This book is much, much, more than the story of the Pit Sinkers of the North East indeed it covers a vast range of associated topics from across the UK and beyond.
The first chapter is the history of shaft sinking, linking the development of engineering from primitive beginnings, and then the book goes on to explore methods, equipment and contracts. There is an extensive chapter on colliery disasters and the human story is vividly told in two chapters who’s titles includes the words, amongst others: slavery, serfdom and mining engineers. I was particularly moved by the author’s description of how his father, shortly after starting work at the age of twelve in 1912, was carried to work on the back of his elder brother. Once underground in the hot pit, his limbs warmed up and he was able to work, but on his journey home above ground he was again carried.
The book has many similar human stories but also records the involvement of the major engineers, colliery owners, writers, land owners and is packed with facts.
The Pit Sinkers of Northumberland and Durham is not only a tribute to the men who worked under extreme conditions, but also tells the evocative story of mining society as a whole and gives a unique glimpse into the lives of those most affected by the industry. With further chapters on transportation and accommodation, celebrations & holidays and miner’s habits, the book must be regarded as a major guide to the region’s and nation’s historically important industry.
Peter Ford Mason is descended from three generations of North East miners: his great-grandfather was a master pit sinker who died sinking a shaft in 1885. His work is meticulously researched and nothing seems to be left out.
There are 60 black and white photographs, many previously unpublished. The Pit Sinkers of Northumberland and Durham by Peter Ford Mason is published by the History Press and is priced £12.99.