About us
Contact us
History of Murton
Local Heroes
Human Cost of Coal
Miners Banners
Events & Activities

History of Murton

The place name MURTON (MORTON or MORETON depending upon how it was translated) is a very common Old English place name, which is a corruption of MOOR TOWN. The name consists of two elements the first being "moor", meaning fen or marsh and the second "tun", meaning an enclosure around a house, homestead or often a farmstead, village or town. The original name was derived from Old English as a "farmstead on the moor."

Previous names for the village have been Morton-in-the-Whinns, East Morton and Murton Colliery.

Research undertaken by a local historian Helen Abbott, who published a series of weekly articles in the "Sunderland Echo newspaper, October 1964 to April 1965, under the non-de-plume The Murtonian", makes reference to the Saxon name for Murton as being "Birflatt". Part of the name is reflected in some of the names given to fields in the village in the 1700's.

The Tithe map of the village 1777 (then called Morton in the Whinns) shows the names the "Long Flat" (this is where Murton Colliery was later situated) and the South Flat".

1777 Tithe Map of Morton in the Whinns
The land to the north of the village belonged to Rev. E.H. Shipperdson and the land to the south of the village belonged to the Earl of Scarborough.

Historically Murton was one of the four townships of the ecclesiastical Parish of Dalton. The Parish included four Constabularies of  Dalton, Dalden, Murton-in-the-Whins and Cold Hesledon.

Census records of the population of Murton
This early population was mainly a farming community and supporting trades. (Farmers, Blacksmith, shoesmith, saddlers, shepherds, shoemaker)  
1851521The increase in population was due to the development stages of the sinking of the Colliery and then later to the miners who would start working the early coal seams at the Colliery.
18813017As the Colliery expanded the workforce, the population and the supporting businesses developed to see Murton grow from a hamlet to a village.
19766514Mechanisation of the colliery meant new methods of mining to increase production which led to a further expansion of the workforce and the population of the village.
1991 ?

Murton Colliery closed and some of the local population left to find alternative employment either elsewhere in the coalfields or in other industries.

2000 ? 

Present day population is once again increasing due to substantial new regeneration initiatives and extensive new housing developments throughout the Village.

In the early stages of the development of the village and with the advent of the emerging technology of photography, the local post master (Timothy Platts) commissioned a photographer (E. Atherton) to take a series of photographs of the village which he made into postcards and sold from his post office. It is the partnership of these gentlemen which we are truly grateful in capturing the first images of our village and inspiring others like ourselves to continue with their idea.  

Murton farmstead

Early Photograph of the farmstead at Murton Village looking east circa 1900. The Photo shows the farm buildings in the foreground and the Village Inn in the background.

Murton Village

View of Murton Village Inn and farmstead looking west circa 1900. These buildings formed part of the original village indicated on the 1770 tithe map.

The early village life, comprising of the farmsteads and supporting trades was located at the top of the present village, in the proximity of the Village Inn, Gregson Terrace and Raines Farm buildings.

Murton Brickworks

View of Murton Colliery from Batter Law Hill circa 1900. The view shows the early colliery houses in the foreground and Murton Colliery itself (including the brick works) in its early days of production.

The original housing for the miners working on the sinking of the colliery, (which were a mixture of wooden construction and cottages built by the Coal Owners) were located in the area of Durham Place, the area now occupied by the Glebe Centre and Hawthorn Close. As the workforce at the colliery and supporting trades expanded, the construction of private and social housing developments merged the Colliery to the Village to meet the ever increasing demand.

At the time of the mid to late 1800's, there were two major factors which led to the migration of people, looking for employment in the newly developed Coal Mines of the North East of England, some of which played a major part to the development of Murton Colliery and its village.
The first being the Potato famine in Ireland, where because of the failure of their main crop the potato, (where a third of the population was entirely dependant on for food)  over one million people died from starvation or disease, to evade this fate it is estimated that over one million people emigrated. (Some to the new, North East Collieries)
The second being the demise of the Cornish Tin Mines, as foreign competition in the production of Tin and later Copper, to such a level made the Cornish Mines uneconomic and rapidly redundant. The miners and their families moved North, seeking employment in a rapidly expanding coal industry in the area.

