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The Decline Of The Industry Continued
After Nationalisation 1947

1970 1971
1973 - Page 1 2

1973 - Page 2

Disastrous Winding Accident At Markham (Derbyshire)

On Monday 30th July 1973 there was a disastrous winding accident at Markham mine (North Derbyshire). At 6.30am the winding engine failed to stop the cage containing a bantle of men at the No3 shaft bottom, due to a broken component on the engine, a single-line brake tie rod. The brake mechanism failed on the steam winder and the cage crashed to the bottom of the shaft. RW Keenan the winding engineman had carried out the operation of winding the men into the pit normally when he suddenly saw sparks coming from underneath the brake cylinder followed by a bang. He immediately carried out the operation of trying to retard the engine but to no avail and finally knocked the emergency stop when he realised the engine was not slowing down and also knocked out the hydraulic pump motor, but unfortunately to no avail. The rope from the ascending cage flew off at the King’s patent in the headgear due to the overwind and dropped back onto the detaching hook. The headgear was severely damaged. The cage of riders hurtled down the shaft smashing into the wooden baulks and meanwhile the rope now fell back down the shaft onto and alongside the cage.

The winding drum continued to rotate and the flailing capel of the underlap rope severely damaged the engine house and an adjoining workshop. 18 men were killed and 11 were seriously injured, with 13 men being killed outright and a further 5 dying of their injuries. The automation of winding engines continued following this accident.The 15 feet (4.57m) diameter shaft had been sunk in 1886 to 1,626 feet (496m) deep but the bottom 189 feet (58m) had been filled to the Ell seam horizon pit bottom at 1,407 feet (429m) deep. A kibble for 2 men was lowered down the shaft using the emergency winding engine in order to inspect the damage. It was about a week before the damaged cage could be raised to the surface. Much investigation was carried out by NCB engineers and HM Inspectors.

North Derbyshire Area

  • Director Robert B Dunn (4318) at time of disaster, previously Manager of Oak Colliery, North West and senior positions in Scotland (d Dec 2008)
  • Deputy Director John H Northard (4954) (previously Undermanager at Gomersal (Yorkshire), then promoted to 
  • Manager Park Hill 
  • 1957 Manager Desford
  • Joined HMI South Wales but returned to NCB
  • 1961, Manager Nailstone
  • Agent Manager Rawdon, (South Derbyshire), Production Manager,
  • 1965 Deputy Area Production Manager (Ops) Cannock Chase
  • Deputy CME (Mining Services) Staffs Area 1967

Area Chief Mining Engineer:

  • Tom W Peters (4482) (previously Manager Granville Colliery)

Deputy Chief Mining Engineers:

  • Albert Wheeler (7349)
  • Des Stringer (5143)

Production Managers:

  • Len Harris (7388)
  • Jim Clark (6986)
  • A (Tony) F Deakin (7903)

Colliery General Manager for Markham:

  • Joe Rodgers (6128)

Deputy Manager (1)

  • Don Hotchkiss (8632)


  • Rob L Tighe (4871)

School Leaving Age Raised To 16

The school leaving age was raised to 16 in 1973. This would cause a loss of entrants for all job opportunities as well as in mining.

HM Inspectorate

Fred Thompson joined the Mines Inspectorate in 1973. He had been Undermanager at Handsworth (Yorkshire), Manager at Shireoaks (Nottinghamshire pit in South Yorkshire Area) and General Manager at Silverwood (Yorkshire).

The Mines Inspectorate changed once again and was now under the Department of Energy 1973-1975.

North Midlands:
Senior District Inspector

  • Dilwyn Richards (5250)

District Inspectors

  • Robert (Bob) A Bower
  • Vernon J Hugh
  • Robert (Bob) F Young


  • Guy DR Adamson (5391)
  • John Bennington (5046)
  • Ken Couldwell (5064)
  • Geoff Weston (6269)

Coal Industry Act

The Coal Industry Act 1973 was passed, and among other things provided financial assistance to help the industry recover. This would become a more difficult task with the looming unrest and strike of 1974.

