My name is John Lumsdon and I worked as a coal miner at Wardley Colliery in Co. Durham for 14 years from 1952 till 1966.
Alf Robens was chairman of the Coal Board and his job to see that the mines produced 200 millions tons per year. So it was mechanise or bust.
Many of the coal seams in Durham were thin and had adverse geological conditions that did not suit mechanisation in comparison to other parts of the country so these began to close.
At first men could transfer to another colliery nearby or to another industry but as jobs began to dry up with the run down of Coal, Steel, Ship Building ect, and the suppliers to these industries, unemployment began to rise till Wardly colliery was near the top of the list for closure. By this time unemployment was running at 20% in the area so it was either the dole, or uproot and move.
At that time I had a wife and four children between the ages of one to eight years of age and I wanted to maintain our living standards and quality of life so we decided to move.
I received a booklet entitled "For a Future in Mining look at North Staffordshire"
The first paragraph stated:
In changing times a man sometimes thinks of moving on. But before pulling up his roots, a wise man decides where best to put them down. Where better than the North Staffordshire coalfield in the West Midlands?
It went on to describe:
- A coalfield with a big future.
- A City with a small town's warmth.
- A house with the job.
- Entertainment, Sport, Leisure.
- And other benefits of moving here.
Regarding a house with the job. Two of my work mates from Northumberland had got housed at Smallthorn, a new estate beside the Green Star pub. I had been offered one also but it was a two bed roomed house and as I had a mixed family this was unsuitable. I waited a little longer and got a three bed roomed house on the Swingle Hill estate, that had only been built two years earlier, after they had demolished the "Prefabs" on that site.
There were quite a few Durham and Northumberland miners living here at the time, having moved down before me, and it was easy to settle in to such friendly surroundings.
In fact nearly 700 incoming families were housed in 18 months up to June 1964, most of them in new houses.
There were 12 working collieries at the time; all but one was medium size or large units with 650 to 2,600 men. Some of the collieries had been completely reconstructed and others partially reconstructed and modernised.
I was fortunate as all of my family settled down quite well, but others did not, and after a period of time went back up North.
It is a major decision to uproot and move to another part of the country, as everyone has to settle. If a child is upset, may be because of the school, then the mother is upset and this is what happened to many who, after a while, went back to their original homes.
My daughter, Elaine, commented:
I was only 7 years of age when I came to Stoke. I remember feeling very frightened, I had left all my friends and relatives to come to a strange place. It was a very long train journey with my mother, sister and two brothers.
A nice thing I can remember our new next-door neighbour who had come down here two years before us, made all our family tea, which made us feel very welcome.
My wife died in 1991 but I now have 7 grand children and 1 great grand daughter.