Point 2 - Marsden, the village that vanished
As you stand beside Souter lighthouse and look out over the green field to the north, it’s difficult to imagine that it was once home to a thriving village.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture it, rows of houses, nine streets in all. Coal stained miners trudge back from the pit as the knocker-up goes to rap on another set of doors and windows to wake the men for their next shift.
The village grew up to house miners
The air is heavy with coal and lime dust, but women still hang their washing out in the back yard, as children run past the football pitches and playground to the nearby school.
A horse and cart clatters down the street, delivering milk perhaps, or fruit and vegetables from a nearby farm. And in the background, the hiss of steam and the rattle of wagons as the Marsden Rattler passes through on its way to South Shields.
The village of Marsden grew up from 1874 to provide homes for the miners working the nearby coal seam. There were 135 houses in all, and around 700 people lived here. The village had a church, Methodist Chapel, Co-op store, Miners’ Institute, Post Office and school.
The biggest houses in the village only had four rooms, two up two down, but most were even smaller. They all had back yards and many had gardens, with allotments for those without.
Most of the houses were small and basic
Until the pit baths were built, miners had to bathe in a tub in front of the fire at home. Sanitation was basic. A horse and cart came round the village every week to empty the middens and rubbish was tipped over the cliffs into the sea.
Marsden at play
Behind the lighthouse was the miner’s welfare field which had swings and roundabouts for the children, as well as a bowling green, tennis courts, football and cricket pitches. Many people grew their own food in allotments and fished in the sea. But there was no pub in the village itself. The nearest local was The Marsden Inn on the high road or the Grotto in Marsden Bay.
The village was largely self sufficient, and there were regular visits from local traders selling groceries and ice cream or fixing pots and pans and sharpening knives. A big room above the Co-op was often used for concerts and events, and the Miners' Institute offered a library, billiards and snooker for the men.
During the 1920s, the Economic Bus Company ran services to South Shields, although they took an inland route, as the Coast Road was not completed until 1929. In later years, trolley buses came into service, and remained a feature until the 1950s.
There is no sign of Marsden village now
The vanishing village
Most of the men living in Marsden worked at Whitburn Colliery. When it closed in 1968, it marked the end of village life. In the 1950s, erosion had damaged the cliffs and Marsden village was in danger of slipping into the sea. People moved into new modern houses in Whitburn and the surrounding areas.
Shortly after the mine closed for good, the village was demolished.
The area is now part of Whitburn Coastal Park and is managed by the National Trust.
Time to move away from memories and explore a historic landmark that can still be enjoyed today, at Souter Lighthouse
last updated: 19/02/2008 at 12:15