Mining heritage preserved as Ferryhill streets are prepared for demolition

Ahead of work starting on site to demolish selected properties in Ferryhill, which no longer meet the needs of the community, our Durham Housing team has been on the case to make sure that a piece of County Durham’s mining history is preserved.

Before work begins on the £1m investment programme, we’ve removed the three remaining distinctive historical features from the brickwork on the front of the houses, known as ‘wake up slates’ or ‘knocky up boards’ so they can be preserved as part of Ferryhill’s mining community history.

Made of slate, the boards were used by miners to chalk on the time they wanted to be woken by the ‘knocky up man’ to make sure they arrived on time at the colliery for their shifts. 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.

Gemma Alderson, housing services manager at Bernicia, said: “While we’re delighted to be pressing ahead with our long-held ambition to revamp this part of Dean Bank, 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.”

One of the slates has been handed over to Ferryhill Town Council and the remaining two will be given to the Miners’ Institute at Dean Bank, Ferryhill, and the Mining Museum in Spennymoor respectively.

Receiving the wakey up slate on behalf of Ferryhill Town Council, Mayor, Joe Makepeace said: “Knocky up boards are very much a part of the character of the old miners’ houses and sadly there’s very few of them around now. We’re very proud of Ferryhill’s mining history and we are very grateful to have the opportunity to keep the story of the knocky up boards alive with Bernicia’s donation.”

Site preparation for the demolition is due to start this month and the works will continue until February next year. Once completed, the land will be transformed into a public space with greenery for the surrounding communities to enjoy.