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The old Ryton Urban District Council area comprised the village of Ryton and the outlying villages of Clara Vale, Greenside, Crawcrook, Stargate and Addison. From the end of the nineteenth century, the area was dominated by the Stella Coal Company and, by association, the Simpson family. The Simpson family lived at Bradley Hall and at Hedgefield House and were directors of the Stella Coal Company. Collieries were the main source of local employment for most males in the area. Working collieries were situated in Clara Vale, Addison, Stargate, Greenside and Emmaville in West Ryton.

During the wars of the twentieth century the vast majority of local men who went off to war had experience of working at ‘the pit’. At the end of the First World War, each of the local collieries established a war memorial to commemorate the workers (and the sons of workers) who had lost their lives during the war. In the Ryton Urban District Council area colliery memorials were planned, paid for and erected in Addison Institute, Clara Vale, Greenside, Stargate and the Emma Colliery Workmen’s Hall in Emmaville.

In Ryton, as the historical centre of the community, names of casualties were collated from the local ‘pits’ and added to the names of other local casualties who were not employed in the mining industry. Many names are therefore repeated on a colliery memorial and the Ryton Memorial. Other names only appear on a local colliery memorial as the men concerned worked for the Stella Coal Company but resided outside the District. Many of these men’s names can also be found on nearby memorials in Blaydon, Wylam, Swalwell, Newburn and Winlaton.

The Ryton Memorial commemorates 273 names for the Great War and 95 for the Second World War. During our research we have found a total of 565 casualties that have a link with the Ryton District. Some worked in the area, others were born in the District and moved away, and some moved to the Ryton area during the Great War.

The wars of the twentieth century had a major impact on the Ryton District. Casualties were high and the personal tragedies were immense. It is the aim of the Ryton and District War Memorials Project to keep alive the memory of those men and women from the District whose names adorn the memorials and to remember the sacrifices that were made by all of those local people that were involved in the conflicts of the twentieth century.

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