Information and photographs submitted by subscribers are posted in good faith. If any copyright of anyone else's material is unintentionally breached, please email me

The Decline Of The Industry
And Nationalisation 1947


1937 - Page 2

Riots At Harworth

Many were injured in riots at Harworth (Nottinghamshire) when miners battled against police on weekend 24/25 April 1937.

Harworth was the storm centre of the rival Unions dispute and 34 men were arrested and charged at Worksop, at a midnight sitting of the court, including Michael Kane (39) President of the Harworth Branch of the Nottinghamshire Miners Association. Considerable property damage was done on Friday night and there was a pitched battle between strikers and police lasting nearly an hour and many people including around 20 policemen were hurt.

The trouble started when a number of ‘Spencer Union’ men were on their way to work and was attacked by strikers. There were ugly scenes at the pithead before the police were called in. Hundreds of strikers surrounded the Welfare, windows were broken and miners were marooned inside all night, and cars were overturned including a Police car, and much damage done and bottles and stones were hurled at police.

An article in the press on 10 Jun 1937 referred to tenants pulling up floorboards etc when issued with possession orders by Barber Walker and Co against 172 miners at Harworth.

Workers in the Institute were not able to leave until 3 am on the Saturday morning when they were escorted out. The crowd then caught up with a bus which was packed with miners going to work and its windows were broken and several passengers injured and they had to be treated at the colliery ambulance room. Superintendent HJ Wilson (who had been on duty every night at Harworth for the past 23 weeks) stated that not one policeman had drawn his staff or had threatened to do so until several policemen had been struck by bottles and flying glass. He himself was struck on the head with a stone.

The Home Secretary was asked to intervene and questions were asked in Parliament. Bellenger was MP for Bassetlaw. WL Cook of the Mines Department requested a meeting with the owners Barber Walker and Co (TP Barber, Managing Director) and the representatives of the Mineworkers’ Federation. Val Coleman was General Secretary of the Nottinghamshire Miners Association and Bernard Taylor was the newly elected President.

Disgusting State Of The Front Lawns At Ollerton

The Agent for the Butterley Co and previous Manager of Ollerton W Stan Fletcher (2349), complained again about the disgusting state of the front lawns of the colliery houses in New Ollerton village. He had been Manager at Ollerton colliery previously and obviously in his opinion there had been some deterioration in standards since then. Anyone caught walking on the grass lawns was fined 2s (10p) by the company. To oversee that the byelaws were observed a Company ‘Bobby’ (Eric Healey) was employed who rode around the village on a bicycle. A charge of 2d (0.4p) was made to have the grass cut.


The photo shows Tom WS Gaunt the winder who when the pit was opened in 1925 was the youngest winding engine man in the Midlands at 18 years of age. A new screening plant by Plowright Brothers of Chesterfield was built. Underground at Ollerton endless haulages were introduced and the last ponies were withdrawn. Cowlishaw-Walker coal cutters and face and gate conveyors were also introduced in 1932 with inbye gate loading points.

Ringrose battery gas lamps were introduced. A new factory for Earl and Hall was opened for the employment of female labour in the village. Butterley Co paid £27,155 13s 8d (£27,155.68) for the building and rented it out at £1,629 6s 0d (£1,629.30) per annum. As at other pits there was a colliery brass band. The Agent informed the Manager that none of the band members were to be sacked or laid off in this period of short time.

Tom WS Gaunt the winder who when the pit was opened in 1925 was the youngest winding engine man in the Midlands at 18 years of age.

Pithead Baths And A Solarium

Stanton Ironworks Co opened new pithead baths and a solarium at Silver Hill (Nottinghamshire) in 1937.

It was thought that ‘artificial sunlight’ would benefit miners who for one thing or another never saw the sun. Many miners in the past had a grey look to their face. The miners at Teversal colliery that lay about ¾ of a mile to the north of Silver Hill shared these facilities. An old windowless railway carriage called a ‘paddy’ was push-pulled up and down the line by a steam engine several times at each shift change, allowing at the time a large proportion of Teversal men to have changing and bathing facilities.

However over the years the number of employees would increase and more and more men would have to change and bathe at home, as before, or share lockers.


Captain Percival Muschamp retired from the post of General Manager of the New Hucknall Colliery Co on 30th April 1937 and there was a presentation made to him and his wife by PJ Aspinall the Manager of Bentinck.


Both the Deep Soft and Deep Hard workings were abandoned at Langton No7 shaft in June 1937 and the shaft filled in and widened to 16 feet (4.9m) diameter and deepened to the Blackshale or Silkstone at 485 yards (443.5m) by 1939 (Pinxton Collieries Ltd). Surveyor, Leslie H Watson (578).

