Trimdon is an area of County Durham in the north of England which covers the towns of Trimdon, Trimdon Grange and Trimdon Colliery. At the beginning of the 19th century it was simply fields and moors. By the middle of the 19th century more people came to live and work in the area. A railway was built and houses sprang up near to the railway line. By the late 19th century Trimdon had grown even bigger; there were now several roads and rows of houses.
In this lesson, we are going to look at a number of different sources about Trimdon. We are trying find out what it must have been like to live in Trimdon in the late 19th century.
In the 19th century, coal mining was on the increase thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Small towns such as Trimdon were growing, and this growth could usually be seen around collieries (mines), quarries and other workings.
Coal was one of the essentials of the Industrial Revolution. Without it, it was much more difficult to cook and heat your home. It was also important for the country’s transport, such as the railways, and was used as a fuel for factories.
As Trimdon grew, so did their colliery, and as a result of that, so did their slag heap (waste material from the mine). More houses needed to be built and there were more churches and a bigger school.
Trimdon Grange was one of a group of three villiages in the area of Trimdon. The population of the area in 1801 was 278; in 1811, 274; in 1821, 302; in 1831, 276; in 1841, 382; in 1851, 1598; in 1861, 2975; in 1871, 3266; in 1881, 3057; and in 1891, 4135. The rapid increase between 1841 and 1851 was due to the opening of the colliery and led to the creation of the villages of New Trimdon and Trimdon Grange.
Teachers could develop a similar a lesson for their own locality. They could explore their local archive for material and use the census records for 1841 to 1901 available online at The National Archives.
The two maps show Trimdon 41 years apart. They clearly show the growth of this town centred around the colliery, quarry and lime works. In both maps, the railway appears to serve the colliery rather than the town’s population.
Together the maps provide the opportunity for pupils to see how Trimdon changed. The colliery has grown; so too has the resulting slag-heap. The population has increased and more housing has been built, reducing the woodland in the south. There are more churches, an enlarged school, a reservoir and Temperance Hall. There are also examples of features that remained the same, such as Overman’s Row, the position of the slag-heap, the inn or public house, Commercial Street and Gravel Pit.
Having studied the maps, pupils move on to look at some more visual evidence of life in Trimdon – photographs. There are few street names on the maps, so pupils will find it a challenge to match the photos to the correct place on the map. An element of good guess-work will have to be done. However, Commercial Street seems to be what is labelled ‘Lane + Row’.
Teachers can ask pupils to describe the differences between Victorian streets and those of today. Notice the children are standing quite unconcerned in the middle of what would have been their high street. A more general question is how pupils can tell that this is a photograph from the past.
The Victorian census material takes pupils further in their investigation. Explain to the children what a census is. This one entry will confirm some of the ideas that they have begun to form about life in Trimdon. The occupations reveal a working-class mining community, where children as young as 13 worked in the mines.
Finally, pupils are provided with a drawing which summarizes the importance of mining in Britain at this time. According to the artist, mining is at the core of Britain. It forms the backbone of industry. Mining was at the heart of Trimdon.
Further Teaching Suggestions
On printed copies of the maps, pupils could shade specific areas on such as the railway, housing, services, churches, and places of work.
Pupils can draw bar charts or use database software to manipulate information contained in a census return.
Working in pairs, pupils could conduct their own ‘census’ at school or in their street.
Pupils could ‘interview’ someone from the census return – perhaps 81 year old William Clough. The aim would be to ask him how life in Trimdon changed between 1857 and 1896.
Pupils can find out what is the most common work in their community and if that type of work existed in the 19th Century.
We would like to thank Durham Record Office for their assistance in the production of this lesson.
Durham Record Office:
Source 1 and 2: OS Durham XXXVI,1 (1857) and (1896)
Source 3: photos D/Ph40/2 – D/Ph40/4
The National Archives:
Source 4: RG 11/4904
Source 5: COAL 13/116
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