By Lisa Nightingale
July 3, 2017 - The history of South Tyneside, England's last working mine is being kept alive with the launch of a heritage trail. Hundreds of people descended on Westoe Crown Village yesterday to see former miner Jimmy Rylance unveil a sign heralding the history of Westoe Pit.
The 91-year-old is the oldest surviving miner from the pit which closed in 1994. He was joined by pupils from Westoe Crown Village who dressed for the part with hard hats and flat caps - with some carrying a miners lamp. Around them, local businesses came out and hosted stalls as they helped to turn the event into the area’s first mini miners gala. The event was made possible with the support of the Coalfield’s Regeneration Trust, Minchella’s and Colmans. Something like this is really important. Jimmy Rylance Mr Rylance said: “It’s very good what they have done. I think this should be something all the schools in South Tyneside should come along to and see, and to learn more about our mining heritage. “It does make you sad when you go down to the Mill Dam and see the ships coming with coal from other countries, so something like this is really important.” Westoe Pit was the last mine on the Tyne. It formed part of St Hilda’s Colliery in 1825, with the first shaft being sunk in 1909. It became a colliery in it’s own right in 1911
Former miner Jacky Payton said: “The Heritage trail is very important to remember our history, especially at this site. “The school has done a fantastic job at keeping the Westoe Colliery social history alive, then the hub came into being and got behind it along with the residents. “This has turned out to be such a thriving community event. I don’t think there is anywhere else that exists like this. “We are hoping this will become an annual event and are looking forward to some really good times in the future.”
Ronnie Peterson, also a former miner, who has been involved in the project from the beginning said “I spent most of my working life at Westoe Colliery and we don’t want our heritage to be forgotten and disappear. This tribute means we know that our heritage, not just the miners but the heritage the whole town was built on, will be remembered with pride even when we are no longer here to tell our story.”
Westoe Crown Miners Gala event