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Houghton Hillside Cemetery: Large Memorial Replacement Project

Hillside Cemetery's largest memorial was located on a rise at the far easten corner of the plateau. It was flattened as part of the 1974 clearance work, and despite several photographs existing, nobody knows to whom the memorial was dedicated. Frustratingly, this corner of the burial ground is not covered by any burial plan.

The original memorial at Hillside Cemetery, c1970s

Although Paul Lanagan left the Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery in late 2008, he was pleased to discover recently that it was the grant application which he authored in September 2007 that was successful and allowed the restoration to go ahead. Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2008.

For more information about the Strategic Initiative Budget application please visit the City of Sunderland Council website by clicking HERE.



The Memorial in the 1960s

A view of the memorial in the 1960s

Looking west across the cemetery in the 1960s.


The Memorial in the early 1970s

The Memorial at Hillside Cemetery in the early 1970s

Note the dislodged kerbing in the 1970s.


Damaged Memorial in 2003

The damaged memorial at Hillside Cemetery

The remains of the original memorial, 2003. The column has been left as a poignant reminder.


Memorial Measurements

Measurements of the memorial were taken

Measurements were based on scaled photographs.


Replacement Memorial

The memorial in 2009 before the steps were added in

The Memorial was restored in 2009, as seen in this photograph from November.


Now & Then

A view of the Hillside Cemetery Memorial now, with an inset of how it used to look

Access steps were created by young volunteers in 2010.


Memorial Plaque

The Plaque, which contains a factual error, reads: THIS MEMORIAL IS IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES


Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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Strategic Initiatives Budget Project Application 1: The Phoenix Project at Hillside Cemetery – Houghton Colliery Mining Memorial SIB Requested: £10,500 Section 1: Application Requirements 1.1 Please note that this application will be presented to the relevant Area Committee for its consideration when determining your SIB Grant Application. The Agenda and the Minutes of the Area Committee Meeting will be available for inspection by members of the public. Please therefore ensure that your organisation is agreeable to the content of the information that is set out in the form. The Application Form should be provided in either electronic (e-mail or floppy disc) or typed format. If you have a problem with returning this form in either electronic or typed format, please contact the appropriate Area Regeneration Officer. Contact / address details are provided on the covering letter and in the Guidance Notes and Criteria and Project Guidelines. Please note that a representative of your organisation must be available to attend the pre-agenda and main committee meeting(s) to which this application is presented, as they may be required to answer questions. Failure to attend the meeting(s) may result in your application being deferred or rejected. Dates and Venues of future meetings are provided as supporting information. 1.2 Which Area Regeneration Framework(s) does your project cover? (please tick) Coalfield [X] East [ ] North [ ] Washington [ ] West [ ] South [ ] Section 2: Sponsor Details 2.1 Name of Lead Organisation / Group: The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery 2.2 Address of Lead Organisation / Group: 2.8 Day to Day Contact Name / Details: (if different to 2.3 above) 2.9 Legal Status of Organisation: 2.10 Registered Charity Number (if applicable): Constituted volunteer group. N/a 2.11 Does your organisation have a bank account into which funds can be paid? Yes (dual signatory). 2.12 Has the organisation received SIB support previously? Yes [X] No [ ] If ‘Yes’ please provide details: In 2006 we were awarded £7,500 towards the Back to Life Projects. Funds were used to pay for the restoration of the lych gate entrance. The railings are currently being galvanised and are expected to be installed within the next three weeks. 2.13 Are any trustees / members of the organisation employed by or are Elected Members of the City Council? Yes [ ] No [X] If ‘Yes’ please provide details: N/a Section 3: Project Details 3.1 Project Title: (please re-state title as per front sheet) The Phoenix Project at Hillside Cemetery – Houghton Colliery Mining Memorial 3.2 Project Start Date: 3.3 Project End Date: October 2007 April 2008 3.4 Please Describe the project: SIB is being sought to contribute to the Phoenix Project at Houghton Hillside Cemetery, with funds specifically for the restoration of the Houghton Colliery Mining Memorial. (see section 8.1 for historical details) Houghton Hillside Cemetery is a dilapidated detached churchyard located on the outskirts of the town of Houghton-le-Spring, adjacent to a housing estate. It was consecrated in 1854 and became the final resting place of over 7000 residents of Houghton. It is of historical importance to the area for its unique heritage, wildlife and geological value. In the 1960s the A690 dual carriageway sliced its way through Houghton, isolating Hillside. This isolation contributed to the decline in the upkeep and the site became dilapidated with the last burial taking place in 1972, however this has allowed the flora and fauna to prosper, such as bats, badgers, foxes, sparrow hawks and other noteworthy creatures. A group of local people got together in October 2003, each drawn by affection for an interest in the burial grounds, following a request by Paul Lanagan for a much-need cleanup of the site. The attendees to the public meeting agreed that action was needed and the Friends group was formed in December 2003. We currently consist of 11 committee members and constantly growing membership, currently at 100 subscribed members. Since that time the Friends have worked tirelessly with the community and local schools in raising awareness of the site, as well as many conservation sessions which has seen the condition of the site vastly improved in the past 12 months. In 2006 the Friends were awarded £25,000 from the Local Heritage Initiative and £7500 from SIB for the Back to Life Projects, which saw the restoration of the Cemetery entrance, the production of a unique Hillside colouring book and school resources, and the purchase of conservation tools. To date over 100 volunteer days, with 119 volunteers, which if paid would have cost £22,875. The high quality colouring book, which depicts the unusual history of Hillside, was freely distributed to the main local schools and complimented with school visits and teaching sessions in class has seen a vast increase in weekend visits from families with children. Despite the importance of this site, in 1973 parts of Hillside Cemetery were bulldozed and the Phoenix Project seeks to involve the community again in restoring the site. The project will include: restoration of the large Houghton Pit mining memorial; the main rock vaults of William Standish Standish Esq; Sir George Elliot, Bart., M.P; and Rev & Hon John Grey, M.D., D.D; the excavation of the bulldozed headstones; the return of the four Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstones; the installation of signage and interpretation boards (logo designed by primary school children, text/images by secondary school children); the production of a website aimed at primary school children; and a launch event for the project. The SIB will be used to kick-start the project by providing funding for the launch event and for restoration of the large Houghton Pit mining memorial. It will also provide leverage to secure other funds to the project. 