:"For the town of the same name in
New South Wales, Australiasee Seaham, New South Wales"infobox UK place
country = England
population = 21,714 (2001) [http://www.durham.gov.uk/durhamcc/usp.nsf/Lookup/Easington%20Settlement%20Summary%20Sheets%20Numbers/$file/Easington+Settlement+Summary+Sheets+Numbers.pdf]
region= North East England
MP= John Cummings (Labour)
postcode_district = SR7
Seaham, formerly Seaham Harbour, is a small
townin County Durham, situated six miles to the south of Sunderlandand nowrap|13 miles east of DurhamCity. It has a small parish church, St Mary the Virgin, with a late 7th century Anglo Saxon naveresembling the church at Escombin many respects. St Mary the Virgin is regarded as one of the 20 oldest surviving churches in the UK. Seaham is currently twinned with the German town, Gerlingen.
The people of Seaham have strong historic ties to
Until the early years of the
19th centurySeaham was a small rural agricultural farmingcommunity whose only claim to fame was that the local landowner's daughter, Anne Isabella Milbanke, was married at Seaham Hallto Lord Byronon 2 January 1815. Byron began writing his "Hebrew Melodies" at Seaham and they were published in April 1815. It would seem that Byron was bored in wintry Seaham, though the sea enthralled him. As he wrote in a letter to a friend:
The marriage was short-lived, but long enough to have been a drain on the Milbanke estate. The area's fortunes changed when the Milbankes sold out to 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, who built a
harbourin 1828 to facilitate transport of goods from the industries locally encouraged (the first coal minewas begun in 1845). However, this harbour later proved inadequate to deal with the millions of tonnes of coaland 6th Marquess commissioned engineers Patrick Meikand Charles Meikto reclaim land and extend and deepen the dock. It was officially opened in 1905. The harbour is of particular interest because it consists of a series of interconnecting locks rather than the more typical two wall construction.
In 1928 production started at the last town colliery to be opened, Vane Tempest. By 1992, however, all three pits (Dawdon Colliery, Vane Tempest Colliery and Seaham Colliery - known locally as "the Knack") had closed, a process accelerated by the
UK miners' strike (1984-1985)and cheap coal imports from Eastern Europe. The pit closures have hit the local economy extremely hard, and Seaham sank into a depressed state in the 1980sand 1990s.
Many local families were affected by the tragic loss of five men in the 'Seaham Lifeboat Disaster', when the
RNLIlifeboat, the "George Elmy", sank on 17 November 1962. To commemorate the event, the new coast road was named George Elmy Lifeboat Way.
Seaham has fine
beaches and easy transport links to the eastern side of the country. From 2001 most of the Durham coastline was designated as a "heritage coast" and Seaham beach was entirely restored. In 2002 the Turning the Tide project won, jointly with the Eden Project, the prize for Outstanding Achievement in Regeneration in the annual Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyorsawards. Seaham Hallis now a luxury hoteland spa.
In homage to the town's link to
Lord Byron, the new multi-million pound shopping complex, which now includes an ASDA supermarketas well as Argos and Wilkinsonstores, is named Byron's Place. It aims to revitalise the area, using the successful redevelopment of the central shopping district of neighbouring town Peterleeas a benchmark. ASDAofficially opened on 3 September 2007and the rest of the shopping centre is due to open in mid November 2007.
In 2006, a survey conducted by Halifax revealed that Seaham is the top property price increase hotspot in England and Wales as average prices rose by 172% since 2003. The average price of £117,266 is still, however, well below the national average. It is believed this surge has been greatly helped by regeneration work in the area, and in particular the popular new housing estate East Shore Village, built on the site of the former Vane Tempest colliery.
Today, the town has a
populationof around 22,000, and is served by Seaham Railway Station, which lies on the Durham Coast Line, running from Middlesbroughto Newcastle-upon-Tyne, via Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Teesand Sunderland. When rail company Grand Central Trainsannounced it was to run new rail links connecting Sunderlandto Yorkand Londonfrom September 2007, a stop-off at Seaham was not originally planned. However, lobbying from local people has launched fresh interest in this possibility.
busservices operated by Arrivaand Go North Eastalso provide access to the nearby towns of Murton, Peterleeand Houghton-le-Spring, as well as further afield to Sunderland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Durham, Darlington, Stockton-on-Teesand Middlesbrough.
Seaham also is home to
Seaham School of Technology, a secondary schoolfor children aged 11-16. The School currently does not have its own dedicated sixth formbut it does sponsor Byron College which acts as a sixth form for all teenagers in the area. The School plays a major part in the society and numerous after school clubs are available for both pupils and parents. In 2007 it was confirmed and reported in the local newspaper, "The Seaham Star", that the school is to be rebuilt on a field at the back of the Milton Close area of Deneside. Pupils and parents were invited into the school to voice their opinion on plans for the new school. The estimate of the cost of the new school so far stands at £16,000,000 and it is due for construction in 2010.
