Ushaw Moor's original colliery village overlooked the colliery three-quarters of a mile west of the present village and was the scene of a troublesome strike in the 1880s.

The colliery owner, Henry Chaytor of Witton Castle, was an uncompromising master. Sanitary conditions in his terraces were appalling and wooden huts housing additional miners were described as "the most wretched dwellings it was possible to conceive".

Conditions in Chaytor's mine were no better and men complained of working in 18 inches of water. Chaytor hated unions and appointed Thomas Robinson, a ruthless colliery manager who assigned the best seams to his favourite employees and reduced the wages of others. Robinson was especially hard on miners with union connections. Before 1881 two union representatives were removed from the colliery. Robinson threatened to expel a further 60 miners when the union complained.

In December 1881, a colliery overman instructed a miner called Thomas Westoe not to load tubs with poor quality coal from a geological fault. Robinson overruled this and told Westoe it was acceptable. However, when Westoe's coal arrived at the surface Robinson was unhappy with its quality and Westoe was sacked and his family evicted from their colliery-owned home. Westoe was of course the union representative.

Ushaw Moor's miners came out in support and handed in a fortnight's notice. If they thought Chaytor would crumble, they were wrong. A fortnight later Robinson arrived with helpers to evict the mining families from their homes. They systematically removed furniture and dumped it outside. Police attended to prevent violence, but only intervened when Robinson personally attempted the removal of a seriously ill boy from his bed.

The miners regarded their protest as a strike and relied on support from workers at other mines. Help also came from Father Philip Fortin, the priest of Newhouse in Esh Winning. He allowed evicted women and children to reside in a corrugated school he had built near Ushaw Moor Colliery in 1874. Ushaw College also helped, allowing strikers to pitch a large tent in its grounds.

Robinson brought new workers to the colliery, causing great resentment. Thomas Pyle, a platelayer of Crossgate Moor, who worked at the colliery was murdered. Found dead in Durham's Redhills Lane with a severe blow to his throat, Westoe was suspected but nothing was proved. It was the worst of several violent incidents during the strike.

In 1882 several men hired by Robinson in Staffordshire arrived at Croxdale and walked to Ushaw Moor for work. Unaware of the situation in the village, they were persuaded to leave by Durham union officials who provided their train fare home.

As they walked to Durham Station, Robinson rode up and told the men they were breaking a contract. Union officials argued otherwise so Robinson departed, threatening to return with police. The men avoided confrontation by diverting to Croxdale station before returning home.

Robinson was desperate to find colliery workers and resorted to faking documents to mislead recruits about the location of their work. He became increasingly frustrated and ended up in court on several occasions. During one appearance, a magistrate described Robinson's employer, Henry Chaytor as "a very rich and very determined man who would never submit". In truth Chaytor sat in the comfort of his castle while Robinson did the dirty work.

Robinson was almost out of control. He became involved in various trespassing disputes with the coal-owning Cochrane family of New Brancepeth and with Captain Leadbitter of Flass Hall.

Father Fortin was also a focus for Robinson's wrath. Robinson said that if he had twenty pounds of dynamite he would blow up Fortin and his school. Robinson, attempting to have the overcrowded school closed, illegally entered the building to check its condition and assaulted a striking miner's wife.

Another incident occurred in September 1882 when Ushaw Moor's working miners arrived at Waterhouses station in Esh Winning on return from an excursion organised by Chaytor. Angry strikers gathered at the Stags Head to greet the workers. Robinson opened fire on the crowd. He was using blanks, but a boy claimed that a bullet scathed his back. Robinson, now a liability for Chaytor, was replaced by a new manager later that year.

By 1883 it was all over. The protest petered out as strikers found work at other collieries. Chaytor, weary but victorious, was now in his 80s and sold the colliery to the Peases.

Ushaw Moor's development was increasingly concentrated in and around the village crossroads three quarters of a mile east of the colliery after the village station opened in 1884. Located near the river at the foot of Station Road it also served New Brancepeth but closed to passengers in 1951 and to goods in 1964. Two impressive wooden viaducts transported the railway over the Deerness between New Brancepeth and Ushaw Moor and were demolished in 1966.

The corrugated Catholic school near the colliery lost its licence during the strike. It was dismantled in 1898 and rebuilt as a Catholic club at Newhouse, Esh Winning. The Peases opened a school in Ushaw Moor's centre the following year and a new Catholic school opened further east in 1910.

Ushaw Moor was a lively place in the early twentieth century when two cinemas opened in Station Road. The Empire Cinema of 1912 is now a billiard hall, while Club Hall Cinema was located in the Workingmens Club.

Hard times returned during economic depression and the colliery closed from 1927 to 1929. Tragedy also paid a visit. On November 14, 1932, two young miners were killed in a gas explosion in the Victoria Seam.

The terraces of the earlier colliery village were cleared in the 1950s and the colliery itself permanently closed in August 1960.

If you have memories of Durham you would like to share with The Northern Echo, write to David Simpson, Durham Memories, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington, DL1 1NF. E-mail or telephone (01325) 505098.