Geography of Ferryhill, County Durham, U.K.

 

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INTRODUCTION

 

Ferryhill occupies a gap in the magnesium limestone escarpment.  The settlement has developed on the lower slops of the ridge, above the flat, marshy bottom surface of the Ferryhill Gap, which is liable to flooding.  Most of the village is located on the rising slops between 100 and 300 meters above sea level.

 

Ferryhill is a large village, situated in North East England, at the gap of the magnesium limestone plateau of East Durham.

  

The settlement is uniquely situated precisely on the watershed boundary between the drainage basins of the River Wear and the River Tees and is strategically placed at the gap in the East Durham plateau, which is occupied by the main London to Edinburgh, East Coast, railway line, and the A167 running parallel to this, in another gap, further east.

   

Middlesborough and Teeside lies 16 miles to the South, Durham lies 12 miles to the North, as well as Newcastle and Tyneside, which lies within 24 miles to the North of Ferryhill.

 

THE FERRYHILL GAP

 

The Ferryhill Gap, at the end of the last Ice Age, became part of a large moraine. Towards the end of this period, this moraine at the end of the edge of the Scandinavian Ice Sheet, created a natural damn, which in event became the river Wear and the river Tees, when the sheet emptied into the North Sea.  Huge lakes of melt water built up behind the moraine.  Ferryhill Gap is an over flown channel from dissolution of the magnesium limestone, creating a gap 12 miles long, and in some places, 200 – 400 yards wide.

   

The Gap, until geological history, was filled with water, and it is believed that some kind of ferry or boat used to cross the gap between the hill and Swan House on the eastern side.  Even today, the bed of the Gap is very flat and marshy, colonised by then, types of vegetation. A transept across the valley reveals a succession of plants; from hydro sire to xeosere, which is from water – to then, the dwarf willow to beach, then to ash wood, as the soils become successfully drier up the slopes.

 

COAL MINING IN FERRYHILL

 

The very first technological advantages to take place in the Durham Coalfield began in 1904, but this was not the first mention of coal mining in Ferryhill. In 1343, there was a mention of a coalmine in Ferryhill, in the ordination of the Vicar of Merrington, a local village.

  

In 1347, Robert Todd and Hugh Smyth, of Ferryhill, paid 36 shillings to the Abbey of Durham, for their right to mine coal in the area.

  

In 1354, it was recorded that coalmines were leased to the Prior of Durham for 30 years.

  

During the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, there was a type of coalmine known as a ‘bell pit’. These pits worked coal at shallow depths with a radius of shafts. The early shafts in pits were holes dug in the ground through the surface rock to the coal, and ladders were used to provide a means of access.

  

In 1902, Dean and Chapter Colliery was opened.  Please click on Life and Death in/of the Coal Pits  on the left hand menu.

 

NOTES ON NAMED STRANGE PLACES

 

Durham OS Map No: 91

 

Durham OS Map No: 112