As we look back at the history of Consett, we cannot ignore the impact of the Irish community on our town.
From the late 1700s, Irish itinerant workers made their way to England during harvest time, known as Spalpeens, to earn money to keep their small holdings back in Ireland. By 1818, Irish immigration to England really took off as the first steam packages were introduced, and the cost of travel fell. It is believed that 60,000-100,000 Irish were making the journey every year up until the 1840s.
The Irish were also skilled labourers, and their contribution to the building of the railways and ironworks across the country was significant. The Derwent Iron Company recognized the value of Irish workers and placed posters in prominent places throughout England and Ireland, offering work and good housing at Consett. Soon, the town was filled with willing workers, and the Irish community in Consett grew and blossomed.
By 1851, Durham had the 3rd largest Irish-born population in England, with 5.4%, and Consett’s Irish population stood at nearer 22%. By 1870, 70% of the 900 Irish-born workers in Consett were employed at the ironworks, and the Irish community was thriving.
Many of the Irish workers who came to Consett were Catholic, and the Church of St. Mary’s Blackhill is a testament to the Irish Catholics who were the predominant force behind raising the money needed to build it. The early years of unrest were soon overcome, and the Irish community became an integral part of the town’s fabric.
As we look to the future, it’s important to remember our roots and the contributions of those who came before us. Our Irish immigrant roots have shaped Consett’s history, and we should be proud of our heritage.
To learn more about Consett’s history and the stories of the people who shaped our town, visit:
Let’s continue to be nostalgic about the past and curious about the future, and celebrate the unique community that is Consett.
Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge and credit the original author of the majority of our history articles that served as the basis for this piece. The original article FOUND HERE was written by BRIAN HARRISON. His insightful research and dedication in exploring the history of Consett and the contributions of the Irish community have greatly influenced the content and narrative presented here. We express our gratitude for their work and encourage readers to delve further into Consett’s history by visiting the source article at consettmagazine.com/history.