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The Continued Rise Of The Industry
To 1913



All Managers To Be Certificated

The Coal Mines Act of 1872 came into force on 1st January 1873. It required Managers of mines to be certificated by examination. However all existing Managers were granted Service Certificates, as was for example the General Manager of Stanton Iron Co’s mines, William Clark (Certificate No 985 dated 22nd April 1873) and could be in charge of several mines. Prior to this, Viewers and Underviewers were employed and could oversee several mines. Of course many of the small mines were managed by the owner, or partner.
(There were 2,819 pits in the country producing 105 million tons of coal at this time).


A barometer was to be placed near to the shaft top in future so that any noticeable change in pressure could be seen. This could indicate that gas could seep out of the gobbings in periods of low pressure, when vigilance and any action could be taken to make sure that the general body of the air was not in the explosive range. It would appear from future explosions causing many deaths that the use of the barometer was ignored. The conception of meeting stations underground was noted and the pre shift inspection of a district to be carried out by a competent person. The use and storage of explosives was mentioned.


The Act also required that plans of mine workings be up to a date not more than 6 months past, and it was made compulsory for all shafts more than 50 yards (45m) deep to have guides.

Long Weight System Outlawed

The Act outlawed the use of the ‘long weight system’. Various colliery companies required that the colliers load 129 lb to the cwt and as much as 29 cwts to the ton. Imperial measure was implemented which gave 112 lb to the cwt and 20 cwts to the ton. However this still did not prevent the confiscation of a full tub of coal without payment should the tub contain a small amount of dirt or slack (dust) or if the tub weighed light by as little as 2 lb.

No Other Person To See A Deposited Abandoned Mine Plan For 10 Years

Abandoned mine plans required by law, deposited with the Mines Inspector for the district, were not allowed to be seen by any other person for a period of 10 years, so much was the secrecy involved. However after that period the plans would be available for inspection by interested parties upon application and the payment of a fee. Over the next 70 years or so many applications would be received and many old mines or surrounding areas would be attempted to be worked or re-worked. Many adventurous mining individuals would take the risk of sinking shafts or driving adits in order to mine coal without waiting to see the plans of the area following the 10 year period and as will be noted many of them ended in abject failure due to the coal being worked before and some would end up in debt due to the initial costs for no reward. Plans were sent to the Secretary of State, Home Department, under Sec 42 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1872.

HM Inspectorate

Arthur H Stokes replaced TL Dickinson as assistant to Thomas Evans, Mines Inspector.


There were strikes at Alfreton and Swanwick (Derbyshire) in January 1873 over pay rates.

Huge Roof Fall

There was a huge roof fall at Moor Green (Nottinghamshire) (Barber Walker and Co) during the year and 3 men were killed.


A Conservative Government was in power from 1873 until 1880, with Benjamin Disraeli as Prime Minister.

Principal Secretary of State R A Cross MP 1873-1880.

Coal Prices and Wages

Coal prices and miners’ wages reached a high, as did union membership, after which falling prices and wage reductions caused much disillusionment.

Workers’ Co-operatives

In 1873 Shirland (Derbyshire) (sunk in 1864 by GP Beavan and Co) became a Workers’ Co-operative, with Philip Casey as Manager and Secretary and AJ Mundella MP as Chairman of the Co, however the venture foundered due to a sudden slump in coal prices.

Whetstone who had purchased the Ibstock mine (Leicestershire) in 1866 sold it to a consortium that formed Ibstock Colliery Co.

Manpower Reduced

Manpower at Clay Cross No4 pit (Derbyshire) was reduced to 300, where 300 tons a day was produced from the Blackshale seam. A Guibal fan 30 feet dia x 10 feet wide (9.14m x 3.05m) was installed.

Netherseal Fan

A Guibal fan of the same dimensions was installed at Netherseal colliery (South Derbyshire).

