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Ian Tempest - The Thomas Hepburn Community School in Felling
Tim Deveaux - Felling Mining disaster 1812 - Did the Rev John Hodgson manage to set up a hospital for miners and their dependents?

From: Ian Tempest - Deputy Head, The Thomas Hepburn Community School in Felling
Sent: 27 March 2011
Subject: Felling Mine Disaster

Hi Fionn,

I was researching an assembly for my school when I noticed a minor (pardon the pun) correction needed
~ misspelling of Gateshead ~ sure it’s just a typo


Ian Tempest

PS I am Deputy Head Teacher of The Thomas Hepburn Community School in Felling (named after Thomas Hepburn the first man to organise the Miners into the forerunner of a union). Brandling Primary School, built near the site of the original pits is one of our feeder primaries. Each year students from our school take part in the Thomas Hepburn Memorial which is held in Heworth Cemetery.

(Spelling corrected, thank you Ian)

The Thomas Hepburn Community School Badge designed by a pupil of the school.

The middle of the badge show a miners pick.

Underneath it the book represents the fact that Tommy campaigned for a library to be made available in every town ~ as he saw this as a way of the working class educating themselves.

The two flags are meant to be representative of the miners banners which Tommy features on.

We display the banner of Easington Colliery in our school ~ unusually it has a pennant of the Yugoslavian flag which hangs down the middle. This represents the fact that the Durham Miners gave financial support to Yugoslav miners during a time of hardship



Artisit impression of the new Thomas Hepburn School
Thomas Hepburn Community School is a Specialist Science College which saw another set of fantastic results from its
Year 11 learners. Every learner achieved at least one qualification and a whopping 71.3% gained the equivalent of 5 good GCSE grades.

School Links - Click On The Badge

Thomas Hepburn Memorial Service, St. Mary's Church, Heworth, 1983

A memorial service was held in Honour of Thomas Hepburn, in Heworth Cemetery, on 16th July 1983, in the Durham Miners’ Gala Centenary year. 

Thomas Hepburn, born in Pelton in 1796, founded the Northern Union of Pitmen in 1831. In March 1831, 20,000 miners gathered at Black Fell, between Birtley and Gateshead, to discuss striking. They were complaining about the ‘bond’ system, by which they were contracted to a ‘Master’ in return for a nominal fee. Anyone breaking the bond was liable to arrest. 

Hepburn led his miners into a strike resulting in some concessions being made. He became a full time union official. However, after another confrontation in May of 1832, the union crumbled and leaders of the strike were made scapegoats, including Thomas Hepburn himself, who was subsequently banned from the coalfield

Thanks to Ian Tempest For Bringing This To My Attention

Information From iSee Gateshead - Your Visual Heritage Revealed

From: Tim Deveaux
Sent: 18 November 2010
Subject: Felling Mining disaster 1812 - Did the Rev John Hodgson manage to set up a hospital for miners and their dependents?

My name is Tim Deveaux. I live in Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear and I am doing some research into the Felling Mining disaster, 1812, and I hope you will be able to help me.

The account of the disaster by Rev John Hodgson also includes an account of the fund to assist families of the dead and injured. In it there are two recommendations in it. One to request the miners to allow deductions from their wages to go to setting up a hospital to treat injured miners and help destitute widows and children of dead miners. Do you know whether this was done and is it one of the first recorded suggestions of what is now National insurance?

The second was to set up a hospital for treating injured miners and the aged widows of dead miners. Do you know whether the hospital was set up? And if it was do you know its name?

Thanks for your help in advance.

Tim Deveaux

Books suggested by the Durham Mining Museum: -

Great Pit Disasters, 1700 to present day by Helen and Baron Duckham, Published by David & Charles, 1973 - From Amazon from £22.00
Durham Mining Disasters, c.1700 - 1950s by Maureen Anderson, Published by Wharncliffe Books, 2008, ISBN 1-845630-73-4 - £11.69 From Amazon

So far as I know The hospital suggested by the Rev. John Hodgson never materialised, miners were not well paid and could ill afford to give up part of their wages for this scheme BUT The disaster led to the formation of the Sunderland Society for the Prevention of Accidents, at the instigation of Rev. John Hodgson, who was the Vicar of Jarrow and Heworth at the time. Within 3 years, safety lamps were introduced, having been developed independently by Humphrey Davy and George Stephenson.

The Felling disaster was a disaster of historic importance, for its aftermath marked the earliest attempt of any properly
co-ordinated movement to enlist public opinion in the service of mine safety and to arouse scientific interest in the cause of accident prevention. The key figure in this was the Reverent John Hodgson (1779-1845), to whom fell the task of comforting the bereaved and burying the dead.

For more information see

Pit Terminology - Glossary