Pits Closed For One Week In The Summer Again

Bolsover Co closed their pits for one week in the summer again and gave the miners ‘gifts’ to enable them to enjoy their holiday. But of course there was no holiday pay this time! Most if not all pits were stood earlier when George VI was crowned on 12th May 1937.

Registration of Ownership

The 1937 Coal (Registration of Ownership) Act was passed and this required all royalty owners to furnish the Board of Trade with all details of their ownership in coal. These particulars were recorded in a Coal Holdings Register.


Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Con) 28 May 1937 - 10 May 1940

President of Board of Trade, Oliver Stanley (Con National Coalition), 28th May 1937 1940.

Inrush Of Water

There was an inrush of water in some rise workings between Holbrook and Westthorpe shafts (Derbyshire) . (Harry C Ward was Chief Surveyor for J and G Wells Ltd) (later East Midlands Divisional Chief Surveyor then Area Chief Surveyor North Nottinghamshire 1967-1968 for a short time following the NCB reorganisation of 1st April 1967 when Divisional HQs were closed in preference to Area HQs).

Satellite Shaft For Bestwood

In June 1937 BA Collieries Ltd began sinking a satellite shaft for ventilation for Bestwood Top Hard workings, at Calverton (Nottinghamshire).

Miners Welfare Rehabilitation Centre

In the same year the Miners Welfare Rehabilitation Centre at Berry Hill, Mansfield was opened, this being the first of its kind.

Unions Merged

On 1st September 1937, the Nottingham and District Miners Industrial Union merged with the Nottinghamshire Miners Association and formed a new Nottinghamshire and District Miners Federated Union, with George Spencer as President. John George Hancock retired.
Val Coleman was General Secretary, Horace Cooper Financial Secretary, both Will Bayliss and Herbert Booth were Agents.

Shaft Pillar at Williamthorpe Robbed

The shaft pillar at Williamthorpe (Derbyshire) (Hardwick Colliery Co) was large because of the shaft depth and then was successfully robbed by up to 40% with extra roadways driven inside the pillar. Normally this procedure is not wise, as problems with the shafts can occur, such as slumping, distortion or cracking, which can allow water egress, or the old pit bottom roadways could experience weighting or floor lift etc, hampering the efficiency of the existing transport system. However this idea was carried out at many mines, sometimes with the undesired results. Note Ollerton.

Electricians' Agreement

An Electricians agreement was signed at the end of September 1937 to come into force from 5th October. Electricians would receive 6s 2d (31p) a shift in Top Hard working and 5s 9d (28¾p) in other seams.

List of Tackle For A Pump Installation

On 20th October 1937 a compilation list of tackle required for the installation of a pump at Bilsthorpe shaft at the sump drift was as follows:

  • Headgear pulleys, pedestals and girder framing £45.
  • Two scaffold ropes each 800 yards of 1” locked coil weight 107 cwts @ 72s 0d = £385.
  • One hoppit rope 250 yards of 1” flexible 10½ cwts @ 60s 0d = £31 10s 0d.
  • Pump scaffold chains and capells = £55.
  • RSJs for fixing one every 18 feet 6” x %2 x 13 feet at 5 ton @ £15 = £75.
  • Rising main 830 feet to go into No2 sump @ 4s 6d per foot = £186 15s 0d.
  • Ventilation fan and motor = £60.
  • Ventilation pipes at 9 feet, 80 of plus clams = £166.
  • One 6 stage Harland pump at 115 gpm with 40hp motor with auto transfer starter valves and gauges = £250. 240 yards of 0.4 trailing cable and clams = £300.
  • The total cost = £3,015.

Collieries Sunk or Opened in 1937

  • Arkwright (Derbyshire), twin surface drifts were driven 500 yards (457.2m) down to the Waterloo seam at gradients of 1 in 2.5 to 1 in 5 by Arkwright Coal Co Ltd. The Top Hard pit had been opened in 1899 under a different name (Calow) E441661 N369867, surface drift shown left. The new drifts were 1 mile from the old drifts. The workings were very steep, being situated in a syncline or basin and gradients varied from level to 1in2 at the crest of the anticline
  • Furnace No2 drift mine, (Furnace Hill and Renishaw Park Collieries Ltd) first of 4 adits Jan 1937 (others Jan 1938, Feb 1939 and Feb 1942)
  • Hollis No2 (Hollis Colliery Co) Heage, sinking
  • Sicklebrook No2 Coal Aston, adit to Silkstone, Surveyor Arthur D Marriott (918).