Colliery Review Procedure

At Area level a remodelled Colliery Review Procedure was introduced in addition to extended Colliery Consultative.

Chainless Haulage On Coal Face

Pye Hill (South Nottinghamshire) was the first to use a system of hauling the face machine along the face without a chain, using something that was allied to a giant bicycle chain which engaged pegs fixed to the armoured face conveyor. It was called Rack-a-Track by Pitcraft Ltd.

It was decided to develop the chainless system following an accident, when one man was killed and two others seriously injured by a whipping chain.


The Yard seam was developed at Rufford (North Nottinghamshire).
A third surface drift was driven to the Waterloo seam at Arkwright (North Derbyshire) to improve ventilation and supplies access.
A Dosco side-discharge loader was installed at Ollerton (North Nottinghamshire).

Household Notices

Household notices - large dark blue print on yellow plastic sheeting began to be introduced at all the collieries for various uses such as in house notice boards on the surface etc.

Green display signs showing distances and direction to pit bottom posted at all junctions.

One Million Tons At Hucknall

Hucknall colliery (South Nottinghamshire) produced the first 1m tons in 1972-1973 with a total of 1,102,600 with 1,061 men.

The Parkgate seam was accessed at Cotgrave (South Nottinghamshire), but was not worked.

Water From Holmewood Leaking Into Silverhill

Water was found entering the Low Main old workings at Silverhill colliery, from an old stopping site. The workings in that area had finished at a fault, which marked the Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire boundary with the old Holmewood workings, which were connected to Williamthorpe. It was assumed that the pressure of water in the old Holmewood workings was making the barrier leak. Submersible pumps were introduced at the Williamthorpe shafts (North Derbyshire) and pumping recommenced. After a few weeks the water table was lowered and water stopped leaking through to Silverhill. Pumping continued even after Silverhill (North Nottinghamshire) was closed, as through various inter-colliery connections water could affect the working mines if allowed to continue to flow.


Peter Heathfield Compensation Agent was elected General Secretary of the Derbyshire Branch of the NUM replacing Herbert E Parkin.

Holding Companies

During the year 2 holding companies were formed to handle parts of the Board not expressly to do with deep mining or opencast working. These were NCB (Coal Products) Ltd and NCB (Ancillaries) Ltd.

Subsidence Slip At Disused Railway

In 1973 a length of disused double-track railway east of Arkwright Town was undermined by workings in the 2nd Waterloo seam from Arkwright (North Derbyshire) at 250 yards (229m) deep. The undermining caused the embankment to slip and the railway lines were severely distorted and could not have been used should it have been necessary. An example where predicted subsidence damage was avoided was the Staveley sewer, an overland pipeline above ground on stilts which was jacked up to prevent any sag and it kept the flow correct in the right direction and no back up of effluent was found.

Another Overtime Ban Over Proposed Wage Rise

The NUM submitted a 31% wage claim but constrained by Government counter-inflation guidelines the NCB were unable to offer more than 7% plus increases to allowances. Another overtime ban was called by the NUM from 12th November 1973. This led to a further strike.

Jobs Again During The Dispute

Management staff at the pits stood in on all the necessary jobs.

On a personal note - at Ollerton I carried out duties on surface boilers, even assisting the Deputy Mechanical Engineer in repairing a broken chain inside a boiler that was still quite ‘warm’, banking duties for winding staff in and out of the mine, underground duties taking the half hour statutory readings at 34s North side inbye booster fans, Draper’s paddy driving, pit bottom pump man, onsetter in the pit bottom, Deputy duties and mine air samples at 20s panel inbye (re a heating), methane pump duties, etc.

On a couple of occasions during the strike I was in the mine on my own some 3½ miles plus inbye - not a good thing, anyhow one did it to keep the job going! This was because I was the Roster leader. It was marvellous, for whenever you wanted someone for an awkward shift there were more excuses than a little to say why they could not get – and these were staff personnel, so who ended up doing the job - me! Of course throughout the ban it meant working every Saturday and Sunday from 17th November 1973 to 3rd February 1974 and of course that included Christmas Eve night shift and the first January 1st Public holiday. One never could get those days back!

