September 27, 2019 @ 15:30 by Steven Hugill
Vestiges of a County Durham town’s mining past are being preserved in a redevelopment programme spearheaded by a housing association.
Bernicia has removed three distinctive slate boards from brickwork on the front of houses in Ferryhill ahead of a demolition project.
The organisation has earmarked 33 run-down properties for demolition in the Dean Bank area of the town, as part of a £1 million investment programme to improve the area for residents.
Before work begins, the organisation has taken the removed slates, known as ‘wakey up slates’ or ‘knocky up boards’, so they can be preserved.
The boards were used by miners to chalk on the time they wanted to be woken by the ‘knocky up man’ to ensure they arrived on time for their shifts.
The last mine closed in 1968 but the slates have remained a character of the houses in the area and are a much sought-after piece of local nostalgia.
Gemma Alderson, housing manager at Bernicia, said: “While we’re delighted to be pressing ahead with our long-held ambition to revamp this part of Dean Bank, we recognise that the streets of derelict, boarded up houses were once home to a vibrant mining community.
“As well as being part of revitalising the area, it’s great to be able to contribute to preserving the town’s heritage by giving the boards a new home.”
One of the slates has been handed over to Ferryhill Town Council and the remaining two will be given to the Miners’ Institute at Dean Bank, Ferryhill, and the Mining Museum, in Spennymoor, respectively.
Receiving the ‘wakey up slate’ on behalf of Ferryhill Town Council, Mayor Joe Makepeace said: “’Knocky up boards’ are very much a part of the character of the old miners’ houses and sadly there’s very few of them around now.
“We’re very proud of Ferryhill’s mining history and we are very grateful to have the opportunity to keep the story of the’ knocky up boards’ alive with Bernicia’s donation.”
Work on site will continue until February next year.
Once completed, the land will be transformed into a public space with greenery for the surrounding communities to enjoy.