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The Decline Of The Industry
And Nationalisation 1947



Pithead Baths

New pithead baths and a canteen were opened at Babbington (Nottinghamshire) in January 1938 (BA Collieries Ltd).

Fee Of One Shilling For Renewal Of Explosive Store Licence

Under the Explosives Act 1875 a fee of one shilling (5p) was paid to Nottinghamshire County Council by the Stanton Ironworks Co Ltd for the renewal of a class ‘A’ Store Licence dated 25th November 1931 for keeping mixed explosives at Bilsthorpe colliery, dated 14th February 1938 for year ending 24th November 1938. The certificate was signed by K Tweedale Meaby, Clerk of the Peace and of the County Council. This renewal would be on a regular basis and similarly licences would apply at all collieries where explosives were used.

Derbyshire Union

Joseph Lynch was elected Treasurer of the Derbyshire Miners Association. JR Felton was replaced by G Cook as Mines Inspector for the district to 1944.


A 16 year-old Basford youth was fined 10s (50p) at a juvenile court in Nottingham for taking a cigarette, petrol lighter and pocket flash light underground at Bestwood. It was stressed by Mr George A Spencer presiding, that not only was he placing his own life in danger, but the danger of everybody else because of the presence of methane gas in the mine. This was not a naked light mine and very few remained at this time.

Although outlawed, and completely dangerous and stupid, this would still be a ‘derring do’ for some of the more un-educated lads of society way into the 1950s!

If one wanted to hide such items, the quick frisk by the Banksman (mentioned before), as part of his duties, on men and boys before descending the mine would not detect such things.

On other occasions it was known for men to put a cigarette and a match inside their helmet when getting changed to go underground in the pithead baths and find a secret hiding place on the pit top, so that they could have a smoke immediately on coming out of the mine at the end of their shift, and then of course forgetting to do it! You would often see a collier with a cigarette and a match stuck over his ear. Others would put the contraband in a ‘baccy tin’. Fortunately on the one occasion I knew about, no harm was done. On this occasion at Teversal whist on surveying duties as an Apprentice I caught a ganger with live matches down the pit and immediately made him soak them in water out of his dudley to render them unusable. At the time I reported the incident to the first Official I met and left him to deal with the situation. What transpired I do not recall, although it should have been a sacking offence. No doubt this was not an isolated incident within the Coalfield, remembering how many pits were open at the time.

Collieries Sunk or Opened in 1938

There Were Now 1,860 Pits Employing 791,000 Men And Boys

  • Arkwright drift mine or ‘Wangum pit’ was opened (Arkwright Coal Co Ltd)
  • Bramley Hall (Bramley Hall Colliery Ltd), Marsh Lane was developing 4/1
  • Diglee drift (RE Knowles Ltd) Yard mine
  • Hollis No2 (Hollis Colliery Co), Heage, was being sunk
  • Oxcroft No5 (Oxcroft Colliery Co Ltd) was developing at Stanfree. However the developing drifts were suspended later due to the advent of the Second World War in September 1939
  • Starvehim Valley (Edwin Glossop) adit to Mickley seam.

Coal Dust Explosion At Markham

Markham Colliery - On 10th May 1938 at 5.45am at Staveley Coal and Iron Co’s Markham colliery (North Derbyshire), there was a coal dust explosion, caused by runaway tubs breaking an electrical cable joint box, near the Blackshale pit bottom. 79 nightshift men were killed and 38 others injured as they waited to ride the shaft at the end of their shift. It has been proven that a coal dust explosion is more severe than a methane gas explosion. The Managing Director for the Staveley Coal and Iron Co was Denis N Turner, Chief Agent was Reg (Rex) Ringham, Agent was Henry Kirk, and Manager for Markham was William Fry. The Divisional Mines Inspector was George Cook, and District Inspectors J Hall and Thos E Pickering. The pit reopened for coal production on 1st Dec 1938.

- Click Here For Those Who Died -

Safety Lamps

Deputies and Shotfirers (Safety Lamps) Order 1938 enacted.

