Sutton Colliery for Sue Wormall
In Memory of George William Wormall
Family research on George William Wormall died age 37, 7th June 1937 in the mine on Skeby Road, Sutton Colliery also called Brierley Hill Colliery.
Any info or photos would be very much appreciated.
According to Alan Beales, who has researched deaths, George William Wormall aged 37 of 107 Brand Lane, Stanton Hill, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire was killed by a fall of roof at the coal face on 7th June 1934...not 1937. The inquest was held the next day on 8th June at the Sutton Miners' Welfare which was situated off Stoneyford Road opposite to Brand Lane on the more modern rows built by the Blackwell Colliery Company.
Brand Lane was the main access road to the colliery and was one long row of terraced housing.
A Brief Description Of Sutton Colliery Where George Worked
John Dodsley began sinking two 9 feet (2.74m) diameter shafts in 1873 and it was called New Skegby to differentiate it from the Skegby collieries sunk previously in the valley. New Skegby changed hands from Skegby Colliery Lime and Brick Co Ltd to Skegby Coal and Lime Co Ltd.
Sinking continued to the Top Hard seam. The colliery opened in 1874 and was now owned by the New Skegby Colliery Co who later changed the name to Brierley Hill Colliery. It is said that many men were attracted to the new sinking from the Brierley Hill area of the Black Country, Staffordshire, hence the name. The shafts were deepened to the lower horizon at Low Main and widened to app 15 feet (4.5m).
George would have worked in this environment
This seam and Deep Hard seam were worked as well as Piper seam. Ponies were used underground and young boys ganged runs of tubs of coal or supplies. In 1899 the Colliery was purchased by the Blackwell Colliery Co and renamed Sutton Colliery. However it was generally referred to as Brierley by locals until its closure in 1989. Even a park containing some of the old dirt tip area was named Brierley Park in the 1990s.
Following the meeting on 13th April 1926 a ban on coal exports was approved by the International Miners’ Conference and the threat of industrial action noted by the Cabinet and eventually the Prime Minister became involved. Coal had been stockpiled in the previous few months in anticipation of unrest.
Banning exports was a foolish thing to do. Coal from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire had been flowing to the continent and other countries around the World. However because British ships were now turning to oil, coaling stations began to disappear, and Welsh steam coal and anthracite, both excellent varieties of coal began to be used for other means, displacing the poorer quality coals of the Midlands. These markets never recovered, again a severe blow to the local mining industry.
The PM Stanley Baldwin met the full Central Committee of the Mining Association (Coal Owners Organisation) at 4pm on 21stApril 1926. The owners laid down the wages schedule that they had prepared in consultation with their district organisations, in other words the (lower) rates of pay offered to the miners. The deadlock existed between the miners and the mine owners as to the method by which the negotiations should proceed because the Miners’ Federation insisted that the new national wage agreement must include a national minimum percentage addition to standard rates. The State subsidy payments under the existing arrangements were to cease at midnight on May 1st 1926.
The Coal Commission reported that it would be necessary to reduce the percentage addition to the basic wage in some cases but the minimum wage was not to be reduced. They also listed a comparative table of hours worked in Great Britain compared to other countries.
The Miners’ strike of 1926 lasted from 3rd May to 26th November (213 days). There was a breakdown of negotiations over pay and conditions between the Miners’ leaders and the Government. The miners had decided to stay out on strike after the first General strike in British history, which had the backing of the TUC, had collapsed after only 9 days. There were over 1 million miners and 2½ million other workers called out by the TUC. The leader of the miners’ union the MFGB, Herbert Smith quoted, ‘Now’t doing, we’ve now’t to give’, and Arthur J Cook (pictured) coined the statement ‘Not a penny off the pay, nor a second on the day’ - however they were forced into returning to work for just that, six months later - less money for longer hours!
From 1926-1930 the number of hours to be worked underground was increased from 7 to 8!
For the miners it was a disaster. There was public disorder in places and cars were overturned, windows smashed. Fights often broke out as the miners tried to stop delivery of goods. Hundreds were arrested. The rail workers, road transport, builders, printers and steel workers had joined the strike in the first 9 days and bus services were suspended on 4th May as the strike gathered unity.
However the General strike ended at 1.15am on 12th May when it was called off by the TUC who had worked out a deal to end the General strike by agreeing to a National Wages Board, minimum wage for miners, workers displaced by pit closures to be offered alternative jobs, wages subsidy restored whilst negotiations continued. The miners’ leaders of theMiners’ Federation President Herbert Smith 64, (b 1862) a Yorkshireman, General Secretary Arthur James Cook 43, a Welshminer (b 1883 Wookey, Somerset) rejected the deal, but the TUC who was swayed by Jimmy Thomas the Railwaymen’sleader thought differently and went to Downing Street to tell the PM the strike was over, even though their call for a guarantee of no victimisation was rejected.
