Pit banners were the community’s proudest possession, and we take great pride in caring for them. We know how much they mean to our communities, so we want to preserve them for as long as possible.
Did you know we currently have 18 banners in our care? But we only put a maximum of five banners on display at any time. We have a schedule of which banners can be displayed each year and how often they can be put on display. Unfortunately, some of the banners in our collection are currently too fragile to put on display.
The annual ‘Banner Ramp Rotation’ is an opportunity to check the condition of the banners, before painstakingly rolling them to be stored away. As you can imagine some of the banners are rather large, so this is a job that needs to be done on a day when the museum is closed. And we couldn’t manage it without our fantastic team of volunteers who work with us to undertake this mammoth task.
First, we lay the banners out flat to check their condition, gently vacuum them and then photograph them. Carrying out condition checks helps us to identify if any of our banners need to be seen by a specialist conservator before any future appearances on the ramp take place. Then they are wrapped in layers of Tyvek and tissue paper and carefully rolled up, before going into storage. All the materials are acid free and won’t cause any damage to the fabric of the banner. We also wrap an archival barrier foil and wadding around the pipe they are rolled onto for extra protection.
This year we are delighted to be able to display a new banner – the Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) donated to Museums Northumberland in 2023.
The banners on display from 20th July 2023 are:
Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) (Circa 1980s)
Banner of the Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT). The union was founded in 1971 and merged into UNITE in 2017. UCATT was the UK’s only trade union specialising in construction with over 80,000 members. The banner was used at various regional strikes and regularly attended the Durham Gala.
Sleekburn ‘A’ Bedlington (1949)
On this banner, images of pithead baths, a training college and diesel locomotive are used to represent the benefits of nationalisation, welfare, education and mechanisation.
The pride Sleekburn ‘A’ miners felt for their banner is clear from the attention to detail they bestowed on it. On its return from the 1949 Miners’ Picnic it was found to have a small crease in the centre. The union vowed that the banner be inspected every eight weeks to check that all was well!
Brenkley and Seaton Burn (1984)
During the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike the Brenkley and Seaton Burn union branch decided they needed a banner. Money was scarce for such luxuries when striking families were suffering hardship. But a sail maker in North Shields came to the rescue.
Sail makers, Thomas Young and Son, made this very simple banner. The banner was to have a short life. In December 1985 just nine months after the end of the year-long miners’ strike, the Brenkley Drift was closed.
Whittle Banner (1956)
This banner began life as the Pegswood banner, from 1956 until the closure of the colliery in 1969. It reappeared in the late 1970s as the Whittle banner.
It was common for names and images on banners to change to suit fashions and events. The final change to this banner was made in 1985, reflecting the mood of the coalfields during the 1984-5 strike. An image of William Jobling, gibbeted at Jarrow Stake for murdering a magistrate during the 1832 miners’ strike was added.