But, another traditional aspect of this time of year is the rise of the season of the supernatural and all things ghostly.
County Durham, including Consett, has numerous ghostly and supernatural tales to tell. Conversely, however, instead of being in dread of these months, we celebrate them with the likes of Halloween (With the traditional “trick or treating”), Bonfire Night (Celebrating the attempted destruction of Parliament by the eponymous Guy Fawkes) and, finally, Christmas.
Most of the ghostly stories usually concentrate on personal deaths, disasters or, in Consett’s case, the demise of the exclusive and immigrant-driven iron ore industry with the arrival of the Bessemer Process. And the arrival of the ghost of the “Spring Lane Mill Worker”.
Regarded today as a sporadic haunting manifestation, the mill worker spirit was believed to be that of one of the many German immigrants who settled in Consett and whose community centred on the village of Shotley Bridge.
It’s believed that he mysteriously vanished when walking from the mine to his home and that he met a grisly end by either suicide or foul play. Whatever the reason, his spirit would occasionally be seen walking along Spring Lane, with his head reverently bowed, before disappearing at the same spot in what appeared to be a self-generating mist that evaporated with him.
However, when the area suffered a dramatic downturn when Derwent Valley lost its unique advantage of having a highly concentrated supply of coking coal and blackband iron ore which, when mixed with the plentiful local supply of limestone, formed unlimited supplies of the three elements needed to fire-up the blast furnaces producing the iron and steel.
When, one by one, the mills fell silent as all work moved to Sheffield, there were claims that the eerie sounds of machinery and sounding horns, along with general working noises could be heard floating across the Derwent Valley. Followed by sporadic sightings of spirits of workers believed to have been devastatingly affected by the demise of the local industry.
Today, whilst commemorating the last 200 years of such history, we also celebrate the likes of the major dates with Halloween parties, firework displays and, of course, the Christmas celebrations across many modern cultures. After all, a traditional Christmas includes the two greatest ghost and redemption stories ever. Namely, Jesus and Scrooge.
So, whilst the colder months are associated with a sprinkling of doom and gloom, they also include colourful celebrations featuring fireworks, the abandonment of those things that lurk in the shadows by emulating them in costume, and the wish for goodwill. Mainly, represented by raucous parties, the giving of gifts and giving occasion to think of others.