History Blog

From time to time we will update this section with interesting bits of History from Tow Law and its surrounding districts. 

13th April 2020 - Jonathan Kindleysides

The Railway to Tow Law

The railway under the old Stockton and Darlington Railway

Company was one of the first developments in Tow Law, the

line lead to Crook and Bishop Auckland in one direction and

to Waskerley and Blackhill in the other.

The line was opened to fright on 16th May 1845, in order to

bring iron ore from Park Head, Stanhope to the Blast Furnaces

at Tow Law. The first station was located at the bottom of

Castle Bank. This station was used until the opening of the

the new station in 1868, the old station then being

purchased by Joseph Bond for use as an Iron Foundry.

The line started south of Crook old railway station, through

Roddymoor, climbed one of the greatest inclines in the

country, stretching almost 2 miles, to reach Sunniside on the

1,000 ft contour, then via Tow Law and Waskerley to Stanhope.

A passenger service was introduced between Crook and Stanhope

calling at Tow law and Cold Rowley, on 1st Aprill 1846. Two

composite coaches left Crook in the morning, each carriage

had outside brakes operated by the guards. After being hauled

up the long Sunniside Incline by rope they were taken through

Tow Law to Waskerley where one coach went forward to Parkhead

and Stanhope (Crawleyside). The other carriage reversed down

Nanny Mayor’s bank to Cold Rowley. The afternoon service only ran

to Rowley.

These passenger coaches in all cases were attached to the

last wagon of the set when ascending the inclines and ran

loose behind descending sets at a maximum speed of 12 mph. On

occasions the coach is said to have sped down Sunniside on

its own without the rope and with only the guards had brake

to stop it. The Stanhope service ceased in 1846, but the Cold

Rowley continued until 1875 when it was extended to Hownes


A new deviation line by-passing the Sunniside

Incline was opened to fright on 10th April 1867. A new

improved passenger service was put into operation on 2nd

March 1868 with locomotives pulling trains the whole

distance, some of which ran from Benfieldside all the way to


In order to bring this line into Tow Law a large Cut had to

be made, to the west side of town. A bridge was also

constructed in order to carry the Tow Law to Crook road

over the cut. At the same time a new station was constructed

a little way down Church Lane.

Large numbers of Irish came to the district in order to build

this new line, in some cases they brought their families, many

settling in Tow Law. It can be seen from the 1870 census

onwards that Tow Law had a large Irish population, due in no

small way to these Irish workmen settling in the Town. They

were to work in the local mines and associated industries.

With this extension now completed it was possible to

transport much larger quantities of materials such as coal,

coke and iron products to other part of the country.

The old Sunniside to Crook incline railway was demolished,

but the summit was kept open to accommodate coal wagons from

Headley Hope and West Thornley collieries, and it continued

in use until it's closure in 1960.

Throughout the 1920's there had been steady decline in

traffic using the line from Tow Law to Consett and, by 1937

passenger traffic ceased. The goods traffic continued using

the line until 18th May 1839, when the line was finally

closed. The track was fenced off, but was not lifted until


The passenger traffic to Crook and Bishop Auckland ceased in

1957, and by 1964 even the small amount of good traffic had

stopped using the line. So the decision was taken to finally

close the line and Station in 1964.

The local Council purchased the old station and goods yard

the following year for the building of Alpine Way Estate, so

finally closing the pages of railway history in the town.

The collieries and Iron Works of Tow Law also had a whole

Network of Railways, both standard and narrow gauge. The

Iron Works also had an Engine Works to build shunting locomotives

from scratch.

Railway crossing the A68. The site of of Baldwin Barlow's Petrol Station and Bus Depot, now the site of the Co-op, Gregg's and Charity Shop.

Tow Law station staff in the station garden

The railway cutting that allowed locomotives to travel from Crook up to Tow Law, avoiding the Sunniside rope incline. The cutting, now filled in, went under the A68 at the top of Bridge Street.

The first Station in Tow Law was situated behind the New Market Pub

The new cutting allowing locomotive hauled trains to access Tow Law, from Crook

Tow Law Station

Troops arriving at Tow Law in 1939, on their way to the Army Camp at Salters Gate.

Tow Law built 'Star' used on the internal Iron Works and Colliery lines. 

A narrow gauge engine built at Tow Law 

The last timetabled train to be hauled by Steam, 1957, Diesel locos, and specials, continued on the line until 1964

Diesel loco, Tow Law, 1964

7th  April 2020 - Jonathan Kindleysides

Tow Law Aged Miners Homes

Extract from the Northern Echo, referring to the opening of

the Aged Miners Homes At Tow Law, dated 1st May 1911.


New Cottages At Tow Law.

Best in the County.


The six stone-built cottages erected at Tow Law Under the

auspices of the Durham Aged Mineworkers Homes Association were

opened on Saturday by Miss Samuelson of Thirsk in the

presence of a large number of people.

