This walk takes in some of the landmarks of mining trade unionism in the City and follows the route the miners would take to the 'Big Meeting/Miner's Gala'.
The walk starts in the Market place which is dominated by the statue of the Third Marquis of Londonderry who built Seaham Harbour to export coal from his Collieries in Durham. The Marquis was seen as an enemy of the miners and a cruel Master. Across the Market Place from this statue is the Market Tavern where in 1869 The Durham Miners Association was formed, this was the forerunner to the N.U.M.
The walk now proceeds along the route most tourists to Durham take up Saddler Street to the Cathedral. The Cathedral contains a memorial to all those who have died working in the Durham's Pits and a book of remembrance contains their names. The Cathedral also contains a miners union banner and is the only Cathedral in the world to do so, the banner is from Haswell colliery which closed in 1896.
Leaving the Cathedral the route turns north to follow the riverside footpath to Framwelgate Bridge then after crossing the bridge turns left up Crossgate. There are three features which any Durham mining village would normally contain: a Workmen’s club, a Co-operative shop and a Methodist Chapel. The thread which connects these organisations is the principle of common ownership or control. Halfway up Crossgate on the right is Durham City Workmen's Club which serves Federation ales to its membership. The walk proceeds up Allergate then right down Atherton Street before crossing under the railway viaduct to reach the miners Hall at Red Hill via Flass Street. Red Hill Miners Hall was built in 1915 when coal production in Durham was at its peak. The business of the Durham Miners Association is run from one corridor of Red Hill with other offices being let out to local businesses. There are several miners banners on display in both the recently redecorated meeting hall and also hanging in ths corridors. Visitors are welcome and conducted tours are available.
Heading back down Flass Street we are on the route the miners and their families would march to the Durham Miners Gala. As the route turns right into North Road Wharton Park can be seen high above you. The very first Miners Gala took place here in 1871, two years after the formation of the D M A.
Heading under the viaduct again and down North Road the Bethel Methodist Chapel can be seen on the right . Methodism was very strong among Mining communities as ordinary people had more of a say in the running of the Chapel. Further down on the right hand side is the old Miners Hall built in 1875. The statues of miners leaders now standing in the grounds of Red Hill originally stood outside the first floor windows of this building.
The route continues down North Road and back across Framwelgate Bridge to return to the Market Place. On Gala day the Miners from the east of the County would join the march here from Claypath. The route then turns up Saddler Street again before turning left to cross Elvet Bridge before proceeding along Old Elvet passing the Royal County Hotel on the left. Since the inception of the Gala Miners Leaders and Politicians have stood on the balcony of The County Hotel to watch the bands and banners pass by.
To the right just before the County Hotel is New Elvet where miners south of the country would join the throng. Continuing along Old Elvet on the right is Durham Gaol. The old building used to house the Courts and in the 1832 strike a miner was hung here on a public scaffold for the murder of a magistrate. The miner's name was Jobling and he was the first person to be gibbeted under an Act of Parliament which had recently been introduced. This strike had been organised by a union formed in 1830 by Thomas Hepburn. This was the first miners union in the area and, although this strike was not a success, it had sown a seed in the minds of the men which was to grow and grow.
At the end of Old Elvet the route enters the Race Course where the Durham Miners Gala has taken place since 1872. Miners leaders, and often the Labour Party Leader, would make speeches to the crowds which at one time reached a quarter of a million at what was once the largest regular political demonstration in the world.
Leaving the Race Course the walk follows the riverside, along the route taken by the dignitaries on the platform to the County Hotel, before turning left down Territorial Lane to return to the Market place via Elvet Bridge. At the end of Old Elvet the route enters the Race Course where the Durham Miners Gala has taken place since 1872. Miners leaders, and often the Labour Party Leader, would make speeches to the crowds which at one time reached a quarter of a million at what was once the largest regular political demonstration in the world.
Leaving the Race Course the walk follows the riverside, along the route taken by the dignitaries on the platform to the County Hotel, before turning left down Territorial Lane to return to the Market place via Elvet Bridge. I hope you have enjoyed this walk and learnt something from it, because, as the motto from one miners banner states: 'Knowledge Is Power'.
- Distance: 1-5 Miles
- Grade: Easy
Parking & Transport
- Off site parking
- In town/city centre