Industrial Changes: 1947 - 1992

Londonderry influence disappeared with coal nationalisation in 1947. Thereafter National Coal Board policy controlled the working of the town's pits. Increasing demand for coal throughout the 1950's and early 60's led to intense mechanisation, electrification, improved standards of safety, health and welfare. This brought ever increasing production, full employment and work satisfaction. The three pits constantly beat their targets. Dawdon won regional, national and European awards. A £76,000 Training Centre opened at Seaham Colliery in 1965. The N.C.B. Drilling Rig estimated 180 million tonnes of coal off shore. The picture looked bright for the town's pits.

Seaham Harbour Dock Company reflected these changes. Annual coal shipments declined from 2 million tonnes in the 1950's to 329,000 tonnes in 1978 when only 340 ships used the port. The N.C.B. decision to move all coal by rail was a bitter blow. But under a new Dock Company, new developments came thick and fast. Demolition and replacement of the staiths by cranes and conveyors, splendid new dock head offices, warehousing and distribution facilities enabled 600 ships to handle a million tonnes of cargo - grain, timber and minerals - by 1985. How quickly the scene changed. Throughout the late 1960's and early 1970's cheap oil, North Sea gas and nuclear power captured Seaham's traditional London, South Coast and Scottish markets. Ugly stockpiles of coal grew, coal sales declined, so did wage packets. Recession, galloping inflation and ever increasing inland pit closures led to the 1979 winter of discontent. Seaham's morale was low.

 

The 1984/5 N.U.M. strike had serious consequences for some Seaham businesses - Crompton & Harrison, steel fabricators; Snowdon & Bailes Ltd. (Bakers) left the town and Elgeys Timber Yard closed down. The South Hetton Mineral Line closed and its rails were ripped up in 1988.

 

Much worse was to follow for Seaham's 3 pits. Seaham Colliery closed in 1987; Dawdon Colliery in 1991 and the last pit in the town, Vane Tempest Colliery, closed in 1992.

 

Seaham has a long association with mining. The difficulties through periods of strikes forged a bond of friendship and community spirit that still lives today. It would have been easy to say "No pits, no heart, no hope and no future" but Seaham people are resilient. They and generations before have experienced hard times and there is a fierce determination in Seaham for new success.

 

No-one in Seaham will ever be able to forget the wonderful legacy left to the town by generations of miners who bought, maintained and then handed over to Seaham Town Council the former miners recreation grounds which today are major parks at Dawdon Welfare and Seaham Town Parks.

 

Want to know more about pits and banners? Then visit www.seaham.com/bannerfund/contact.html

 

Want to find out more about Historic Seaham? Then visit the History of Seaham Website.