A Brief History


A History of the Village

Key Dates

· 1825 -- Stockton and Darlington railway starts at Jane Pit -- September 27th ‘Old Etherley coals from Witton Parks Jane Pit mines made railway history.

· 1846 -- Ironworks opens on Saturday, 14th February -- Workers lived under canvas until first houses. Stable Row, the only houses on the north side of the tracks. Later followed Railway Row (Viaduct St.), Middle Row (Carwood St.) then Old Row (Garden St). The rest were built over the next 25 years.

· 1848 -- Ironworks struggling to make profits. Pease to the rescue, railway line orders (vested interest) -- National depression

· 1856 -- Primitive Methodist chapel built (much later a cinema)

· 1857 -- First Zoar Baptists chapel built, the second in 1864 in Low Thompson St. Works opened producing 1,000 tons of pig iron, 800 tons of puddled iron, 700 tons of rails and 140 ton of plates from four blast furnaces, nine ball furnaces, 16 puddling furnaces, another nine ball furnaces in the mill together with 93 coke ovens.

· 1865 -- Gas supply from works into houses

· 1866 -- July strike ended December 7th; 2000 men on strike, went on holidays (over 10 per cent wage cut)

· 1867 -- Four blast, and 76 puddling furnaces plus two finishing mills in operation

· 1868 -- 30 street lamps installed.

· 1869 -- Witton Park Parish formed from Escomb, comprising Witton Park and Woodside

· 1871 — New (2nd) ‘National school built -- County Durham cholera outbreak, Witton Park escapes -- Fourth school (replacement) opens. Hall and two classrooms for an average attendance of 250.

· 1872 -- Two more blast furnaces built -- Schoolboy wrote prize-winning essay on contemporary amenities in the village.

· 1877 -- St. Paul’s Church of England church built.

· 1878 -- Parts of Ironworks closed for a few months then reopened.

· 1884 -- 19th May Ironworks finally closed.

· 1914 -- Start of World War, 67 Witton Parkers lost their lives in that debacle. Witton Park show their hospitality by welcoming Belgian Refugees fleeing from "Huns".

· 1921 -- HRH Princess Marie Louise of Belgium unveiled plaque at the War Memorial Institute on the 25th of October (THE HUT) for lads who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It was known as "The Coming Of The Princess."

· 1926 -- Year of the General Strike, Witton Park AFC win both the Durham Amateur and Minor Cups………. a unique achievement.

· 1931 -- Talkies come to Witton Park

· 1937 -- Local men were employed to level the slag heaps and build a recreation ground (The Rec) and a mechanical horse and teapot ride was installed.

· 1940 -- August 15th Witton Park bombed by the Germans near Rose Cottage California. Two dead and two wounded.

· 1949 -- Category ‘D’ stigma placed on village. In a poll less than 10 people wanted to leave the village, showing an overwhelming majority wanted to stay.

· 1950 -- The resumption of those oh so famous hazy, crazy days of carnivals. Thousands came from miles around to see and look in awe at the splendour these carnival days brought, unsurpassed by any other carnivals in the country. The carnivals lasted throughout the decade.

· 1959 -- The holocaust -- first Carwood, then the south side of Garden St. then Low Thompson St. Ten years later they started on the High streets and the residents were forced onto the Woodhouse Close Estate (still referred to as ‘The Reservation’) - some fled to Newton Aycliffe.

· 1963 -- On December the 22nd Derek Brown lost his life in the frozen River Wear after saving two younger boys. Derek went into the ice covered river without hesitation saved the two boys who had been playing on the ice, thus paying the ultimate sacrifice.

· 1969 -- ATV’s This Week transmitted "A Long Time Dying" on September 11th

· 1975 -- HRH the Queen Mother spent the night there. In the sidings for an overnight kip! Also on the 17th March Witton Park Community Association was born.

· 1978 -- ITV’s Granada transmitted "The Village That Would Not Die"

· 1979 -- Out of 650 houses only 88 remain, but the village survives.

· 1988 -- Bungalows built on the site where Hewitson’s, Belton’s and Jackson’s shops once stood. They were named York Court after Allen York the local councillor who did so much to save the village

· 1995 -- Villagers raise money to build a new community centre, it was officially opened on 21st of October.

· 1996 -- One million pound award to restore Paradise, the site of the ironworks. Also Prince Charles , slept overnight on the Royal Train in a quiet siding on April 2, 1996.

· 1997 -- Witton Park web site goes live in July.

· 2000 -- March -- building starts on new development to be known as "Beddow Court". Named after the late vicar Nick Beddow, who did so much for the community.

On July the 22nd the world and his wife came home for the mother of all reunions. It became known as "The Gathering", thousands of people came "back home" that day to record never to be forgotten scenes.

· 2001 – Building of new homes begins on the school site in Main Street.

· 2003 – Paradise Regained -- in the 1850’s it was the Ironworks site, in the 1950’s it became the British Rail refuse tip, now it is a beautiful nature walk and conservation area.


Famous People

· Brigadier General Roland Boys Bradford VC -- youngest ever Brigadier General in the British Army at 25 (see the Bradford Brothers website for more information)

· Hebrew scholar Dr. Thomas Witton Davies raised and educated in Witton Park

· Bolckow the German partner of Bolckow & Vaughan became a Member of Parliament as did Witton Park (and later Bishop Auckland) tradesman Benjamin Spoor.

· Lord Essenden ( William Lewis) world shipping magnate was born and lived in Dents Villas

(c) 1997 Howard Chadwick/2003 Dale Daniel

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The Gathering

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Clarrie Simon Cuttings