Abraham Gray – South Skelton Manager

Recently the following item appeared on eBay, a small plaque with the following engraving :-
Presented to Mr & Mrs Gray by the Surface Workmen at S.Skelton Mine Aug 1913.

Abraham Gray was born in Sacriston in County Durham in 1848, a coal mining village.

The 1881 census shows him living in Park Street, Skelton Green where he was employed as an Ironstone Labourer.

He qualified as a mine manager on 13 October 1886, Certificate Number: 2,168 (1st), District: Durham

He then became Mine Manager at South Skelton Mine on Feb 13th 1890 and stayed in that role until April 7th 1921.
(two facts recorded in the diary of Mr William Rowbottom of Boosbeck)

The occasion in August 1913 and what the plaque was attached to is currently unknown.

His gravestone at St Aidens in Boosbeck carries the following inscription :-

In loving memory of JANE the beloved wife of ABRAHAM GRAY of South Skelton died October 24th 1914
aged 65 years. Also the above ABRAHAM GRAY who died June 12th 1923 aged 74 years.

If anyone knows any further details, I would love to add them.

3 thoughts on “Abraham Gray – South Skelton Manager

  1. In 1881 at the age of 33 he had clearly come from many years of working in the Durham Coal Mines.
    It would be interesting to discover just how many.
    Probably from the age of 13 or less.
    His wife Jane, age 32, was from Ovingham in Northumberland.
    They had at that time three children, Mary D age 10, born at Braeside [next Blackhall Colliery], and Benjamin, age 7, and Ruth, age 4, born in Browney, where they was also a Colliery.
    So Abraham, like many of the men who became Managers [my own Geordie Great Greatparents] in our local Ironstone Mines, had much experience about this dangerous occupation of blasting tunnels hundreds of feet below ground.
    A great many men who came to this area to work in the Mines had come from agricultural backgrounds, simply for a job and knew nothing of life underground.
    The expertise of men like Abraham was vital to producing the Iron and Steel that made Britain Great.
    Let us stop apologising for our Great British History and shout it from the roof tops.

  2. Abraham Gray was my late Grandma’s Grandfather. A letter I have from her touched on South Skelton Mine … “although visits to my Grandparents’ home were very frequent memories of the mine are rather vague. I remember often going to watch the ponies (blind-folded) being brought to the surface for their spell of daylight. Once and only once as a special treat – taken down in the cage & having no desire to venture further – I would only be around 10 years old then.”

    Both Abraham and Jane came from mining families. They married in 1869 (which makes one possible explanation for the plaque unlikely: 1913 would have been their 44th anniversary). I have a recollection of a very similiar plaque on the lid of a polished wooden box (that might once have contained cutlery) in my Grandma’s house. If I can trust my memory that was presented by the South Skelton workforce on Abraham’s retirement.

    Abraham was indeed working at 13: the 1861 census records him as a labourer, boarding with his parents and some of his siblings in Coxhoe. In 1871 he is described as a coal miner and is at Frankland Colliery Houses, Framwellgate. Based on the birthplace of his two younger children, it seems he worked for at least a few years at Browney Colliery. The Durham Mining Museum website has a reference to Abraham as the Under-manager at Skelton Park in 1888.
    Interestingly both the last two mines were owned by Bell Brothers.

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