On one occasion I set the pit bottom pump going to pump water up the shaft whilst I went inbye. To my horror when I returned I could hear water running and found it cascading down the shaft. The sump was almost full and lapping at the running on level. It appeared that the rising main had sprung a leak – in fact a big one. So I had to put some extra time in as I was forced to pump the water out of the sump back into the tanks again before knocking off. The next day I was on banking duties hanging over the edge of the shaft listening for the gong signals from Pete Davies, Peter Longden and another repairing same. A new length of pipe had to be installed after the old piece was taken out, so it was up and down, up and down with the cage and it was one of the worst jobs I ever had. It was imperative to stop the cage at the correct level in the shaft without jerking too much and there was much utching up and down the shaft as I relayed the signals to the engine man. I could appreciate when the cage stopped suddenly it would bounce for a while, not pleasant when standing on top of the cage as I remember when doing a shaft survey and measuring at Teversal. The noise was horrendous as it was near to the fan drift and leakage air pulling through the doors made my ears ring as well as the gong. At times the sound of the gong reverberated so much that it was difficult to know whether it was a signal four to lower or a five to raise. Only once did the panic button ring. Still the job was completed after a couple of days. I was roster organiser and for some reason I wasn’t on pumping duties again….!

I was then on full time surface boiler duties for 20 shifts on days, afters and nights from 11th February for 4 weeks to 10th March 1974 when the NUM members were on strike. Total jobs: North booster fans on weekend overtime ban from Nov 1973 16 shifts. Also doing Deputy work by examining 20s panel and taking air samples for the laboratory to check the progress of the heating on that district 7 shifts including Draper’s paddy driving 9 shifts. Pit bottom pumping 1 shift and inbye Methane pump 1 shift and pit bottom onsetter and surface banksman as and when.

In fact the only job I never did was winding and that was the first job offered to me but I said that I would do it if they could find no-one else. It would certainly have been a less onerous task. Like a few of upper management we realised that some men had a cushy number. I did shifts with the Chief Mining Engineer, Production Manager, other senior Area Officials, Undermanagers etc and it soon became apparent that one man could sometimes do two jobs in the same shift. We had managed it. The axe was soon to fall as jobs were re-rationalised and manpower was cut down. I don’t think that would have happened if we had not found out by doing their jobs. Again this was another example I think where the NUM ‘shot themselves in the foot’.


In November Robert B Dunn (4318) Director of North Derbyshire Area was promoted to Director of Mining at NCB HQ. John H Northard (4954) Deputy Director was appointed Director of the new Western Area.


From December 1973 Management and Technical grades were merged with General Administrative grades to form a new Management Grade structure.

  • M1: £4,270-£5,170
  • M2: £3805-£4,605
  • M3: £3,335-£4,110
  • M4: £2,935-£3,670
  • M5: £2,555-£3,220
  • M6: £2,245 x £80 - £2,820
  • M7: £1,845 x £70 –£2,385.

Opencast Working
  • Gold 1½ m South West of Eckington Upper and Lower Chavery, Sitwell (W and C French (Construction) Ltd) finished 13th Sep 1973
  • Harper Hill Waterloo Marker, 2nd Waterloo, good quality, 3rd Waterloo, 30/6/73
  • Shilo 1m North West of Kimberley Top Soft, Lower, Roof Soft, Deep Soft, Brown Rake, Deep Hard, Whole seam, Roof Coal Piper (Robert McGregor and Sons Ltd)
  • Shipley Lake Top Coombe, Lower Coombe, Top Hard, Sath, Dunsil (Lehane, Mackenzie and Shand Ltd)
  • Nethermoor (Mr GH Sadler) Yard and Silkstone, 12th Feb 1971- 30th June 1973
  • New Stretton (James Oakes and Co Riddings Ltd and Mr Bell) possibly Deep Hard
  • Pilsley – Tibshelf Railway, Top Hard floor, D and 1st W/loo, 45,503 tons, (Heanor Plant Contractors Ltd) 20/6/72-31/1/73
  • Steadmill ‘B’ 2nd St John’s finished 31st Aug 1973
  • Upper Delves Deep Hard and Yard finished Aug 1973
  • Wrang Farm Top Hard, Upper Dunsil, 1st Waterloo, Waterloo Marker, 2nd Waterloo (WJ Simms, Sons and Cooke Ltd).

