Pithead arts venue to stage mining history exhibition

Images from the area’s final coal-mining days will go on display at a historic South Tyneside site linked to the industry.

St Hilda's Pit Head
St Hilda's Pit Head

St Hilda’s Pit Head, in Henry Robson Way, South Shields, will open its doors to its first exhibition since the building underwent a restoration revamp thanks to National Lottery Heritage Funding.

From February 28, images captured by photographer Dr Aidan Doyle, of the area’s mining heritage, will go on display.

One of the exhibits by Dr Aiden Doyle

At the time Westoe Colliery closed, over twenty-five years ago, the artist had been working in the mines across the region photographing and documenting the last days of an industry that had been carried out for well over a thousand years.

St Hilda’s was sunk in 1825 and closed in 1940 when Italy, the principal market for St Hilda coals, entered the war.

The underground workings became a part of Westoe Colliery when it was sunk in 1909 and the St Hilda shaft remained an integral part of the mine until its closure.

At its peak in the 1980s Westoe Colliery employed over 2,500 men.

The way mining was

Aidan was invited to join and photograph the last group of men to visit the underground workings in 1993, when St Hilda’s pit was the only means of access.

The photographs will become part of the display at the Grade 2 listed building, while an online archive of Aidan’s work has been made possible in partnership with South Tyneside Library.

Project Officer Fiona Tobin said: “We are all very excited at the pictures going up on the wall as it tells the story of the heritage of the pit.

“Things with the building are progressing well and we are continuing to work on activity plans alongside the banner group, the council and other organisations.

“We now have regular opening hours and we have had a number of school groups visting us learning about the coal-mining heritage - with the help of the banner group.”

St Hilda’s Pit Head is open on Tuesdays, from noon-2pm, with tours led by former miners from the Harton & Westoe Miners Banner Group.

The tours will takie in the exhibition as well as mining memorabilia donated by members of the public.

For more information on the site, how to donate any memorabilia, book performances, rental opportunities or exhibitions at St Hilda’s Pit Head, contact [email protected] or visit sthildaspithead on Facebook.