1955 - Page 1
Coal Face Broke Into Old Roadway
In January a coalface in the Piper seam at New Hucknall (Nottinghamshire) broke through into an old return airway from neighbouring Bentinck colliery. The gate had been wrongly plotted on the mine plan in the past and it was thought that the panel was 30 odd yards (27.5m) away. Fortunately there was no injury. This example showed how important it was to have accurate correlation of underground to surface, and also that neighbouring mines worked by different colliery companies prior to nationalisation could have mistakenly believed that their workings were correct but plotted to a different grid, both based on magnetic north but not necessarily adjusted at the same time. After nationalisation the correlation of all mines was redone using more modern methods thereby tying all mines together on a common national metric grid. Unfortunately some of the very old inaccessible workings had to be plotted to their best known possible position.
Coke Ovens Closed
The Pinxton coke ovens (Derbyshire) were closed down in January 1955. This was another outlet for local coal that ended.
Pinxton No3 shaft (Derbyshire) was abandoned and filled in 1955. (The electric winder went to Harper Hill drift mine in 1959, Dunsil seam). 5hp Siskol cutters were sold to the owner of Harper Hill and Stretton drift mines.
Plate Belt at Kirkby Drift
A plate conveyor belt became operational in the new surface drift at Kirkby (Nottinghamshire), which was driven 1954-1955, at 1in4 down to the High Main seam workings. One of the first Anderton shearer coal cutter loading machines was introduced on a longwall advancing face in the High Main seam at Kirkby. Previously this seam had been worked by the room and pillar system as at Newstead and Linby due to the close proximity of the water-bearing strata.
The three McLane dirt tips at Kirkby ‘Summit’ (Nottinghamshire) were known locally as the ‘3 pyramids’, there were 2 large ones finished and a smaller one being built. Progress was made in reshaping these tips and experiments were made with pumping grass mulch onto the tips in an effort to create green hills. However the trials were not very successful and it would be much later when the tips were reshaped, soiled and grassed and planted with trees that flourished. The railway sheds were adjacent to the colliery surface and what with the smoke from the locos and pit chimneys and dust from the pit top etc, Kirkby always seemed to be in a haze along Lowmoor Road.
Joy Loader at Markham
A Joy loader gathering arm machine was introduced in a development heading at Markham, Derbyshire.
Seams Exhausted At Bentinck
The Deep Soft and Deep Hard seam workings were exhausted at Bentinck colliery (Nottinghamshire).
Worst Floods In Living Memory
The worst floods in living memory were experienced at Beighton (South Yorkshire), just over the border of North Derbyshire on 25-26/3/1955.
National Wages Structure
A new National Wages Structure was introduced in April 1955. Throughout the country there were upwards of 6,000 local job names. These had been condensed into around 400 classified occupations. National standard grade rates were fixed for each grade and for each age, there being half-ages for up to 18, and for juveniles up to 21 years of age. Minimum underground rate was increased by 1s. 11d (9½p) a shift to £1. 7s. 9d (£1.38¾) a shift and surface rates by the same to £1. 1s.5d (£1.22). Weekly rates for Under Officials were also improved in May. Derbyshire coal face workers were awarded 2s. 6d (12½p) a shift rise.
Boys To Do 5 Days Training On Surface
From May 1955 boys could not commence work on the surface until they completed 5 days training.
A re-organisation commenced at Silverhill (Nottinghamshire) in 1955, with new headstocks, airlocks, mine fan and winder electrification and the replacement of tubs by mine cars. Under the re-organisation, a diesel loco ‘Cock of the North’ had been introduced earlier to transport men to the Hardwick Hall pillar area of the Deep Hard workings in addition to the steep Middle Dips rope-hauled manrider that already existed.
Industrial Relations And Staff Department
The Industrial Relations from 25th June and Staff Departments from 10th October 1955 replaced the Labour Relations, Manpower and Welfare and Establishments Departments. The new Purchasing and Stores Department was established also.