Drying Clothes For The Next Shift
Mining families then began to suffer – no pay – anything worth selling was sold if possible or pawned and children survived on bread and dripping and sometimes thin soup from the soup kitchens or other charity. Some local shop keepers helped a little knowing that when the strike ended the families would return to buy goods from them once more.
The NMA had attempted to settle the dispute as early as May for the union was in a precarious financial position and a few pits had continued to work and the dispute weakened the miners so much that even the militant miners sought a compromise. Bolsover Co had employed some Shropshire miners during the stoppage and the known unionist men were victimized.
The MFGB did not allow the NMA to conduct its own negotiations, so much so that men were streaming back to work in theNottinghamshire pits. Many miners of course moved to other districts to find work to avoid the wrath of their striking colleagues. Local negotiations were then allowed with the owners dictating their own terms and because of the split of the NMA from theMFGB, George Spencer MP became a hate figure and he was thrown out of the MFGB for defying the strike policy.
Tallies or motties with 2 small holes were issued by the colliery companies and unions and these were sewn onto caps or coats and only men wearing them were allowed to attend for work.
The Mining Industry Act 1926 ensured that the colliery companies were to provide pithead baths by levying 1d (less than ½p) a ton of output and a levy of 1s (5p) on every £1 of royalties. Arthur J Cook, elected to the MFGB as General Secretary in 1924, had battled for the deal. However it will be seen that at some pits a vote was carried against the building of such, I would imagine that there was great mistrust from the miners, possibly wondering how much it was going to cost them! In fact baths were not built at Sutton until 1956.
See Kenneth Hayes' Email
Bathing at home in the tin (galvanised) bath at the front of the fire was the way. Should there be more than one, say brothers or father and sons then they had to wait their turn and probably had the same (by now) dirty water. This was more than likely boiled in kettles on the fire or in a copper at the side of the fire range.
The 5 Counties Quota system commenced on 2nd April 1928. This was regulation of output.
New marketing schemes came into operation from 1st June 1928 as the Central Collieries Commercial Association to produce about 100m tons per year with fixed quotas and to stimulate exports by giving between 1s 6d (7½p) and 4s (20p) a ton. These subsidies were financed by a levy on each ton of coal raised by members with a maximum levy of 3d (1¼p) per ton. Each colliery in the 5 Counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, West and South Yorkshire and Leicestershire had a basic tonnage calculated from the actual output of any one of the previous 15 years selected by the owner. Each month a Quota Committee decided how much coal was to be produced and this was expressed as a percentage of the aggregate of the basic tonnages. This percentage was the Quota and the owner could produce up to the permitted percentage of his basic tonnage without incurring a penalty. If 1% was exceeded he was fined 3s (15p) a ton. Quotas however could be bought and sold with permission of the Committee. There were special rates for developing collieries. The scheme was voluntary!
The Legal Minimum Rates fixed in June 1928 on the application of the Nottinghamshire Miners’ Association applying to all mines except Gedling: Top Hard working (Digby Colliery Co Ltd).
