The Foundations of Peterlee New Town Ken Patton
Peterlee came into being, not to re-house a massive over-spill population, nor as a counter-magnet to a conurbation, nor to house workers on an industrial estate, but to provide centralised development for a scatter of mining villages in what was then the most heavily populated Rural District in England.1 The scattered settlement pattern in the Easington district owed its origin almost exclusively to the development of the mining industry there during the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. Until the eighteenth century it was poor agricultural land owned by the diocese of Durham and administered from Easington Village (whose church shows clearly its Norman origins).2 In 1758 Rowland Burdon, a Newcastle barber, bought the Castle Eden estate and began to improve the quality of his land. He too was later responsible for improving the communications in the district by building the Stockton to Sunderland turnpike (now the A19). Others followed the Burdons’ example and the prosperity of the area increased considerably as a result, leaving the present day agricultural villages of Warden Law, Sheraton and Shotton as reminders of its former character. Naturally there were other agricultural settle ments but the grafting on to them of sizable mining communities has left little of the original untouched.