Mr John Wilson, MP, presided and presented in the name of the

committee a gold key to Miss. Samuelson, who amid applause,

opened the door of the center cottage. She expressed the hope

that those who might want to live in pleasantly situated and

neat cottages would spend many happy days of peace and rest


The Rev H.J.Humphrise Vicar of Thornley, proposed, and

Mr.Robert Calland seconded, a vote of thanks to

Miss.Samuelson, and her father replied on her behalf, cheers

were given for Miss.Samuelson.

The Wesleyan Temperance Band, which had previously paraded

the streets, then led the procession to the Mechanics

Hall. The Black Prince lodge banner was carried aloft in the


Vitality of Trade Unions.

A public tea was afterwards held in the Mechanics Institute

and in the evening a large meeting was held in the Hall of

that Institute. Mr.James Vickers presided, and Mr.F.Samuelson

said that good as was the system of providing local or

district homes in large centers, it was better to provide

local of district homes. The latter kept the old people in

their respective districts. He congratulated the local

committee heartily on the success which had attended there


Mr.Samuelson refereed to the unions, he said that many people

did not understand them, but he thought that they did a

worthy work in many ways. As a employer he found that they

got on with unions very much better than they would have

without them. He was not going to flatter them and say that

everything they did was right, but with reasonable and

thinking and cautious representatives he thought it was of

great benefit for both employer and men to meet and discuss

rationally and amicably their differences. With the best heads

on each side of the Conciliation Board table they could hope

to obtain the best results and secure peace and progress of


Mr.Wilson said that Mr.Samuelson's speech harmonized with his

views, and he was at one with him as to utility of a well

conducted, conciliatory trade union. There were trade unions

and trade unions. Some thought that they were not carrying

out their work unless they were fighting, but that was not

the spirit dominating the Durham Miners Association, which had

been to go along the lines of amicability and concord,

recognize that employers, like themselves, had their

interests and rights, and the inference to be drawn was the

just as employers believed they had rights so did the men, and

the best was was for each to look after its own in a sensible

amicable, and just manner, each striving to arrive at a fair

and proper adjustment of claims and rights.

Harmonious Co-Operation.

In these days the nations all the World over were brought

nearer and nearer together. Transit and communications were

annihilating distance, comparatively speaking. This greater

commercial intimacy and touch with each other, resulting in

greater trade competition between nation and nation and the

greater and keener the competition became the more it beholden

all parties to industrial Progress to bring about as much

concord and good relationship between the employer and

employed as they could. He was glad that Mr.Samuelson had

mentioned the matter, for it augued well for both capital and

labor when they could stand shoulder to shoulder and meet on

the same platform, trying to proceed in the same right

direction, and above all to make for the better life. In this

movement for aged mine-workers homes they desired to work in

useful co-operation with employers, who he might say, had

given large and material help. He was thankful to the

committee and friends at Tow Law, who had initiated and

brought their district scheme to so successful an issue. In

his opinion they had the finest houses in the whole movements.

On behalf of the committee, Mr.Wilson presented Mr.William

McIntyre with a gold watch for his services rended as honorary

architect in the planning and building of the aged miners

homes of the Black Prince, West Thornley and Hedley Hope


Artistic Effect.

Mr.McIntyre in reply, said it was pleasure to have had the

privilege to serve with the local committee who had helped

him all they could to make these homes as good as possible.

It might he thought it was extravagant to spend the sum of

900 pounds on the building of six cottages for aged miners.

It was the Rev.Mr.Espin who stimulated them to make large

donations as as to build them good cottages, he also

criticized the owners who would not give them good houses.

One man had said to Mr.McIntyre "you are building places not

houses." But he thought they would be justified in what they

has done. They had put a little porch to each house ; they

had put palisading on the front garden walls, and they had

done such things as these to add to the protection and

adornment of the houses. The porch and palisading had cost

slightly over 100 pounds, but they would have lost the

effects in omitting the provisions, nor would it have done to

have substituted wooden railings. Then it might have been

said they should have run up a brick building, and that would

have saved 70 or 80 pounds. But a brick frontage would not

look so well or stand so well as stone. He thought they were

justified in all the extra care and expenditure and that the

cottages would stand as long as they were needed and be a

lasting credit to the enterprise.

The Rev.H.J.Humphres suggested that their next step should be

to make some cottage homes provision for the sick. As they

all knew their own homes were often ill-adapted for the very

serious cases of accidents, which would as hitherto be sent

to Newcastle, but referred to the treatment of cases which

could be just as well treated in a cottage set apart as in a

hospital. There was a movement to do something to

commemorate the Coronation, and he suggested it might take

the form of a nursing home.

List of Subscriptions.

