Chopwell – Little Moscow

A century ago, the coal mining village of Chopwell, near Gateshead, was a hotbed of revolutionary socialism and earned the nickname Little Moscow for its strong support of the Communist Party.

The banner of the Chopwell branch of the National Union of Mineworkers bearing the hammer and sickle and portraits of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party. Not sure why Lenin has a toilet roll on his desk.

There was a lot of unemployment, poverty and hunger and the working conditions for miners were harsh and dangerous providing a fertile breeding ground for revolutionary ideas. During the 1926 general strike the union flag at the council offices was taken down and replaced with the Soviet Flag. When the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited the area in 1929 he expressed sympathy with mining families for the privation and squalid conditions they had to suffer. He received ‘a reet welcome’ from the miners who appreciated his common touch.

The Chopwell Colliery Monument lists the names of 74 miners who died in accidents at Chopwell Colliery from 1782-1966. Ten of them were in their sixties which is quite old for such a physically demanding job.

The last coal pit closed down for good in 1966, taking away the community’s reason for being. Chopwell was classified as a category D village, meaning ‘do not resuscitate’ and it was allowed to decline. But it has hung on and reinvented itself as a dormitory town for those employed in Newcastle or Consett. The village streets may have a rather humdrum appearance but the residents are fortunate to have a 900 acre woodland on their doorstep called Chopwell Wood.

The Red House is a micro-pub in the village rated highly for its friendly atmosphere.

The old pit-head buildings have been demolished and slag heaps levelled. The miners’ rows of terraced houses, once dank, overcrowded and lacking in sanitation, have been upgraded and modernised.

Marx and Lenin Terrace

There is no obvious sign that the revolutionary flame continues to burn brightly but you can still find streets in the village named Lenin Terrace and Marx Terrace and judging by the Chopwell website there is a strong community spirit among the village’s population of 3,000. Another notable street, Fannybush Lane, had to be renamed by the local authority in the 1990s because its street sign kept getting stolen.

How to Get to Chopwell

You can find the location on this map:


Derwentcote Steel Furnace

See other Northeast Places of Interest here.

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