The Brandling family of Gosforth began the St. Hilda Colliery in 1822 and reached coal in the Bensham Seam in July 1825 at 143 fathoms (c. 858 ft or 264m). The coal seam was 6 feet in depth and was worked in a southward direction from the shaft. By the mid 1830s the Coliery was shipping approximately 50,000 tons of coal per year to the London market.
This colliery was considered as peculiarly safe; but, on the morning of Friday, June 28, 1889, about 9 o'clock, the banksman observed the smoke of the furnace, mixed with small coals, ascending the downcast portion of the shaft, announcing the fatal certainty of an explosion. In the course of the day, 51 bodies, were exhumed. The following Monday it was ascertained that by far the greatest number of those in the mine had perished by
after-damp and only a small proportion having been killed by the explosion.
The sinking of the shafts took 17 years to complete.(1909-1926) due to the enormous difficulties of water seepage and the disruption of the First world war. The Barnsley coal seam was reached at 923 yards in No. 1 shaft, in August 1924. No. 2 shaft reached the seam at 964 yards due to a geological fault in January 1926. The shafts were 22ft diameter. In June 1956 it was decided that permanent repairs could only be undertaken to the shafts as the water make had reached 1,600 galls per minute if the colliery was to cease production for a limited period. A decision was reached to install welded steel - concrete bonded linings to Thorne Colliery shafts, plus new headgear. The mine never re-opened and the shafts were filled in 2004 and the headgear demolished.
The sinking of the colliery began in 1909 but because of problems with water and faults in the rock the coal measures were not reached until 1912. In 1913 full time mining commenced. In 1918, coke ovens and a brickworks were erected at Thurcroft.
Initially only the Barnsley Seam was worked but the Parkgate Seam was was opened up in 1942 to meet the war time increase in demand. The Barnsley Seam was exhausted in 1967 and working in the Parkgate Seam finished in 1972 because of difficult working conditions and extreme temperatures. In 1976 an extensive modernisation scheme was intended to take the pit into the next century but closure came in 1991. The workforce, together with Rotherham Borough Council and the Coalfield Communities Campaign, fought to keep the pit open, run by the miners, but the attempt foundered on British Coal's demand that they pay the cost of maintaining the mine during the negotiations.
See Also Fred Gething's Site