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History and Interactive Site Plan


 For more than 80 years Woodhorn was a coal mine. Work to sink the first shaft began in 1894 and the first coal was brought to the surface in 1898. At its peak almost 2,000 men worked at the pit and 600,000 tons of coal was produced each year. Production stopped in 1981 but the shafts continued to be used for neighbouring Ashington Colliery until 1986. It began its life as a museum in 1989 and following major redevelopment, reopened in October 2006. Today, the yellow Ashington brick buildings have protected, listed status. The site is recognised as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and it is the best surviving example of a late 19th/early 20th century colliery in the North East tradition. 

The Administration Block

Built in 1912 this is where the colliery manager and other officials had their offices. The miners would have collected their wages from this building too. Today the building houses offices for the museum, tourist information and toilets.

The Workshop Galleries

Built in 1894, the blacksmiths' shop was extended in 1908 to house the fitters, joiners and electricians' workshops. Although used a large exhibition and function space now, it still retains a blacksmith's hearth.

The Cage Shop

This was built in 1900 as a locomotive repair shop but it was modified in 1945 to accommodate the repair of cages. Today it is used for large artefact storage. It is not open to the public.

The Stables

By 1946 the stable block was built to accommodate 4 ponies - in transit or undergoing rest or recovery. Ponies were not used on the surface by this time.

Winding House No 1

This was built in 1895 to house the Grant and Ritchie 1000hp steam engine. The engine was used to sink the shaft, transport supplies and men underground and to bring up coal. This building is now used as a function centre and education space.

No 1 Heapstead

This was constructed in 1897 by Head, Wrightson & Co of Stockton-On-Tees. The Heapstead held the winding gear to raise and lower cages along the downcast shaft to a depth of 873 feet.

Capell Fan House

This was constructed circa 1901 to house the Capell Fan which was used to ventilate the mine. It was found to be inadequate in 1916 following the explosion which killed 13 men.

Winding House No 2

Erected in 1900, it originally contained the 900hp steam engine by Grant and Ritchie. In 1975 an electric engine was brought in to replace the steam winder, after legislation forbade any man-riding by steam engine following the Markham Disaster. Find out about exciting, new, fully accessible visitor access to Winding House No 2 .

No 2 Heapstead

This was constructed between 1899 and 1901 by Head, Wrightsons & Co. of Stockton-on-Tees. The Heapstead held the winding gear to raise and lower cages along the upcast shaft, to a depth of 887 feet. The heapstead was tightly controlled with airlocks to help the effectiveness of the fans to expel the air from underground.

Walker Fan House

The fan house was built between the years 1917-1919. The Walker fan was installed to take over from the ineffective Capell Fan. The building was obliterated in December 1941 after a bomb was dropped, and it was rebuilt in 1942. This building can only be accessed on a guided tour.

Crab Engine House

Erected in 1895 to house the Crab Engine, this sustained massive damage in 1941 when hit by a German bomb. It was rebuilt in 1943-3. The building was remodelled in 1953 when the compressor house was added. This building can only be accessed on a guided tour.

Pick Sharpeners’ Shop and Jack Engine House

Building built in 1894 to house the Jack Engine by Longbottom of Wakefield, one of the two sinking engines on site. The Jack engine, was never converted to electric as an emergency winder, and remains the last steam winding engine in the North East of England.

The Cutter

The newest building at Woodhorn inspired by the monster coal cutting machines that once worked deep under ground. It houses displays on the heritage of the area, miners’ banners, paintings by the Pitmen Painters or Ashington Group, temporary exhibitions, the café and the archive for Northumberland.