Stanley, County Durham
St Andrew's Church, Stanley
The town's name is from the Old English for 'Stoney Field'; stan leag. In John Speed's map of County Durham, Stanley is shown as Standley.
Stanley consists of three villages which grew together, and whose names are still used even though the distinctions between them begin to be lost:
- West Stanley is the main town'
- East Stanley, a mining village
- South Stanley, a mining village.
The town now stretches into what were formerly neighbouring villages and towns such as Annfield Plain to the west and Beamish and Pelton to the east.
The village of South Moor lies to the south.
Stanley was first mentioned in 1211.
The West Stanley Pit Disaster, one of the worst coal mining disasters in British history took place in Stanley at West Stanley Colliery on February 16, 1909 when over 160 people were killed in the Burns Pit disaster.
Over recent decades, Stanley has suffered hard times economically, with the closure of the coal pits followed by the loss of major employers at Ever Ready in nearby Tanfield, as well as the closure of both the British Steel plant and Shotley Bridge General Hospital in the neighbouring town of Consett. Local businesses in Stanley town centre were also significantly affected by the development of the giant MetroCentre shopping complex in nearby Gateshead, with local trade decreasing as a result.
In 2000, Stanley briefly garnered attention in various national tabloid newspapers when local curry house impresario Harresh Ramadan turned his Indian takeaway restaurant on Front Street into a fish-and-chip shop and renamed it Harry Ramadan's, a spoof on the more famous and well-known Harry Ramsden's chain, with signage in an identical font and colours. The Harry Ramsden's chain sued, citing breach of copyright, with Ramadan backing down shortly after the national publicity had subsided. Soon thereafter, the shop took on new ownership and adopted the new name Jump 4 Joy's before closing down entirely in 2001.
In 2005, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister granted permission to plans to form a Stanley Town Council. This followed a campaign by local people, including a petition of over 2000 names (some 10% of the population that would be covered by the new Town council). Campaigners promised that the new Town Council would increase the pace of regeneration within the town.
In 2008, an arson attack left an historic building on Stanley Front Street in ruins along with a billiards club and several shops below. As of August 2008, the affected buildings were scheduled to undergo demolition. November 2008 saw the demolition of the burnt buildings.
In recent decades, with the decline of traditional industries and the encroachment of large supermarkets and chain stores, 'Old Stanley' has declined, with many locally owned shops and pubs closing.
The town's main shopping area, Front Street, is pedestrianized, housing independent shops alongside large chains. A market is held on Front Street on Thursdays and Saturdays. There are also supermarkets in the town and other shops on the Clifford Road Retail Complex out-of-town.
Refurbishment of Stanley town centre in recent years has seen the opening of a new solar-powered bus interchange and an extension to the Louisa Centre leisure facility incorporating a new town swimming pool. Future redevelopment will see the opening of a new health centre and a Sure Start children's centre.
The Sustrans C2C Cycle Route, a 140-mile bicycle route connecting Whitehaven on the Irish Sea coast of Cumberland to Sunderland on the North Sea coast of County Durham, passes along the southern edge of Stanley.
The Louisa Centre contains various sport and leisure facilities including a fitness suite, 25-metre swimming pool, a nursery and meeting rooms.
The Lamplight Arts Centre, founded in 1960 and entirely refurbished in 2003, hosts concerts and recitals by local and national musical acts as well as small plays, exhibitions, classes and seminars.
Stanley is renowned for its annual summer playscheme situated at Stanley Youth Centre. This has been running since 1972 and is organised and run by a group of local people, recruiting international volunteers through YAP (Youth Action for Peace). The scheme runs for the first two weeks of the summer holiday, with children participating in games, activities and trips to local cultural and leisure venues.
Stanley Youth Centre offers activities to young people Monday to Friday during school term as well as a summer programme. Located at the top of Tyne Road, facilities include a sports hall, pool table, table tennis, meeting rooms and coffee bar. The range of activities available include DJing, volunteering, Duke of Edinburgh Award, babysitting, first aid and youth work courses.
From 1993 - 2007, the first weekend in August saw a number of local, national and international Blues artists and renowned musical acts descend on the town for the Stanley Blues Festival.
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