Chris Lloyd made a most welcome return as guest speaker. Last year he had given an excellent talk about the role and career of W.T Stead, one-time editor of the Northern Echo. This time his subject was “Pits, Pockmarks and Haggerleases”, a title that mystified many of us.
Haggerleases is an area to the west of Bishop Auckland, known as the Cockfield Fell. The pits and pockmarks are the scenic features scarred by mining and mineral processing.
To Chris Lloyd, this area was the birthplace of the industrial revolution in England. It was one where the engineering and scientific genius of George Stephenson was married to financial acumen of Edwards Pease. Coal fuelled the emergence of steam power as the driving force. Here it was mined from small local pits, by adit or drift shafts – small scale operations but in large numbers. The steam engine powered the start-up of the railways; it also facilitated many of the extraction processes.
Chris showed how the forbidding landscape of hill and vale was mastered, first, by first horsedrawn vehicles, then by the development of canals and finally by the railways. Where Stephenson created the steam process, the engineering skills of the mining teams brought about inventive ideas to improve and speed up the processes – devising pithead gear and machinery, harnessing the inertia of gradient to move huge quantities of heavy material, building a canal and constructing a major viaduct. It was an industry on the move,.
The whole talk was laced together by quotations from the writings of the time, describing working conditions, the nature of the social life of the villages, the place of the Primitive Methodist Church as a cohesive part in the community, and the emergence of worker union activity.
It was a wide-ranging study of industrial archaeology based upon a vast amount of research, one that greatly enthused the audience, such that Chris has already agreed to speak to us in the 2020-21 programme!
This morning we were able to greet Derek Parkin, who celebrated his 97th birthday with the news that his driving licence had been extended for a further 3 years !! It was nicely coincidental that our four oldest members were present ( Derek at 97, Norman Fitzpatrick at 96 and Basil Brown and Matt Brown, both at 95 this year) , as were the three longest-serving members ( Bernard Spence, Jeff Lancaster and , again, Derek Parkin, who all joined the Club in 1992 with thus 24 years of service. Can any Club beat that?