How and why did World War 1 begin? Neil organised us into the various European alliances and explained the beginnings of the Great War.
Then, it was time to go out of school and explore our village. We pretended to be Edwardian detectives, looking for clues to its past. Our first stop was just outside the school gates. We were shown how to read an old map of the village. Then we discovered the only remaining building, the caretaker’s house, from the original school, now demolished. We compared that house with the surrounding modern houses.
We then walked over to Lilley Brickworks. Peter and Neil explained how the bricks were made from the clay excavated during the drift mine process to extract coal. The local coal was converted to coke to help make iron and steel elsewhere. We learned that mining was a hard and dangerous job.
We walked back along the main road and crossed over to Cowen Terrace. Once the mine was opened houses had to be built for the miners who worked in the pits – hence, “Cowen Terrace”. These houses were built using the local Cowen and Lilley bricks which are now very hard to obtain. As the mine prospered, more houses were added to the existing Cowen Terrace and Lilley Terrace was built. As we walked along Cowen Terrace, Neil told us about the 6 known casualties from World War 1 who lived in the Terrace. We had a quick stop at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, built at the miner’s expense in the 1880s. We discovered some local bricks in the ground.
We then walked along into the village, stopping for stories (and a song!) until we reached the Methodist Church. Inside we saw the village’s Roll of Honour from the War. Peter organised us into military ranks beginning with Private and up to Major. He explained that the rank of Lieutenant was the most dangerous officer rank. They had a life expectancy of only 6 weeks as they led their troops over the top.
Back outside, we stopped at the War Memorial. Peter showed us how to take rubbings of the engraving using crayons/charcoal and paper.
Our final stop was at the old railway station, now a beautiful private house. We learned that more well off people could enjoy a countryside home in the village whilst being able to easily travel into Newcastle or Consett. The railway also transported our locally mined coal and bricks to Newcastle.