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The Decline Of The Industry Continued
After Nationalisation 1947


1947   1      3    4    5    6 

1947 - Page 5

Severe Winter

Thoresby In The Snow

The heaviest snow fall for many years was on 6th-7th January 1947. I remember it well. Where I lived in Sutton it was up to 4 ft (1.2m) deep. Many roads and railway lines were blocked in the region and at Harper Hill (Nottinghamshire) a lot of water needed pumping out of the first Dunsil steep adit drift and there was a roof fall creating a water dam. Pumping was continued until the roadway could be repaired and the rest of the water cleared by a 5hp pump. The pit was kept open, just, and the men from the Crich area (Derbyshire) were transported to and fro by lorry. The coal was worked by room and pillar system. Ventilation was effected by a surface fan and an air circuit by driving snickets from one room to the next of course after the room had been worked creating a parallel return airway, albeit very sluggish. Coal was transported out of the mine in wooden trams (later steel plate) 3 feet x 2 feet x 1 ft 6 in deep (0.9 x 0.6 x 0.45m) on a 1 ft 6 in (0.45m) rail gauge. The trams were tipped over by hand at the surface and sorted into grades.

During the week ending 15th January 1947 there had been frost, snow and fog, but the weather did not deter the Nottinghamshire miners, whose attendance and output was at the best levels possible for the time, being newly nationalised.

The big freeze began on 23rd January 1947 and was to last for many weeks, in fact 57 nights of continuous frost was registered around Woodthorpe, Nottingham by March. Large snowfalls were experienced and many places ground to a halt.  By 29th January there were power cuts and chaos.  On 12th February there were heavy snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures that combined to bring serious fuel shortages.  There were power cuts and coal trains were unable to get through 20ft (6m) drifts and there were thousands of people throughout the country without heat or light.  Coal stocks began piling up at the pitheads and the local power stations struggled to maintain minimum supplies. Also the stockpiles of coal were frozen solid and impossible to load out with the equipment on hand …. pick and shovel. It was not a good start for the newly nationalised industry.

Water Abstraction Regulations

The Water Abstraction Regulations 1947 were made under Section 6 of the Water Act 1945. It required certain records to be kept and returns to be furnished to the Ministry of Health for water abstraction from underground work.  This created much work for the Survey department, as anything to do with measurements was always placed on the Surveyor’s desk.  The Regulations required a record be kept of quantity of water abstracted each day, show rest level, if possible, and pumping level, sometime during October each year and to include certified copies of any analyses of the water. Rest level meant the normal water level when no abstraction was taking place, measured from ground level and pumping level similarly when abstraction was taking place.  There was usually a water well at each pit as practically every pit in the 3 counties with only 2 or 3 exceptions was using steam winding engines and clean water was necessary to be used in the boilers, usually after some water softening procedure had been done.  Sometimes water pumped out of the pit was softened similarly instead of from a well, Teversal (Nottinghamshire) for example which had a large softening plant. Of course the Surveyor would work in conjunction with the Enginewright or Engineer and Scientific department in obtaining the results.

Scientific Department

When the East Midlands Division Scientific department was set up, analysis of mine gases in the case of a suspected underground heating and the mineral analysis of underground water samples was carried out.  Later as the information became more reliable and the laboratory at Edwinstowe and Mansfield Woodhouse, water samples would be sent in of any source not ‘known’ to be o.k. so to speak, and over the years I personally must have sent in and sometimes took the sample to the lab upwards of a couple of dozen for a quick analysis if water appeared from somewhere not expected, mainly to see in the first place whether or not it was from, or associated with old workings.

Having started my career in the upper Meden Valley where there were lots of old pits, it was imperative to know from where the source of the water may have come from, always relating back to the Molyneux disaster of 1869 as it was still possible that there were areas mined in times long ago and not recorded, thereby leaving a shadow of a doubt whilst working the shallow seams. It could be surface water, intermediate or deep zone strata water or water from old mines or old workings. I always wanted to know their result so that I could relax knowing all was well or what action to take by first informing the Manager of any doubt before putting it in writing.

Power Station
Wilford Power station and Clifton colliery (Nottinghamshire) in the floods of 1947 as the River Trent overflowed

In March 1947 the pumps in Holbrook pit bottom (Derbyshire) could not cope with the extra water issuing (believed to originate from the large snowfalls) and water flooded the Parkgate dip workings and overflowed through a drift into Norwood dip workings.  Surveyor: Harold Cox (1598).
At Norwood, sunk about 1861 there were 2 shafts 33 yards (30m) apart and 14 feet (4.27m) dia to Top Hard at 165 yards (150m) deep.  There was 80 yards (73m) of tubbing in the shafts.  In 1881 winding output was 2 tubs of 10 cwts on a single deck.  The haulage engine was at the bottom of the DC shaft and 20 to 24 tubs were fastened to the rope by tong-clips.  Marsaut safety lamps were available but naked lights were used in the Potters seam.

