Modern times - the village today.
In 1800, County Durham had had about 100 agricultural villages and six market towns, with a total population of about 100,000. By the 1840s the population had reached 350,000. From the mid-nineteenth century until the early 1900s villages of terraced houses developed around mines. Very often these were in remote or poorly serviced locations. These villages were described as being ‘not villages in a meaningful sense of the term, but long, straight terraces of mean industrial housing strung along highways or packed close together in grid-iron blocks.’
The post war years saw Durham County Council embarking on an ambition 'to create a more modern, efficient and compact settlement pattern appropriate to the needs of the 20th century.' Coal mining was the dominant economic activity in County Durham until the 1970s, though production actually peaked in the 1880s and 1890s. By the 1950s the pace of decline in mining fostered a perceived planning need to refocus housing provision on areas with greater long-term economic potential, eliminating settlements with poorer prospects. It involved the categorization of villages and the abandonment of those in the more remote areas. Durham had around 357 pit related settlements, most of which were close to exhaustion and facing a bleak future. In 1950, the NCB produced its Plan for Coal, which estimated that 35,000 mining jobs would be lost in Durham by 1961–5. These projections were influential in shaping the controversial 1951 County Development Plan. It was drawn up with plans to abolish many of the settlements that had supported the mining population. Each village was classified as an A, B, C or D settlement. In Category D settlements no future development would be permitted and, wherever possible, property would be acquired and demolished and the population would be relocated to new housing. 114 settlements were listed in the original plan.
The revised Durham County Development Plan of 1964 duly lifted the D categorization from a small number of villages and further complicated matters by expanding it to six categories: i. major expansion; ii. limited further development; iii. limited development; iv. no changes; v. no development but the settlement would continue to exist; vi. no development and rapid clearance of existing property. The last two had replaced category D, although these changes made no great difference in practice and by the late 60's the re-labelled D categories had been enlarged to 121 villages.
Haswell was listed as one of the 121 'category D' villages. The inhabitants would be re-housed in the neighbouring new town of Peterlee, the community would disintegrate and sooner or later the village would die. Despite being condemned Haswell refused to lie down and die. The local community struggled to keep their village as social and cultural ties and spatial identity proved to be stronger than the promises of new jobs and new housing. Although demolition began many villagers were reluctant to leave and the village was left to fall into piecemeal decline.
In reality, very few complete villages were actually demolished. Out of the 121 category D villages listed no more than three had been completely demolished by 1969. As such the impact was, thus, not that villages simply disappeared but that people were displaced as the settlements were partially demolished. The D village policy officially ended in June 1977 when Durham County Council eventually decided to encourage investment in previous D villages. Of the original villages listed in 1951, most survived in some form although many were left very run down having had no investment for almost 30 years. In almost all cases, large areas remained derelict for years after terraces were removed in what, very often, was a random fashion, as local councils raised finance and gained control of property for demolition.
The fact that Haswell, like many D villages, is situated in potentially desirable green and pleasant surroundings and is ideal for commuting has radically changed the locational value of it as a settlement. Today it is finding new life as a countryside commuter village.