Friday, 15 April 2011

On the Move

I put up a new page on the main 'Stainmore 150' website yesterday. It is by Margaret Gowling and it looks at the relationship between the railway and Kirkby Stephen as seen though the evidence provided by the Census records for the town between 1851 and 1881.

You can find the study here.

One thing that struck me reading through this interesting material was to be reminded what a characteristic feature mobility was for some groups within the population was at the time. To make any kind of a living many just had to keep on the move. But the day-to-day 'mechanics' of doing so were quite different in the nineteenth century, not least because there was little affordable pre-processed food available (except of course 'fish and chips' in mill towns) and so you needed someone to cook your main meal for you and put up your 'bait' as well as somewhere to sleep. This gave rise to lots of informal 'lodging' arrangements of a kind that is uncommon now

In the 1860's people had begun to migrate much greater distances searching for work too, and the 'Stainmore line' was just a part of the infrastructure that enabled that. My own great great grandfather moved from farm labouring at Long Marton to work in industry at Crook at this time and I like to think that he was one of the early travellers on the South Durham and Lancashire Union line although in truth I suspect that he was so poor at the time that he had no option but to walk it, over by 'Grains 'o Beck' and then across into Weardale


  1. Research into the various railway workers is showing the majority of 'professional’ or trained staff came out of Durham County and either settled in Kirkby Stephen or commuted from Shildon in the case of some engine crews. Locally young men were given new opportunities as clerks, telegraph boys and porters. Its a fascinating mix.

  2. It is a very interesting point you are raising here Ann and one which I doubt has attracted much research yet. By the time the Stainmore line opened careers on the footplate had been established for more than thirty years and already worked on the basis of seniority. From a locomotive operating perspective the western S&D extension must have been operated by existing drivers and also resulted in more firemen being made up to drivers. Probably all these men came initially from existing S&D sheds.

    I'm not sure where these were but I would guess Shildon was the most important as prior to Darlington Works opening the S&D locomotive superintendent, William Bouch, was based there.

    You could probably follow the career of these locomotive crews back though the 1851 and 1841 Censuses

  3. Yes I have been as far as I have been able to, some seem to disappear into the abyss. More coming up soon with Mount Pleasant and South Road Development.