At our monthly U3A meetings at Dow House we have had a varied selection of local speakers who have given us a good insight into our community and its activities.

How many of us knew about the Padre to the Seaman’s Mission in Seaham who offers support to merchant mariners from overseas, the George Elmy Heritage Project and the work done by the Seaham Branch of Save the Children?

We have had illuminating talks by a Street Pastor about the nightly routine and by City of Sunderland Magistrates about the history of magistrates to the present day; a talk about the history of Penshaw Monument; and another about Durham Oriental Museum and its extremely valuable exhibits.  Strangely, not long afterwards the Museum was robbed of a large jade bowl and a porcelain sculpture with a combined value of more than £2 million from the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty in China.  Thankfully they were soon retrieved by the police and no-one from Seaham Harbour U3A was arrested. The huge hole in the wall was quickly repaired and this venue was visited recently by our Art Appreciation group. The returned exhibits were hidden away awaiting a more secure placement in the gallery.

Our U3A tries to support local businesses, especially in Seaham, as well as local, national and international charities, examples of which include Save the Children, George Elmy Heritage Project, St Christopher’s Hospice in South London and Grace House Children’s Hospice in Southwick.  Our members are making bright and cheerful pillowcases for the children staying at Grace House, an idea inspired by ConKerr Cancer and adopted by our U3A.

Last Christmas we donated £200 to Dawdon Youth and Community Centre to help buy gifts for disadvantaged Children.

In June we donated £50 to buy tinned foods etc for the same community centre’s food bank.

Lucky for us many more restaurants and interesting cafés have opened up since our inauguration in 2010.

Enjoyable excursions into the Wining/Dining/Snacks experience in and around Seaham have included:

For lunch:

  • Seaton Lane Inn
  • Seaham and Houghton le Spring Golf Clubs
  • Ashoka Indian Restaurant
  • Scene 1, East Durham College, a restaurant for students learning the catering trade
  • Pan Din Thai (now closed, much to our chagrin as it was excellent!)
  • The Three Horseshoes, Leamside
  • The Stables, West Herrington
  • Sagar Indian Restaurant
  • The Crow’s Nest
  • The Hat & Feathers (Church Street)
  • Clean Bean Restaurant
  • Humbles
  • Codrophenia (Dalton Park)
  • Sambuca (Formerly Engineer Arms)
  • Downey’s
  • Massimo’s

For snacks:

  • Poppy’s
  • Bulan Burgers
  • Tonia’s
  • Flamingo Quick Bite
  • BB’s Coffee & Muffins
  • Black Truffle Boutique & Coffee Shop
  • Paws for 5
  • Creams for Tea
  • Flanders
  • The Ship’s Bell
  • Coffee and Co in Church St
  • The Crow’s Nest
  • The Black Truffle
  • Lickety Split
  • Leaf, Bark and Berries
  • The Featherbed Rock Cafe (well known for its murderous history and as the venue for our Local History Group)

Our Lunch Club is branching out to include evening dining too.

Literary Lunches

  • Lumley Castle (Ann Cleeves)
  • Blackwell Grange Hotel in Darlington (Mike Pannett)

Seaham Hall Spa

A memorable visit to Seaham Hall Spa saw some of our members indulging in champagne and nibbles and experiencing beauty treatments such as head massages and hair colouring:  A highly enjoyable visit making us wish we were permanent members of the Spa.

Clarins Spa at John Lewis

A large group of us were invited to Clarins new spa at John Lewis for tea and sandwiches and free treatments.  We were given discounts if we booked treatments at a later date and also from the merchandise bought on the night.  As it was near Christmas we took full advantage.

Local Theatres and Cinemas

Our visits to the theatre are usually limited to the Theatre Royal Newcastle and Sunderland Empire Theatre, but we did venture as far as Richmond last Christmas to see the pantomime, Sinbad, at their Georgian theatre.  What a truly remarkable experience it was, thoroughly enjoyed by all!  Who could ever have imagined that it would turn out to be so cathartic to throw knitted bananas at the stage and each other?   I’m sure the cast thought we would be old fuddy-duddies but were very pleasantly surprised and pleased at our exuberant participation.   A poor chap at the front by the name of Andrew, took the full brunt of the Dame’s romantic attentions, which was hilarious for everyone else!  The theatre itself was tiny but totally fascinating!   It conjured up thoughts (not memories) of smelly plebs hanging over the balconies jeering and throwing rotten tomatoes.

Dalton-le-Dale Parish Hall now and again hosts entertainment by small travelling groups and we support those shows whenever possible, as well as barbecues and other events.

