Land around this region over 100 years ago was mainly farms. Then coal became a matter of national and international importance. Many mines were set up in the north east due to the high mineral deposits in the area. Obviously they had the coal, now they just needed lots of people to work the mines and those people needed somewhere to live.
Quickly, colliery houses were built near the pits (Horden, Blackhall, etc). Horden pit was huge and in fact, 90 years ago it was the largest in England.
Miners were poor – working long hard days for very little money. Their houses were damp with no inside toilets and the bathroom was a large tin bath in front of the open fire.
The land where Peterlee is now was then still just farmland. There were two big local farms – one at Acre Rigg and one at Thorntree Gill.
There was only one small, narrow, winding road up from Horden to the A19, which then was also small , narrow and winding.
Local people used to go to Crimdon for their summer holidays, however you could not go into Castle Eden Dene as at the time it was strictly private.
The pits grew bigger and bigger, and so did the regions population. A gentleman named Mr. Clarke, who worked for Easington District Council, decided that the best way to solve all the problems was to build a new town. This would provide homes for 30,000 people, along with shopping facilities, recreation and jobs for those who did not work in the mines.
So, on August 20th 1947, a plan was approved to build Peterlee New Town, costing £14 million and taking 20 years to complete.
The first house to be built was 22 Thorntree Gill and it was to be occupied by Mrs. Turnbull. After Thorntree Gill was completed, land near the Eden Arms on Yoden Road was built upon and the first school was Edenhall. All of the houses built in the 1950’s had pitched roofs and they were council property, not privately owned.
However, it was found that people didn’t want to live in Peterlee, mainly because the rents were too high. Only 5,400 people lived here in 1955. After 1955, more houses in the north and west were built in the traditional style. Ambitious plans were made to build a huge science park but it was never established.
In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II came to visit the growing new town and to wish it luck.
During the 1960’s, a new style of ultra modern house was built throughout Peterlee. Victor Passmore created a totally new house style for the new town – very modern, very square, with a flat roof. The majority of these houses have since been adapted to give them a pitched roof.
With the closure of the mining industry, Peterlee’s position within the business sector has become increasingly important. The emphasis on attracting a diversity of employers continues to be of paramount importance building on the success of the existing industrial estates.