History KS3 / GCSE: The decline of the industrial North of England

Fifteen-year-old Sophie follows in the footsteps of of her grandfather Roger Hampson, who drew pictures of the mining communities in the north of England in the 1960s.

He was one of the Northern School of British painters, who followed the work of LS Lowry in capturing the day-to-day life of the industrial landscapes surrounding them.

We see many of his paintings, and hear how the post-war mining boom was beginning to decline by the start of the 1960s.

Sophie meets miner Bert Wilcox in her grandfather’s home town of Tyldesley near Wigan, who tells her about the danger of the explosions underground, but also the intense sense of community of those times.

He explains how the industrial landscape of his youth - mines, cotton mills and brickworks - has completely disappeared, along with the jobs.

Dr Selina Scott from Oxford University quotes Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1957 when he said “We’ve never had it so good” about the British economy.

She qualifies the comparative wealth of the 50s and 60s by saying it mainly affected the South-East of the country.

By the early 1970s, international competition meant British industry and British workers were suffering. Sophie talks to a former mechanic at Astley Colliery who talks about its closure in 1970 due to a failure to meet impossible targets.

Teacher Notes

This could be used to set up a discussion based around coal mining and the differences between 1960s Britain and modern Britain.

Students could write a postcard from the 1960s explaining what life was really like.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is relevant for teaching history at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 / GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 3, 4 and 5 in Scotland.

Some of the social issues highlighted could also be relevant for teacher Citizenship, PSHE or Modern Studies.