It is not known exactly when West Auckland was first inhabited but there is evidence of the existence of “Auckland West” in the history of St. Cuthbert in the 11th Century.
The Boldon Book in 1183 showed West Auckland was inhabited by a number of Serfs who were part of the tenantry of the Bishop of Durham, Hugh de Puset, the first of the Prince Bishops. The creation of a church dedicated to St. Helen in the 13th Century in “Auckland West” heralded th beginning of a separate community in what was later known as St.Helen Auckland.
After the opening of the Darlington and Stockton Railway in 1825, the search for coal escalated, so drilling started in 1826 in West Auckland and 1828 in St Helen Auckland, so with the better prospect of jobs the population rose from 978 in 1801 to 1,509 in 1840 and increased to 3,651 by 1891. By the turn of the century West Auckland Colliery employed 620 men and St Helens Colliery 352 men.
A school that catered for only 20 children was enlarged in the 1870 and then amalgamated into a National School to accommodate 533 Children. 1880 elementary Education was made compulsory.
A History of Murder
West Auckland made criminal history in the 1870’s when Mary Ann Cotton, a miner’s wife, was convicted and hanged in Durham Jail for poisoning her stepson, Frederick at their home at 13 Front Street.
Although only convicted on one charge, she was believed to have murdered 20 people by poisoning and to have been the greatest poisoner ever – as witness her entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
West Auckland Brewery operated behind the old hall that had been the home of the Eden Family. It was begun by J.H. Taplin but was taken over by a limited company of wealthy tradesmen.
West Auckland Football Club won a world football cup in 1908 to 1909 when they beat a Milan team and then, two years later, beat teams from Italy, Germany and Switzerland. The trophy, donated by Sir Thomas Lipton, used to stand in a display case in West Auckland Working Man’s Club. Unfortunately, it was stolen in 1994 and to date has not been recovered. An exact replica has been put in its place.
This page was kindly submitted by Darren Fairclough, local resident and webmaster the West Auckland Web historical website.