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Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire
and Leicestershire



The value of the £ equivalent in 2010 fell even further from £65 to £55 over the period.


Several inundations, ochreys or inrushes of water occurred around this period as old workings were encroached upon. Details of any loss of life are sketchy.

The Will Of John Mellers

The last will and testament of John Mellers of Hucknall under Huthwaite (Nottinghamshire) dated 28th December 1785 stated that he was a farmer as well as a coal miner.  Among things left to his daughters he left his quick stock or implements belonging to any colliery etc to be equally divided between his sons William and Richard.  When the will was proven shortly after, a sum of £20 was allotted for ‘Ginns ropes etc at the collierys’.  Another will, that of Richard Haslam, farmer, dated 18th July 1785 arranged for one cart or waggon load of pitt coals to be drawn for his daughter Lydia’s use every year of her life. He left the sum of £50 to daughter (in law) Ann Mellers.  William Mellers in his will dated 8th February 1792 left his share of the coal, wood and minerals to his brother Richard and then after Richard’s death to Richard’s son John Mellers.  The Mellers family would continue as coal owners until the late 1800s.


The partnership of Ward and Barrow had a blast furnace at Staveley in 1786.  This small company grew to be the Staveley Coal and Iron Co.  The Barber, Walker and Co was formed in 1787, the partnership of Barber and Walker having been in existence for many years.  They would go on to be one of the major employers at pits particularly around Eastwood.  They had taken out a lease on all seams of coal in the Selston Parish, owned by Viscount Melbourne because by 1787 part of the Trent Valley was experiencing a coal shortage.

Nether Leys

Joseph Wilkes sank a new pit to the Main coal at Nether Leys on the north side of Oakthorpe. His Bailiff Thomas Jewsbury was to get a Boulton and Watt engine from Birmingham capable of winding 10cwt of coal up the 120 yards (110m) in 3 minutes.

Last Major Turnpike

The last major turnpike in the district from South Normanton – Kirkby – Larch Farm was set up 1787 - 1788 and was to last for 84 years.  The Turnpike Act was enacted 1786.


It is noted that in 1787 Thomas Leaversage, aged 21, collier of Tibshelf, was born at Sheffield.

Samuel Richardson died in 1788.  He had resided at Heanor Hall and had operated Heanor Hall colliery (Derbyshire).

Lease at Dale and Stanton

Charles Earl of Stanhope granted 21 years lease of minerals on his Dale and Stanton estates to Thomas English of Shoote Hill, Kent.


Joseph Butler sank Lings colliery in 1785 - 1788 between Holmewood and Temple Normanton (North Derbyshire).  There was a tramway from the pit to Ankerbold and from there the coal was transported by road in carts to the Canal in Chesterfield.  There were many narrow gauge tramways or gangways at this time leading from the pitheads down to coal wharves at strategic land sites or canal sides. 

First Beam Engine

The first beam steam winding engine (Boulton and Watt) was erected at Oakthorpe Colliery (South Derbyshire/Leicestershire) (opened in 1782) for the owner Joseph Wilkes in 1787. However it was continually breaking down and after 6 months broke down completely. Even after it had been repaired it broke down again and was out of action from late 1796 - 1798. It must be remembered that there were only 2 or 3 people capable of repairing the engines at that time and obviously there were other engines that required repairs and took preference. Winding would have reverted back to a horse driven Whymsey no doubt. Lount colliery was acquired by Joseph Boultbee who was an outstanding owner and Manager. He had succeeded Gervase Yarwood as Sir George Beaumont’s Steward in 1756 and had managed pits at Newbold and Coleorton. Wilkes opened another pit at Nether Leys around 1787, such was the demand now for coal. By 1789 there were numerous coal pits around Coleorton and Staunton Harold and the amount of coal transported had created rutted roads thereabouts and blackened by coal dust not fit for normal travel.


William Nadin ex South Yorkshire developed Newhall colliery (South Derbyshire).

Butler had also taken over the foundry at Stonegravels by the Chesterfield Canal. The Cromford Canal was built by Outram and Jessop and completed in 1789.