Although We Had Moved Into The Modern Age Of Technology
1973 Had Been A Terrible Year For Disasters

Inspector's Report 1973

HM Inspector:
Senior District Inspectors RA (Bob) Bower retired. V Hugh and S Marlow transferred and were replaced by John W Jones and G Scott. Brian Langdon joined the South Midlands District. F Stephens to the North District.

  • North District: Senior District Inspector Dilwyn Richards.
    District Inspectors John W Jones, Geoff Weston
    Inspectors Ken Couldwell, Guy DR Adamson, John Bennington.
  • South District: Senior District Inspector Fred Tootle
    District Inspectors G Scott, PA Walker
    Inspectors RAK Colquhoun, Brian Langdon, T Vaughan Thomas, P Williams

23 men killed, including the tragic overwind shaft disaster at Markham when 18 men were killed and 12 seriously injured. There were also 100 serious accidents.

There were 3 ignitions of firedamp and 2 sudden emissions of firedamp. 9 outbreak of fires underground.

In North Derbyshire 7,401 old shafts and all but 21 had been located.

North Nottinghamshire 67 old shafts located.
A new survey by aerial photography to obtain colour and infra red photos. Also boring to prove old shafts.

10 surface boreholes were drilled and 7 underground for exploration of seams in North Derbyshire and 10 surface and 13 underground boreholes at 9 pits for exploration.

North East Leicestershire surface boreholes for exploration.

  • Blidworth production started from the Abdy / Brinsley seam.
  • Rufford Yard seam
  • Silverhill Piper seam.
  • Sutton Deep Hard where the waste failed to break on the steeply inclined face but was successfully overcome by causing the waste to collapse by firing Cardox shells in the roof at the edges of the waste.
  • Babbington Blackshale.
  • Calverton access to Low Bright / Brinsley.
  • Clipstone Low Main was replaced by Yard seam and Dep Soft and a 19' 6" (5.95m) diameter staple shaft was sunk to form a 900 tons storage bunker, with a centre metal spiral.

New surface drift at Arkwright.

At Silverhill there was an influx of water, some 250 gallons per minute. There was a fall in the water level at Williamthorpe shaft and it was thought that the failure of the barrier coal pillar between Silverhill and an abandoned mine connected to Williamthorpe. Pumping was restarted At Williamthorpe and the leakage stopped.

Harworth multi-tube monitoring of air at 14 points underground.

At Bolsover a small track-mounted side-discharge bucket loader was used in an advanced heading.

Shirebrook pan launcher devised frame and installed 250 yards (229m) of pans in less than 7 hours.

At Creswell an anti-run back clutch to prevent the conveyor running back on a steep drift.

Markham No1 headgear was replaced for skip winding. Undergound skip pockets had been constructed and new roads driven to Threequarter seam devlopment.

16 Booster fans were installed in North Nottinghamshire and 3 in North Derbyshire.
Ollerton surface fan speeded up.

There were trials at cutting out gate profiles using Shearers.

8 remotely operated endless haulages.

Hand held methanometers introduced.

More faces equipped with hydraulic chain tensioning device.

23 mechanised packing systems in South Nottinghamshire.

Rescue in 2 districts, 15 Officers, 41 permanent corps, 528 fully trained men at pits. Rescue teams fetched out 8 times.

Training Centres passed 525 young persons, 1,175adults and 638 re-entrants.

43 full time nurses for 56 mines in the Division.

South Midlands:

  • 2 killed and 55 serious accidents.
  • At Cadley Hill the haulage control cabin was at the top of surface drift for the 2 miles underground train.
  • 13 booster fans.
  • Major schemes to improve materials handling at Snibston, Bagworth and Ellistown.
  • More stone dusting machines required.

Now only 9 horses in 2 pits in South Midlands.