Collieries Closed in 1937

  • Barlborough Common (Barlborough Common Coal Co Ltd), Barlborough, 2/1, Abdy or Sough seam, no coal worked since 1932, Manager A Bedford, Surveyor J Campbell Jeffrey (954)
  • Denby Hall (Hill Croft pit) (Butterley Co Ltd) Deep Soft exhausted 15 Mar 1937
  • Gilt Brook 2 shafts 7ft (2.1m), 180 yards (165m), sunk by a Company of Colliers in 1866, Gilt Brook Colliery Co, taken over by Digby Coal Co and closed in 1877, but re-opened later
  • Hague (Disley Paper Mills Co Ltd) Yard seam 2’ 0” (0.61m), July 1926-June 1937
  • Hazel Ridge (Hazel Ridge Colliery Co) Temple Normanton, Hazel abandoned June
  • Hurst Hollow or Hirst Hollow (Hurst Hollow Colliery Co) Mickley or Mickley Thin, Mickley Day hole and shaft 8 yards (7,3m) deep (note plan deposited 21 Oct 1947)
  • Mosborough Moor (Mosborough Moor Coal Co) Mosborough, Parkgate discontinued
  • New London (Digby Colliery Co Ltd) Greasley, Deep Hard, Deep Soft and Tupton abandoned Nov 1937, after 61 years. The underground conveyance of coal had been unique as all the main road haulage was worked by self-acting arrangements, no power being needed and the tubs were placed about 7 yards (6m) apart on a rope underneath. The Low Main had been worked by stalls up to 1928, then panels to 1937
  • Oakwood Grange Soft coal, No1 shaft 34’ 0” (10.4m), No2 shaft 58’ 0” (17.7m) and No1 adit, old gobbing all round, fin Dec 1937
  • Shady Hall (Shady Hall Colliery Co), Marsh Lane, Silkstone, 4/1, abandoned Dec
  • Smalley Colliery drift (Henry Woolley and Co), Smalley, sunk 1932, 4/1, Main Soft, coal roof not worked, clod 8” (0.20m), coal 4’ 6” (1.37m), adit and two air pits 4 yards (3.65m) and 11 yards (10m) deep, abandoned Oct, GE Emerson (671) and Ernest Mayfield Surveyors
  • Swanwick (Old) (RCA Palmer-Morewood) Alfreton, no coal raised in 1937 and Townend (Thos Tomlinson) Shirland, Deep Hard, abandoned July. (11)

H M Inspectorate

Walter Widdas was HMI for East Midlands (1937-1953), when he transferred to Divisional HMI, Scotland. George Cook was appointed HMI from 22nd November 1937.

Fatal Accidents 1937

  • Alfreton, Alec Grant (41) fall of coal 18 Feb 1937, died 1 Mar 1937
  • Bailey Brook, George Bradley (62) fall of roof 10 Sep 1937, died 29 Sep 1937
  • Blackwell A Winning, Charles Henry White (40) fall of roof 17 Sep 1937
  • Brookhill, William Everard Gregory (56) fall of roof 29 Jun 1937
  • Coppice, Herbert Hallam (48) crushed by tubs 2 Nov 1937
  • Denby Hall, Ernest Meakin (34) fall of roof 18 Jun 1937, died 1 Aug 1937
  • Glapwell, William Cummings (48) fall of roof 10 Nov 1937
  • Langwith, John Mole (46) fall of roof 10 May 1937
  • Manners, Horace Sisson (32) fall of roof 6 Dec 1937
  • Morton, Lewis Ernest Roberts (16) run over by tubs 16 Apr 1937
  • Langwith, William Ward (55) fall of roof 18 Jul 1937
  • New Langley, George H Cresswell (32) caught in a coal cutter 16 Feb 1937
  • Pentrich, Arthur Bridges (30) fall of coal on 7 May 1937, died 8 May 1937
  • Pleasley, Vincent Whileman (15) run over by tubs 10 Apr 1937
  • Reservoir, Herbert Clamp (58) fall of roof 19 Oct 1937
  • Ripley, Thomas William Holmes (30) fall of coal 28 Jul 1937
  • Shirebrook, William Allen (16) crushed hand, died from toxaemia 22 Sep 1937
  • Springwood, John Henry Herring (48) crushed by tubs 9 Nov 1936, died from toxaemia 18 Jan 1937
  • Swanwick, Leonard Ainsworth (42) fall of roof 8 Dec 1937
  • Whitwell, Leonard Edwards (48) fall of roof 18 Dec 1937

Methane Explosion At Markham

There was an explosion at Markham No1 colliery (Derbyshire) (Staveley Coal and Iron Co) on 2s Blackshale face at 2.45pm on 21st January 1937.

