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Saturday 7th January 2022 ko 15:00

Northern League Division Two

HORDEN COMMUNITY WELFARE 3 (Maskell 19 Wright 62 Ellison 77)


Att 100

Entry £5

Programme £1.50 (they print 10 per game so if you want one I’d advise letting the club know in advance)

You could say coal made the County Durham village of Horden, and equally you could say coal destroyed it too. Horden Colliery was sunk in 1900 to extract coal from underneath the North Sea. That’s an easy enough sentence to write, but just imagine working the seams- both underground and (literally) under water. Horden was built up to service the colliery on the beach; lines of miners’ cottages in streets numbered from 1 to thirteen, each parallel to the sea.

In the middle of it all the community created the Welfare Park, at one end an ornamental garden and cafe and the other two-thirds to football, cricket, bowls and rugby.  It was originally funded by the miners themselves in the 1920s who paid a percentage of their wages to get it built. The mine churned out coal to feed the nearby power station, and the village thrived. But Horden was almost completely dependent on the colliery so when it closed in 1987 the result was deprivation, a shrinking population as people left in search of work and a village and a community in crisis. 

And you can still the evidence of this nearly twenty-five years later. I’m sure plenty who read this will do so with the intention of visiting the football ground, but please do take the time to visit the wheel, and the ornamental part of the park. Do visit Ray Lonsdale’s “Marra” sculpture/ statue dating from 2015 of the miner with his heart “Ripped out,” signifying as the artist put it to “Illustrate the demise of mining communities.”

Marra is north-eastern dialect for “mate” “colleague” or “comrade” and it forms the badge of the football team. But I suspect you’ll find the “heart ripped out” metaphor does have a limitation, as one thing the football club doesn’t lack is heart. And that mining community spirit is still there in spades even if the mine isn’t. I loved my couple of hours in their company and every single person I met was a credit to their club and village even down to the little cards helping people with their mental health. This is a club that practices what it preaches. 

The club you see are fairly new dating from 2017 a phoenix club formed after the original Horden Colliery Welfare were evicted by the local council moved out and became Darlington 1883 FC’s reserves. The new club took on Welfare Park and entered a side in Durham Alliance winning promotion via the Wearside League back to the Northern League in 2021. It was the least the club deserved, the old club had nurtured the likes of West Brom legend Bob Taylor, Colin Bell (Manchester City) and Stan Anderson- the only man to captain all of Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. 

The ground evokes all of that history, but there is a catch. The stand is on borrowed time, a mixture of corroded supports and expensive to insure wooden construction means that the edifice will be coming down, definitely at the end of the season and perhaps sooner. It will be replaced by stands on either side of the pitch, and I sincerely hope I won’t get to see any pictures of horrible squat little metal stands being lifted into place from the back of a lorry. That would be like replacing the Beatles with One Direction…..

So enjoy it while you can, and I’ll point out as I tend to that people make football clubs, not fixtures and fittings- even when they are as lovely as Horden’s stand. Here at least I managed to bring them a little luck, digging deep to come back from a goal to win. And that last phrase could be a metaphor for Horden in general.