, Main Coal and “C” seams being worked.

1991 27 July – Dawdon Colliery closed.


Dawdon underground

Leave a Reply