Neil's Tubs - Uncovering the Past
"Some time in the past" (we often say this as we seek to recall or rediscover things said or done before!) we tried to help Neil Kerr of DFK Fabrications uncover more about some pretty old tubs recovered from the Pont Burn. We said a great deal at the time as we sought to involve others, including the newsmedia, in our research to help Neil but unfortunately most of the papers and photos have been either lost or misplaced.
We do have loads of old e-mails and some notes and, as we try again to help out, we have introduced this webpage and a Pont Valley Photo Album. Both are titled simply "Neil's Tubs and what we have found, we will add here, inviting you to do likewise.
At the first time of asking,Neil had already completed a lot of work researching and eventually a work party, made up of no-one younger than 50ish and most considerbly older, helped to man/woman-handle these from out of the burn. This party was made up of Neil, members of the local area partnership, one of our councillors, another member of Neil's family, a member of the local history club and so on.
We had the financial assurance of knowing that the work involved in restoring the tubs would be paid for as these were intended to become eventually "features" somewhere in Leadgate but, apart from this, no outside help. We did it between us relying only on the wisdom and common sense of 500+ years of accummulated, shared experience and a rich vein of memories and recollections to tap into. We thought and think that these are precious and worth preserving as we seek to shape our futures.
The tubs are now in Neil's workshop awaiting further tlc and our research has continued, as have our efforts to build our community website so that in future we might not lose so many pieces of vital information quite so easily. These tubs in themselves may mean little other than as objects of passing interest and we understand that there is still controversy about their origins. But, like Neil, we think that the simple act of working together as a community for the community, for ourselves and without the "benefit" of a committee or too much outside help is worth it's weight in gold. And we think that we can all do a lot more to help,by sharing what we know and can find out.
If those that shared their recollections, thoughts and ideas could do this again, this time by using our network website pages so they don't again get lost, please get in touch and we will grow this page to add to the story rather than starting again, rediscovering what we already think we know, correcting our mistakes, without reinventing facts to fit!
A couple of opening e-mails
Texts of e-mails that might be useful:
Thank you for talking with me and the website is www.pontvalley.net. You were quick to say that the spoil heaps we discussed were iron-stone-related and that was most reassuring! We reached the same conclusion earlier while on site recovering some side-tipper tubbs from the bottom of a gorge and exploiting the “old railway” to get these to a suitable recovery point..
What we seek to do now though is try to make more sense of some of the features, some of which are still obvious and others not so, that mark this part of the upper Pontburn Valley. Some are clearly coal-industry related dating back to the mid-19th century but many more, I suspect most in this particular part of the Pontburn Valley have more to do with early iron-stone extraction by drift and surface means, the latter perhaps preceeding the creation of the Consett Iron Company. There seems for example to be delve-holes on the northern flank of Tewit Hill and much evidence of pieces of iron stone at the surface which may have more to do with the earlier iron-industry centred on Shotley Bridge.
If you use the www.durham.gov.uk site to access the GIS mapping and look at the limited pre-OS maping that exists (which is broadly reflected in the first 1856-1861 layer) the area is traversed W to E by what is even then marked as “the old railway”. This feature bears all the hall marks of being an earlier waggonway save in one key regard. There is a strong gradient W to E i.e away from Bradley, heading more or less straight toward Sammy Mann’s bridge, punctuated only by what appears to be a man-made leveled area which is now a water meadow. Below where the Tewithill burn joins the Pont Burn there is also some evidence that the burn was possibly dammed and certainly diverted through culverts to provide water power and this interests us greatly, as it would certainly put at least some of these workings back a century further and help date these as very early waggonways indeed. David Marrs is carrying on the family tradition from his father Hylton, whose last book “Gibraltar to the Tyne” I think you’ve seen. Certainly it was not until last week on John’s site that I fully appreciated the reference to Gibraltar Rock and when John comes over here next Tuesday to help with interpretion we might make some further connections.
What we would like to do is share our research on our website and ask you to contribute where and whenever you can, using as a basis the Durham GIS to which we might be able to add a further layer relating specifically to the iron and coal industries in the context of the Pontburn Valley. If you feel you are able to help, please give me a call, watch for the odd message on forum and take a look around the website, especially at David’s items under “People and Places”.
Thanks for the e-mail 19/2. I have had a look at pontvalley website and find it very interesting.
Your mention of side tipping tubs in the burn bottom interests me. I can recall seeing these in use in the 1960's. There were three or four of these that were used to transport sludge away from the sewage plant sprinklers, which were cleared out periodically and the gravel renewed. There was a tubline running away from the works to a point a short distance down the burn side (Medomsley side), but I cannot recall the length of the track.
I have also had a dig through my mind to see what else I can remember. From old maps and from what other heresay I can recall, the Pont Valley railway ran from beyond Carr House junction at Villa Real, where there were some ironstone workings. At Villa Real it crossed over the Medomsley branch of the North Eastern Railway not too far away from the railway bridge at Bradley Shops. Below this was an engine house called Pont Engine (which I think may have been used as a rope incline winder for the Pont Burn Railway.) and from there the line passed down the northern side of the Bradley ironworks, crossing the Leadgate to Hat road between the farm and the road leading from the bottom of Pont Bungalows to the bottom of Bradley Bungalows. After this the line crossed the Bradley to Jolly Drovers road before carrying on downwards on the high side of the track from Bradley towards Low Bradley and Bradley Hall farms. From old maps it appears that the line turned NW at Tewitt Burn, into what might have been the No 3 and No 4 Ironstone mines. From the turn at Tewitt Burn, the line branched easterly, passing on the high side of No 5 Ironstone Mine and then on to No 6 Ironstone mine that marked the end of the line. No 1 ironstone mine was at Number One, Consett, which is how No. 1 got its name. I do not know where No 2 ironstone mine was, but I do know the mines numbered 6 in total. There was also a saying in and around Medomsley about anyone who was considered a good worker, where they would be referred to as "the best lad in the six pits". Now then, this could refer to the six ironstone mines; or could refer to the collieries of the Consett Iron Company. However, the CICo had more than six pits.... !!
A lot of the info re. the Bradley ironstone mines and railway comes from a past article in either the Consett Guardian or the Consett Chronicle, dated sometime in the early '60's and written by Fred Wade, a local historian and Consett Field Club member. It is possible that Consett Library might have a copy of this article as he was a regular subscriber of articles. In that article the line route is marked on a sketch map and the pits are numbered respectively and a short history is included. I had a cutting of the article, but unfortunately parted with it to Consett Technical College in 1967.
Re. your reference to possible delf holes at Tewitt Hill. What you may have seen are pitfalls along the outcrop of the Hutton Seam, which was worked to bank all along its outcrop in and around Medomsley. Just below Tewitthill Quarry, on the low side of the unmetalled road from the Bradley Farms, a dayhole is visible next to a (hawthorn or briar?) tree. The entrance is almost buried and the top part of a metal entrance gate is just visible. There was another dayhole about halfway down the field path from the farm road to Sammy Mann's. This also entered the Hutton Seam and its much lower horizon may indicate the local presence of a fault, downthrowing to the east. It is also possible this dayhole entered the Little Coal seam lying beneath the Hutton Seam.
As to the possibility of the Pont Burn being utilized as a source of water power I know nothing of this but will follow your investigations with interest.
Hope you find this info of some interest.
Created on 09/04/2008 10:19 AM by dshields
Updated on 08/05/2008 01:10 AM by dshields