Service commemorates village colliery

The Bishop of Durham led a service to commemorate the 30th anniversary of a village pit closure. The service was held at St Edmund’s Church, Bearpark, near Durham City, with the Right Reverend Paul Butler presiding.

There were readings from various village groups and a newly restored miners’ memorial plaque was rededicated in memory of those who died in the pit between 1872 and 1984.

Bishop Paul told the congregation: “The coal seams were the source of work and life here. Throughout its life, the pit employed up to 1,000 men and boys, effectively the entire male working population. Alongside the pit there was attendant work. No wonder, therefore, that the loss of the pit 30 years ago was a tragic loss for everyone.

“Whilst 70 men and boys had died throughout the 112-years history the pit was free from disaster until, arguably, the disaster of its closure when still nearly 500 people were employed here.

“We all know working in the pit was tough, hard graft. It was not glamorous. But it did create camaraderie and friendship.

“Community life was focused around the work. Other activities, like the brass band, developed around the life of the pit. It was an entire way of life for every family and every person.

“The legacy of that community life remains so, as we remember, we remember those who died down the pit, or from health effects from working there. We remember and give thanks for the contribution that the mining made to the economy and life of the region and nation. We give thanks for the community life of Bearpark.

“But as we, rightly, look back and remember and give thanks, we need to take care not to be held by that past. We can be nostalgic; we can glamourise what was a very tough life, we can long to bring it all back but in doing so we can find ourselves bound and hampered from living life fully now and hopefully in the future.”

Vicar The Revd Canon Robert Lawrance said: “The service was a way of remembering and celebrating the community spirit which people feel the pit provided and which we are still struggling to find in this generation.

“It‘s very affirming to have the new Bishop taking time to be here. It means a lot to people."

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