THREE self-made men were instrumental in opening up the mid-Durham coalfield in the middle of the Victorian period. They were Robinson Ferens, Joseph Love and Joseph Straker, and they combined together to sink and run collieries as the fancy took them.

For instance, the Strakers & Love partnership (we guess there’s a plural on there because Mr Straker involved his sons) owned collieries at Brancepeth, Brandon, Willington and Oakenshaw which employed thousands of men – the company disappeared at nationalisation in 1947 when it had 3,200 miners.

However, its name lives on in the form of several stoneware troughs that John Heslop, of Durham City, has kindly brought to our attention. The troughs are prettily planted up in the garden of his brother-in-law, John Lonsdale, who lives in the Teesdale village of Mickleton.

The Northern Echo:

FINE TROUGH: The Strakers & Love name

We’ve told the stories of Messrs Love and Ferens in recent weeks, so these troughs give us cause to mention the third of triumvirate.

Mr Straker seems to have come from Willington, where he lived in the White House. He was doing so well that in 1863 he had his own cargo ship, called the Joseph Straker, sailing out of Newcastle. Unfortunately, Joseph Straker became stranded on the German island of Norderney in the North Sea in 1875, while carrying coal to Hamburg, and was never heard of again.

It was Mr Straker who had the sad duty of unveiling a memorial to his 20 men who were killed in the Brancepeth pit disaster of April 13, 1896 (see Memories 302).

By this time, he had moved to Tynemouth, and so his company was based in Collingwood Buildings in Newcastle, as the troughs record.

After the bricks and troughs of recent weeks, can there be any more colliery examples of colliery stoneware?