9 men were killed,

  • Ralph Marsden aged 41 years a stallman, died in hospital
  • Edward Baggaley aged 34 years a stallman, died in hospital
  • Charles Moreton aged 29 years a cutterman
  • Frank Roddy aged 25 years a cutterman
  • Leonard Cadywould aged 21 years a cutterman
  • Joseph Furiss aged 28 years a stallman
  • William Caulwell aged 48 years a stallman
  • Edmund Smith aged 29 years a stallman
  • Wilfred E. Slater aged 30 years a stallman.
  • 2 others injured and sent to hospital survived

All the victims were burned and some had injuries but the cause of death of all of
them was carbon monoxide poisoning.

The inquest into the deaths of the nine men was held at the County Police Court, Chesterfield before H.M. Coroner Dr. R.A. McRea and a jury on the 18th and 19th February 1937.

The jury brought in the following verdict-
"The deaths were accidental caused by an unforeseen combination of abnormal conditions, that is, an accumulation of gas which was exploded by a flame which escaped from a cutting machine box caused by a faulty replacement of the cover plate. The jury is satisfied that every precaution and provision has been and is taken by the Staveley Coal and Iron Co. Ltd. to ensure the safety of the men working in their mines."

The inquiry into the causes of and the circumstances attending the explosion was carried out at the same time and the report presented to Captain Harry Crookshank, M.P., Secretary for Mines.

The evidence fixed the point of the explosion in the left bank and it travelled towards the loader gate with the flame extending as far as the roll across the face. Evidence of the violence of the blast in the bank was shown by the displaced roof supports, articles of clothing and lamps. In the left tail gate the hurdle sheets were blown down at the ripping, some bars were displaced and props set on fire. It was purely an explosion of firedamp and coal dust played no part in it.

As to the source of ignition, all the lamps that were recovered were examined and found in the main to be serviceable. Attention was focused on the coal cutter and it was found that there was a small gap in the controller compartment and some coal dust was trapped in there and it was thought that a spark ignited the firedamp.

There had been a fall and in the opinion of the inquiry the break in the top corner and evidence of weighting in the roof was accompanied by an emission of gas which in all probability developed in the time between the deputy's last visit and the explosion. With an emission of gas in a colliery where there had been very little gas for a very long time and the faulty electrical system on the coal cutter these were the ingredients that were the cause of the explosion.

Two Explosions At South Normanton, Alfreton, Derbyshire

At 9pm on 15th February 1937 there were two explosions in the Waterloo seam on 11s district at South Normanton colliery (Derbyshire), locally known as Winterbank (South Normanton Colliery Co). 7 men were killed:

The men who died were:-

  • Edwin Samuel Hill aged 19 years, of 25, Albert Street, single,
  • John Marriott aged 38 years, of Spion Kop Cottages, married,
  • Willis Lambert aged 45 years, of 68, Church Street, married,
  • Henry Willis aged 59 years, Oakleigh Villa, Sutton-in-Ashfield, married,
  • Everett Rees aged 54 years of 134, Main Street, Hulthwaite, married,
  • John Vardy aged 25 years, of 1, South Street, single and
  • Frederick Pride aged 30 years, of West End, Sutton-in-Ashfield, married.

Those severely burned and take to Mansfield General Hospital were:-

  • Isaac W. Petts aged 69 of 8, North Street, married,
  • John Samuel Thornley aged 27 years of 37, Albert Street, married,
  • John Johnson aged 30 years, of 31, Sherwood Street, Sutton-in-Ashfield and
  • Percy Ansell of 45 South Street, single.

While in Hospital, Thornley told his story:-
"The coal cutter was at work at the face just after nine o'clock, three quarters of an hour before the shift was due to finish. I then heard a sudden rumble over the coal face. It did not seem to be very distant, in fact, it was quite near.
As soon as the weight had got settled there was a flash and I saw nothing but fire and smoke and swirling clouds of dust. We were flung in all directions and did not know which way to turn. We did not at first realise what had happened.
I could not see any of my pals because for the thickness of the air. I put my arms up to try and gasp for breath, and my face felt just as it had been skinned. I struggled along towards the gate end but I had not got very far when there came another explosion, this time not so terrific but the air seemed to reverse and there were more clouds of swirling dust. After that I remember nothing more until they put me in a tub to take me to the bottom of the shaft."