Lamps in use: Flame

  • John Davis and Son (Derby) Ltd
  • Hailwood and Ackroyd Ltd
  • Protector Lamps Ltd Eccles.

Electric Hand lamps:

  • Ceag Ltd
  • Oldham and Son Ltd
  • Protector Lamp and Lighting Co Ltd
  • Wolf Safety Lamp Co.

Electric cap lamps:

  • Ceag
  • John Davis
  • Oldham
  • Wolf.

Men, Boys And Horses And Pithead Baths

There were now 103 collieries in North Derbyshire in 1938 employing 32,439 men and boys and 1,554 ponies.
There were 10 pits with pithead baths in use, with a further 3 being built and 8 canteens operational.
In comparison there were 46 pits in Nottinghamshire employing 23,413 men and boys and 1,269 horses and ponies. This was a reduction in manpower of around 12,000 compared to the numbers employed in 1926. Again there were 10 pithead baths, with a further 6 being built. There were 6 canteens operational with 6 more being built.

There were 155 pit ponies employed in South Derbyshire in 13 pits. The average earnings per shift was 12s 1¾d (60½p) per shift. There were 1,860 pits in the country now.


The problem of nystagmus (nystag or ‘stag’) that caused pain behind the eyes, the eyes to oscillate in bright lights, giddiness and headaches was practically eliminated. The introduction of electric lamps, stone dusting and whitewashing created better working conditions and only older men with the complaint had to see eye specialists for examination and a few were given time off for recovery.

Paddy Accident

There was a manriding ‘paddy’ accident at Creswell when the cars ran away and 3 men were killed and a number injured. (see colliery closure 1991).

Miners' Welfare

The Miners Welfare was opened at Blidworth (Nottinghamshire).

Coal Exports

Coal exports from local colliery companies at 1st May 1938 were:

  • BA Collieries Ltd 2.21% of output
  • Barber Walker and Co 0.24%
  • Blackwell Colliery Co Ltd 0.21%
  • Bolsover Colliery Co Ltd 15.25%
  • Butterley Co Ltd 7.37%
  • Grassmoor Co Ltd 0.09%
  • Hardwick Colliery Co Ltd 3.5%
  • New Hucknall Colliery Co Ltd 7.0%
  • Newstead Colliery Co Ltd 18.5%
  • Oxcroft Colliery Co Ltd 2.32%
  • Pinxton Collieries Ltd 0.24%
  • Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Co Ltd 5.14%
  • Sherwood Colliery Co Ltd 15.0%
  • Shipley Collieries Ltd 0.16%
  • Shirebrook Colliery Ltd 5.0%
  • Staveley Coal and Iron Co Ltd 8.0%
  • The Stanton Ironworks Co Ltd 7.86%
  • Wigan Coal Corporation Ltd 19.0%
  • Wollaton Collieries Co Ltd 3.0%.
  • No companies in South Derbyshire exported any coal.

However, the ensuing Second World War was to kill off the trade!

At Arkwright (Derbyshire) (Arkwright Coal Co) two drifts were completed from the surface at 1in 2.5 to 1in5 to the Waterloo seam, a distance of 457m (418m). Prior to this the pit had been referred to as Calow. Rows of terrace housing referred to as Arkwright Town housed the workforce.

Electrical Treatment and Massage Clinic

On behalf of the Ollerton Colliery Sick and Accident Club, an Electrical Treatment and Massage Clinic was opened by Mrs A Leslie Wright, of Butterley Hall, Derbyshire, under the Patronage of Her Grace the Duchess of Portland on 23rd April 1938. Mrs Fletcher wife of the Colliery Agent Stan Fletcher cut the first sod for the building on 3rd January 1938 bedecked in a long fur coat and several other women in the party were similarly attired. The resident nurse was E Roberts and the Clinic Supervisor was Miss RM Dorset. A gleaming black ambulance registration letters CNN 764 was available, complete with driver with white coat and white topped military style hat, accompanied with a couple of ambulance men in black uniform, each displaying several medals, if necessary to convey injured miners to the hospital. Of course the idea of the clinic was to treat men with strain type injuries and the like and get them back to work as soon as possible. The Directors of the Butterley Co provided the land and building and the Sick and Accident Club equipped it.

