The Drift Café is famous for wonderful homemade cakes, fabulous food (all freshly prepared): soups, broths, wraps, corned beef pie and other lovely dishes, plus quality tea and coffee and not forgetting our excellent customer service.
Our selection of secondhand books, paintings, prints and treasures will ensure there is something of interest for everyone.
We also stock locally produced goods from around Northumberland including Northumberland Tartan, Hepple Gin, Ad Gefrin Whiskey, Buston Farm Oils and Crisps and Award Winning Jams, Marmalades and Chutneys from the ‘Mad Jam Woman’.
Situated a few hundred yards from Cresswell Pond, the café is an excellent meeting point and source of information for birdwatchers.
There is also a café garden where you can sit and watch the world go by. Well behaved dogs are welcome to join you in this area.
Our history – Blakemoor Drift Mine
During 1932 it was considered advantageous to gain easier access to ‘Ashington’, or ‘High Main’ seam of Ellington Colliery in the Cresswell area, by sinking a drift shaft. The excavations began within the coal seam and, at a gradient of 1:5, reached the surface after 365 yards. The opening at the surface was quite near Blakemoor Farm, hence the name Blakemoor Drift.
The drift was simply to provide easier and quicker access for the Ellington miners operating at this end of the Ashington seam. Coal was not brought to the surface at this point but was sent back to the Ellington shaft via conveyor belts. The miners usually ‘clocked in’ for work at Ellington, changed into their work clothes, and were then ferried by bus to the drift. A few chose to cycle here directly. Shot firing explosives were delivered to the drift by Lisle Downie, the surface horse-keeper, by horse and cart and stored in a steel security safe.
There were several small yellow brick buildings at the drift head, which is now the site of the Drift Café, and one of these was a lamp-room for the miners to collect and return their safety lamps. They would hand their lamp check, or token, to the ‘lamp-man’ and would be given a flame safety lamp bearing the same number as on their check. The lamp-man then had a record of who, and how many, were in the mine. The lamps initially used were locally manufactured by Patterson Lamps Ltd., of Felling on Tyne and later of Gateshead. Following Nationalisation in 1947, Patterson lamps were gradually replaced by those made by The Protector Lamp & Lighting Co. Ltd., of Eccles, a district of Manchester.
Two types of Protector lamp were used. The Type SL (Side Lighted) which was an electrically ignited flame safety lamp using a spirit based fuel was issued to all miners and the Type 6RS, which was used by Officials for gas testing. The initials 6RS refers to the Type 6 lamp which was developed during the early 1930s, to provide ignition via a flint mechanism. R and S stand for Random, Sampler. On this model, which was made specifically for use in the Northumberland & Durham coalfield, the bonnet or top-part, has a small brass nipple on its side. A probe was connected to this via rubber hoses and an aspirator bulb. Inside the bonnet is a perforated copper tube.
The probe was extended to the area to be checked and the aspirator bulb squeezed and released to obtain an air sample. The bulb was then squeezed again so that the sample could be transferred to the lamp via a one-way valve, and the effect upon the flame observed. The Deputy, who was trained to estimate the percentage of gas from the flame height, would then decide if it was safe to work.
The drift remained in use until the late 1950s and was finally capped in 1981. The buildings, including a metal cycle rack, remained on the site and eventually became a café. After a few years these were abandoned, converted into a tearoom and finally replaced by the present Drift Café.
By Maurice Dawson. The Miners Lamp Society.
With thanks to Neil Taylor and Malcolm Parkin.