- Contractors in abnormal stalls 10s 9d (53¾p)
- Stallmen when unable from shortage of trams, rails etc to earn a day’s wage 10s 3d (51¼p)
- Daymen, experienced on coal face 9s 9d (48¾p)
- Daymen and others under 20 years old 7s 0d (35p)
- Daymen and others over 21 years old 8s 6d (42½p)
- Stonemen, Rippers, Getters out and Timbermen on contract 10s 0d (50p)
- Datallers and chargemen 10s 0d (50p)
- Datallers, others under 20 years old 7s 0d (35p)
- Datallers, others over 20 years old 8s 6d (42½p)
- Platelayers, head 9s 6d (47½p)
- Platelayers, others under 20 years 7s 0d (35p)
- Platelayer, others over 20 years 8s 6d (42½p)
- Corporals 8s 6d (42½p)
- Onsetters chargemen 9s 0d (45p)
- Onsetters, others 8s 3d (41¼p)
- Horsekeepers, head 8s 0d (40p)
- Horsekeepers, others 7s 3d (36¼p)
- Haulage workers at 18 years 5s 8d (28⅓p)
- Haulage workers at 19 years 6s 6d (32½p)
- Haulage workers at 20 years 7s 4d (36½p)
- Haulage workers at 21 years and over 8s 3d (41¼p)
- Haulage engine men when wholly engaged below ground and recognised relief men 8s 6d (42½p)
- Pump and boilermen as above at mechanical power pumps and recognised relief men 8s 6d (42½p)
- Motor men when wholly in charge and controlling motors below ground and relief men 8s 6d (42½p)
- Air compressor and relief men when employed below ground 8s 0d (40p)
- Rope splicers 8s 6d (42½p)
- Coal cutter drivers 10s 0d (50p)
- JibbersandTimberers 9s 6d (47½p)
- Cleaners out 7s 0d (35p)
- Apprentices (grades 27, 28 and 29) at starting increased by Quarterly advances of 4d / day/ ¼ (1⅔p / day / ¼) until rate applicable to the grade to which the apprentice is drafted is reached
- 14 years 3s 0d (15p)
- 15 years 3s 4d (16½p)
- 16 years 3s 10d (19p)
- 17 years 4s 6d (22½p)
- 18 years 5s 2d (25¾p)
- 19 years 5s 10d (29p)
- 20 years 6s 8d (33⅓p)
- 21 years 7s 6d (37½p)
A Sick Club was set up in 1913 when members paid 3d (1p) per week and the benefits received were 8s (40p) per week for 12 weeks, 4s (20p) for the next 12 weeks and 2s (10p) for the final 12 weeks. On death, a fixed sum of £3 was paid and £2 to the member’s wife, and £1 for each child. No doubt this amount would have increased during the 1930s but would only have been about £20 to £30, depending upon the circumstances and the generosity of the Company.
The use of the hand-held electric drilling machines for boring holes for the use of explosives at the coal-face and ripping lips came into general use. Locally these were known as ram’s heads.
The depression in the mining industry increased during 1930. The colliery hooter would sounded daily in that period and 2 hoots would denote that some work was available. Men were sometimes sent to a job underground then told there was no work for them to do or very little so they came out of the pit and had gone to work for nothing or very little. Sometimes this was seen as a ruse to make sure that the men could not claim dole money.
The Nottinghamshire and District Miners’ Industrial Union now had around 5,000 members in Nottinghamshire and South Wales. As at most of the pits if not all the NMA were not offered facilities on the pit premises.
The year 1932 was the trough of the depression. Men who had earned £5 a week previously, were now only able to earn £3 10s (£3.50) maximum due to short time caused by Quota restrictions. All the pits were in the 5 Counties Scheme previously, which ended in early 1930 and was replaced by a Marketing scheme. A Quota or maximum output per month was allotted to each pit or company, and if the output was exceeded, a levy of so much per ton had to be paid as a fine, so in the event of the limit being reached, the men would be laid off. Some pits had a system where the colliery steam hooter would be sounded say once for work and twice for no work that day. On many occasions the men would be allowed to proceed to their workplace underground before being told that there was no work, thereby depriving them of any ‘dole’ money that they may have been entitled to. The family ‘Means Test’ was introduced. For miners it was an existence not a way of life. Although many were poor there was little crime and probably those who committed the crimes were well known or suspected and some vigilante groups were known to have ‘sorted a few out’.
The depression continued throughout the coalfield, but there was light on the horizon as the fortunes of the coal industry changed towards the end of the year and as production increased, the MFGB union regrouped and forced the Nottinghamshire coal owners to offer rise increases.
Wages at the time of his death would have been about £4 10s (£4.50) per 5 and a half day week.
Several photographs of the colliery, the housing and the method of work may explain some details for you. Note how few supports were set to prevent the roof above the coal from falling. Many men tried to take that extra little bit of coal without setting more prop supports and suffered the ultimate price.
Trusting this will give you a good insight George's working conditions, into mining coal in the early 1930s. It was a period when there was a change to undercutting of the coal by machine, shotfiring to blast the coal down and men then shovelled the loose coal onto a face conveyor. This delivered onto a gate conveyor and was loaded into tubs (generally wooden ones in a steel frame). These were hauled to the pit bottom by haulage engines and raised up the shaft 2 tubs at a time on 2 decks simultaneously. The output was only around 5 to 6,000 tons per week. Prior to that modern way it was a matter of chopping out the coal by pick and loading out large pieces of coal by hand into the wooden tubs at the face. Small pieces of coal and dust were not sent out of the mine under fear of getting sacked as there was no or little market for it. These were ganged by lads using a pony to a main haulage rope.
With the 'modern method' the ponies were only used to take jotties of props and bars and roadway supports inbye to the faces and not used to pull tubs of coal. Ponies were still used at Sutton until the late 1960s.
Sutton Colliery Closed 1989