The two main cinemas we visit are Sunderland Empire Cinema and the Tyneside Cinema.  We look forward to being able to go to a new cinema nearer home, at Dalton Park, in the near future.

Seaham School of Technology is a great source of help and support on a weekly basis, enabling some of us to work together on different projects – many thanks to David Wilson and Bill Firth!  Unfortunately these classes are on hold for a while but we hope they will resume in the future.

Thanks are also due to Ryhope Library from where we borrow books for our Book Club and to North Star Travel in Seaham, a family-run business we contact for some of our outings.

Our monthly meetings are held in Dow House on Seaham sea front, used by Seaham Scouts, from whom we rent the premises.  The room is light and airy and we have all we need in the way of access to the kitchen and upstairs where we sometimes display members’ art and crafts.

We intend of course to continue supporting our local community businesses and organisations and look forward to developing bigger and better links in line with Seaham’s growing economic profile.

Read about our very own Artists here

Tommy – Seaham

Tommy (11.01) is a statue of a Great War soldier by artist Ray Lonsdale, displayed close to Seaham war memorial, on Terrace Green. He is made from corten steel, the statue weighs 1.2 tonnes (1.2 long tons; 1.3 short tons) and is 9 feet 5 inches (2.87 m) tall, with a rusty red patina and cost  £102,000, raised by local people.

Displayed temporarily in Seaham from May 2014, but became a permanent fixture after a committee of local residents raised £102,000 needed to buy it. The Statue was handed over on 4th August 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Tommy statue in Seaham

The George Elmy

The George Elmy lifeboat at Seaham Harbour docks

The George Elmy Lifeboat was built by Groves & Gutteridge at Cowes Isle of Wight in 1949-50. She came into service at Seaham in 1950 and served for 12 years, until 17th November 1962.

One late afternoon she was called out to attend a rescue of the fishing coble Economy, which was 1/2 a mile out at sea just south of Dawdon Colliery. The crew was taken on board the lifeboat, 4 men and a 9 year old boy.

The lifeboat made its way back to port, as she reached the outer piers winds were gusting to force 10. Coxswain Jack Miller made one attempt to run into the harbour but failed, as he was manoeuvring to make a second attempt George Elmy was broadsided by huge waves and capsized.

The crew of both boats were lost except Don Burrell, co-owner of the fishing boat. The wreck of the lifeboat was washed up on the Chemical Beach.

She was salvaged, repaired and put into service in the reserve lifeboat fleet.

In 1972 she was sold out of service for £600 and became a fishing boat.

She was found by east Durham Heritage Group member Brian Scollen, on E-Bay, purchased for £1900 and eventually came back to Seaham 2009.

She was housed in a unit at Seaham Grange Industrial Estate and fundraising and restoration began.

In April 2011 the boat was transported to the boatyard of Fred Crowell, South Shields where the restoration was completed.

She was sailed back to Seaham on 23rd June 2013 and is now housed as a permanent exhibit in the original lifeboat house at Seaham docks.

Written by B Coates.

The Coxswain

This statue was created by Ray Lonsdale and again it is sculpted in corten steel. Its location is Seaham Harbour Marina, a memorial for the many RNLI volunteers who served in the area between 1870 and 1979

The Coxswain Seaham Marina

The Bronze Poppies

Seaham Field of Remembrance

The aim was to put ceramic poppies on the railings around Terrace Green to commemorate each of Seaham’s war dead from the 2 world wars and conflicts since – a total of about 700.

We needed to raise about £30000 to complete the work in time for the remembrance of the centenary of the armistice on 11th November, 1918 ending the Great War.

We had a lot of support from local councillors and local businesses and groups, plus the people of Seaham. In less than 6 months we almost reached our target.

Nevertheless, with a lot of effort, the group was able to complete the installation in time for its official opening by Sue Snowden, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, just 1 week before Remembrance Sunday.

The work is ongoing. More poppies have been added since then and we hope to set up a website with more details of each of those who were killed.

Malcolm Wilkinson

Secretary to the group

Bronze Poppies at Seaham

Seaham Harbour Cricket Club

Seaham Cricket Club

As a young boy growing up in Seaham, I had a truly wonderful childhood.  In winter, my friends and I were totally absorbed in kicking a football on Seaham Girls Grammar School field which was opposite my family home and when summer came, we headed for Seaham Harbour Cricket Club. There, we were allowed to take some old stumps, bats and a ball and head for a distant corner of the ground to play for what seemed like hours, games of tip and run, until the sun set and we headed for home. We loved the time that we spent at the Harbour, and cricket was the focus of our young lives in the summertime.  These were the days before television started to exert its hypnotic, vice-like grip on the nation and before the advent of mobile phones and computers.

