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Joseph Henshaw - History, Midlands Coal Field

"A Mine of Local Information"
Joe Henshaw

Deeper coals still exist in the area known as Alton, Norton, and Belperlawn; these were inferior in both quality and thickness, and have only been exploited where relatively shallow in the West of the area, and this by opencast methods.

Ripley Colliery
Ripley Colliery
The Ministry of Fuel and Power 1945 return refers to Upper Hartshay pit as a pumping shaft, with Hartshay itself being a training pit, complete with electricity with workings in the Dunsil seam. 

This may imply that some of the old (lower) Hartshay infrastructure had been redeveloped for training purposes.  Dunsil coal would not have been mined due to its poor quality, so the seam was probably suitable for this type of development at this location.  Remaining reserves in the area would have been available to other larger pits in the area, e.g. Ripley Colliery.  This was another Butterley pit, opened in 1846, but whose reserves were taken over by the new Denby Hall drift mine in 1948, using inclined tunnels to reach the coal rather than shafts.  Denby Hall was the last of the production units in the area, with no coal turned after 1967.

Open Casting
Open Casting
There is no mention of the Hartshay pits being used for any purpose by the time the 1961 “Colliery Guardian Guide to the Coalfields” was published Following closure, huge swathes of land associated with collieries in the area was opencast mined, and this has erased virtually all remains of the pits.  The remains of the Hartshay Collieries are no exception in this respect, being erased in the mid-1970s.  In typical fashion, this type of mining erases both the cultural heritage of an area, and as the opencast companies claim that to make this land “reclamation” viable, much surrounding land is usually commandeered, impoverishing the ecology and giving an artificial feel to the landscape for decades after.  The remains of the training pit and its Dunsil coal was probably removed by this method for less onerous power generation purposes.

Eastwood Colliery
Eastwood had a similar pattern of colliery development and demise to Ripley itself; there were many pits, with the one known actually known as “Eastwood” being South-South East of the town.  This was Barber-Walker Co. pit, located in the Erewash Valley near the area known as New Eastwood.

I do not have dates for sinking, but guess this would be similar to that of the Hartshay collieries.  It is shown on the 1886 Ordnance Survey map (survey date 1879-80), but had substantially disappeared by the time of the 1900 map (survey date 1899).

A geological survey of Eastwood Colliery (Grid Reference 4621 4577) reveals one particular shaft of 1102ft in depth, reaching the Kilburn coal at 1025ft, after passing through thirteen other seams beginning with the First Ell coal.  At this location, the Kilburn coal was only 17inches in thickness in the shaft, and its composition was of a “cannel”, a highly valued gaseous coal.  The value may have rendered the exploitation of this thin seam economic, but working conditions would have been horrendous, and with a great deal of waste rock to shift with any progression into the coal.

Conversely, several other seams of reasonable quality coal e.g. Deep Soft, Deep Hard, Piper and Low Main were identified in the shaft, all at thicknesses over 40 inches.  However, to what extent older workings may have affected development in the former two seams is not stated, and what cannot be ignored is that the pit was located on the River Erewash flood plain, which probably gave the pit serious water problems.

The only remains of this colliery are old railway embankments which once carried mineral lines from the Great Northern and Midland Railway branches, with the latter being quite pronounced even over a century on.

This particular area has an ever present threat of opencast mining, with a site known as Shilo North on the backburner; if permitted, clearly this would erase these last remains.
The last deep-mine in the area was Moorgreen, another former Barber-Walker pit to the North of Eastwood.  This was closed by the NCB in 1985 after working its final face, K77, in the Blackshale (or Silkstone) seam.  Interestingly, no Kilburn coal exists at this location, as it finally thins out to nothingness as the coalfield moves and dips Eastwards.

Joe Henshaw,

29 September 2009.

Mining In The East Midlands

Eastwood and its Collieries

This information was in response to an email from Jo Avery of the BBC in Bristol. She was researching for a brand new series (for UKTV) called HOME TRUTHS. This series will be fronted by NICK KNOWLES (from DIY SOS) and will feature homeowners who are just about to renovate their house to it's former glory, charting its history in the process, and helping them to find inspiration and original features in order to achieve their goal.

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