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Fascinating Photos of Life in Ashington, an English Coal Town from the 1970s to 1990s

The North East of England-based photographer Mik Critchlow specializes in social documentary photography. He realized the importance of art as a social document by observing the paintings of the Ashington Group (Pitmen Painters) in 1977. A group of Ashington men brought together in 1934 under the Workers Educational Association for Art Appreciation courses. He began a long-term photography project documenting his hometown of Ashington, Northumberland, during the same year. Having grown up in the mining community, he developed a deep sense of empathy for its people, documenting the area and its people during a period of rapid social and environmental change.

Ashington was once a center of the coal mining industry. The town grew out of a small hamlet in the 1840s when the Duke of Portland built housing to attract immigrants fleeing the Great Famine of Ireland to work in his coal mines. In the 20th century, monastic mine workings and bell-shaped pits discovered during tunnelling were the first signs of mining. During the 1980s and 1990s, coal mining in the area declined, as it did in many other parts of Britain. Ashington was once known as the “world’s largest coal-mining village” when coal mining was at its peak.

Check out Critchlow’s brilliant photographs of Ashington from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

#1 Ashington, Northumberland

Ashington, Northumberland

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#2 Colliery Housing, 1977

Colliery Housing, 1977

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#3 Northern Social Club, 1977

Northern Social Club, 1977

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#4 Poplar Street, 1977

Poplar Street, 1977

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#5 Saturday morning, Hirst Miners Welfare Club, 1977

Saturday morning, Hirst Miners Welfare Club, 1977

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#6 Hirst Miners Welfare Club, 1977

Hirst Miners Welfare Club, 1977

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#7 Spectators, Ashington AFC, Portland Park, 1977

Spectators, Ashington AFC, Portland Park, 1977

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#8 Domino players at Fell Em Doon Social Club, 1977

Domino players at Fell Em Doon Social Club, 1977

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#9 Maple Street, 1977

Maple Street, 1977

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#10 Telephone box, Second Avenue, 1977

Telephone box, Second Avenue, 1977

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#11 Christmas Eve, Ashington Bus Station, 1977

Christmas Eve, Ashington Bus Station, 1977

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#12 Ashington, Northumberland

Ashington, Northumberland

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#13 Woodbridge Estate/Woodhorn Colliery, 1978

Woodbridge Estate/Woodhorn Colliery, 1978

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#14

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#15 Every Day Is A Quality Day’, Hepworths The Tailors, 1978

Every Day Is A Quality Day', Hepworths The Tailors, 1978

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#16 Ashington, Northumberland

Ashington, Northumberland

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#17 Boys playing football on Beatrice Street, 1979

Boys playing football on Beatrice Street, 1979

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#18 North School Corner, 1979

North School Corner, 1979

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#19 Selling baby clothes, Hawthorn Road, 1979

Selling baby clothes, Hawthorn Road, 1979

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#20 Sycamore Street, 1979

Sycamore Street, 1979

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#21 Ron Hedley’s, Third Avenue, 1979

Ron Hedley's, Third Avenue, 1979

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#22 Can Can Dancing at Universal Social Club, 1980

Can Can Dancing at Universal Social Club, 1980

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#23 Mining apprentices, Upcast Drift Mine, 1981

Mining apprentices, Upcast Drift Mine, 1981

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#24 Northern Life’, Hazel Rafelles Salon, 1982

Northern Life', Hazel Rafelles Salon, 1982

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#25 Staff room, Last Night, Wallaw Cinema, 1982

Staff room, Last Night, Wallaw Cinema, 1982

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#26 Newbiggin Promenade, 1982

Newbiggin Promenade, 1982

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#27 Apprentice Tyre Fitters, Milburn Road, 1987

Apprentice Tyre Fitters, Milburn Road, 1987

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#28 Ashington, Northumberland

Ashington, Northumberland

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#29 Winning Brass Band, 1990

Winning Brass Band, 1990

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#30 Father of four getting the kids ready for bed, 1994

Father of four getting the kids ready for bed, 1994

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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