a century in stone eston ironstone mines miners bolckow vaughan dorman long teesside history pancrack craig hornby

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CAST OF IRON

"They were the last of the tribe and a massive
inspiration. It was a great honour to get to know
and immortalize them on camera. They were all
very
much aware that they would be telling their stories
to generations in the future"
C.H.

 
GEORGE APPLEBY (1897 - 1991)
George was born at North Terrace outside Loftus in 1897. His father Jack was a miner at Loftus Mine, Skinningrove (now the mining museum). He took a job at Eston mines in 1902 and the family moved into Bottomley's Row, South Eston. At the age of 14, George followed his father into the pit. His first job was linking up empty wagons at Pit-Bottom before becoming a horse driver pulling wagons. He went 'in stone', aka mining at the face, with his father and they worked together until a roof-fall buried them in 1923. They were trapped all day beneath ironstone and timber props and were lucky to survive. George worked in the pit until 1939 when ill-health forced to him to take 'an easier job' at the steelworks. He was the first miner that I found, was hugely inspirational to the project and a real one off. I filmed him at his home and on the hills in March '88. He was the star attraction at the Premiere of the first edition at Kirkleatham Museum in '89. He lived to the ripe old age of 94. I only wish I had filmed more of him, his story alone was a film in itself.
 
 
TOM KERRISON (1907 - 2005)
Shortage of work had forced Tom down the pit at 17 "for just a week or two" and against his mother's wishes. That was because the pit had took the life of his brother, Willie, in 1903 and then his father, Alf, in 1912. Tom's brother, Alf Jnr. suffered serious injuries through a fall of stone as did Tom. A busted leg and arm, a fractured skull and double pneumonia Tom considered to be the best thing that ever happened to him because he ended up marrying the nurse who looked after him! Tom's two weeks in the pit lasted 25 years. He worked until pit-closure in 1949 and went on to become the last survivor of the last shift. He attended both the 1989 and 2004 premieres. I couldn't have made the Mk II edition without his expert knowledge and incredible memory.
 
 
JACK COLLINS (1908 - 2004)
Jack lived at Pit-Top as a kid with his parents and 5 siblings. His father was killed in WW1 and the family moved down to Eston. In 1925, Jack joined the army and served 7 years before returning to an Eston in the grips of the Great Depression. With no work to be found elsewhere, he had to go down the pit. There he stayed for 16 years until 1948 when he transferred to the blast furnaces at Cleveland Works, Grangetown. He stayed there until retirement in 1973. I filmed Jack in Dec '99 aged 91. He was so candid on camera and had us in stitches with his sardonic patter. He got to see the film just a week before he died in March 2004. He absolutely came to life watching it and even burst into an impromptu version of 'Jerusalem' afterwards !
 
 
LOL BARKER (1910 - 2001)
Lol started at Spa Wood Mine before transferring to Eston in the late '20s. For many years, he cycled up to Pit-Top from his native Guisborough. He certainly wasn't shy of hard work and had 3 jobs on the go in his younger days. He would do a shift in the pit, a shift at a farm on the way home and then a paper round in Guisborough after that. He worked at the face with brother Ozzy and in later years became a deputy, responsible for safety and installing timber props. He stayed at Eston until the last shift in '49 and then became a deputy at South Skelton mine until that closed in '54. He was filmed at the age of 89 in December '99.
 
 
HAROLD 'MIFF' BRIGHTON
(1922 - 2008)
'Miff' was born in Belmont Street California and the family later moved to The Square just a few feet from the rumble and clatter of the wagons and winding drum. In '39, Miff followed his father, brother, uncle, great uncle and cousin into the pit. He worked first as a horse-driver and then became a miner at the face filling for his Uncle Freddie. In May '49, his cousin Randall Brighton became the last man to be killed at Eston. As a mark of respect, Miff and the rest of the Brightons left that day never to return. They all got jobs at the new ICI plant at Wilton and all worked until retirement. Miff was filmed at his Normanby home in August 2001. When he passed away in 2008, he was 86 and the very last surviving Eston miner.
 
 
DOUG KNEESHAW (1920 - 2000)
Doug's father Fred took the job of head 'osskeeper' at the California mines stables in 1926 and the family moved into the adjoining Stable House. Doug started his working life in the Tip-Yard before horse-driving at New Bank and then in Trustee. When war broke out in '39, Doug tried to enlist but was rejected because mining was a 'reserved occupation' aka essential to the war effort. Doug refused to go back into the pit in protest and ended up in court. He was sent to Durham jail for a week as punishment before having to return to the pit. I filmed him in July '89 at the California stables just a few months before the entire complex was sadly demolished. The Clydesdale horse was hired in to give an idea of just how big the pit-horses were at Eston.
 
