29. A lost village

While trawling the web for material for my website I stumbled upon a reference to ‘The lost village of Havelock Place’.  This intriguing reference has rattled round the inside of my head for some time and it has taken until now for me to do something about it. A few years ago I walked the footpath between Backworth and Seghill taking a few photographs on the way, but little remains of the site of the ‘village’.

It must be said that villages have come and gone all over the world, but coal mining has spawned a good many of these in this part of the country as mines will always be ‘worked out’ sooner or later, but in the meantime workers must be housed while the coal is there, and the village abandoned when it is gone.

The particular coalmine in question was Backworth C-Pit. Backworth in Northumberland was particularly rich in coal seams with several ‘pits’ sunk to reach the richest seams. Some were connected, but others were on opposite sides of a major fault, (90 fathom fault), and so the coal seams were not connected and so separate shafts needed to be sunk.

C-Pit was sunk in 1856 and lasted until 1895. The village of Havelock Place was also known as ‘C-Pit Row’ or just ‘C-Pit’. There were two rows of houses, set at an angle alongside a waggonway which carried the coal down to ships on the river Tyne at Whitehill Point, near Howdon. The West side was Waggonway Row or ‘The Long Row’ and the other was Fisher Row or ‘The Short Row’. The largest house at the top of the village housed the colliery Manager. This later became a school, before reverting to a house.

Each house seems to have had a garden and an outside ash closet (toilet or ‘nettie’) with an attached outside water tap. At some time there was a shop in the middle of Fisher Row and a house was used as a Methodist Chapel until a purpose-built chapel was raised at the South corner, along with a ‘Good Templars’ Hall’ (temperance hall).

One of the by-products of most pits was clay and. C-Pit produced ‘blue-clay’, which was particularly good for making bricks. In 1877 Henry Foster & Co. built a brick works on the opposite side of the waggonway and although the pit closed in 1895, the Hotspur Brickworks continued until 1967.

No doubt residents of the village worked in the brickworks after the pit closed, but the village itself was demolished in 1938, leaving very little beyond two footpaths and rows of trees where houses once stood.

fisher-short-row

Footpath and trees where Fisher Row once stood. Nothing remains of Waggonway Row except the changes in direction of the footpath.

There are more coalmine sketches here

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