Information and photographs submitted by subscribers are posted in good faith. If any copyright of anyone else's material is unintentionally breached, please email me

Miners And Their Families - This Page Written By John Lumsdon and Ian McDonnell

What clothes a miner wore, what equipment, tools, machines were used and what time did the day's nights and after shift start and finish.
A Day In The Life Of A Miner
Bob Williams - Thirty Years Man And Boy

What clothes a miner wore, what equipment, tools, machines were used and what time did the day's nights and after shift start and finish.

Instead of disposing of their old clothes when new ones were bought, miners would wear these as pit clothes. They would travel to the pit, work their shift and return home in the same clothes.

Attached to their belt would be a pair of kneepads, snapping tin, for their food, a helmet and a water bottle slung over their shoulder.

That was until pithead baths were built and work wear was provided.

Some pits had baths in the 1920s but most had none until 1947 when the coalmines were nationalised. (Brought into public ownership)


Clean side lockers

Drying out the pit clothes

Then a programme of providing baths was started. Prior to this the Coal Mines Act, 1911, laid down that if a majority of two thirds of the men required pit pithead baths the proprietors were required to provide these facilities. However the men had to make a payment of two pence per week for this privilege.

Many miners resisted the introduction of pithead baths with all sorts of excuses such as immodesty of communal bathing, catching colds and weakening their backs.

However the payment of two pence per week was probably the main reason, particularly when they had a good supply of hot water at home.

Where baths were provided miners would come to the pit in their travelling clothes, enter what was known as the clean side lockers, take off their clothes then take their soap and towel through into the dirty side lockers. Here they would put on their pit clothes or (work wear.) and go underground.

When the shift was over they would do the same in reverse, having a bath in the meantime of course.

As temperatures varied from pit to pit and even in different parts of the same pit, clothing would also vary. At the shaft bottom of a downcast shaft, this was where the fresh air was drawn down. In winter times men would wear thermal underwear and extra layers of clothing. While in hotter parts of the mine the clothing worn would be football shorts, boots and stockings.

Footwear was also an element of clothing. Prior to the hobnailed boots, were the clogs, and then the more modern boots had extra hardwearing rubber soles plus steel toe capped Wellingtons for working in wet conditions.

Tools and Equipment

A miner's basic tools were a pick and shovel, many got the pit blacksmith to make one of the pick blades, into a hammerhead in order to set, or knock the wooden props.

As holes had to be bored into the solid coal and rock, for blasting purpose, drilling machines and drill rods had to be used. Compressed air and some with electric power drove some machines.

With the introduction of hydraulic props a special key was made to pump the prop up tight to the roof and was released with the same key.

As time progressed and coalmines became mechanised, large machines were manufactured, not only to produce coal and transport it out of the pit, but also to make the roadways.

Armoured face conveyors were used with a power-loading machine mounted on it and this traversed the coalface cutting and loading the coal onto the conveyor.

Heavey Machinery
More Heavy Machinery

Hydraulic powered supports were attached to the conveyor; these not only supported the roof they had an internal ram that pushed the conveyor over to the coalface after the machine had cut and loaded a strip, one metre wide. When this was done the support was lowered from the roof, the ram put in reverse, and this dragged the support up to the conveyor and set once more to the roof, thereby supporting that exposed roof the machine had created.

Also with the introduction of machinery and electricity, craftsmen in this type of work required their specialist tools.

Hydraulic powered supports

Shift Work

Pits varied the times of their shifts, but in the main they all worked Days, Noons and Nights. In the early days of coal mining, men, women and children worked long hours.

The End Of The Day At
Blenkinsopp & Wrytree Pits

A group of miners in their pit clothes
ready to go down the pit.

A miner collecting his lamp.
He was wearing his free issue, orange coloured workwear introduced in most pits about 1980.


From: Ian McDonnell
Sent: 04 July 2007
A Shift At The Pit, Dearne Valley Colliery.

Dearne Valley Colliery was a surface drift mine sunk in 1901.

The Pit was closed in 1991, then they outcropped a seam of coal eighty yards below the surface.
After outcropping was completed the area was landscaped.

Photo probably taken towards the end of the 80s. The clue is the covered conveyor belt and the new Paddy road in the background.

In the left foreground is the Time office....... In the immediate foreground are the Managers / Undermanager's offices / Surveyors offices. The coal turned in the week up till the end of Friday would be dropped right up to the managers doorway...!!!

I started my mining life as an apprentice mine surveyor at Hickleton Colliery in 1964, qualifying with an ONC and an HNC in 1969.

I left the industry and worked for various local authorities as an engineer before moving on to Tarmac International. When my wife had had enough of me being away I came back to the industry on the workman's side. I started at Dearne in 1978 and went through the ranks...Haulage / face training / headings......and finished in 1984 as an Overman.

I then went back to Sheffield University and read for a degree in Mathematics gaining a 2:1 plus a certificate in Teaching after 4 years. We moved down here to Essex in 1988 when I gained a teaching post at the King Edmund School in far away from mining as you could!! 

A Shift At The Pit, Dearne Valley Colliery

After reading a day in the life of a miner I thowt ard write to you with a typical shift of a face worker at Dearne Valley Colliery, in the early 80s.....if you dont mind that

At the time I worked a 3 shift system. 6am day shift, 12 noon afters and 10 pm nights. Nights was my preferred shift, hated days. This is my story of a typical Monday morning day shift.

At 4-30am the alarm would be set to go off but more often than not i'd turn it off before time , so as not to wake the missus. I never could sleep much 1st shift on days Up , ablutions done, out to the car.Typical, covered in snow......started 1st cold the steering wheel froze my hands , cleared the windscreen only for it to freeze over except for a tiny square .....4 Miles to the pit........the engine hadnt time to warm the heater..!!

Into the baths whoa......brilliant, lovely and warm....changed, got my lamp ........went down the 40 yards of the adit that led to the paddy. Open air paddy this one.......lovely in summer just about woke me up..!! Deployed at the boxhole by the face deputy.......then a 2 mile walk inbye down 2 drifts and along the main conveyor road. Drop outer clothes off at the maingate button lads den. 800YARDS WALK INBYE ALONG THE MAIN GATE.Its about 7am. M/c is at no1 chock......alarms water to the sprays.......deputy shouts down the tannoy........the water pipes are frozen at the drift mouth.......not be after snap....9-45am.....frozen to bone........we got water. Got 7 shears off ........8th nearly through disaster at the tail gate end.........10 chock lengths of roof caved in.......Right lads........timber up.......Standing on top of the chocks we built a wooden chock on every steel chock........still it kept uzz warm......!!! Cut back the maingate just in time to get a lift off of my mate beltie. Grab your clothes dive on another mate beltie.......bu** stops at the bottom of the 1st drift.........nothing for it but a grind up 200yards of 1 in 4........At least the 2nd drift belt is running.........shouts and curses from the waiting men on the paddy......and the 1st shift on days is in the bag.......

Kind Regards

Ian MAC McDonnell 591 Dearne Valley Colliery


Pit Terminology - Glossary