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A Comprehensive History Of Mining In The Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire And Leicestershire Coalfields - Page 12


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Faith Sykes - Miners Sayings - He’s Going For The Button
Mark Hill
- Family Research - Granddad William Hill of South Normanton and Stewart Bonser, Crown Farm Mansfield

Rosa - Family Research - My Grandfather John William Dawson Worked As A Sorter Above Ground In 1911

Faith Sykes
29 Nov 2014
Miners Sayings - He’s Going For The Button

Both my grandfathers were miners in the Yorkshire coalfield.

Are you familiar with the expression, “he’s going for the button"?

Kind regards
Faith Sykes

Sent from my iPad

In the Midlands Region....Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire particularly

Generally it refers to an off / switch on a conveyor.

A 'button man' was a conveyor attendant employed to watch over a transfer point on a conveyor make sure that the coal and dirt flowed from one conveyor to another smoothly and should the outbye conveyor stop he was to stop the inbye conveyor to prevent a pile up, which would invariable happen, by pushing in the button (switch) as soon as possible (going for the button). The man would invariably be sat down on a wooden plank seat in the side of the roadway usually in a sheltered position out of the cold or cool strong airstream because most conveyors were situated in the intake airways (fresh air). He would hope that the button was conveniently close to his seat so that his reaction to stop the conveyor was quick.

His job then was to clean up the spillage when the outbye conveyor restarted then he would pull out the 'button' to restart the inbye conveyor to keep the coal flowing again. Of course each conveyor stoppage invariably stopped production of coal at the coal face so the quicker he could restart the conveyor, the better. He would also make sure that fines falling off or scraped off the bottom of the conveyors did not build up and load the material onto the conveyor by shovel. He was responsible to make sure that the conveyor rollers were running smoothly and not staked or broken or there were any tears in the conveyor belt (rubber based then pic after early 1950s ) as this was a possible fire risk.

Generally a button man was classed as a light job and offered to men who had been injured or had come off the coal face etc due to age as many men were in their 50s or 60s or at one time 70s. Of course it was a day job and a lower grade of pay.

In the late 1970s automatic stop / start was introduced and CCTV cameras installed and the conveyors were controlled from a surface but the man was then employed to patrol the length of the conveyor again to make sure there was no spillage, fines etc as before and could if necessary override the system to stop the belts if there was a problem.

I hope this explanation answers your query.

Bob Bradley

Mark Hill
24 Nov 2014
Family Research - Granddad William Hill of South Normanton and Stewart Bonser, Crown Farm Mansfield

Good Evening

Could you possibly help me?

I am doing the family tree and trying to find out what happen to a family member who worked in the mines.

My Granddad did a full Service, 52 years, we know he moved to Winter Bank South Normanton, Derbyshire in Feb 37 after the accident but we are unsure where he was before then and where he went to in 1952 when it closed, I would like to know which Mines he worked out of and what jobs he had, his name was William Hill of South Normanton.

-- (Other Help) --

Stewart Bonser, Another family member was involved in an accident at Crown Farm Mansfield, roof fall, he lived but I would like to try and find out when this was and what he did there.

John George Cook was my Great Granddad he work at the mines in 1911.

Arthur Howard Bonse, my other granddad, worked at Blidworth, we understand he worked with the pit ponies, this would be before 1980.

There are lots more family that worked in the mines and the last known family member working at the mines finished this year. Question, how many family work in the mine and how many sites?

Could you possibly help with William Hill and maybe Stewart Bonser and where would I find out more information about John?

Thank you for any help you can give and advice.

Mark Hill

-- (Part 2) --

Thank you for your E mail, since then I have gotten more information.

William Hill 29 Dec 1907, lived in South Normanton on 11 Gladstone Street. (Note the house number changed due to more houses being build on the street to 11 from 5 we believe but it was under 11 anyway) my dad thinks he went to Langton after Winter bank and maybe Blackwell (Winning A ) he left in 1972 after 52 year. My dad was at Winning B at first.

Arthur Howard Bonser born 1901 Carter Lane Mansfield.

Stewart Bonser at Mansfield Colliery at out live, I believe he got a back injury; I was young, under 10, when I last saw him.

Other Bonser's all work at different mines in Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire, I know Colin had an accident; he fell off a lorry which injured his back.

Great Grandad John George Cook, born 1883, Census says he was living at New Houghton, Pleasley, Near Mansfield, Derbyshire. So possible Pleasley, Shirebrook or the other colliery just across from them, forget its name.

Thomas Fletcher, born 1866, 17 Water Lane, South Normanton, information 1911 census.

Lason Hall (Jr) 14 Terrace Row South Normanton was a miner, information from his death certificate / paper work no other information as yet still looking into it. Information from 1911 census he was 12, born 1899.

Lason Hall 1875 born Sutton in Ashfield moved to 14 Terrace Row South Normanton again a miner at a local pit, no paper work to help here. He was the dad of the above.