My time at Seaham Harbour Cricket Club was to have a huge influence upon my life.  I progressed to the junior side, then the second team, the first team and then as the years caught up with me, into the third team.  Over all those years I had the privilege of playing cricket with some wonderful people and in all my time at the Harbour I was treated by everyone with total respect, kindness and generosity.  My loyalty and commitment to Seaham Harbour Cricket Club remains powerful and consistent.  To this day, in the summer months, I like nothing more than to stroll from my home on East Shore Village to the Harbour’s ground to take in a game of cricket, enjoy a glass or two and to chat with old friends.  In 2020, Seaham Harbour Cricket Club is thriving, despite Covid, and enjoying a new lease of life after recent turbulence.

The club is now 152 years old and has a strong and vibrant history and owes its existence to the Londonderry family.  The Londonderry family owned the town of Seaham and controlled its development as a port built to transport coal from the Londonderry mines.  Construction of the harbour at Seaham was begun in 1828 and in 1831 the first coals ran down to the Harbour to be loaded onto the new brig Lord Seaham.  The town thrived and in Spring 1868, George Henry Stewart the 5th Marquess of Londonderry was approached by his senior agent based in Seaham.  This gentleman informed George Henry that a group of his employees, together with other gentlemen from a variety of professions, were seeking his permission to form a cricket club in the town. More significantly, these gentlemen requested that George Henry, now Lord Vane, should be the club’s patron.  George Henry was delighted; he gave his permission for the cricket club to be formed and agreed to be their patron.  In addition, he provided the new cricket ground, which he rented to the newly formed cricket club and even to this day the Harbour pay rent for the ground to the Londonderry estates.

The committee organised a fete to formally open the new ground on Monday 8th June 1868, which consisted of a game of cricket between club members followed by dancing to the strains of the Seaham Artillery Volunteer Band.  The day concluded at 9.30pm when the crowd of over 1,000 made their weary way home.  The first official game took place on Saturday 20th June 1868 between an eleven of the Seaham Harbour Club and an eleven of the Vane Club, also from Seaham. The Harbour won the game despite the Vane Club holding a first innings lead.  From this time onwards the Harbour played only friendly matches, and it would be another 34 years before Harbour teams were able to play in league cricket, when, in 1902 the Harbour joined the Durham County Senior League.

Many famous cricketers came to play for the Harbour but none more famous than George Nathaniel Francis.  George was a West Indian gentleman from Barbados and when he joined the Harbour as professional in 1929 was reputed to be the fastest bowler in the world.  Such was the great man’s impact upon local cricket that on June 25th 1932, 7,000 people paid to watch Seaham Harbour play host to Durham City in a top of the table game.  The next time you pass the Harbour’s ground just imagine it filled with 7,000 people.  Despite the Harbour enjoying great success with George Francis as their professional and winning many cup competitions, the grand prize of the league title eluded them.

It would be 1946 before the Harbour won the Durham Senior League championship and they repeated this wonderful achievement in 1953.  In 1953 they again relied heavily upon the services of their professional, a Jamaican gentleman call Dickie Fuller.  Dickie played at the Harbour for four seasons and had a magnificent impact upon cricket in the town.  Over the years, many players who began their careers at the Harbour went on to greater things.  George Holley played for the Harbour and went on to play soccer for Sunderland and England.  In the 1912-13 season George was part of the team that won the League Championship and reached the FA Cup Final.  Peter Willey left the Harbour to play County Cricket for Northants and England and also became an international umpire.  Brian Marwood, Nigel Gleghorn and Paul Nixon all went on to become very successful professional footballers.

Seaham is very fortunate to have three thriving cricket clubs in Seaham Harbour, Seaham Park and Dawdon but in 2018 the Harbour came very close to folding.  The committee at that time decided to call it a day and it was announced that the club would cease to trade or play cricket.  Fortunately, very speedily, a new committee stepped forward with renewed energy and vigour and the club was kick-started into life.  At the present time, despite the present pandemic, the club is thriving.  More and more teams at all levels are on offer to children from the town and it is an absolute pleasure to see so many youngsters wonderfully supported by the parents, participate in the game of cricket and benefit from excellent coaching.  The Harbour has always been a welcoming environment and if any of our U3A members are passing the ground and cricket is taking place, I would encourage you to stroll in and enjoy the cricket and the atmosphere.  I can assure you that you would be made very welcome in the ground and in the clubhouse.  The club would welcome your support and interest. Come on the Harbour!

Alan S

Read about our very own Artists here

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