HM Inspectorate

Andrew M Bryan was appointed HM Chief Inspector of Mines (1947-1951).

Recruitment And Training Centres

From 1st April 1947 the NCB took over the responsibility for recruitment and because of the school leaving age was to be raised the recruitment drive was open to Poles who were in the country either exiled or ex servicemen and many were attracted to the local pits and usually fitted in well although their command of English and particularly local dialect left a lot to be desired. They usually just carried on with their job and nodded now and again to be sociable. Everyone seemed to accept them.

Underground Classroom

Training Centres were set up throughout the country and the East Midlands Division.  Over 18 year olds had to do 3 weeks training and adults aged 21 plus or re-entrants now had to undergo 3 weeks training, previously 1 week.  Boy trainees aged 15 to 18 had to achieve 264 hours of study in 16 weeks, of which 132 hours had to be on mining operations, including a minimum of 66 hours underground plus 20 days close personal supervision upon starting a job. Two days a week were spent at the local Technical College to gain practical experience in engineering and theory of science and mining subjects. Underground visits to working coalfaces were also arranged as well as practical experience on the hand filled training face where coal filling, setting props and bars, packing and turning over conveyor belting was done.  Haulage work with endless rope and clips and pony ganging were also taught.  A practical course in first aid by SJAB personnel completed the training period.  Examinations and oral tests in all subjects at the end resulted in a ceremony to present prizes and receive certificates from some high dignitary.

Centres were at Markham, Birley East, Creswell, Donisthorpe, Hartshay, Grassmoor (surface, later), Silverhill, Mansfield, Bentinck, Moorgreen, Hucknall No1 and BestwoodLound Hall centre, with surface galleries was constructed later and used after 1967. Miners with experience in most underground jobs were set on as training Instructors with one chosen to be in charge.

Some refugee Poles working in the mines were transferred to the Forest Town Hostel in 1947. They had been at Abbott Road Hostel previously and before that at Hardwick Park.

5 Day Week And Attendance Bonus

The 5-day working week was instituted by the NCB on 5th May 1947, having been agreed on 18th April.  The length of the working week and shift was made uniform and the working week was reduced to 5 days. Underground workers were to work 5 consecutive shifts of 7½ hours plus one winding time.

An attendance bonus was introduced whereby anyone working the full 5 shifts was paid for 6 shifts. Surface workers were to work 42½ hours (exclusive of meal times) to be worked in 5 consecutive shifts of 8½ hours.  Overtime rates were increased to time and a half.   The period of weekend work for double time was increased from 24 to 32 hours.


Outputs for some No3 Area Nottinghamshire pits for week ending 17th May 1947:

  • Rufford 16,258 tons
  • Harworth 16,132 tons
  • Blidworth 15,670 tons
  • Thoresby 15,498 tons
  • Ollerton 15,134 tons
  • Clipstone 14,485 tons
  • Welbeck 13,077 tons
  • Bilsthorpe 10,541 tons
  • Mansfield 10,535 tons.

Coal Magazine

In May the ‘Coal magazine was published and sold for 4d (just over 1½p) and a monthly ‘Mining Review’ newsreel was produced for showing in the local cinemas, outlining the aims and aspirations of the new NCB.


The Waterloo seam was developed at Bentinck (Nottinghamshire) and was worked in conjunction with the Deep Soft and Tupton.

Aerial Ropeway

An aerial ropeway using buckets for dirt disposal was commissioned at nearby Newstead.


Workings from Mapperley (Derbyshire) were continued after leaving a pillar around the old Richardson’s shafts but once again met old works and a sough as they had in 1945.


There was a fire at Denby Hall (Derbyshire) on 25th July 1947 and another fire at Babbington (Nottinghamshire) on the screens on 26th / 27th October 1947

School Leaving Age Raised To 15

The Education Act of 1947 raised the school leaving age to 15 from August 1947.

Training Officers Appointed

Training Officers were appointed following the implication in 1947 of the Coal Mining (Training and Medical Examination) Order 1944 and the Coal Mines Act 1911, General Regulations for Training, 1945.

Support Of Roof And Sides

The General Regulations (Support of Roof and Sides) 1947, introduced, tightening up support setting, also the Coal Mines (Lighting) Regulations 1947 introduced better lighting.

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Pit Terminology - Glossary
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