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The Decline Of The Industry Continued
After Nationalisation 1947

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1993 - Page 4

Silverhill Closed After 118 Years

The Coal prep plant originally installed in 1947 had a through put of 375 tonnes per hour. Washed cobbles were loaded out to lorries. Most of the output was sent to the 2,000 tonnes rapid loading bunker to be transported away by rail. Waste material was conveyed about 515m to a 1,200 tonnes conical dirt stockpile where it is discharged to the tip by 2 x TS14 motorised scrapers to be spread and graded. Slurry lagoons were constructed on the tip. Prior to the terrible Aberfan disaster in 1966 where a waste tip built on a steep mountain slope was weakened by heavy rain and collapsed and engulfed a school killing 116 children and 28 adults and teachers. Following this the NCB in joint approval with the HMI examined all colliery waste tips and Surveyors drew up a series of plans showing the tip construction over the years from a green field site to present day. At the combined Silverhill and Teversal tip there were several tip/slurry pond collapses before this time but because no loss of life or other dangers were created the damage was cleaned up as soon as possible and the tipping carried on as before but the conical heaps were rounded off but even so dirt was just pushed over the edge with a tractor or bulldozer. On one occasion I remember in the early 1950s men were brought out of the pit to clean slurry out of a valley so as to try to prevent the slurry reaching a stream where damage could be done to aquatic life etc and on another occasion the railway line between the pits was covered in slurry when a bank burst.  Many of the meetings, discussions and investigations and ideas were carried out by joint discussions with Area Civil Engineers and Surveyors and HMI at Teversal. New Acts and Regulations were made and new ways of tipping were created.  (see Teversal Closed 1980).

At March 1986 four longwall advancing working faces in the Piper and Blackshale using DECM trepanners, conveyed coal by remotely controlled belt from the 350 tonnes bunker control station in the pit bottom, and the Blackshale had a 700 tonnes capacity vertical bunker commissioned in 1985.

In Dec 1988 a Blackshale face 15s, advanced 60 yards (55m) in one week and produced a European record tonnage of 30,529 for an advancing face, the coal cut by a AS 270hp floor mounted trepanner machine. Face supports were Dowty 4 x 300 IFS chocks that gave support quickly behind the turret jib. Heavy duty pans at 222mm and 22mm twin strand panzer using outboard chain. Dosco MIIB cutter loading machines were used in the advanced heads at both gates and 16/17 x 12 ft arches were set with a running rail across the face entry to allow access and for cutting out. As the running rail was advanced the bottom part of the arch was bolted back on.  A previous record but only for 7,033 tons from 19s panel in Jan 1970 showed the men and management team celebrating with a few pints of beer pulled by Colin Wells (6005) the Manager, behind him was the Deputy Manager David Oliver (8338), later Manager at Creswell, and second from right, in middle row Terry Wheatley, (8348), later Manager at Thoresby, Production Manager, and eventually Director for South Wales and Midlands Group. Further records were broken over the years as shown below. This was beaten by 3s face Blackshale that held the European record of 16,400 tonnes achieved using a standard CMT (Conveyor Mounted Trepanner), IFS face supports, 19mm panzer chain and pans and Dosco MkIIA’s in the advanced heads. Caledonian Mining Co was commissioned to do some development drivage tunnels over the years. Two 9 inches (0.23m) dia pilot holes were drilled, then using the Raise drill 5 feet (1.5m) dia boreholes were reamed out back from Blackshale to Deep Hard to improve the ventilation.  Roof bolting had been carried out in the 1940s in the Blackshale level and in the late 1980s a TMT100 machine in the SE development. A 700 tonnes capacity Vertical bunker was operational August 1985.

7033Men were transported by rope haulage and conveyors. Materials were transported by endless rope haulage. Clip cars were attached to the haulage systems to create a better and safer system. Also in 1986 the underground booster fans were moved to 70s. On the surface new workshops were built and the old ones demolished. A 2000 tonnes rapid loader was commissioned allowing the trucks to fill whilst on the move. A covered walkway from No2 pit top to the pithead baths was completed by Sep 1986. The Silverhill News kept the workforce up to date with the operations at the pit. The No5 edition of Silverhill Echo was another leaflet and at the end of Dec 1986 stated that the operating profit for the pit was £1.484m. The recent output of 17,178 tonnes had realised a profit of £95,000. 140 men retired by taking the Board’s redundancy terms on 14/3/1987. This was the result of efficiency schemes. A Money for Coal Scheme outlined the bonus that could be earned by the tonnage produced, e.g. 13,000 tonnes would give a 100% bonus of £7 and 17,000 tonnes would earn £14, for 20,000 tonnes £19.50 and for 22,000 tonnes the bonus would be £27.

