DURHAM City was not untouched by the coal-mining activity that dominated much of the county.

Apart from being the headquarters of the Durham Miners' Union and the venue of the annual Miners' Gala, Durham was home to several coal mines. Mining activity occurred as near to the city centre as Elvet, Framwellgate and Gilesgate.

Medieval mines existed near the city, at Rainton, and took the form of bell-pits, but further west, in the Gilesgate and Kepier area of the city, the remains of drift mines can be found in Kepier Wood.

These were probably associated with one of the three collieries that existed in the Gilesgate area. One of these, Kepier Colliery, was located near Sunderland Road, in the area of Gilesgate still known to locals as the Duff Heap, after a colliery waste heap that once stood in the area. The site is now occupied by a recent housing development.

The pit was first sunk in about 1818, followed by a second in 1872. The remains of old shafts connected with the colliery lie concealed among gorse near the river, on the edge of a playing field about half a mile to the north.

Kepier Grange Colliery stood further north, not far from the site of Durham City football ground at New Ferens Park.

Founded in 1844, the colliery still employed a hundred men in 1923, the year before its closure.

Nearby, the A690 follows the course of a railway into Durham that had a connecting branch line to the colliery.

Another branch line led to a separate colliery on the north side of the railway called the Grange Colliery. In the late-19th Century, the colliery closed and the site became an ironworks, remaining so until its closure in 1926.

The area called Old Durham, between Shincliffe and Gilesgate's Sherburn Road Estate, was the site of a colliery owned by the Londonderry family and operated from 1848 to 1894.

Its workers may have lived nearby, at the substantial mining village of Shincliffe Colliery or Bank Top. This was home to a colliery from 1839 to 1875, but the village also supplied workers to a colliery at Houghall.

Shincliffe Colliery village was largely deserted by 1894, but a few old colliery houses remain among the modern estate of High Shincliffe.

North of Shincliffe, the Elvet area of Durham swarms with students and seems an unlikely setting for a colliery, but the University Library, in Stockton Road, occupies the site of Elvet Colliery. This colliery opened in about 1828 and remained in use until its closure, casued by flooding, in 1908. The coal was exclusively supplied to the households and industries of Durham.

In the north of the city stood Durham Main Colliery, near Crook Hall, in the city's Sidegate. It employed more than a hundred men in the early 1920s, but closed in 1924. This and the neighbouring Aykley Heads Colliery, which closed in 1949, supplied coal gas,

Framwellgate Moor area was the home of the Frankland, Dryburn, Framwellgate and Brasside Collieries. Two of these were near the prison.

However, the most important pit in the area was Framwellgate Colliery, known as the Old Pit. Its former location is still indicated by a terrace of white cottages called Old Pit Terrace.

It stood roughly alongside the road, on what is now the western edge of Newton Hall Housing Estate, where a council depot, garages and other businesses now stand.

During its operating period, from 1838 to 1924, it claimed the lives of more than 53 miners, including several young boys in a number of incidents.

In fact, all of the collieries I have mentioned claimed the lives of many men and boys during their history and in this respect, Durham City has shared in the tragic history of the mining era.

* If you have memories of Durham including old photos or stories of people and places you would like to share with The Northern Echo, write to David Simpson, Durham Memories, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington, DL1 1NF. All photos will be returned.