3.5 What service does the organisation currently provide and how will this be complemented by the project? The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery are a non-religious volunteer group, formed in December 2003 to further the cultural, historical, recreational and ecological aspects of the disused burial grounds. The group’s volunteers regularly hold events at the Cemetery as a means of attracting legitimate visitors consistent with the site’s purpose, and also as a means of discouraging the prevalent vandalism and disorder. Events include: litter picks and tidy ups, site tours, school visits and open days, historical talks, and wildlife events such as bird and bat surveys. The restored aspects of the site will compliment the conservation work we plan to carry out with the Youth Offending Service and adults from CEED (Community Environmental Educational Developments) conservation group. 3.6 What additional activity will SIB funding allow to happen (please tick the appropriate statement) (a) A project will go ahead which otherwise would not happen at all [ ] (b) A project will be provided to a higher quality / on a greater scale [X] (c) The funding will accelerate the implementation of the project by 12+ months [ ] (d) A gap in funding will be filled pending other funding being secured [ ] (e) Other reason [ ] Please explain your answer: We have tried to ensure that the Phoenix Project is a suitable balance between restoration and community involvement. This ensures that the project isn’t just one of paying for something to be fixed, and through the participation of the community we can ensure that the site is used, cared for and less likely to be vandalised. 3.7 How will you publicise that you have received support from SIB? (please refer to Section 3 of the guidance notes) From the outset, Hillside Cemetery has had thorough press coverage in that the acts of desecration were reported in 2002, followed by the group’s formation in 2003 and continuous good work since. The coverage, between 2003 and 2006, works out at approximately one article every three months. Aspects of the Back to Life Projects were well covered, including the one organised by the Council’s publicity scheme. If the group receives support, it is bound to be well publicised by our press contacts at the Sunderland Echo, Northern Echo, Family Tree magazine, and Durham Town & Country magazine. We will also work in partnership with the SIB funded Area Marketing project to promote the scheme. Details of SIB support, such as the SIB logo, will continue to be featured on our popular website and our letterhead and printed publicity, such as leaflets, posters and publications, as well as our bi-monthly newsletter. 3.8 Has there been any consultations concerning the need for this project? Yes [X] No [ ] If ‘Yes’ please provide details: Consultations at public meeting, our annual meetings, open days and events, and with Church members, and informal discussions with municipal Cemetery managers all suggest the need to improve the site. The City Council’s Head of Culture and Tourism is also aware of the proposal and views it as a worthy project that will also provide environmental improvements. 3.9 Is there any documentary evidence available to support the need for this project? Yes [X] No [ ] If ‘Yes’ please provide details: The Friends have received compassionate and praising letters of support of the Phoenix Project from: relatives of the deceased; St Michael’s Church; Dr Joann Fletcher, Egyptologist at York University; CEED conservation group; Houghton 1st Scouts; Heritage Open Days organiser; Houghton Local History Group; Sunderland Antiquarian Society; West Rainton Green Group; Lieutenant Colonel J Brown of Durham Light Infantry Association; Sunderland City Council’s Parks Department; Dr A Lane, geologist; Herrington Heritage Society; and Newbottle Primary School. Support is anticipated from Houghton Colliery Banner Heritage Group and Durham Mining Museum and Durham NUM. Copies can be provided. 3.10 Who will benefit from the services provided by the project? The visiting public and Houghton-le-Spring community will benefit from the project. This will amount to hundreds of people per year. 3.11 Will there be any implications for Council Services arising from this project? Yes [ ] No [ x ] If ‘Yes’ please provide details: The Council undertakes grass cutting (Parks Section ) and maintains the fencelines and walls to the perimeter of the site (Property Services) under Closed Churchyard order requirements. Additionally stability checks on the memorials within the Churchyard are undertaken by Cemeteries section on a periodic basis (5 yearly cycle). As SIB will contribute to the restoration of an existing memorial, this check will need to be undertaken in any case so there will be no additional liability for the Council. The memorial will be erected in compliance with the National Association of Memorial Masons Code of Working Practice, therefore the project is likely to reduce the maintenance requirement for this particular monument. SIB will also provide leverage to help in securing money for other works to the site which will stabilise other memorial monuments and help to minimize future maintenance. 3.12 Does this project require the support or sponsorship of a Sunderland City Council Directorate? Yes [ ] No [ X ] If ‘Yes’ please provide details: See section 3.11 above 3.13 Are any legal and other approvals required? Yes [X] No [ ] If ‘Yes’ please provide details of type of approval, date secured, or date expected to be secured: For the restoration work, planning permission may be required, however the memorial was insitu prior to the levelling in 1973; A Church of England faculty (permission from the Diocese of Durham) to restore the memorial may be needed, however as previously stated the memorial was insitu before the clearance took place. Permission from the landowner, the Parochial Church Council of St Michael & All Angels Council, has been given (copy of letter available). All permissions will be secured in advance of any SIB being claimed. Section 4: Equal Opportunities 4.1 Does your organisation have an Equal Opportunities Policy? Yes [ ] No [X] If ‘Yes’ please describe how the project will comply with the Policy: If ‘No’ please describe how your organisation addresses equal opportunities issues: The Friends group has members of both genders and from all areas of society. Our constitution states that anybody with a legitimate interest in the Cemetery can become a member. 