Seaham County Durham

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.

The people of Seaham have very close ties with Sunderland, of course. Moreover, the town has some of SAFC‘s most loyal supporters around.

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.

Seaham Harbour map close to Sunderland
The map shows how Seaham is closer to the town than Hetton and Houghton which are in the City of Sunderland of course.

Original Village

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.

Lord Byron comes to Seaham Harbour
In 1814, the great English poet, Lord Byron (left), came to the town where he met and married Anne Isabella. The marriage took place in the drawing room of Seaham Hall on Monday 2nd January 1815.

Their marriage was short, but they did produce one child called Ada who became a famous mathematician.

Ada (1815-1852) was the first person to identify the full potential of a ‘computing machine’ while working with Charles Babbage’s machine. Ada is also the world’s first computer programmer.

Seaham Harbour

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.

Seaham Harbour construction

Seaham Harbour under construction

The need for a harbour was for a cheaper and easier way to move the coal from Durham to London and the Continent of course. 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.

Seaham Colliery - colour image

Seaham Colliery

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 colliery’s have now sadly closed. 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.

New Town

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.

Seaham Hall in County Durham - Lord Byron

Seaham Hall in County Durham

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.

The Londonderry Offices (right), on Green Terrace stands proudly at the top of the cliffs adjacent to the Harbour. Built in 1857 as the headquarters for the Londonderry business empire, from here they managed their coal mines, docks and railways.
Old Londonderry offices and police station in Seaham, County Durham
Seaham Police once used the Londonderry Offices as the local Police Station but no longer. Indeed, at the time of writing, the building is undergoing redevelopment. A new building at the bottom of the Avenue is now the police station. The cost of that building was around one million pounds. The new station contains no cells, so they transfer prisoners to nearby Peterlee police station.

Beaches

Tommy Statue cliff tops in Seaham Harbour

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.

Of course, this is always going to be a popular photo-shoot for visitors.

Shopping

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.

Landmarks

Of course there is the magnificent Seaham Hall and all of its history. However, Seaham also has the parish church, St Mary the Virgin (right). In brief, this church is one of the 20 oldest surviving churches in the country.
st mary the virgin church 01
Indeed, St Mary the Virgin Church dates back to Anglo Saxon times in the 7th century.

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.

Town Parks

The town has 4 parks so we shall highlight one and include the rest below.

Deneside Park

Seaham Deneside Park - bridge over the burn
The town’s Deneside Park dates back to 1935 and attracts many visitors because of its beauty. There are pathways through the park which has many lawns, flowering shrubs and trees. There is also a little stone bridges across the burn (left). Of course, Deneside Park has a children’s play area too.

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.

Finally

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 on Wearside Online. However, we also have a forum for the Wearside and District here to post as you please.

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