Recommended Web Links

The Wikipedia Online Encyclopaedia has a useful entry on Thornley Colliery, a few photos of the village today and a good list of on-line links.

The Wheatley Hill History Club is a thriving local history group. For some of their recent publications, see the recommended books list below. has a wealth of photographs and information on the three villages, though a lack of a search facility means that the information is hard to access. A good browse.

The Durham Mining Museum has pages devoted to all aspects of coal mining in County Durham For their their page on Thornley click here.

Recommended Books

From Pit Wheel to Greenfield Site, Thornley Past and Present in the Words of Local People, edited by Keith Armstrong (Durham Voices, 1990, ISBN 1 871 536065)

This small paperback collection of transcribed taped interviews was published in 1990. Itís a shame it wasnít a lot thicker, but it does contain some fascinating recollections of the village in the early years of the 20th century. Many of the people interviewed for the project were then in their Eighties and Nineties, so itís great to have their informal memories of the village preserved.

The Thornley Coal Company 1830-1885 (Wheatley Hill History Club 2002, ISBN 1 900 456087)

The Weardale Steel and Coke Company 1886-1913 (Wheatley Hill History Club 2004 ISBN 1 900 456168)

The Weardale Steel and Coke Company 1914-1947 (Wheatley Hill History Club 2005 ISBN 1 900 456192)

These three substantial volumes were published by the Wheatley Hill History Club and should be available from them via the web site listed above. Researched by Owen Rowland from over 100 years of articles published in the various local newspapers of the time, they provide a huge amount of information on day-to-day life and routine in the three villages of Thornley, Ludworth and Wheatley Hill from the first sinkings of the collieries through to Nationalisation in 1947. Accidental deaths, crimes and punishments, community events and colourful local characters are all here in abundance.

Thornley, Ludworth and Wheatley Hill, Their Contribution in the Great War 1914-18 (Wheatley Hill History Club, 2006)

Published in September 2006 by the Wheatley Hill History Club, this book contains a wealth of photographs and information on the servicemen and women of Thornley, Ludworth and Wheatley Hill who served in World War One. Most of the many photographs included in the book were provided by the descendants of those who served all those years ago and are gathered together here for the first time.

Mostly Mining by William A Moyes (Frank Graham, Newcastle, 1969)

Fairly hard to obtain now, this excellent book details the history of of the villages of the Easington Rural District, including Thornley and Wheatley Hill from ancient to modern times. Topics covered include the development of coal-mining in the area and the background to the planning of the new town of Peterlee.

Farewell Squalor A New Town and Proposals for the Development of The Easington Rural District by C W Clark (Easington Rural District Council 1946)

Published as a paperback in December 1946, this was the official council report which directly led to the hideous brave new world of Peterlee new town. The book is filled with a foolhardy faith in central planning and open plan, regimented living (ĎIt is now generally accepted that a full social, cultural and educational life cannot be achieved with the village as a unit.í). However, hindsight is easy and to understand what happened to the Durham colliery villages and their deliberate neglect by the local council in the 1960s and 1970s, this book is essential reading. Also one chapter of the book notes that Thornley Colliery has coal reserves which were expected to keep it in production until 2042!

To search for rare second-hand books, such as some of those listed, above, try this site: