Easington Colliery was situated on the County Durham coast, mining coal seams under the North Sea. Sinking of the colliery began in 1899. In May 1951 an underground explosion there killed 83 mineworkers, the worst British mining disaster in the later twentieth century. Easington was always a large colliery, with a workforce of over 2,500 for most of its working life. During the 1984–5 strike, the return to work by a miner at the hitherto-solid colliery in August 1984 triggered dramatic and violent picket-line confrontations. Easington closed in May 1993, one of the last colliery in the Durham coalfield.
On 1 January 1947, collieries around the country were nationalised. Easington NUM lodge minutes discussed local celebrations to mark nationalisation.
Easington Minutes, (Alan Cummings personal collection) Transcript
Emmanuel Shinwell was the Minister of Fuel and Power who nationalised the coal industry in 1947 – and was also Easington’s MP. This photo shows him visiting Easington Colliery as part of the celebrations of the industry’s nationalisation.
Emmanuel Shinwell at Easington (Image Credit: Easington Colliery Library)
The 1951 Disaster
On 29 May 1951, 83 miners were killed in an explosion at Easington. Martin Laverick was 11 years old in 1951 and his father worked at Easington. He shared his memories of the aftermath of the exposion.
Interview with Grace Millar, 23 October 2019, Transcript
Report into 1951 Easington Disaster, (Crown Copyright, digitised for this project under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence) Transcript
Memorial to those who died in the Easington disaster, April 2019 (Grace Millar, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence)
Piles of Coal
Money was only part of a miners’ wage – coal used to be delivered in piles onto the street. Maureen Moses described what she remembered of her grandparents' coal.
Retired miners and widows were also entitled to concessionary coal under some circumstances. At times who was eligible for coal was contested – Maureen Moses also talked about widows' situation.
Interview with Grace Millar, 21 November 2019, Transcript
A busy high street
Seaside Lane (the High Street), Easington Colliery, 1960s (Easington Colliery Library; image features in William Ramsey Reed, A Father’s Legacy: Memories of an Easington Colliery)
One of the most common themes in the oral history interviews was how much people missed how busy Easington High Street used to be. Ann Armstrong, Brenda Brown and Mary Radstock were interviewed together, and talked about their experiences of shopping on a Friday night.
Interview with Grace Millar, 6 February 2019, Transcript
The ‘Norseman Hotel’ incident
In March 1979 a blizzard stranded sixteen miners at the pit, so the Easington NUM Lodge officials put them up at the nearby three-star Norseman Hotel. The NCB refused to pay the £700 bill, arguing that the men should have stayed somewhere much more basic. The lodge retorted, “Would the stranded Coal Board manager stay in a hut?” Eventually, the Board was forced to pay £500 of the £700. The NCB “learned that Easington was no soft touch”.
(Source: The Miner, April 1983; also, discussion with Alan Cummings, former Easington NUM Lodge secretary, 14 October 2019)