4.2 Does your project specifically address any of the following issues? Ethnic Issues Yes [ ] No [X] (please tick) If ‘Yes’ please provide details as to how the project is in line with the Race Relations Act 1976: Gender Issues Yes [ ] No [X] (please tick) If ‘Yes’ please provide details as to how the project is in line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975: Disability Issues Yes [ ] No [X] (please tick) If ‘Yes’ please provide details as to how the project is in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995: Section 5: Relationship of Project to the Area Framework(s) 5.1 Identify which Area Regeneration Framework Action Plan Strategic Priorities this project will address through the use of SIB, and demonstrate how these will be achieved: The project will contribute to the following City Strategic priorities: ‘Extending Cultural Opportunities / Ensuring a sense of place’. The project will help to ‘promote the area’ and will ‘improve the accessibility to’ and the ‘usage’ of this space. ‘Developing an attractive and accessible City / Improve cleanliness of land…’ The project will ‘encourage wider community involvement in environmental issues’. 5.2 Identify outputs / outcomes against which the delivery of the project can be evaluated. Demonstrate how these will contribute to the Area Regeneration Framework(s). • The project will restore an area of historic importance. • In doing so it will improve the local environment. • The project will send a positive sign to the community that the site is no longer forgotten about. This will compliment the Friends’ work in changing the public’s perceptions of the site, particularly amongst the youths who do not realise that the Hillside Cemetery is a sacred burial ground and probably unique in the UK. 5.3 If the project relates to two or more Framework Areas, on what basis have you decided how to share the costs? Section 6: Management Arrangements 6.1 Describe how the project will be managed: The Friends group, which has gained experience in managing a large project, will be responsible for the management of the project. A qualified stonemason will be commissioned to ensure that the restored stonework is managed to the highest standard. 6.2 Are there any significant risks or uncertainties that may affect either the timetable of the project, or whether it achieves its objectives? Permissions will need to be obtained as per section 3.13 Section 7: Financial Information 7.1 How much SIB funding is requested? £10,500 7.2 Indicate the type of funding requested: (please tick) Capital [X] Revenue [ ] Both [ ] 7.3 Has funding been requested / allocated from any other sources, including Council Directorates and if so how much? The estimated cost for the various projects that make up the Phoenix Project is £61,150. Other funding sources are to be applied to. 7.4 What other funding alternates have been considered and why were these not appropriate? An application to the Community Chest Fund was considered, however it was discovered that it would provide insufficient leverage for this type of project, and that SIB funding was more appropriate. 7.5 What are the financial implications for the project should it not receive SIB funding? If SIB funding is not received, parts of the Phoenix Project will not go ahead this year. The Friends will of course apply to other sources. 7.6 When SIB expenditure is complete how do you intend to continue this project? The Friends plan to work with local and regional groups, such as Houghton 1st Scouts, Youth Offending and CEED, to further restore other areas of the burial grounds. As a nature-heritage site, there is a constant need for conservation and maintenance work. 7.7 Provide a profile of projected costs: Funding Source 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 Total Cost SIB: Coalfield £10,500 £10,500 Other Sources (please state) 1) Other sources tbc £50,650 £50,650 Total Cost: £61,150 £61,150 7.8 Please provide details of any ‘in-kind’ funding (e.g Peppercorn rents), if included within the ‘Other Sources’ of funding shown above. 7.9 Please provide a breakdown of the Total cost to show the main areas of expenditure: Breakdown is approximate and based on quoted prices, some of which are still being acquired: SIB Funded element Restoration of Mining Memorial £10,500 Elements funded from ‘Other’ funds Headstone excavation £5,000 Standish vault £12,300 Rector Grey grave £9,000 George Elliot vault £10,000 Interpretation boards £2,500 Mining memorial £7,000 Conservation tools £350 Children’s website £3,500 Office/administration costs £1,000 It is understood that should the restoration of the Mining Memorial cost less that £10,500, any unused SIB will be returned to budget. 