Sharing your stories

Fascinating stories of red snow, giants and the coke works with “jaws like a dragon” are being heard by volunteers capturing people’s memories of life in the Land of Oak & Iron.

“It was horrible to look at and it smelled of rotten eggs. When it snowed, by tea time the snow would be red from the dust from the steel works. I don’t miss it.” Alan Farbridge who was born in Shotley Bridge, remembers Consett Steel Works, which closed when he was teenager. When talking about work, Alan said that there were two main places where people worked; “The Steelworks and the big EverReady Factory and they closed down at the same time and it was all over the news and they said Consett as a town was going to die it was going to disappear and it never (sic) so I’m always proud of that.”

Land of Oak & Iron is capturing memories like these and recording them for posterity. Our volunteers are hearing fascinating stories of life in our area, as well as forgotten myths such as the three giants of Consett, Corbridge and Benfieldside. Caroline Playle remembers, “It was said that there were three giants; Con, Cor and Ben and they use to throw a hammer to each other. One of them went blind but didn’t tell anyone and the hammer was thrown to him one day but he couldn’t catch it so it fell into the river at Howden Dene. Supposedly that was what made the big dip in the river.”

Jacqui Wilson lived at Winlaton Mill and has really happy memories of growing up there.  She remembers, “The Cokeworks dominated the place…and it was scary when you were young and you went past on the bus you could see all of the red hot coke coming out. It was like the jaws of a dragon. Really, really scary. I can remember the steam train that used to run from Derwenthaugh up to Consett. I can remember that sometimes the sparks would come off and set the bank sides on fire which was really scary.”

We would like to  promote a better understanding of the history, landscape and cultural heritage of the Land of Oak & Iron.  Alongside traditional interpretation in the form of information panels, there will also be a piece of music, a sculpture trail and a dramatic performance which will tour the area and be performed in community venues.  The oral history project will be the basis for this performance with stories gathered inspiring the drama.

So far we have carried out interviews with 40 people gathering their memories of growing up, playing, working and family life. We have worked with several schools where we have trained the children to interview parents and grandparents to gather their memories as well as youth and community groups and individuals.


We are still gathering people’s memories until December 2018. If you are an individual who would like to share your story or a school that would like to get involved please contact Lynne Miller, Senior Project Officer at Groundwork NE & Cumbria on 01207 524803 or email