The history of St John Ambulance in County Durham is rooted in the late 19th century and linked to the expansion of coal mining in the county.
The First Aid movement began in the nineteenth century to help wounded soldiers and provide ambulances to take them off the battlefield. The Order of St John of Jerusalem, which originated in the First Crusade to the Holy Land in 1099, had a long Hospitaller tradition of caring for the sick. Brothers of the Order Of St John volunteered to go to war zones, their work was part of the new International Red Cross movement. In the 1870s the Order turned its attention to suffering closer to home, in peace time.
Britain was becoming increasingly industrialised and horrific accidents were part of working life. The Association targeted hazardous workplaces where machinery was dangerous and working hours long and exhausting. After an accident many people did not see a doctor until it was too late, if ordinary people could learn First Aid and they had access to ambulances, lives would be saved. Members of the Order founded the St John Ambulance Association in June 1877 to bring this about.
Coal Mining was one of the most hazardous of the industrial occupations resulting in many accidents and fatalities. Before the foundation of the St John Ambulance Association treatment of injured miners was poor and patchy.
The miners and Union officials realised that more needed to be done to help injured workers so when Major George Hutton visited the North in 1887 to spread the word about the Association they were eager to listen.