Hetton Conference

 

19 & 20 November 2022

 

 

Saturday 19th November 2022

9.30 a.m.  Welcome & address by James 5th Lord Joicey

(from here the talks are 45 mins. followed by 15 minutes questions.)

10.00 - 11.00  The Hetton Colliery and its Railway   John Cook

Synopsis
The talk will show the build-up of the area and the collieries and take a tour of the railway from Elemore to Sunderland

11.00 - 11.20  Coffee break

11.20 - 12.20  The Hetton Coal Company Partners  1820-1836    John Banham

Synopsis
In autumn 1820, Arthur Mowbray (1757-1840) established the Hetton Coal Company, by dint, as his former employer and rival later described it, of prowling round the Royal Exchange to raise funds. Charles Lord Stewart (Marquess of Londonderry from 1822) had sacked Mowbray as manager of the Vane-Tempest collieries in 1819 and appointed John Buddle as his successor. Mowbray's response was to use the expertise gained from many years in the coal trade, land agency and banking to set up a rival enterprise buying up coal leases round Hetton le Hole.


Much of the information we have about the new company comes from Buddle's reports to Londonderry such as the Eye plan from 1820 showing ownership of the Hetton leases on the lower slopes of the magnesian limestone escarpment that runs through County Durham. The Vane Tempest collieries that Mowbray had managed from 1799 to 1819 were below this escarpment but what he was now planning was to sink a shaft on higher ground to the east through the limestone, something that had not been attempted before. Furthermore, the rivalry with Londonderry and Buddle meant that a lowland route for a wagonway to staithes on the River Wear was blocked and Mowbray had to look at a route over the escarpment. He turned to George Stephenson to produce a plan and a ground-breaking idea for a new railway using both fixed haulage engines and steam locomotives was born.

Arthur Mowbray was well known in London through his banking and coal trade interests and his contacts there ensured that the opening of the colliery and railway received national publicity. The Sun, published in the Strand on 27 November 1822, names many of the Hetton partners and John Buddle had identified MowbraVs partners in a letter to Londonderry two years earlier.

John Banham's talk will look at who these partners were, at the relationships between them, and how they fared as the Coal Company expanded over it first 16 years and new partners bought shares. He will emphasise that the Hetton Coal Company was an important innovator not only in colliery and railway development but also in business development. What started as an illegal partnership (under the Bubble Act of 1720 - repealed in 1825) became, by the mid-1830s, the largest colliery company in the world.

12.20 -  1.30   Lunch

1.30 -   2.30   Nicholas Wood    Bill Lancaster

Synopsis
Nicholas Wood and George Elliot shared many similarities: both were sons of colliery overmen; they attended the acclaimed ‘Craigy’s Academy’ at Crawcrook; railway building became a major part of Wood and Elliot’s early business careers and they were central players in the development of deep coalmining in East Durham. Elliot and Wood quickly profited from the riches of the new deep seams becoming substantial coal owners with rail and other industrial interests. They adopted the lifestyle of the coal owning elite buying substantial domestic properties and were major figures in regional society. Lacking the status of the traditional regional aristocracy they nevertheless were well aware that the prosperity of the dukes and lords of north east England depended upon the skills of themselves and their colleagues who formed the first generation of professional mining engineers.
Yet these men possessed strikingly different characters. Wood was a brilliant engineer with a penchant for detail, a superb draughtsman and a major figure in the creation of the railway system. He was George Stephenson’s right-hand man and his apprentice was young Robert Stephenson. To describe Nicholas as the third Stephenson is not an exaggeration. He worked closely with George on early locomotive development both as a fellow designer and as the largely illiterate Stephenson’s technical author and secretary. His defence of George in the controversy with Sir Humphrey Davis during the controversy of the invention of the safety lamp revealed both shock at Davis’s perceived plagiarism and his unshakeable loyalty to Stephenson and the northern engineering tradition of trial and error undertaken with empirical exactness and disdain for the model driven science of the London establishment.

At a meeting of mining viewers managers and engineers in a pub in Seaham in 1852 to consider the contemporary mining disasters scandal George Elliot proposed the foundation of a professional organisation to promote colliery safety. Elliot’s proposal resulted in the formation of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers with Nicholas Wood unanimously elected President.
Nicholas Wood was somewhat taciturn in character, could be pompous and later in his career stubborn and hostile to ideas that did nor emanate from himself and his own circle. George Elliot was rather different. His early success mirrored that of Wood’s and his local reputation was assured when he became the owner of the pit where he had worked as a ten-year-old ‘trapper boy’. Elliot was to soon overtake Wood in economic and social stature: he daringly acquired the South Wales colliery and shipping interests of Powell Duffryn; established the port of Newport; bought iron and steel works; began the manufacture of wire ropes and his company pioneered the underwater telegraph cable and laid the trans-Atlantic link arguably the foundation of the internet. He was elected President of the Institute in 1868. Elliot was elected Tory MP, became close to Disraeli and was awarded a knighthood for his role in helping to solve the middle eastern crisis of the early 1870’s.
Despite these achievements both men had imperfections which will be discussed in this talk.

2.30 -   2.50   Coffee break

2.50  -   3.50   The early Hetton locomotives    Michael Bailey

Synopsis
As coal production increased from the 1840s, three additional locomotives were erected in the Hetton Colliery workshops using components prepared largely by the Derwent Iron Company.  One of these, LYON, has been the subject of a recent forensic archaeological and archival study to establish more about its actual history.  Much was learned about its origin and operational history.  Far from being one of the original Stephenson locomotives from 1822, as museum texts of the last 100 years have indicated, it was in fact built in c1849.  The reasoning behind this newly understood history will form the basis for the talk.  Without the ‘fake’ history being believed a century ago, LYON would not have survived!

Sunday 20th November 2022


9.45  -  10,45  The conservation of steam locomotives built before 1900  Anthony Coulls

Synopsis
At a point in time, a steam locomotive may cease to be an operating machine and becomes a museum piece, cherished and venerated but no longer steamed.  This sets up a particular situation where the care of the locomotive changes, and with several locomotives of this nature in the National Collection, Anthony’s talk looks at the challenges, opportunities and joys of conserving ancient engines.

11.05 - 12.05   The significance of the Hetton Colliery Railway in railway history  Les Turnbull

Synopsis
The achievements of George Stephenson and William Coulson at Hetton Colliery during the 1820’s were to be of international significance.  This talk will look at the development of railways prior to 1820 and attempt to place Stephenson’s work at Hetton in global context.

12.15 Close of Conference

At the close of conference our final presenter Les Turnbull finished with a rousing call to arms !