Young Child Less Than 2 Years Old Fatally Burnt On Pit Tip

Sadly on 1st July 1938 a young child less than 2 years old, Doreen Elizabeth Bull, whilst picking flowers on the dirt tip at Ollerton colliery (Nottinghamshire) opposite Poplar Street fell into a cavity and was engulfed by the burning tip. Her father noticed very quickly and ran and dragged her out and first aid was administered by two local brigades. Unfortunately her injuries were so severe that she died in hospital of toxaemia. Of course those days there was no fencing around the tips and the children used to play on the tips until ‘shooed off’ by the bobby or a workman. Generally Bobby Eric Healey (Butterley Company) was the self-made controller of the village, and continued to make sure that everyone kept off the grass at the front of their houses. He used to inquire as to the name of the child running across a front lawn. They would probably get a good hiding from their father the following week when he would find that 2s 6d (12½p) had been deducted from his wages for such a misdemeanour. Healey also visited the homes if the children were not at school (to find out why not), inspected the houses for cleanliness and made sure nobody was living in tally (or sin) in a company house, because if so, out they went.

Ripper Killed

On 22nd August 1938 Albert Edward Gascoyne, Ripper aged 46 was killed at Silver Hill (Nottinghamshire) when a large lump, estimated at one ton in weight fell and trapped him in a gateside packhole. His son Albert would become a miner, and eventually a Mechanisation Engineer in No4 Area, Huthwaite in the 1950s.

Butterley Company Pits
  • Britain 535 men underground / 172 surface
  • Ripley 291/93 Manager for both George B Tristram
  • Denby Hall 402/140
  • Upper Hartshay nil/12 Manager Henry Riley
  • Ormonde 997/276
  • New Langley 197/59 Manager Jack G Belfitt
  • Kirkby 1,297/340 Manager Hubert Hyde
  • Low Moor 554/146 Manager Alf Maddox
  • Ollerton 1,254/365, Manager W Stan Fletcher.

Royalties Paid

The royalties paid to Lord Savile of Rufford Abbey for 36 acres 3 roods and 3 perches of Top Hard coal worked at Ollerton amounted to £4,498 4s 11d (£4,498.24½) for 1938. 227¼ days were worked at the colliery during the year, the highest of all the Butterley Co pits.

Royalties Of All Mines Bought Out

A Conservative Government bought out the Royalties of all mines in 1938. The Coal Act 1938 implemented the recommendation of the Sankey or Coal Commission in which the nations coal should be vested, compensation being paid to the former mine owners, however the Second World War 1939-1945 disrupted the work. (see 1942).

1st January 1939 was the date when the valuation was accepted. It was the intention of the Act that Freehold interest, i.e. a freeholder working his own coal should not be deprived of the right to continue working after Vesting date, so it provided that the Commission could grant leases to freehold owners working their own coal.

Statutory Undertakers

The Coal Act defined a statutory undertaker as: a local authority, company or other body or person authorised under an Act of Parliament to construct, work or carry on a Railway, Canal, Inland navigation, Dock, Harbour, Tramway, Gas, Electricity, Water, Sewage disposal or other public undertaking.

Paragraph 5 And Paragraph 6 Coal

In the 1938 Act, Paragraph 5 coal was coal that was severed from the surface or in lease at 1st January 1939. The rights to withdraw support being as laid down in the deed of severance, or in the terms of any mining lease subsisting at 1st January 1939. Paragraph 6 coal, is coal which at 1st January 1939 was owned by the person who also owned the land supported by the coal and no mining lease was subsisting, therefore no powers to withdraw support from the land existed. To give such powers i.e. rights to withdraw support, Paragraph 6 provides that the Coal Commission, later the NCB enjoy such rights to withdraw support after fulfilling certain conditions as may have been held by the former owner of the coal. Later the NCB had to publish a notice of their intention to do so in the London Gazette and one or more local newspapers.

In the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Coalfield this was a nightmare for Surveyors as many such examples existed and needed to be sorted out.


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