Both sets of migrants, bringing with them their own religion, culture and way of life which would influence the development of the small hamlet of Murton into a thriving mining village.

As the Coal mine and population grew, the village attracted small businesses and the Woods Terrace area grew to become the main shopping centre. Over the years the village saw the increase of businesses such as a Bakery, Bus Depot and in the sixties a modern coke manufacturing plant.

In 1831 the Sunderland Dock Company, developed a passenger and freight railway line, running from Sunderland to Durham and Murton was given its own railway station, completed in 1835 it was called Murton Junction. The Company opted for fixed haulage engines rather than the early locomotives produced by George Stephenson, because at that time they could better cope with the steep gradients associated with this particular section of line.

Murton Station

Photograph showing a typical fixed haulage engine used at various locations around Murton

Later locomotives proved much better, but as the infrastructure for fixed haulage engines was already in place, the company was stuck with the old fashioned haulage technology, until it was taken over by the North Eastern Railway Company in 1854. 

Murton Station Bridge

Photograph of Murton Railway Station (presently a cycle path to the west of the village)

Woods Terrace

This is a view of Woods Terrace which would become the main shopping centre for Murton. As the population expanded the shops on woods terrace increased to meet demand and offer a greater variation in products. 

Murton Colliery 1900

Photograph of Murton Colliery Circa 1900

Murton has seen its fair share of trials and tribulations, that have characterised its development in relatively modern times, over the last two hundred years. The loss of significant local employment most dramatically with the closure of Hawthorn Coke works and Murton Colliery, but also the loss of the bus depot, bakery and Thomas Brothers Haulage over 20 years ago. This industrial decline was mirrored by population decline, and the village was scarred by the legacy of its industrial past, with many derelict and brown field sites blighting the local landscape.

Aerial photograph circa 1970s showing the Colliery complete with Murton's open air Olympic size swimming pool.
The pool was heated by the cooling water from the main Compressors at the Colliery.

Early in 2000 saw the first shoots of regeneration and a turnaround in the prospects for Murton and surrounding communities, 
the development of the Dalton Retail Park, by ING Real Estate, the development arm of a major European bank.
This major private sector investment on the outskirts of our community has proven to be a catalyst for the biggest transformation
of Murton since the colliery was sunk in 1838.

Aerial photo of Dalton Park, weeks after it opened.

Dalton Park has been instrumental in breathing new life into the village, providing new employment opportunities for local people,
helping to restore confidence in the housing market and putting Murton firmly on the map as a place where once again people
want to live work and bring up their families.

Recent regeneration initiatives have included numerous housing developments on former brown field sites including the bakery, (Broadoaks)
Bus depot, (Dale Park) Thomas Brothers (Fairfield Park), to the rear of woods terrace ,  on the site of the County School (Dene Wood), Wellfield Nursing Home ( Wellfield Court) the construction of the Ribbon Primary School
(adjacent the library on Barnes Road) and a new road by-passing Murton (to the South of Dalton Park and East Moor Estate)
to provide access to a new industrial estate being developed on the former Hawthorn Coke works site.

There are exciting times ahead, with the brand new concept of a network village on the former Murton Colliery site and the
development of a film production and media training facility on land south of Seaham. 

These dramatic achievements for Murton and other former mining communities in the District of Easington have come about from
sustained efforts and an effective partnership between our communities our local M.P. John Cummings and  Grahame Morris who
have effectively lobbied on our behalf and helped to lever down finance from central government and its agencies.

This partnership has been driven by the Members and Officers of Easington District Council, Durham County Council and Murton Parish Council,
without whose active involvement, it would not have been possible to deliver local regeneration schemes, for the benefit of our communities.

The replacement of Easington District and Durham County Councils, by a new Unitary Authority, presents a fresh set of challenges to our elected representatives and officers, to continue the process of regeneration of Murton and neighbouring communities.