Leadgate in Time

A Saxon Village

The Early Days

 

First attested in 1590 Leadgate (Saxon Hildgaet or Swing Gate) the village consisted of little more than a house and farm in what is now the Brooms area of the village. The village sat on land that was rich in mineral deposits, coal and iron in particular. Although the deposits were worked as far back as the 16th century it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that these were exploited on a large scale.

Coal Mining png

The Industrial Age

 

The village continued to prosper, initially the main employer was the Consett Iron Company (once the Derwent Iron Company).  Eden Colliery, the pit for which was sunk in 1850, provided employment and the coming of the railways with the opening of Leadgate Station in 1896 improved the overall economics of the village.

 

Front Street was a hive of activity with plenty of small retailers and hostelries but the coming of the Leadgate Industrial and Provident Society in 1870 changed the face of shopping in Leadgate (and many other villages in the area). The Co-Operative ideal of members owning a share in the business went a long way to break the stranglehold that many employers had on their workforce, not least of which was the hated Bond System that miners faced.

Early 20th Century

 

At the turn of the century the inhabitants of Leadgate had plenty of opportunities to improve their living. The village was what might be called a boom town, the Consett Iron Company, Eden Colliery, North East Railways and Bradley Workshops provided the convenience of work within the area.

 

The labour was hard, conditions were still harsh, and throughout the country there were calls for Social Reform and better working conditions. The North East of England was an area in real need of reform, miners in particular faced harsh employment conditions.

 

Under the recommendation of a Royal Commission in 1867 Trade Unions in the United Kingdom became legal, the early attempts to form the movement faced resistance from the employers but by the early 1900's the unions were making inroads in improving the lot of the worker.

 

The Great War - 1914-1918

 

Britain went to war with Germany in August 1914, and throughout the land men answered the call and enlisted. At the time it was not expected to last long however it continued for 4 long hard years during which over 700,000 British lives were lost. A database of Leadgate men who died can be accessed here.

 

Depression 1920's & 30's

 

Post war Britain, and especially in the North East of England, was not the "Land fit for Heroes" as promised by the Prime Minister, David LLoyd George. The cost of war and the loss of foreign trade made the economic situation very difficult. Over this period there was great hardship for all including the returning soldiers. Hunger and unemployment was rife, strike actions like the General Strike of 1926 did little to improve things. Miners were hit hardest by the depression, facing wage cuts and longer hours or unemployment. As many Leadgate people worked in mining the effects were keenly felt in the village.

 

1940-1960

Leadgate, like most of the country, slowly recovered from the depression and emerged into what could be considered the second industrial era. Coal  (Nationalised in 1947), and Steel production (Nationalised in 1951), led the recovery and despite the interruption caused by the Second World War 1939 - 1945, these were industries readily available in the area.

 

The Decline of Industry

 

The period between the late 1960's up to the 1980's saw a steady decline in coal mining and steel making, both of which had been large employers in  Leadgate and the surrounding area. Eden Colliery closed in 1980, however by then only 194 miners were employed from a high of 951 in 1950. British Steel closed the Consett plant in September 1980 with a loss of 3,700 jobs. The effect of these closures was keenly felt, not only in Leadgate but in the whole of the North East.

 

Leadgate Today

 

Leadgate, like a lot of other industrial areas was slow to recover, with the assistance of Government grants, new service and retail businesses were encouraged to move into the area. The conversion to a Service and Retail Economy started in the mid 1990's and today Leadgate is, once again, a thriving community. The village has many local amenities and services and the local inhabitants take great pride in caring for the local environment.

 

 

A time-line of Leadgate created by Bill Nattrass  is on the Durham in Time website

 

 

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A Saxon Village
Coal Mining png
A Saxon Village
Coal Mining png

The village has many local amenities and services and the local inhabitants take great pride in caring for the local environment.

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A Saxon Village
Coal Mining png
A Saxon Village
Coal Mining png
A Saxon Village
Coal Mining png