The case for Peterlee was put forth vigorously in Farewell Squalor by Easington Rural District Council Surveyor C.W. Clarke, who also proposed that the town was named after the celebrated Durham miners' leader Peter Lee. Peterlee is unique among the new towns which came into being after the Second World War in that it was the only one requested by the people through their MP – though whether a majority of the people living in the surrounding colliery villages actually wanted it to be built is disputable. It can be argued that the building of Peterlee was at the expense of such nearby colliery villages as Shotton Colliery, Wingate, Thornley and Wheatley Hill where development was deliberately suppressed by the local council in favour of the new town. The colliery village of Horden, however, suffered more; its proximity to Peterlee saw it lose all of its major services including police and fire stations to the new town. A deputation, mostly if not all working miners, met with the Minister of Town and Country Planning after the Second World War to put the case for a new town in the district. The minister John Silkin responded by offering a half size new town of 30,000 residents. Subsequently, they came largely from the surrounding villages in the District of Easington.
The Peterlee Development Corporation was established in 1948, under the direction of A V Williams. The original ambitious master-plan for towering blocks of flats by Berthold Lubetkin was rejected as unsuitable for the geology of the area which had been weakened by mining works and he resigned in 1950. George Grenfell Baines replaced Lubetkin and began to build quickly, resulting in buildings of poor quality construction. In a bold move Williams invited an artist Victor Pasmore to be head of the design team for the landscaping.
In 1975, Artist Placement Group had contacted new towns to set up the terms for artists to propose projects. The Development Corporation of Peterlee New Town responded and in 1976, Stuart Brisley was appointed. The project contained three distinct parts:
- to develop an ongoing process of collecting and disseminating information under the title History Within Living Memory
- to establish a publicly available history of the Development Corporation made in association with the Sociology Dept of the University of Durham
- to introduce a community workshop which began in 1977
In 2012, Stuart Brisley discovered that critical parts of the project developed in association with the Sociology Department of the University of Durham, amongst other items including large numbers of photographic material, were removed from the project by Artist Placement Group and sold to the Tate in 2004 without his knowledge or consent.
Peterlee has seen a number of changes in the last several years, this includes a bus station and also a partial indoor conversion of the shopping centre, which was given the name Castle Dene Shopping Centre. An ASDA supermarket was built and opened in November 2001. The old ASDA supermarket which was previously a Fine Fare and a Gateway has been utilised by various retailers in 2002 including a Bingo hall and a JD Wetherspoon public house, a Wilkinson store and a Poundworld store.
Other retailers in the shopping centre include chemists, bakeries, card shops and cafes. After the removal of the old ramp and steps, a lift and staircase were installed in the market square of the town restoring access to ASDA and various shops and services on the top level. The lower deck carpark near ASDA is used on Bank Holidays for a market. In 2009, the town centre has recently finished further development with a B&M Bargains store built on the plot that once housed Michael O'Connor; Grainger Games has also opened a store in the town centre. ASDA has recently expanded the store with the addition of a mezzanine floor that houses clothing and a cafe. A Subway (restaurant) now shares with the Post Office. The old Woolworths shop was briefly occupied by Poundland, however the shop is vacant once again. New signage has been erected throughout the shopping centre. Recently the Bon Marche clothing shop has been replaced by an ex-catalogue shop. Currently building work is going on in the market place next to the lift, which when complete will become a Costa Coffee pod.
In October 2009 it was announced that three different developers were interested in opening three new supermarkets. Tesco announced they wanted to build a Tesco Extra store on the site of the old East Durham College, this includes replacing the existing library; North Blunts Limited announced they wanted to build a Morrisons on the site of the old North Blunts School. Kenmore who are the owners of Castle Dene Shopping Centre announced they wanted to build a new supermarket, a new health centre and a new youth centre; these would be built on the site of the current health centre, the youth centre, the sorting office, Argos, Sports Direct, Walter Wall and Coral. After much campaigning from the three parties for planning permission, Durham County Council announced in June 2011 that the plans for Tesco and the new supermarket in Castle Dene were approved but Morrisons was rejected. It has not been currently announced what the new supermarket in Castle Dene will be. It has been announced that Argos, Sports Direct, Walter Wall and Coral will be relocated to another part of Castle Dene but the temporary relocations of the health centre, the youth centre and the sorting office have not been currently announced.
The two new supermarkets will bring more choice for the residents of Peterlee and the surrounding villages as ASDA is the only large supermarket in Peterlee since Safeway closed in 2005 and the nearest other supermarkets are found in Hartlepool, Durham and Sunderland.
To find out more about the shopping centre, visit the Castle Dene Shopping Centre website: www.castledeneshoppingcentre.co.uk
The Apollo Pavilion,designed by Victor Pasmore, was completed in 1970. It provided a focal point for the Sunny Blunts estate as well as a bridge across a water-course. It was named after the Apollo moon missions.
