Seaham is a small town on the North East coast in County Durham, England. The town is around 6 miles south of Sunderland and 13 miles east of Durham City. According to the 2011 census, the town has a population of around 21,000. Many people refer to the town as Seaham Harbour or sometimes, The Harbour.
Indeed, with the change in the boundaries in 1974, Seaham would have been better off had the town become part of the City of Sunderland.
The original village of Seaham no longer exists but it lay just north of the new town centre. In the early 1800’s, the whole area was a rural farming community and the village lay between Seaham Hall and St Mary’s Church .
Seaham Hall dates from early 1790’s and it was local landowners, Ralph and Judith Milbanke who commissioned the building. Indeed, they were to have one child, a daughter called Anne Isabella.
Their marriage was short, but they did produce one child called Ada who became a famous mathematician.
In the 1820s, the Millbanke’s fortunes turned, so they sold their estate to Charles Stewart, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry and his coal heiress wife, Frances Vane-Tempest. Indeed, the Marquess of Londonderry built the harbour between 1828 and 1831. The laying of the foundation stone of the North Dock was on 28th November, 1828.
The need for a harbour was for a cheaper and easier way to move the coal from Durham to London and the Continent. The brig Lord Seaham carried the first cargo of coal from Seaham Harbour 25th July, 1831. Before the development of the harbour, transportation of coal was by horse draw railways.
The shipping activity combined with railway operations meant that the town grew along with the harbour. Major industrial expansion began in 1852 with the sinking of the first pit in the town. In the early 1900’s the dock doubled in size with new quays large curving piers and a new lighthouse. These stand today in virtually their original condition.
Coal was a major part of life for the people of the town, of course. Indeed, there were three pits; Seaham Colliery, Vane Tempest Colliery and Dawdon Colliery. These collieries have now sadly closed. Wearside Online has details of some tragedies which occurred in the Seaham pits here.
In 1823, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry drew up plans for a town around the harbour area. However, due to lack of funds, the town grew slower than expected. But, the development of the town continued with its name being Seaham Harbour. However, nowadays its name is just Seaham. The first house in the town, which is now Sylvia’s public house is at the eastern end of the current shopping area.
During the First World War, they used Seaham Hall as a war hospital. Furthermore, in 1927 it became a tuberculosis sanatorium. Today, Seaham still has a beautiful road lined with trees and countryside called Lord Byron’s Walk. This quaint road runs past Seaham Hall where Lord Byron married Anne Isabella. Seaham Hall, since evolved into a top class hotel, restaurant, conference centre and now a luxury spa.
Most of the County Durham coastline now has the classification of a ‘heritage coast’. Indeed, Seaham’s beaches are all restored too making them suitable for a day out for all the family. There’s also ample parking spaces which helps to attract many visitors in the summer months.
On top of the cliffs you will find a steel statue locally called Tommy, a First World War soldier. The official name for the statue is 1101 or Eleven-O-One which depicts the first minute of peace after the armistice.
There is a new multimillion-pound shopping complex called, Byron Place, in recognition of the links to Lord Byron of course. This is in addition to the small, but decent town centre. However, many people do prefer shopping in Sunderland City Centre as well as the nearby Dalton Park complex. Indeed, if Seaham folk say they are going to the town, it means Sunderland.
Of course, the famous Billy Elliot film from 2000 highlights the town. The film, set in the height of the miners’ strike of 1984/5, shows Billy Elliot doing his ‘angry dance’ in the Dawdon area of the town. Also, the Blast Beach at Dawdon is part of the opening scene in Alien 3.
The town has 4 parks so we shall highlight one and include the rest below.
The town has 3 other parks of course, they are; Seaham Town Park, Dawdon Park and Parkside Neighbourhood Park. The parks are home to the town’s football and cricket clubs and there are also facilities for bowls and BMX/Skateboarding. There is also a leisure centre complex and an 18 hole golf course too as well as many usual features.
Over the years, the town has had plenty of tragedies of course. This is because health and safety was practically non-existent in the industrial revolution. So, we document some of those disasters here. You can of course, comment on any article at Wearside Online. However, we also have a forum for the Wearside and District here to post as you please.