Example of Wages
For William Cooper at Woodside (Derbyshire), for weekending 18.6.1955 he earned: Gross £4 4s 6d (£4.22½), Net £4 15s 6d (£4.77½) (tax rebate). He later moved to Lodge and for weekending 22.10.55 earned Gross wage £4 17s 6d (£4.87½), Nett £4 11s 6d (£4.57½) (no tax). He passed these pay tickets on to me as examples.
Record outputs were achieved at Ollerton (Nottinghamshire) for 6 days w.e.18th June with 21,539 tons, which was surpassed by 23,341 tons in December 1955. At Brookhill (Derbyshire) the 6-day record was 15,132 tons achieved in bull week for the Christmas holidays.
Pithead baths were opened at New Hucknall (Nottinghamshire). Prior to this many a green Mansfield District No101 bus carried scores of miners to Sutton from Huthwaite in their pit muck at the end of their shift. They were always asked to ride on the upper deck or stand up so as not to soil the bottom deck seats for general passengers. The pit was now producing 300,000 tons a year with 610 men. Pithead baths also opened at Mapperley and Ormonde (Derbyshire).
At Blidworth (Nottinghamshire) there was a pit pony called Boxer, 30 years old, 13 hands high, still working 5 shifts a week. He had been transferred from Newstead 20 years previously. At that time of course they were both the same company pits i.e. Newstead Colliery Co.
At Babbington colliery (Nottinghamshire) George Jenkins, Senior District Inspector of Mines launched a ‘Pit Safety Campaign’. There had been 13 fatal accidents already in 1955, only 3 less than in 1954.
The reorganisation at Pleasley (Derbyshire) was continued. Diesel locos and mine cars (shown) were introduced for coal handling underground from a central loading point to the shaft at the Second Waterloo seam level. The UC shaft had been deepened about 50 yards (46m). Both shafts had new cages and pneumatic cage decking and fully automatic circuits. A conveyor to the coal preparation plant was built at the surface. Surveyor was Norman Smedley (2…), (later Group Surveyor, Chief Surveyor South Wales, and then appointed Area Chief Surveyor North Derbyshire upon the reorganisation in 1967).
There was a reorganisation scheme at Denby when the old Kilburn colliery (Derbyshire) 14 ft (4.27m) dia shaft was brought back into use as an UC for Denby colliery. However the shaft was almost full of water and had to be pumped out. A second hand electric winding engine was transferred from Ormonde and a new headgear and fan drift constructed, a second hand fan being obtained from the closed Lodge colliery. After connecting to the Old pit and New Winnings both these became DC shafts.
Rope Hauled Machines
Rope-hauled Anderton shearer cutter loaders and Trepanners were introduced at several pits and eventually at many of the collieries in the district over the next 2 or 3 years.
Fire In Surface Stores
There was a fire in the surface stores at Newstead (Nottinghamshire) on 3rd July 1955. This was classed as a serious incident and a visit and report was made by the Mines Inspector.
New Training Rules
From July 1955 new Training Regulations came into force which concentrated face training on fully reserved training faces and imposed restrictions on the use of part-production faces. The Training Centre at Markham was closed down and operations were transferred to Grassmoor (North Derbyshire).
A pneumoconiosis clinic became operational at King’s Mill hospital in August 1955. Unfortunately many miners would have to attend and would be found to be suffering severely with shortage of breath due to coal dust in the lungs.
Accidents At Thoresby
Around this period in the mid 1950s there was a nasty accident at Thoresby (Nottinghamshire) when Bob Cooper a face man on 50s Top Hard panel went in front of a coal cutter. According to a friend Tom Hurt a workman on site, he was caught by the cutter jib and part of his buttocks were cut off. Fortunately he recovered from his injuries and later returned to work.
Another incident happened at Thoresby around this time again related by Tom Hurt when he was working on Top Hard 16s Face. A packer was taking dirt and coal off the face belt to build a pack. A very large lump came towards him and as he tried to lift it off the conveyor the lump pinned him to the pack wall. He was almost ‘flattened’ according to witnesses and the ambulance man on the face was called but there appeared to be no sign of life. A team of men quickly organised a stretcher party to take the ‘body’ out of the pit and covered him up with a blanket. They carried the stretcher part of the way then decided to put the stretcher on the conveyor belt to transport it outbye. Two or three of the men were on the belt in front and Tom Hurt was riding behind when suddenly the blanket moved and a hand appeared reaching out and frightened the life out of Tom. The man had been completely knocked out and winded by the incident but had suddenly recovered and had moved the blanket as he wondered where he was. He made a full recovery but the tale was remembered vividly by all.