From the late seventies the Pavilion became a target for vandals and anti-social behaviour. Original murals on the building faded and to discourage anti-social behaviour staircases were removed in the 1980s. In 1996, there was a failed attempt to list the Pavilion. English Heritage described it as "an internationally important masterpiece". However, some local residents and councillors saw Pavilion as an eyesore and campaigned to have it demolished. The campaign appeared to have been successful when demolition was proposed in 2000. However, in July 2009, a 6-month revamp programme was completed at a cost of £400,000. As part of the revamp original features such as the murals and stairs reinstated.
Peterlee is served by two main roads, The A19 runs to the west of the town leading to Sunderland in the north and Teesside in the south, the A1086 runs to the east of the town leading to Easington in the north and Hartlepool to the south. The B1320 runs through the town centre linking the town to Horden and the A1086 in the east and Shotton Colliery and the A19 in the west. The B1432 runs to the north from the town centre leading to Easington Village, Hawthorn and Seaham on the route of the old A19. The A181 runs to the south west of the town at the Castle Eden and Wingate junction on the A19 leading to Wheatley Hill, Thornley, and Durham. In 2008 the A688 road was extended to the A181 at Running Waters from the A1(M) junction at Bowburn, this created a new trunk road from Peterlee to the A1(M) via the A19, A181 and A688.
Peterlee is served by Arriva North East and Go North East who provide services in the local area and to the following towns and cities: Newcastle, Gateshead, South Shields, Sunderland, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, Hartlepool, Sedgefield, Newton Aycliffe, Billingham, Stockton, Thornaby, Middlesbrough, Darlington; there is also a bus to the MetroCentre. Other bus operators include Scarlett Band who run services to Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland.
Peterlee was served by Horden Railway Station on the Durham Coast Line until it closed in 1964.
- Acre Rigg Infant School
- Acre Rigg Junior School
- Dene House Primary School
- Sea Scape Primary School
- Howletch Lane Primary School
- Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Primary School
- Shotton Hall Primary School
- Dene Community School of Technology - Specialist Technology School http://www.denecst.org.uk/
- The Academy at Shotton Hall - Specialist Performing Arts School http://www.shottonhallschool.co.uk/
- St. Bede's Catholic Comprehensive School - Specialist Humanities School http://www.st-bedes.durham.sch.uk/
6th Form Facilities
- Byron Sixth Form College (On the site of St. Bede's Catholic Comprehensive School)
- East Durham Sixth Form (Opening at East Durham College in 2012)
- East Durham College - The building at the town centre is now closed as the college is now on one site at Howletch. Peterlee Library remains at its current location.
- Adult Learning is provided by East Durham College, Durham County Council and other organisations.
- Peterlee holds a two-day event called the Peterlee Show, which is held at the end of the summer holidays (usually the first weekend of September) on Helford Road Cricket Ground, which is not far from Victor Pasmore's Apollo Pavilion.
- Peterlee has plenty of open spaces, fields and trees, with various parks and leisure facilities.
- A new community website has recently opened for the people of Peterlee and East Durham. The site, called Your Peterlee, aims to provide the community with useful contacts, such as community groups and local organisations, as well as a Whats On in the area. The site was set up by Shotton Hall School and iTech.
- Gina McKee - actress
- Crissy Rock - actress
- Jan Graveson - actress and singer
- Mark Hoban - politician
- David Kynaston (2008). Austerity Britain 1945–51. Bloomsbury. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7475-9923-4 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- List Entry, English Heritage, 14 December 2011, retrieved 26 June 2012
- "Peterlee pavilion's £400,000 revamp is one giant leap", Sunderland Echo, 13 July 2009, retrieved 26 June 2012
- Public artwork's plans go on show, BBC News, 21 January 2006, retrieved 26 June 2012
- Glancey, Jonathan (12 November 2001), If they had an A-bomb..., retrieved 26 June 2012
- McIntyre, Marjorie (2 July 2008), "Controversial sculpture to get £336,000 facelift", The Northern Echo, retrieved 26 June 2012
- Revamp for moon mission pavilion, BBC News, 12 July 2009, retrieved 26 June 2012
- Burnham, Nigel; Harrison, David (16 July 2000), "Sixties 'concrete bungle' sculpture to be scrapped", The Daily Telegraph, retrieved 26 June 2012
- Revamp for moon mission pavilion, BBC News, 12 July 2009, retrieved 26 June 2012
- County Durham pavilion awarded Grade II-listed status, BBC News, 15 December 2011, retrieved 26 June 2012
- YourPeterlee - Community website for Peterlee and East Durham
- Peterlee Online
- Apollo Pavilion Website
- BBC Tees - Pasmore Pavilion photos
- Britain In Their Sites: Episode 1 (BBC Radio 4) Episode on Peterlee
- Artist Project Peterlee/History Within Living Memory, 1976–1977
- Critique of Artist Placement Group by Stuart Brisley, 1972
- Durham County Council Peterlee Project