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March 12, 2022

Fascinating Black and White Photos of Life in an English Coal Town From the 1970s to 1990s

Mik Critchlow is a social documentary photographer based in the North East of England. On seeing an exhibition of paintings in 1977 by 'The Ashington Group' (Pitmen Painters), a group of Ashington men brought together in 1934 by the Workers Educational Association for Art Appreciation classes, he realized the value of art as social document, the visual representation of everyday life, by one’s own knowledge and personal experiences.

In the same year, he began a long-term photography project documenting his hometown of Ashington in Northumberland. The son of a miner, he has worked within the community with a deep-rooted empathy for the townsfolk, documenting the area and its people during a rapid period of social and environmental change. 

Ashington was once a center of the coal mining industry. The first evidence of mining is from bell-shaped pits and monastic mine workings discovered in the 20th Century during tunneling. It developed from a small hamlet in the 1840s when the Duke of Portland built housing to encourage people escaping the Great Famine of Ireland to come and work at his nearby collieries. As in many other parts of Britain, "deep pit" coal mining in the area declined during the 1980s and 1990s. During the heyday of coal mining, Ashington was considered to be the "world's largest coal-mining village".

Take a look at life in Ashington from the late 1970s to 1990s through these 30 brilliant photographs taken by Critchlow:

Ashington, Northumberland

Colliery Housing, 1977

Northern Social Club, 1977

Poplar Street, 1977

Saturday morning, Hirst Miners Welfare Club, 1977

Hirst Miners Welfare Club, 1977

Spectators, Ashington AFC, Portland Park, 1977

Domino players at Fell Em Doon Social Club, 1977

Maple Street, 1977

Telephone box, Second Avenue, 1977

Christmas Eve, Ashington Bus Station, 1977

Ashington, Northumberland

Woodbridge Estate/Woodhorn Colliery, 1978

'Every Day Is A Quality Day', Hepworths The Tailors, 1978

Ashington, Northumberland

Boys playing football on Beatrice Street, 1979

North School Corner, 1979

Selling baby clothes, Hawthorn Road, 1979

Sycamore Street, 1979

Ron Hedley's, Third Avenue, 1979

Can Can Dancing at Universal Social Club, 1980

Mining apprentices, Upcast Drift Mine, 1981

'Northern Life', Hazel Rafelles Salon, 1982

Staff room, Last Night, Wallaw Cinema, 1982

Newbiggin Promenade, 1982

Apprentice Tyre Fitters, Milburn Road, 1987

Ashington, Northumberland

Winning Brass Band, 1990

Father of four getting the kids ready for bed, 1994


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