How the Proud North East Dug out a Place in World History with Its Black Gold; Four Years Ago, the North East's Last Remaining Deep Mine Closed, Bringing an End to What Was Once Our Biggest Industry and Changing the Face of the Region Forever, ZOE BURN Looks at a New Book Which Examines the Archaeological Delights Coal Mining Has Left Behind

Article excerpt

Byline: ZOE BURN

ON JANUARY 26, 2005, Ellington Colliery closed its doors for the last time.

A devastating blow to the region, the much-publicised closure brought an abrupt end to an industry which had played a pivotal role in England's economic history since the 1500s.

Now, with just a handful of collieries still in existence and serving as nothing more than museum pieces, a local historian and author has penned a book detailing some of the important but forgotten archaeological mining sites of the area.

Les Turnbull, of Newcastle, was born in 1941, at a time when coal mines formed a massive part of the North's landscape.

He has written and researched Coals From Newcastle, an introduction to the Northumberland and Durham coalfields.

"For much of the time since the reign of Elizabeth I, this coalfield was the most important in Britain and consequently known as the Great Northern Coalfield," he said.

"What many people don't realise is that in terms of world history, the archaeological remains of this coalfield are of much greater significance than the remains of Roman and medieval times.

"I wrote the book to try to redress the balance by providing an introduction to the history and industrial archaeology."

The book takes an in-depth look at the geology of the coalfield, and how the exploitation of newly discovered reserves led in turn to the rise of engineering, railways, shipbuilding, iron, steel and glass-making, potteries and chemical works.

It also examines how coal was extracted and the problems miners faced including lighting, ventilation and drainage.

The dangers of mining also come under the spotlight. …