Letter from William (Billy) Middleton


5 Bow Street West


Co. Durham



            Dear Dave,

In answer to e-mail Roy Lambeth, the NUM banner was new in 1951 and it went into the Cathedral, I have a black and white photo with all the miners in front of the banner round Welfare (Hall) when it was new in 1951, Mr. Venables, Mr. Hargreaves, Mr. Frost, Mr. Hedley, Mr. Alderton and a Vicar in dog collar in front and one of the banner carriers is Mr. Burnside, The Banner has a Blue Border not like the1936 DMA Banner which had a Red Border. I have a coloured photo with part of the banner and W/Hill Miners taking it into Durham about 1956. No one seems to have any photo’s when it went to Cathedral in 1968. Brian Miller took it in and he has M.P. John Cummings trying to get photo’s. As you might know this banner was hanging in the County Hotel with 2 other banners when some drunken yob set fire to it. The Hotelier denied this but when he left the new Hotelier found it in the cellar fire damaged. Maurice Nichol’s went and put it into Redhills and since then just last year and January of this year John Ollett and myself have gone through Redhills and can’t find it. Geo Robson says it has to be there somewhere. The 1936 DMA banner had the bottom cut off and new silk put on for 1983 Gala and the banner is shorter than the original. It hangs in the Heritage Centre W/Hill but would cost a few thousand to renovate. But getting back to the 1951 Banner it seems to have vanished without a trace. Hopefully someone might have put it in a cupboard and one day it may come to light, crying shame. The new 2000 Banner went into the Cathedral July 2001. What a great day never to be forgotten. Jim Stockdale and myself carried it in and out and both were very proud. It was a miserable day, rained most of the time but we enjoyed ourselves. All photo’s at the Cathedral, the banner is in a transparent plastic envelope, as we had to keep it dry, as you know it cost over £6000.

‘Now’ it seems Roy is interested in W/Hill banners, a lot of work has gone into what you are going to read now, but I think you will enjoy it.

12th April 1873 W/Hill’s first banner – Blue with yellow border. On front a checkweigh machine, checkweighman and master and man. Motto “Just weight is our delight”. Backside, arbitration case with master and man shaking hands. Motto “Let us agree together”.

The 1920 Banner – Has two couples and two children with a building in the background. I have a black and white photo of this banner on the racecourse 1930-32 but have not found out what is on the reverse side. Hope to find out in near future.

I have a coloured photo of W/Hill 1936 DMA banner being carried into Durham behind a Pipe Band 1952. The nameplate has Brussleton Lodge over W/Hill. It was loaned to Brusselton for a couple of years till they got a new banner. Now there’s a bit of history for you. Hope to see you soon and hope you enjoy this reading.


                                                                        Yours faithfully,

                                                                                                W. Middleton



As a follow up to Billy's letter to you where I am mentioned, according to Norman Emery's book Banners of The Durham Coalfield, details of Wheatley Hill are as follows:-

The pit was sunk in 1869, probably by The Thornley Coal Co. but on 19th January 1871 5 men were drowned when water entered from Thornley.  Within 20 years ownership had passed to the Original Hartlepool Collieries Co. Ltd.,. The firm operated under difficulties until final collapse in 1884. In 1885 it was taken over bt The Weardale Iron & Coal Co. Ltd.,  Work on the Harvey started in 1892 and in 1900 a second-hand Dunlop & Meredith verticle winding was set up.

From 1956 coal was processed at Thornley. Exhaustion of reserves led to the closure of the No.1 Pit on 11th December 1965 and the men were transferred to No.2. The deteriorating quality of the coal and financial losses led to final closure on May 3rd 1968.

The 1873 banner showed Capital and Labour - 'Let us reason together'.  The reverse showed a checkweighman at work 'A just balance is our delight'

A later DMA banner carries a portrait of Peter Lee on one side and 'suffer little children come unto me' image on the other. It is red and grey damask silk with a red border and measures 8ft9in x 7ft3in  It was at the 1947 Gala

Location: Wheatley Hill Community Centre

.The NUM banner repeated the images although there is a small change to the New Testament scene. It was carried into the Cathedral for the 1968 Gala service. It is a red and purple damask silk produced by Tutill at Chesham.  In 1993 the silk below the central painting was missing. Lenght 5 ft

Location: Red Hill