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UK: Rare Part of Ferryhill's Mining History Saved for Future



By Richard Bellis

March 17, 2020 - In England, a small part of North-East social history is to be preserved in a dedicated coal mining museum.

The knocky-up board is something that might seem alien to many people outside mining towns, but for those growing up in the pit villages it was an important part of daily life.

A knocky-up board maybe a small part of social history, but the boards played a big part in keeping the mines going.


The knocky-up board is a simple chalk board that was placed on the front of the miners' houses in Ferryhill and across the North-East.

The mine workers who were on the early shift would write the time they needed to be woken up. Someone would then walk around the streets knocking on the doors of the miners on the early shift. This meant that the mines could stay operational throughout the day.

When the mines closed, they got a new lease of life and were used for deliveries and by milkmen. In some streets in Ferryhill knocky-up boards are still present today.

The miners' houses are now being knocked down and the area redeveloped.

Housing developer Benicia found many of the boards still on the terrace houses and decided to preserve them.

One knocky-up board was donated to the Miners' Institute, one was donated to a local mining museum and one to Ferryhill Town Hall.

However, the National Coal Mining museum in Wakefield, which collects and documents the history of coal mining, gathering historical items from up and down the country did not have a knocky-up board.

Mayor of Ferryhill Councillor Joe Makepeace said: “It is hugely important for this area as mining was the main employer throughout most generations, everyone knew someone who worked down the mines.

"We like to preserve the coal mining history where we can and tell the story of the knocky-up man, otherwise it would be lost.

"I was shocked when I got a call from the National Coal Mining museum in Wakefield to say they didn’t have a knocky-up board, luckily we have managed to correct that and they will take it away and preserve it for future generations.”


From left, Paul Howell MP, Anne Bradley of the National Coal Mining Museum and Kay Hogarth and Nigel Dowd of Bernicia Homes with the knocky up board at Ferryhill Town Hall Picture

Photo: Stuart Bolton

Conservative MP for Sedgefield Paul Howell said: “It's fundamental to our history. My grandfather would have lived in a house with a knocky-up board on it when they were operational.

"History is a core part of our society. It is surprising to think what us locals would call a normal thing is not in The National Coal Mining museum because it is the little things that make up history and what people relate to.

"It’s a good thing that part of Ferryhill is going to be in national museum.”

Representing the National Coal Mining Museum was Anne Bradley, who was presented with the board by Benicia Homes at Ferryhill Town Hall on Friday, March 13.

Bradley said: “It is fantastic. We don’t have anything like it in our collection and it would make a great showpiece for years to come.

"To get a piece of early 1900s social history that helps us keep the coal mining story alive for future generations is great.

"It is really important to tell these stories of different coal fields from around the region to broaden and add color to the story.”