The inquest into the disaster was held at Alfreton before Dr. R.A. McCrea Coroner for the Scarsdale District. W.E. Truswell, deputy in charge of the district in which the explosion occurred, said that he had made careful examinations for gas but had found none. He gave his account of the conditions underground and the Coroner asked him if he thought the a heavy fall would account for what he thought was a second explosion.

The witness said it could be but he thought it was an explosion. He stated that he had not found gas in the district for over twelve months and then only a small amount. The men on the face had flame lamps and electric lamps and he had never seen men in the pit with cigarettes or matches.

Mr. J. Cowan, Electrical Inspector of Mines, told the court that he was perfectly satisfied that the coal cutter could not have been the cause of the explosion but he could not speak regarding the portion of the trailing cable that was buried.

Police Constable Tansley said that he found cigarettes and matches on the bodies of some of the men. In Marriott's pocket were two cigarettes in a metal case, and eight live matches. In Willis's a tin tied round with tape containing three cigarettes, but no matches. In Pride's, a tin containing one cigarette and nine live matches, with four loose matches in his pockets and Vardy had a tin containing one cigarette, six live and one spent match. Nothing had been found on the other bodies. All the cigarettes were whole and none had been lit.

Mr. Mein, the manager, issued warrants to certain men and had every reason to believe that the searches were carried out satisfactorily but the evidence of the Constable indicated that the searches were not as effective as he thought. The manager explained the fall by saying that the floor had given way. He explained that there were three seams underneath, two of them being worked by other companies and he had no previous knowledge of these workings. He thought that breaks in the floor caused by the working of these seams had allowed the gas to come in but the two seams that were worked were not in the exact spot where the fall occurred.

Mr. T.E. Pickering, Inspector of Mines, said that he had known the Colliery for seven years and with regard to ventilation and gas, he regarded it as a perfectly safe pit. The roadways were in a good condition. On the day of the explosion he reached the mine about 11 p.m. and was taken as far as the loader end on the No.11's stall and, with the manager, he investigated the left bank. He found a certain amount of timber run out and could not get past the coal cutter because of a fall. He was with the party that recovered three bodies. He thought the point of the explosion was near the coal cutter and that there was a second explosion in the neighbourhood of the first which was very violent. The cause of the second was thought to be gas coming from the floor ignited by some flame or other.

Mr. Pickering said that they came across Willis's body about 8 yards from the coal face and under his cap, who was about a yard away from the body, they found three parts of a cigarette. They found two electric lamps near the coal cutter and one flame lamp near the loader gate. All the lamps were tested and found to be in good order.

He suggested that the explosion was caused by someone smoking or striking a match to smoke in the left bank. When men struck matches on the surface they throw the dead match down, but in this case if a match had been struck which he did not want to be found, it was usually replaced in a tin. There was some unusual weighting above and below the seam which they were working and the Bentink seams of coal were being worked under the South Normanton Waterloo seam. He said-
"It would have been advisable and a very wise thing to do for colliery companies working in close proximity and underneath each other to consult their respective plans but there is nothing of an obligatory character in the Act of Parliament making such mutual inspection of the plans if necessary. Such a point was now under consideration by a Royal Commission."

After the verdict had been delivered the Coroner commended the bravery of two men Guy and Waltho for their bravery and Mr. W.H. Mein, the managing director of the colliery company, expressed the company's appreciation of the gallant efforts made by the workmen, rescue brigades, doctors and nurses.

A naked light pit until 1934, this pit had a 40-year-old enviable safety record. The Deputy for the panel, William Truswell had noted that severe weighting had occurred at 9pm, followed by an extensive fall at the face line. The Waterloo seam was opened in 1900 and Top Hard and Dunsil seams had also been worked above. Although a Derbyshire pit, it lay almost on the border with Nottinghamshire and was under the Nottinghamshire Miners Union jurisdiction. ‘Many men and women crowded the pit gates waiting to hear of the dead, or with relief, the survivors. A call for volunteers to go back down the mine to assist in recovery operations was answered positively to a man, even though the men who had just come up the pit having escaped injury and were obviously somewhat traumatised by the situation, all were willing to risk injury if not their lives in doing so’ - (quote from a survivor, my friend Ralph’s father Rufus AM Simpson, himself included, of Percival Crescent, Sutton-in-Ashfield, who later went on to work at Bentinck colliery when South Normanton closed).

Output For 1937
  • Nottinghamshire pits 15.3m tons
  • North Derbyshire pits 12.9m tons
  • South Derbyshire pits 1.531m tons
  • Leicestershire pits 2.1m. (By comparison, Yorkshire pits produced 46.8m tons).


left 1