THE main settlement in the Dene Valley is Eldon, where, in 1912, the Darlington firm of Pease & Partners built an open air swimming baths near the Black Boy pit. When every miner lived in the Peases’ tiny terraced houses, the baths would have been a valuable place of exercise and of cleanliness.

There were several football teams in the valley, plus the cinema beside the Eldon Lane Working Men’s Club, but leisure facilities were few, so the swimming baths played a surprisingly central part in pit life.

This photograph shows the Eldon polo team captain Arthur Mothersdale holding a silver cup that the team won in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

The picture has been sent in by Pat Maycroft, whose uncle, Lancelet Parker Raine, is in the middle of the front row. Lance was born in 1913 and took over Elliott’s bakery, in Church Street, Shildon, from his aunt and uncle.

Pat’s mother, Marjory, was born in 1917, and she too must have been immersed in the Dene Valley swimming culture because she became the swimming teacher for Middlesbrough Schools and worked at Gilkes Street baths in Middlesbrough.

If you can provide any information about any member of the polo team, or about the baths themselves, please email

The colliery baths closed and were filled in in 1946, but the building remained with a scrapheap behind it until about ten years ago. It was then demolished as the site was cleared, although the lintel bearing the words “swimming pool” has been mounted and stands on the same spot although now there is a thicket of trees behind it.