Ferryhill mining heritage on display at national museum

Ferry Hill knocky up board saved for future generatioins by Bernicia, goes into national museum

A piece of County Durham’s mining heritage is set to feature at a national display of coal mining history.

Following demolition of old miners’ houses in Ferryhill, knocky up boards preserved by Bernicia have been handed over to the National Coal Mining Museum for England to feature in its Home Life galleries in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Knocky up boards are distinctive historical features on the front of the houses where miners once lived. Also know as ‘wake up slates’, they were used by a ‘knocky-up man’ who was employed by a colliery to walk the streets and knock on doors at the time written on the boards to make sure that miners arrived in time for their shift.

The last mine closed in 1968 but the slates have remained a character of the houses in the area and are a much sought after piece of local nostalgia.

Curators from the National Mining Museum were invited to Ferryhill Town Hall on Friday 13 March to collect the boards and were joined by Bernicia, Ferryhill Mayor Joe Makepeace and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell for the official handover.

Anne Bradley, curator for social and oral history at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, said: “We are excited to accept this into the collection as we have no other examples, not even any photographs of the boards being used, so it really does fill a gap in our collections and allows us to tell a story that we are currently unable to do.”

Gemma Alderson, housing manager at Bernicia, added: “While we’re delighted to be pressing ahead with our long-held ambition to revamp this part of Dean Bank in Ferryhill, we recognise that the streets of derelict, boarded up houses were once home to a vibrant mining community.

“As well as being part of revitalising the area, it’s great to be able to contribute to preserving the town’s heritage by giving the boards a new home as part of a national gallery.” Paul Howell said: “My Grandparents were part of the vibrant Dean Bank community when these Knocky Up boards were in use and I have fond memories of that time.

“It’s great to see the regeneration efforts taking place whilst at the same time recognising the historic significance of items like these. It was a surprise to me that the museum did not already have a Knocky Up board and I am delighted that this omission has been rectified. My thanks to Joe and Bernicia for sorting it.”