7.10 Please provide details of how you will ensure that the procurement and purchasing of services and equipment will be managed in accordance with requirements as detailed in the guidance notes and guidelines. Include any estimates that you have and details of any contractors or suppliers to be used. Work will be commissioned in line with the City Council’s purchasing and procurement guidelines and 4 estimates will be sought for the work. A copy of these will be provided to the Regeneration office before any SIB is claimed. Section 8: Additional Information 8.1 Please provide any additional information that may be of use in support of your project proposal (Please append additional sheets if required): A Phoenix Project pack is available for viewing, featuring conceptual images and other information about the project. Some details are available online at: In 1973 Houghton Urban District Council were given permission to clear the old Hillside Cemetery of memorials and headstones under ‘Operation Eyesore’ to allow the grass cutting to be made easier. The large cruciform memorial located on a rise at the east end of the site was pulled down and flattened. The badly eroded segment of the column remains on the plateau section and is used by visitors as a stone bench. The Friends’ research into this memorial, which was the biggest on the site, suggest that it was erected in memory of a Houghton Colliery Mining disaster. Photos show that the memorial was erect in 1900. As the site opened in 1854, this would mean that the memorial was erected for a disaster which took place between the two dates, the only one being an explosion on June 3rd 1885 which saw the loss of twelve lives. Dozens of Houghton miners were killed down the pit; between 1854 and 1892 Hillside Cemetery was the only burial ground in the area. The Friends have located the burial records for thirty men and boys who were killed at the pit and buried at Hillside, allowing the Durham Mining Museum to update their records. Many headstone inscriptions make reference to ‘who lost his life at Houghton Colliery’. Work started on the Colliery in 1823 and it opened in 1827. It was in operation for 154 years and was the main source of employment in the town before closing in September 1981. Presently there is no permanent memorial in Houghton-le-Spring for those people who lost their lives or worked at the Colliery. The restoration of the memorial would be a fitting tribute to the colliery, which was historically important for the evolution and expansion of Houghton-le-Spring as a town. The newly restored Houghton Colliery Banner attends the Friends’ annual open day at the Cemetery, and a restored memorial would be fitting focal point for the banner’s annual appearance, which involves a moment’s reflection while the brass band plays Gresford. Parts of the original memorial are intact and can be reused during the restoration, however the damaged (and unusable) sections will be left in place as poignant reminder of what once was. Extracts from ‘Houghton Colliery Remembered’ ISBN: 095432532X highlighting the varied heritage of the Colliery which must be remembered: 1827 - The shaft was completed to the Hutton seam in April 1827. Much trouble was encountered, sinking through ground and water bearing strata. 1828 - Three men and four boys lost their lives in an explosion on September 1st. At this time the colliery was referred to as the “new pit”. c.1832 - On October 15th, a section of cast iron tubbing (metal sections used in the shaft to prevent water flowing in) burst and led to the flooding of the pit. No human lives were lost although the pit's horses all drowned. 1838 - Houghton Pit abandoned. 1849 - Houghton Pit was reopened. 1850 - Explosion ripped through the Hutton seam at Houghton Pit on November 11th. 26 men and boys were lost, 20 of them under the age of 21. About 150 men were working underground at the time of the disaster. The survivors were rescued after 4 hours exertion and many were insensible. Most of the men who died passed through chokedamp (gas). The inquest verdict reported that the explosion was caused by the ignition of gas by naked light. c.1853 - Work started on another shaft for use as a furnace upcast shaft. 1857 - The pit became known as Houghton Colliery. On May 19th, the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII) to Houghton Colliery. The Royal party accompanied by Mr RT Morton, Chief Agent, and Mr Heckles, colliery manager, descended into the shaft and were transported in coal tubs to the coal face, where the Prince tried his hand at coal hewing! Billy Moran who was then a boy drove the pony and tub which conveyed his Royal Highness through the dark mine was proud to say "I was once Coachman for the Prince of Wales". *1885 - An explosion at Houghton Colliery saw twelve lives lost, on June 3rd. * 1891 - On September 4, Robert Bell committed suicide by jumping down the pit shaft, a distance of 720 feet. 1904 - Charles Blake was killed in a stone fall at the Main coal seam. 1914 - Houghton Colliery employed 1900 men and boys, with a daily output of 2000 tons of coal. It was reported in a newspaper at the time: "The men have experienced considerable trouble both in the meeting of large faults or dislocations in the seams and a considerable amount of water". 1942 - 1945 - Statistics show: Houghton Colliery, output 7500 tons, 1350 men, manager Mr CM Martin, undermanager Mr GT Bell. 1977 - On June 30th, a celebration was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary since the first shaft was completed. The colliery employed 280 men and was managed by Mr J Martin. A mock layout of a district was set up on the surface as part of a competition. Miners had to note the faults and were entered into the competition. Houghton miner George Davison won £5 and had his prize presented to him by Mr Whitewall at the commemorative party in Houghton Comrades Club. Mr Walter Malt, then Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, congratulated the workforce and described Houghton as a pit which still had a future. 1981 - The last underground shift was completed at the Colliery on Thursday September 24th. Colliery staff who had not opted for voluntary redundancy were transferred to Seaham, Vane Tempest, Eppleton and Wearmouth pits, and the Philadelphia Workshops and Herrington Colliery (New Pit). The workforce at this time was circa 250. The powder house was demolished and rebuilt at Beamish Museum. The electrical sub-station is the only remaining Colliery building still in Houghton today. Section 9: Declaration I declare that the information provided is correct and accurate and that, should this application be successful, the organisation will agree to the terms and conditions of SIB: Name: Position in Organisation: Vice-Chair Date: July 24th 2007