STANLEY, nine miles south west of Newcastle, seems a million miles from the glamour of Hollywood.
Yet without the contribution of a son of the former County Durham mining town, it is unlikely we would have heard of the Los Angeles suburb which became the centre of the world film industry.
It was David Horsley, the son of a miner from Stanley, who chose Hollywood to build the world’s first film studio.
Now the movie pioneer is part of an exhibition featuring some of Stanley’s famous former inhabitants.
And there are quite a few of them, ranging from mining disaster heroes to actors and former international footballers.
Pupils from six Stanley schools have been assisted by staff from nearby Beamish Museum in producing Celebrate Stanley, a tribute to some of its former inhabitants which goes on display in the town’s library for a month from Monday.
Other famous sons of Stanley include mining engineer John Buddle, who chaired the company which built Tyne Dock at South Shields; Mark Henderson, a hero of the West Stanley pit disaster of February 1909, who saved 26 of his colleagues; pitman poet Tommy Armstrong whose most famous song was Wor Nanny’s a Mazer; former Newcastle United, Sunderland, Liverpool and England defender Barry Venison; boxer Glenn McCrory and actor Alun Armstrong, of New Tricks fame.
Helen Barker, head of community participation at Beamish Museum, said: “This project has been a really great opportunity to build links with families and schools on the doorstep of the museum. It’s been wonderful to see the families working together to explore their local history and we’ve had a lot of fun working with them.”
The project was funded by Stanley Town Council and Durham County councillor Carl Marshall’s neighbourhood budget, supported by the Stanley Area Action Partnership.
Coun Marshall said: “It’s a fantastic project. It’s giving children an opportunity to learn about local history and for Beamish to be able to continue the good work it does. It’s brilliant to hear from the children about what they’ve learned and for them to learn how many notable people actually come from Stanley.”
Among those who took part was eight-year-old Aaron King, of South Stanley Junior School.
His mum Adele, who is training to be a teaching assistant, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the project. It’s amazing to see how it’s all come together.”
Beamish Primary School pupil Gemma Wilcox, eight, said Celebrate Stanley was “interesting and fun”.
As part of the project, the children learned about the West Stanley pit disaster. Former Newcastle United football legend Kevin Keegan’s grandfather Frank was one of just 30 men to survive the blast and risked his life going back to rescue others.
But it was Mark Henderson who features in the exhibition. He was a pit deputy from South Moor, Stanley, who led a group of survivors to a pocket of air, then crawled to the bottom of the shaft and phoned for help before leading 26 of the men to safety.
He’s alongside John Buddle, born in the town in 1773, a self-made mining engineer who had a huge influence on the development of the Northern Coalfield in the early 19th century.
He contributed major safety investments to mining coal, such as the introduction of the Davy Lamp and the keeping of records of ventilation and flood prevention.