Seaham School of Technology has confirmed that it will be joining with two other schools to build a state of the art Sixth Form centre, to be called Headways, at an estimated cost of £6 million.
Seaham in the media
The rich mining history of the town was highlighted in the 2000 blockbuster film "
Billy Elliot" which was set during the UK miners' strike (1984-1985)in the fictional County Durham town of 'Everington', but which displayed characteristics particular to East Durham pit communities such as Seaham and Easington Colliery- both towns feature as locations in the film, notably Dawdon Miners' Club, into which Billy's dad runs when he learns his son has won an audition at dance school. The town has also served as a location for the films " Alien 3" (1991), and the BAFTAnominated "Life For Ruth" (1962) starring Janet Munroand Patrick McGoohan.
The town has recently been spotted in the
BBC Three sitcom" Live!Girls! present Dogtown" which premiered on the channel in Autumn 2006. According to the February 11, 1999edition of the Sunderland Echo, scenes from the 1998 box-office hit " Saving Private Ryan" were also going to be filmed in Seaham, but Government intervention moved production elsewhere.
According to Tom McNee's 1992 portrait of the town "The Changing Face of Seaham: 1928-1992",
St. John's parish church was used as the setting of a 1985 service recorded for BBC Radio 4. Also, (McNee, 1992) a Channel 4documentary profiled the town in 1991. St. John's imposing tower forms a focal point casting a shadow over Church Street, the town's main shopping parade.
In January 2007, it was announced that a consortium of investors were at an advanced stage in their quest to bring a multi-million pound, fully equipped film studio to unused, private fields in the Dawdon area of the town. A planning application is expected in Spring 2007.
Seaham rarely threatens the headlines of the national press, but controversy surrounded the town's
Aldi supermarketin 1999 when it was announced the store's manager had been sacked because he was HIV-positive. The reason offered by the chain for the dismissal was that other staff felt uncomfortable around him and his condition could lead to a downturn in sales. After initiating court proceedings under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the manager reached an out-of-court settlement with the company in April 2000. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/10/newsid_2523000/2523791.stm BBC News, 10 April 2000] ]
Seaham is also becoming known for its
surfingafter the Seaham Youth Initiative put in a successful funding bid of £6000 to get ten young people and two youth workers who call their group "Banzai Pipeline" through sufficient qualifications to be able to coach others who wish to try the sport.
Between 1929 and 1935, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Seaham (the defunct constituency which covered the area now renamed Easington) was Labour Prime Minister
Ramsay MacDonald. The constituency has long boasted fiercely strong Labour support, and at the 2005 General Election, Labour MP John Cummings was re-elected with a majority of 18,636 votes, making it the second safest seat in the country. Seaham has also produced several gifted footballers, some of whom have gone on to play for Sunderland AFC, the team the vast majority of the local populace support. Terry Fenwickand Brian Marwood, moreover, went on to play for England, with the latter carving out a post-playing career as a commentator and pundit for Sky Sports. Gary Rowell, now a popular match summariser on Magic 1152 is one of only three post-war players to score 100 goals for Sunderland. Paul Gascoignealso lived in Seaham in the late 1990s while playing for Middlesbrough.
Tom Mackenzie, a presenter on
Nevis Radio, lives in Seaham; he also served on former Pirate radio station Radio Carolinein the 1990s.
Other notable residents include:
baritoneSir Thomas Allenwas born in Seaham in 1944
*Martin Brammer of the 1980s band The Kane Gang was born in the Dawdon area of the town
*Peter Burdon, chief executive of
Poundstretcher& Instoreand former chief executive of Thorntons, was born at 10 Maureen Terrace in 1960
folk singer, is from Seaham, of which he talks in his last CD (The Blast-2007)
Bill Griffiths- Poet and dialectexpert
Agony auntand author Denise Robertsonlived in the town for many years
* [http://www.east-durham.co.uk/ The history of Seaham and surounding towns and villages, Great picture archive]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/wear/places/places_features/seaham/index.shtml BBC Wear - Seaham stories and pictures]
* [http://www.visionwebsites.co.uk/redirect.asp?SiteId=571 Seaham council]
* [http://www.east-durham.co.uk/ Seaham history project]
* [http://www.seaham.com/town/plaque3.html George Elmy plaque]
* [http://www.seahamscenes.com/Pages/OutAndAbout.htm Photographic archive]
* [http://www.seaham-hall.com/History.asp?tid=2&mid=13 History of Seaham Hall]
* [http://www.seaham.com/ Seaham Harbour Online]
* [http://www.seaham.i12.com/sos/disaster.html Seaham Lifeboat Disaster]
* [http://www.seaham.com/town/elmy/index.html George Elmy Lifeboat Way]
* [http://www.seahamgolfclub.co.uk/ Seaham Golf Club]
* [http://www.geograph.org.uk/search.php?i=2872808 www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Seaham and surrounding area]
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