Thornley, a View from the Pit Heap
Thornley, View from the Bridge

Thornley Colliery, the Views from the Pit Heap and the Bridge

Taken from Thornley pit heap, the lack of houses on Gore Hill suggests that the picture above must have been taken prior to 1965. This scan is from a poor quality print I bought from a market stall in Durham in the early 1990s. The large square building by the road is the Ritz Cinema, which was a bingo hall into the 1970s. High Street winds its way through the centre of the picture. The postwar Hillsyde Crescent is at top left and the church vicarage is also prominent to the centre behind High Street. For comparison, the photograph below, courtesy of Fred Bromilow, is a view of Thornley from the railway bridge and gives another perspective on the same colliery buildings. This second picture seems to have been taken around 1970, the terraced streets to the right of the railway line are already partially demolished. Particularly notable here is the small railway weigh cabin in the middle of the picture. Just behind it was a sturdy weighted wooden gate (attached to, what to a child, was the oiliest and heaviest chain and weight in the world) and a set of steps which provided access over the railway way line. From there, the route could be straight up the ‘black path’, or diagonally over the waste ground, or perhaps alongside the legendary ‘Gassy Gutter’ to where it crossed the road up to Wheatley Hill. These were shortcut routes followed by generations of Thornley children attending both St Godric’s RC and the Wheatley Hill Secondary School.

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