RECENTLY we discussed how the Spennymoor skyline was dominated by slagheaps from the steelworks for many decades after the works shut in 1901.

This is well illustrated by this 1935 painting by Bert Dees entitled Slag Lane. The slagheap is just behind the distinctive clocktower of the 1916 town hall.

This picture is part of the Gemini Collection which makes up the basis of the mining art gallery in Bishop Auckland Market Place.

Bert Dees was born in Newcastle in 1892 but moved to Spennymoor when he was six. After serving in the First World War, he worked as a painter and decorator, and became well known for his landscapes.

Slag Lane, though, shows a different side to his work. In their book, Shafts of Light, the Gemini collectors, Gillian Wales and Bob McManners say: “The depressive air in the brooding oil painting is accentuated by the formless masses of the waste heaps and the thick pall of smoke above the mean dwellings and the derelict ironworks.”

However, the figure in the doorway of the terraced house looks to be from the story of the Tudhoe Colliery ghost, which was told by James J Dodds in his 1897 history of Spennymoor.

“Night after night, the ghost was seen by men as they were going to the pit, a white figure appearing at the door of a particular house and then moving slowly down the road,” he says.

“Several of the miners actually went to work by another way rather than encounter the apparition, but it turned out afterwards that the ghost was nothing but a jealous wife watching her husband. She was anxious to see that he went straight to his work, and so she followed him in her night dress.”