lies about ten miles to the south west of Durham City in the county
of Durham. Until the mid-nineteenth century it was just a tiny hamlet
that was part of Brancepeth parish. The surrounding area was mainly
rural and it is likely that most people living in Crook (less than 200
in 1801) were employed in agriculture.
- This all
changed in 1844 when the first pit was opened by Messrs Pease &
Partners. The coal around Crook is very close to the surface, which
meant that the mines were not very deep in comparison to other mines
in the region, particularly those close to the North-East coast, and
was, therefore, easier to mine. More coal mines were opened in the area
in the 1850s and 1860s. At one time there were a total of 26 mines in
and around the area of Crook.
- The impact
of the development of the coal mining industry on Crook is obvious from
the growth in population, as can be seen from the following statistics
taken from the Census.
there are probably about 15,000 people living in Crook.
- Most of
these people would have been employed by the mines. However, a number
of supporting industries also grew up in Crook and the surrounding area.
The coal mined in the Crook area was particularly suitable for turning
into coke and most collieries had a number of coke ovens. In order to
build the coke ovens, a factory that made fire-bricks was opened in
Crook and this employed a large number of men. Making coke produces
a number of by-products, including gas, coal tar, benzol oil and sulphate
of ammonia and people were employed to deal with these. And, of course,
as the town grew so did the number of people providing necessary services
such as shopkeepers, innkeepers, teachers, etc.
some of the coal and coke mined in the Crook area was used locally,
the majority was sent outside of the region through ports on the North
East coast, especially Hartlepool. It was transported to these ports
by rail. The first railway that served Crook was an extension of the
Clarence railway but this followed a difficult and awkward route and
was soon replaced by a new railway that followed a local river valley.
The ease of transporting coal and coke by railway undoubtedly assisted
in the development of Crook.
- By the
end of the nineteenth century Crook had been transformed. It was no
longer a tiny hamlet but a thriving town. Shops and public houses had
increased dramatically in numbers; there were churches for Anglicans,
Catholics, Wesleyans, Methodists, Moravians, and Baptists; the area
had 3 schools catering for over 1700 children; and there was both a
Miners' Institute and a Mechanics' Institute which provided recreational
facilities, reading rooms and libraries.
has suffered mixed fortunes in the 20th century. It continued to prosper
in the early part of the century but was badly affected by the worldwide
depression of the 1930s. By 1936 34% of the adult population was classed
as unemployed and nearly three-quarters of these had been out of work
for over five years. There was a revival in the 1940s and early 1950s,
prompted by the increased demand for coal during the Second World War
and in the post-war reconstruction, but this soon fizzled out and the
area went into serious decline. The 1960s saw the closure of the remaining
pits and the railway and there is now little evidence of Crook's rich
industrial past. Today Crook continues as a small market town but, with
little industry in the area, most of its residents work elsewhere in
the North East.