 
JACK PLEWS (1913 - 2012)
Jack was the eldest of 15 in a third generation Eston mining family. His father, grandfather, uncles and cousins all worked or had worked in the pit. Jack reluctantly followed suit. For 2 years, he drove horses around Pit-Bottom until being taken down to the face. After working in water up to his waist and having to breathe a load smoke from an explosion, he walked out mid-shift. He crossed the moor dreading the wrath of his father but on arrival home got a pleasant surprise. His father said to him "Good for you lad, I don't blame yer!". I filmed Jack at his home in Dec '99 aged 86. When he passed away in December 2012, he was 99 and the very last surviving Eston mineworker.
 
 
BILL SNOWDON (1907 - 1995)
In 1590, when Elizabeth 1st was on the throne, the blacksmith's shop in the village of Eston was worked by the Snowdon family. Incredibly, when I approached the old smithy on day 1 of the project in January 1988, I was astounded to see the place still being worked by the same family. Bill Snowdon, born in 1907 and then 79 was in fact the very last of the line as he had never married. He told me he began as a boy of 13 learning the trade from his father. His Uncle Herbert was also a blacksmith inside the mine. I begged Bill to go on camera and share his memories but being a humble, shy bloke, he was having none of it. He wouldn't even let me film him working. But in June '89, I turned up with a camera crew just as a horse was arriving for shoeing. He reluctantly relented but no interview alas. He wound down operations over the next couple of years suffering with his knees from all the horses that had kicked him over the years. When Bill passed away in '95, it truly was the end of an epic era. The ramshackle old place was converted as part of the 'Blacksmith's Close' housing development.
 
 
ELLA NEWMAN (1907 - 1995)
nee Teate

Ella was born Mahala Teate, daughter of miner Albert and granddaughter of George who was killed in the mine in 1886. She grew up in South Eston and moved to North View California after marrying miner Tom Newman. They moved to Old Row in 1936 and she lived there for nearly 60 years. She was well known in the village as a keen Salvationist, swimming instructor and dinner lady at South Eston school. She was filmed for the first edition in June '89. The following year I took her into Normanby Primary School to talk to the kids about the mining days. They then devised a play and one of the kids played her in it. She was the last California miner's wife and she passed away in 1995.
 
 
HILDA COLE (1914 - 2005)
nee Campbell

Hilda left her native South Bank in 1933 for a humble miner's cottage in Cleveland Street, California. She had married Albert Cole, a horse driver in the pit and moved in with him and his father who was a miner in the pit. She said it was pure poverty compared to the distinguished part of South Bank from which she came. Despite having two men and two kids to feed on pitiful wages, she still found time to help feed 300 kids at the soup kitchen at the South Bank Mission. Hilda was a lay preacher there for 41 years and a confident speaker on camera too. She was filmed in May 2000.
 
 
GWEN WADWELL (1915 - 2012)
nee Watson

Gwen grew up at Bolckow Terrace on the Eston Rd near Grangetown. At 18, she moved to Eston Hospital to start nursing. She tended to many miners carried from the pit as well as steelworkers arriving via the railway that terminated at he Tip-Yard across the road from the hospital. During WW2, Gwen became an ambulance driver for the ARP and then for Dorman Long after the war. In '61, she returned to nursing and did that until retirement in '75. Finding Gwen was a massive boost to the project. I filmed her in March 2000 and her interview was pure gold. A truly fabulous lady, we got on a storm and became good friends.
 
 
MARY BARKER (1915 - 2004)
nee Smith

Mary was born at Pit-Top and lived next door to the school which could be heard through the wall. Her young life was all helping with chores and running errands - fetching water from the well, milk from the farm, deliveries of food at the pit-head and newspapers all the way from Pinchinthorpe. When Mary was 16, she started work as a seamstress in M'bro. Every morning she would cross the moor and run down the hill to catch the early bus. It was walking over the hills that she met her future husband Bill Barker who was on his way to work as a horse-driver in the pit. Mary was filmed in May 2000.
 
 

GWEN WALDON (1923-2017)
nee Seymour

Gwen was born at Pit-Top, next door to Mary (above). Her father was a miner/deputy in the pit, brother Maurice was a horse-driver and brother Tom worked in the Tip-Yard. Gwen's early years were spent helping mother to bake as well as gathering firewood, brambles and mushrooms plus collecting water daily from the well. Possing clothes was another regular chore. In 1938, with the pit almost worked out, the family bade farewell to Barnaby Moor and moved down to join the 'Townies' in Eston. Gwen was interviewed in early 2000 at age 77. She was the last of the ACIS cast and one of the last surviving Pit-Top natives. She passed away at James Cook aged 94.

Craig Hornby


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