Thank you for taking the time to help, the one I would like to know most about is William Hill as it seems he had to move around a lot; as it seem did most of the family from South Normanton.

Thank you for the photo I will ask my dad to have a look to see if he knows if it is him or not as I was only 3 or 4 when he sadly passed away, I think it was from breathing coal dust.

Thank you again

William Hill, your Grandad, you say he lived in the village of South Normanton.

Surrounding South Normanton were 9 pits, all within walking distance of max 3 miles.

  • South Normanton Colliery (locally known as Winterbank) closed in 1952.
  • Alfreton (closed 1968)
  • Blackwell A Winning (closed 1969)
  • Blackwell B Winning (closed 1965)
  • Bentinck (closed 2000)
  • Langton (closed 1968)
  • Brookhill (closed 1968)
  • Pinxton (closed 1951)
  • Cotes Park (closed 1963).

He could have worked at any of the pits listed prior to going to Winterbank and obviously transferred to any one of those after 1952.

Unfortunately you do not state when he retired thereby cannot get his date of birth, but his age when starting work would have been 14. This was until 1946 time when it changed to 15.

With 52 years service he would have been 66 years old. There was no compulsory retiring age until 1965 and many men up to their 80s were still at work.

On starting work as a lad he more than likely would have been employed in the pit bottom dogging on tubs or he would have been ganging a pony on supplies to the faces or both. Or he could have been clipping tubs on the main haulage ropes or working on a loading point in a panel gate.

He then would have graduated to working on the face stinting taking about 8 or 9 yards (giving about 20 tons loaded out per day) with machine undercut coal, blasted down and shovelled onto a face conveyor. Or he could have been a roadway ripper or a development man. The new coal cutting / loading machines such as trepanners and shearers were introduced after 1955 and coal face work was then setting hydraulic props with link bars instead of the previous solid steel or wooden props with w bars.

Providing he had kept fit he could have stayed on coal face work until retiring but a lot of men came off face work in their late 50s and did back ripping, dinting gates or did light work driving haulages or were transfer point men on main conveyors. Many unfit men came out of the pit and worked on the surface for less pay such as bat picking on the screens or as a general labourer.

Stewart Bonser at Mansfield Colliery (locally known as Crown Farm) was as you say involved in an accident in a roof fall. You do not state whether he was seriously injured....This would have been on the coal face. Was he off work for some time and if so did he return to his old job on the coal face? You give no date, age etc so basically it is impossible to pin point him. If it had been a very serious accident and several men were hurt he could well have been mentioned in an Inspectors report or in Compensation books. Only very serious accidents or fatals were documented and investigated thoroughly. The pit closed in 1988.

Your Great Grandad John George Cook worked in 1911. But you do not say where he lived. Difficult then to pin point a pit where he worked, but if he had graduated up to coal face work as mentioned for William Hill then his work was certainly much harder and dangerous. His would have been all pick and shovel work with hand holing at the bottom of the coal seam, then after levering down the coal and breaking it gently into large lumps it would have been hand loaded into wooden tubs on the face and hauled away by a boy ganging a pony. Usually about 5 men including a butty would have worked a stall, one of about 40 yards included in a radiating face from the pit bottom possibly up to mile long. Those days no shovels were used only forks or screens as they called them because there was no sale for small coal say less than 4 inches min....might have been 6 inches at times.

Arthur Howard Bonser worked at Blidworth prior to 1980 you say. The pit closed in 1989. The colliery began in 1926 but closed after 2 years because of bad ground. The new mining village was boarded up. However in 1930 it was reopened using better equipment. As in the previous examples he would have done various different jobs. He worked with ponies you say but Pony ganging finished in the early 1960s when all the ponies were dispensed with......

Bob Bradley

21 Nov 2014
Family Research - My Grandfather John William Dawson Worked As A Sorter Above Ground In 1911

I am trying to check on details of my grandfather John William Dawson who worked as a sorter above ground in 1911, he lived in Warsop at the time but the census does'nt specify which pit, so I am guessing it was Warsop Main Colliery.

Do you know where I might get details of employees at Warsop pit in 1911 ?

Any clues would be appreciated.


Warsop Vale Local History Society may be able to help. They have published several books over the years with great detail.

  1. One edition by Mave Calvert and Terry White the Hundred Years History of Warsop Vale and Warsop Main Colliery 1889 to 1989. ISBN 0-9538543-0-2.
  2. Past Memories of Warsop Vale and Warsop Main Colliery by Warsop Vale Local History Society ISBN 978-0-9538543-2-5.

There is a list of men living at Warsop Vale for later years than 1911 with job description but it is possible that they have earlier years and other names etc, We have lists of fatal accidents on the healey hero site but not lists of employees.

I hope that the Society can help with your enquiries.

Bob Bradley