It may be added that the foundation stones were laid on the

15th of October 1910. Mr.Thomas Robinson the local treasurer,

furnished us with the following statement. They had revived a

grant form the general committee of 300 pounds. The

contributions from the local lodges were :- Black Prince,

œ138. 18s. ; West Thornley, œ95.18s. 6d. and Hedley Hope,

œ62. 13s. 3d. making a total from these three lodges of œ297.

2s. 7d.

Private donations :- Mr.E.Rogerson Durham, œ10 ; the

Rev.J.Humphres, œ2. 2s. ; the Weardale Coal and Coke Co.,

œ10 ; Sir.B.Samuelson and Company, œ25 ; Mr.F.Samuelson

Thirsk, œ50 ; Mr.J.H.B.Foster, œ5 ; Mr.J.Richardson Tow Law,

œ5 5s. ; Mr.H.G.Stobart Witton Towers, œ5 ; the Tow Law

Tradesmen œ13 7s 6d ; Tow Law Workmens Social Club œ5 5s ;

Messer Brough and Son œ2 2s ; Messer Gibb and Son œ1 1s ;

making a total of œ134 2s 6d, for outside contributions.

From other sources, concert arranged by Mrs.Naismith of Tow

Law œ13 2s 6d ; concert by Mr.Charles Dunn of Tow Law œ5 2s

3d ; profit from tea at the foundation stone laying œ2 10s

6d ; from the social œ1 19s 6d ; street collection œ1 1s 3d ;

interest on banking account œ1 13s 1d, making a total for

this section of œ25 9s 1d.

The grand total of income up to the start of Saturday last

was œ756 14s 2d ; But in addition that day the Tow Law

Mechanics Institute had given them a cheque for œ12 12s.

This brought the grand total to œ769 6s 2d.

The land on which the houses stand is on a nominal rent of 1s

per year for a lease of 90 years. Mr.Barren wished it to be

mentioned that the local committee had worked very hard and

enthusiastically, and that great credit was due to them, among

whom he might mention Mr.Vickers, Mr.Todd, and Mr.Robinson.

The honorary architect, Mr.McIntyre, had spared neither time

nor energy in seeing the work was done in a proper order.

They had now , he said to congratulate the committee on the

excellent result of their work and on the erection of the

best type of houses of their class in the County.



4th April 2020 - Jonathan Kindleysides 

Tow Law Palace Variety Theatre 

The Palace Theatre, on the right, looking down towards the railway crossing and Caste Bank

It May come as a surprise to learn that Tow Law once had its own Variety Theatre.  This was located on the High Street next to where Page's Bakery is now located.

It was built by the Tow Law Palace Variety Theatre Company in the late 1890's.  To raise the necessary funds shares where  issued in the company, and where in the main, bought by the local people of Tow Law. The total cost was in excess of £2,000.


The site chosen was that of the Wheatley family's furniture Factory, in the High Street, at the time part of the building was let to the first Tow Law Workingmen Club, who later moved further up the High Street. 

The Wheatley family, in 1902, were also to buy the Station Hotel; which remained in the family until the early 1970's. The building of the Theatre took just over a year to complete, and had seating capacity for over 400 people, it was to become a focal point for the local people of Tow Law and the surrounding district.

Its most successful years were before the first war, but with the outbreak of War which resulted in a shortage of actors it was decided to show movies pictures during the week with live  shows only on the weekends. This proved to popular, not only with the people of Tow law, but also with the soldiers who were billeted on the Tow Law Fell. After 1918 they continued showing films on weekdays and live shows at weekends. 

This continued until 1926, when it was decided to make the theatre into a Cinema and it took on the name of Tow Law Palace Cinema. At the same time a bus was bought by the company to bring the people to the cinema from the surrounding

district, if you could get 12 people the bus was free, if not then it cost 2d plus the entrance cost to the cinema.


It carried on as a cinema during the 1930's. And on the outbreak of the second war was to prove even more popular, due in no small way, to the soldiers being once more billeted in the town. 

During the 1940's and 50's its popularity was at it height.  After this time with the introduction of television a gradual decline in the attendance cinema not only in Tow Law but through the country was to see a great many cinemas close.

By 1965 the Tow Law Palace Cinema was closed it was to becomea Bingo Hall for few years, but by the late 1970's had become derelict, and for short time after that a warehouse.  Finally after falling into dis-repair it was demolished in 1986, so

ending the story of Tow Law Variety Theatre.


Information compiled: By Ron Storey

Edited by: Jonathan Kindleysides

Staff of  Tow Law cinema  -  Miss Ann French, Ann Fowler and ??

Roy Rowe & G. Proud, Palace Cinema, 1960 

Mr & Mrs Des Mellis, projectionist at Place Cinema, 1940's  


A poster from the Palace Cinema

Cinema shortly before demolition