Women of the Durham Coalfield

Wed 14 July 2021, 6pm - 7pm

During the 19th century, the expansion of the mining industry transformed not only the landscape of County Durham but also its population.

Coal mining families often lived in poor conditions, with a husband and father who worked long hours and who would often come home to sleep when the rest of the household was still working.

But the life of a coal miner’s wife was far from easy either. And although they made valuable contributions to their communities, families, and mining history, their stories have hardly been told.

Gender, social status, and generation meant that for most of these women, reading and writing were never an option. As a result, we have little written documentation on which to build their story.

Let’s hear it from the women!

In this talk by Margaret Hedley, we’ll learn more about the everyday lives of these women of the 19th century mining communities, and about their astonishing spirit and determination.

We’ll hear how women carried out household chores of collecting water, baking bread, making meals, shopping and more, alongside the routine of seeing men in and out to work.

We’ll hear how women’s routines were shaped by the long hours the men spent away from home, or sleeping when the rest of the household needed to work, and the early starts and general comings and goings which made it difficult to enjoy a stable and comfortable home life.

We’ll also hear how women’s work required much more time commitment than the 12-hour shifts worked by the men.

Most importantly, we’ll hear how and why women so regularly had to pack up their homes, leave behind their support network of friends, family and neighbours, and start rebuilding lives all over again in a new location.

About Margaret Hedley

Margaret is an experienced genealogist, researcher, teacher and creative writer. She first encountered this topic when she tried to find out what her Victorian female ancestors – most married to coal miners in the Durham coalfield, were doing during the 1800’s. In 2000, she began studying for a Masters degree in History and focused on family and local history. She took this opportunity to finally write these women, who have been overlooked all this time, into the history.


How to Attend

Where is this event happening?

This event is happening online, via Zoom.

But we are also offering some seats in person at St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle as part of Windows to the World Festival to watch Margaret’s talk on a bigger screen. Unfortunately, with the uncertainty of Covid-19, we are only able to release a small number of in-person tickets. If government guidance changes and restrictions are put back in place preventing us from having an audience in the church, you can still join virtually.

Keeping you safe: In response to Covid-19, we are following public health guidance and may have additional measures in place, which are carefully designed to keep you, our staff, and the artists safe and healthy. This means that you will have to wear a mask during the talk and while you are inside the church, unless you are medically exempt.

Which ticket should I book?

You should book a virtual ticket to watch online.

Margaret Hedley will join us via Zoom, but if you would like to join us at St Mary’s church to view the talk on a bigger screen, you should select the In person ticket for attendance at St Mary’s option.

Book Your Place