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 hoping to offer some seats in person at St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle.

Because of Covid-19, all of our talks so far had to take place online. For this talk, we hope to welcome some of you in the church as part of Windows to the World Festival. The talk will also be live-streamed for those of you who can’t make it in person.

Once we have a better idea of how many places we can safely offer following government guidance, we will publish a limited number of in-person tickets. For now, you can either book a virtual ticket, or register your interest for an in-person ticket and we will send out a link for the booking as soon as we know more.

Which ticket should I book?

You should book a virtual ticket to watch online. And, if you’d also interested in hearing when in person tickets become available, you should also select the ‘Register interest for in-person tickets‘ option too.

Book Your Place

COVID-19 latest

The Coronavirus pandemic currently limits the type of event we can hold at the church. Learn more about the forms of worship that are possible under the current restrictions.