PICTURE SPECIAL: Exhibition marks collieries’ closure

SOUTH Tyneside’s proud coalmining tradition will be showcased in a new exhibition this weekend.

Past, Present and Future will mark the closures of Harton and Westoe collieries in South Shields.

PROUD HISTORY ... former pitmen, front from left, Bob Olley, Ronnie Slater, John Watson and, back from left, Ron Pearson, Tom Wood, Aidan Doyle and Doug Cape.

PROUD HISTORY ... former pitmen, front from left, Bob Olley, Ronnie Slater, John Watson and, back from left, Ron Pearson, Tom Wood, Aidan Doyle and Doug Cape.

The display, at Harton and Westoe Welfare in Low Lane, off Harton Lane, South Shields, will feature dozens of archive photographs of working life at the pits, plus paintings and drawings by ex-miners.

The newly-installed Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ernest Gibson – himself a former Westoe pitman – will launch the exhibition, which opens to the public at 10am on Friday.

John Watson, secretary of Harton and Westoe Miners Banners’ Group, said: “The exhibition marks 20 years since the closure of Westoe Colliery and 44 years since the closure of Harton pit.

“It will feature photographs taken underground at both pits, not long before they closed.

“It will also feature the work of local artists and former miners Bob Olley, Aiden Doyle, Fred Coates and Jackie Payton, with local historian Ian Robertson providing the background to archive pictures of both collieries.

“Former miners and the public are encouraged to attend the exhibition and to become aware of the facilities the Welfare has to offer, including bowls, darts and dominoes, plus fantastic sporting facilities.”

Harton Colliery was sunk between 1841 and 1845, at a cost of £60,000, and created a large mining community on former agricultural land at West Harton, South Shields, and the rural hamlet then known as White Leas.

Harton Miners’ Lodge once boasted 3,000 members, but the pit’s final years were marked by controversy over subsidence and an explosion, which injured a young couple. Miners faced tough production targets before the mine closed on August 1, 1969.

The shaft at Westoe Colliery was sunk in 1911, and the pit was breaking production records by the early 1960s.

But the colliery faced geological and water problems and, following a decision by the then Conservative Government, Westoe – the last pit on the Tyne – closed on June 7, 1993, with the loss of several hundred jobs.

The Past, Present and Future exhibition will be open at Harton and Westoe Welfare between 10am and 11pm this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and all are welcome.

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