Co-op Store Fined

Tamping his powder
A collier is shown tamping his powder before inserting a fuse

The Co-op store at Clay Cross was fined during the year for storing 400 lb of gunpowder on the premises. By now powder was usually kept in separate secure premises. For example at Tibshelf, the Chemist firm of Crofts on the High Street had a building behind the shop and powder was stored there for miners to purchase. The detonators were kept in a separate part of the building. The collier would make up his own amount of explosive to put in the hand bored shot hole and light a squib from a candle to explode the powder. A collier is shown tamping his powder before inserting a fuse.

In later years there would be an explosive store situated on every pit top, far away from any other building so that should an explosion occur, very little damage would be done. There would also be a powder distribution store closer to the pit bank where explosives and detonators could be obtained and signed for by an official, and volunteers (powder monkeys) would carry powder bags inbye for a small payment. However the detonators would always be carried in leather pouches with separate compartments with soft lining by the official in charge. Only authorised and qualified personnel would then fire shots.

Mob at Tibshelf Sinking

A mob of about 200 from Hucknall Huthwaite descended upon the new pit at Tibshelf (Derbyshire) (Babbington Coal Co) and carried off 4 men assisting the sinkers. They were non-unionists.

First St John’s Ambulance Brigade Unit

First aid began to be taught and people trained in the art. The first St Johns Ambulance Brigade unit was at Tibshelf and Clay Cross in 1873. Remedies taught were: camomile tea for stomach and headaches; sennapods for use as a laxative; marshmallow to apply to cuts at the coal face (to try to prevent blue marks); lard and mustard for chest complaints (ever present); salt bag for ear ache; meadow sweet as a drink to encourage sweating to ease colds; vinegar and brown paper applied to bumps to relieve swelling or ease headaches, or rags soaked in vinegar also; Scot’s emulsion for upset stomachs; liquorice and sulphur to cleanse the blood and boiled nettle tea for likewise.

Naked Lights

The ganger lads on haulage duties at Denby (Derbyshire) used paraffin lamps, as well as safety oil lamps for illumination. Safety lamps were used inbye and paraffin lamps nearer to the pit bottom. Notices were erected stating that naked lights were not to taken beyond that point, as at many other collieries.

Strike At Moor Green

There was a strike at Moor Green colliery (Nottinghamshire) (Barber, Walker and Co). It was over the fixing of a 10-hour day for boys when the workforce wanted 8 hours. At Staveley (North Derbyshire) however the workmen were given a 9-hour day and wages were to be paid weekly instead of fortnightly in future.

Pits Changed Hands

Boythorpe changed hands from G Hoskin to Boythorpe Co, (late Mr Ludlam)
Clay Cross changed hands from E Phillips to Phillips and Co
Renishaw from Appleby and Co toChesterfield Co
New Main from WC Haslam to Butterley Co.

Changes Of Ownership

Appleby and Co sold Renishaw to the Chesterfield Co and Sheepbridge Iron Co sold out their mine at Norwood to the Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Co Ltd. Joseph and Geo Wells became a Limited Company with Joseph Calver as Managing Director. Newstead sunk by Newstead Colliery Co became Staveley Coal and Iron Co, and Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Co Ltd managed. Waterloo Chesterfield from Barnes Bros to Thompson Bros. Park House (Sir Wiliam Jackson Bart and Co), now known as Park House No4. Meadow pit was sunk south of Coalfield Farm by Joseph Baker who had a lease for 25 years. He sank 2 more pits in the next 2 years. Brickyard pit and a Pumping No3 shaft DC and No4 UC shaft.

Joseph and George Wells

George Wells had started a Gin pit on Little Hill around 1830. 2 years later he sank 2 more small mines on the Common in the field where the bridle path crosses it. He also worked an Engine pit higher up the field. He purchased Sales & Bibb's pit at Moor Hole for £2,400. He died in 1844. The two sons Joseph and George carried on the business. and immediately started on a new pit at Moor Hole. The family had built Eckington Hall at Mosborough and also Elmwood out of profits from the coal. On 6th October 1873 Joseph Wells, brother of George died suddenly aged 57. He was born in Eckington on 3rd Oct 1816. He was a very powerfully built cheerful tall man with a ruddy complexion. George carried on the business.

