Blenkinsopp And Wrytee Pits
I work at the last remaining drift mine in Northumberland (and shortly to close).
Blenkinsopp and Wrytree coal mine which are both connected underground are located in the village of Greenhead, two miles from the town of Haltwhistle, halfway between Newcastle and Carlisle on the A69.
The mine dates from the middle 1800s (on the drift entrance it shows 1842) although it is possible that it predates this maybe even as early as the 15th century ! The pit is relatively small employing 80 men at the present although when I first started there was about 125. Most of the machinery is fairly old with some dating to about the 1940s ! The last ten to eight years have seen some more modern machines and practices being the introduction of a longwall shearer face and dosco dintheaders. There are also several Eimco tracked loading shovels for stone work (prior to this it all stone work was filled away with shovels !)
There are two unique features of the mine, at the Blenkinsopp side the drift entrance is less than 20 metres away from a castle (haunted!) which then runs under a caravan site.
The other feature is that it is the only mine I know that works in a seam with a limestone roof with average heights of 5' 6". This caused several problems when working the longwall shearers as the roof never fell like normal faces but stopped up and caused vast areas of goaf. However every so often these goafs would drop suddenly with stone larger than cars dropping and causing immense damage to the roof supports.
As I have said the pit is now closing with one last face to be won out and is due to finish in May with the capping of the drift and ventilation shafts in August.
These two photographs show the old workings at the pit. You can see the sheer size of the props ! In places you can see indents which have been picked out for the mens candles !
The man in the picture is Ken Drysdale who normally deals with the shaft and haulage ropes. The pictures was taken by my mate Peter Bridges who is due to leave on Friday.
We are going to try and take some more photos of the pit on Friday and then it will be up to me to capture the last of the mines history.
The pit has seen some large geological faults with one large one, the whin dyke needing to be breached to access 8 million tons of reserve. This dyke was driven through in several place but were met by smaller faults which slowed down progress. The quality of coal was not very good either with it's being so near to the fault.
Ellington the other mine in Northumberland also went through the same dyke and came across the same problem of poor quality coal although it improved the further away they went. Alas the pit was running out of time and money to be able to get to the reserves.
The DTI also put a nail in the coffin by refusing us any money allocated to the coal mines in Britain. The manger told us about £1.5 million was needed to get the work done although it will need more now it is being run down. Longanent in Scotland received £41 million and is still losing money.
James has been taking as many photos as possible before the mine closes, with the result that, with luck, there will be more information about the mine, and possibly the area, which has had several mines.
There might also be some good stories (including a ghost story) which could be associated with the pit, a local Earl (?) and his wife. It is from around the 15th century and could, like many good ghost stories, contain lost/hidden treasure !!
These photos were given to me by a local women taken in about 1986.
The first photo shows the pit yard with the hauler house. You can see the old tubs.
The second photo is probably, the same scene as it is now.
The third one shows the old screens. Picture number four was the top car park. It is now a
supply yard. If you look closely you will be able to see a Jazzy Land Rover parked at the back !
(This refers to my Land Rover site)