On 20th August 1955 the weekly output record at Shirland (Derbyshire) reached 5,940 tons with 5,830 tons the week before.
New Coke Ovens
The Minister of Fuel and Power opened new coke ovens at Stanton.
Strike At Calverton
A strike by 200 contractors joining 35 face men at Calverton (Nottinghamshire) lasted 2 days in September 1955. It was caused by loose coal being left at the coalface by the previous shift that they objected to.
This used to lead to the expression at most pits, ‘they’ve left it like this’, usually when it meant that the team was delayed in starting their job etc.
Teversal Trunk Conveyors
Major trunk conveyors were installed at Teversal (Nottinghamshire) in 1954-1955, on the South side Dunsil workings replacing the old tub haulage systems. Fred B Turton (5713) was the Junior Official (Overman/Assistant Undermanager) in charge, promoted to Undermanager Pleasley, later to become Manager at Shirland and Silverhill, then finally Senior District Inspector of Mines. (I met him again in 1980s at Ollerton and we reminisced, much to the amusement of Walter Standage the Manager, who thought we were ‘brothers’). I was instrumental in assisting Tom Pickering the Linesman to create the lines to work to. A new loading point was built just a few hundred yards out of the pit bottom. New pithead baths, canteen and lamproom were built. When the north side Dunsil was working at Teversal, the pit ponies had to be got back to the pit bottom stables at the end of each shift. The only way back was up the steep 1 in 5 drift from the Dunsil seam to the Top Hard horizon and then up the 1 in 8 slope. This roadway had been made to install a shunt type manrider due to the sharp bend at the meetings, and the ponies had to rest here between rides, before attempting the last stretch. The gangers used to ride the ponies illegally to hasten back to the stables. On one occasion a pony did not make it and was struck by the paddy cars on the way down again and was badly injured chopping one of its legs off and had to be ‘destroyed’ by the ostler using a humane killer.
Conditions at Teversal were never perfect. By working the top seams the workings were always being undermined by Silverhill workings and later Sutton colliery workings, and severe floor lift or gate distortion would occur. Also whenever a Dunsil panel reached a position approximately 10 yards (9m) from the edge of a Top Hard pillar some 30 yards (27m) above, severe weighting would be experienced. Similar conditions would be experienced in the Waterloo seam later when approaching Dunsil seam pillar edges that were only 10 yards (9m) above. Although a very good seam of coal the Dunsil was never ‘mechanised’ due to its thickness which fluctuated from around 4 feet (1.22m) down to 1 foot 6 inches (0.46m) high. I remember going to measure the seam sections at 10s and struggled to get onto the face due to it being thin. The chargeman who was a bit bonnie had to stand out in the Loader gate – he couldn’t get on the face. However mechanised mining was tried in this seam at neighbouring Pleasley in the 1960s.
Cinderhill Abandonment Plan
Cinderhill No4 (Nottinghamshire) (BA Collieries Ltd) Main seam finished in July 1929, and the abandonment plan was signed by Lewis A Spencer (517 Jan 1920) as No6 Area Surveyor and it was countersigned by Arthur Walmsley, Manager on 26th August 1955 – another one that had slipped through the net – many more were to follow.
Clipstone Headgears Tallest In Britain
Clipstone headgears, (Nottinghamshire) at 214 feet (65m) the highest in Britain, were completed in September, replacing the normal steel lattice shown, and electrically operated ground mounted Koepe winding was introduced, the second of its kind in the country. A thicker than normal winding rope at about 2½ inches (0.06m) diameter would be necessary to wind mine cars from the new depth where the Low Main seam was accessed. The remaining Top Hard reserves would be sent through a connection to Mansfield shaft. Diesel locos and mine cars would be employed for coal haulage in the pit bottom.