Dronfield and Unstone Pits in Decline

Dronfield and Unstone area collieries in North Derbyshire were now in decline (most had closed by 1895).

Sinkings in 1873

The Stanton Iron Co began to sink another mine 3 miles away from Teversall (Nottinghamshire) at Pleasley, just over the border into Derbyshire. This was again a risky venture at the time sinking below the yellow limestone in the concealed coalfield.

A borehole had been drilled in the vicinity in 1805 proving the measures. Silver Hill and Butcherwood (Teversall or Teversal) were in the unconcealed field. All three main shafts were in line and originally the plans of all three pits were plotted to a 20 chain grid arbitrary meridian based on this line – ‘Line of pits grid’. The area of royalty held by the company for the 3 pits was about 7,000 acres (2,833 ha), the principal lessors being the Countess of Carnarvon, Sir Henry Verney, the Marquis of Hartington and the Duke of Portland. The minerals at Pleasley were owned by William Edward Nightingale who granted a lease to John Gilbert Crompton, George Crompton, Chas Edward Newton and John Thomas Barber. The North shaft at Pleasley was named the Nightingale pit, so called after the owner of Pleasley Park Estate, William Nightingale, whose daughter Florence the famous nurse, was said to have ‘cut the sod’ for sinking. The ‘back to back’ engine house for both shafts was constructed from stone. Two huge brick chimneys were built to take the smoke away from the fire holes/boilers which would be fed and manned continuously to maintain steam pressure for winding. Steel tubbing would be necessary here in the 14 feet 6 inches (4.4m) diameter shafts to hold back the water from the Permo-Trias water bearing measures that overlie the coal measures.

Ten yards a week was achieved in the sinking although up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute was pouring into the shaft from the Permian strata and this was raised in barrels. Unfortunately the washout conditions that prevailed at Butcherwood (Teversall) would also affect a large area of Top Hard seam at Pleasley. The Dunsil seam at Teversall would be affected by washout conditions also and wonderful examples of fishtailing would be found in later years. A washout is where all or most of the seam has been washed away haphazardly and the void filled with hard sandstone rock making working of the seam very difficult or even impossible, and generally the washout has to be worked around and causing large areas of coal to be left.

Sinking Commenced in 1873 at

  • Linby, (Linby Colliery Co)
  • Barlborough No1, No2, (Staveley Coal and Iron Co Ltd) opened
  • Oxcroft No3 and Cossall (Lynch and Cadogan) opened
  • Hundall (Bainbridge and Co), Blackshale, opened, Richard G Coke Surveyor
  • Steetley the sinking was a single shaft 15 feet (4.57m) diameter to 590 yards (540m) deep (Shireoaks Colliery Co). The engine had a scroll drum 14 to 22 feet (4.26 to 19.5m) diameter
  • West Field (John H Gosling), A further shaft was sunk to the Hazle seam at
  • Donisthorpe (Checkland and Co) sunk, Leicestershire Coalfield
  • Heath End (John Lancaster and Co), Leicestershire Coalfield
  • Saint John’s (Limited Co), Leicestershire Coalfield
  • Rawdon (Moira Coal Co), Leicestershire Coalfield
  • Reservoir (Moira Coal Co), Leicestershire Coalfield. Captain WF Perry sank 4 shafts at Plough Flats near Boothorpe to work the Ell coal but they were all closed by 1880. Boothorpe Brick and Coal Co was working a shallow pit nearby.

Sinker Killed

On 12th August 1873 a sinker, John Needham (..?) was killed at the New Skegby colliery (Skegby Colliery Co), (renamed Brierley Hill in 1874, then eventually Sutton colliery in 1895). The pit was situated off Brand Lane (Rooley Lane) and was to replace the Skegby colliery at the head of the Meden Valley. A village was created called Stanton Hill, part of Skegby Parish.

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Pit Terminology - Glossary


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