As a result of Industrial Action being taken on Friday 4/9/1987 the Manager stated that ‘you have disqualified yourselves from the entitlement to the bonus for the quarter 1/9/1987 to 30/11/1987. ‘A copy of the letter to be lodged in your personal file’.

There was a further dispute on 18s face 30/4/1990. Both the Official and the workman involved were suspended on full pay until investigations were completed. The Manager Ian Clayton said that nothing was to be gained by the pit remaining on strike and it was expected that production would re-commence on the Friday. Unfortunately a major mistake was made in setting out a junction for a new panel. Figures for the centre line position were transposed from one survey mark to another. A surveyor’s nightmare but it should have checked by a different person before starting the excavation. Again the Chief Surveyor was summoned by higher management to explain. Surveyors must always check and double check no matter whether it is a simple job or not. I learned my lesson in the 1960s when a simple cross gate at Teversal starting from both ends had an error when the headings thirled. This was another surveyor’s nightmare. One end was set out on centre line and the other from an offset line. Although we checked it both the boss and I made the same mistake. Fortunately for us the snicket was not important but we both learned a great lesson from it. I never made that mistake again. No matter how many jobs you have done perfectly in the past everyone only remembers the last mistake!

An automatic Zed Miner system of guidance was installed in Y9s Yard seam loader gate advanced heading and used with a Dosco MkIIB road header and gave an accurate cutting profile reducing over cutting. In 1991 miners on Yard seam 9s face sheared 12 strips to win a new World face cutting record in a 1m thick seam and produced 3,000 tonnes with an Anderson Strathclyde floor-mounted trepanner. The 3,300m cut beat the previous record of 3,200m held by Rufford.

On 13/10/1992 the colliery was closed as uneconomic. On 21/12/1992 Judgement in the High Court held that British Coal and Michael Heseltine (Con), President of Board of Trade on 13/10/1992 were in breach of Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, 1992 and of the Directive 75/129 of the Council of the European Communities. The judgement was that they had wholly disregarded the agreement for the use of the Modified Colliery Review Procedure. British Coal was told not to close the colliery.  Boyd’s were appointed by the President of the Board of Trade to report on the 10 collieries (including Silverhill) in accordance with the views expressed by Lord Justice Glidewell. On 11/1/1993, British Coal criticised the ‘Dash for Gas’ Report. British Coal published a detailed response to the Trade and Industry Committee Report on 11/2/1993. There was a consultation on draft report by Boyd’s on 23/2/1993. By 15/3/1993 the final report by Boyd’s was available, which confirmed that the pits were loss making, profitability depended upon a market for its product.

British Coal announced in March that the enhanced redundancy terms would continue until the end of 1993.  The shafts were prepared for abandonment and then filled with limestone chippings with concrete plugs covering the insets as well as the sumps.  Concrete caps completed the shaft fill and a drainage pipe for air/gas extends above the concrete cap, and iron railings, painted green, some 6’ 6” (2m) high surround the No1 and No2 shaft sites. 

Self-set trees and bushes have grown within the railings. The old Silver Hill shaft, used for pumping and known as Coopers is situated just behind the wooden fencing to part of the Country Park area and a small circular mound in the long grass is apparent with a thick concrete post sticking up, the only reminder of the whereabouts of the shaft. Details of that shaft fill are unknown to me. I remember in 1954 assisting in measuring the water levels at pumping and rest levels and depth to the silt. A platform part way down the shaft housed the electrics etc for the submersible pump and on one occasion one of the fitters / electricians? lost a finger when lining up the holes of the apparatus whilst doing maintenance work when the housing slipped. The water originating from the old pits in the upper Meden Valley and flowing down the old sough was used in the Coal Preparation Plant. Any surplus water around 25 gallons per minute was pumped to the surface at No1 shaft, static head 385m from Yard seam horizon, and discharged into a tributary of the River Meden. There were connections underground to Pleasley at Deep Hard level and Sutton at Piper / Deep Hard horizon.

MonumentI was invited to attend the ceremony when a statue of a miner was unveiled in 2005 at the highest point of the dirt tip (and Nottinghamshire) as a dedication to all Nottinghamshire miners of the past and present. I was proud that I was instrumental with David Clarke MBE the Mining Records Officer in finding the correct starting and finishing dates of the Nottinghamshire collieries chosen to be depicted on the bronze nameplate beneath the statue. The bronze plate was stolen in 2007!!  It was replaced later but in cast-iron, however some vandalism was done afterwards by some unscrupulous person who tried to cut off part of the oil lamp!

Distance from Top Hard to Deep Hard 220m, from Deep Hard to Piper 9m, Piper to Low Main (or Tupton or Furnace) 52m, Low Main to Threequarter 5.5m, Threequarter to Yard 39.5m and from Yard to Blackshale (or Silkstone) 18.3m.