Women Working Underground

In 1789 the Shirtcliffe Brothers employed 10 men, 4 women and 2 girls underground and 6 women and one man on the surface at Nethermoor Lane pit at Eckington, (North Derbyshire).

This pit sunk in 1788 was near to the border with South Yorkshire, where women were employed as a matter of course as they were cheaper to hire than men or boys.  This is one of the few known examples of women being employed underground at a Derbyshire pit.

Fire Basket Introduced

In the same year a fire basket (Metal container) was hung in a shaft for the first time in Derbyshire thought to be the Albert mine at Stavely (Staveley) to aid ventilation underground. The hot air rising drew fresh air into the mine via the downcast shaft. 

The few pits with 2 shafts previously had relied on natural ventilation, but this was now no longer good enough as the mine workings extended further from the pit bottom or eye and the air became stale and in many instances dangerous gases built up as the air direction used to change from summer to winter and vice versa.  Following this successful experiment other fire baskets were hung in small staple shafts average 4 feet (1.22m) x 15 feet (4.5m) deep, sunk alongside the main shaft near the surface and could develop around 10,000 cu ft per min. 

The Morewood Family

Also in 1789 the Morewood family took over the running of an ancient mine at Swanwick, sunk in 1636, a coal working that had been owned by Turner for many years. George Morewood Lord of the manor for Alfreton purchased the mineral rights from the Turner Trustees under the old Enclosures. The Morewoods eventually joined with Palmer and the firm of Palmer Morewood would operate mines in the Swanwick area (North Derbyshire) until the eve of nationalisation Vesting Day 1st January 1947.

Bramcote Moor

A plan of Bramcote Moor and part of the Estate belonging to John Sherwin Esq on West side, (4 chains to 1 inch or 1:3,168) in 1789 showed Trowell Moor pit to North West, Lord Middleton of Wollatons workings to E and there was an old suff (sough) shown with the wording – ‘not safe to get coal within 22 yards (20m)’. Total coal area got was 22 acres 1 rood 12 poles, and an area deducted for the suff was 1 acre 2 roods 35 poles.

Measuring System

An explanation of the measuring system will give a better understanding:

One acre is equal to 220 yards or one furlong multiplied by 22 yards (or one chain).
A Gunter's Chain is divided into 100 links of 7.92 inches which equals 66 feet or 22 yards.
An acre is also divided into 4 quarters, each being one rood (or rod).
A rood is divided into 40 squares, each being a quarter of a chain in length and breadth, and equal to one perch. A lineal perch is equal to 5½ yards which is equal to one rod or pole.
One hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.

Coal Pillars

Surveys were done of Glossops drift pit (Derbyshire) in 1788, 1792 and 1795 and found that they only used coal pillars as supports.


Pinxton Canal

The Cromford Canal Pinxton Spur or ‘Cut’ as it was referred to later, was completed about 1790, again as an outlet for the coal from the Pinxton pits. In the same year the Peak Forest Canal was completed also. Outram and Jessop were joined by Francis Beresford a Solicitor and John Wright a Banker. Beresford purchased the Butterley Estate from the Warren family and leased it to Outram and included Butterley Hall which was later occupied by Jessop and later still was the HQ for the Butterley Company.

Trial Holes

Several trial holes were made at Buckland Hollow (Derbyshire) but found much broken and faulty coal and not pursued; however mining would be carried out in the area some 70 years later.

Francis Hastings Died

The 10th Earl of Huntingdon Francis Hastings died unmarried in 1789 but his illegitimate son Charles Hastings was left property and mines at Oakthorpe plus an income of £2,000 per year.

Atmospheric Engine

Horse gins were the general means of hauling coal up the shafts but steam engines had been invented and the first use of one at a shaft was at Oakthorpe, near Measham in 1787, then in South Derbyshire.  An atmospheric engine designed by Francis Thompson was installed at Oakerthorpe, North Derbyshire in 1791 and was later re-erected at Pentrich colliery and had a working life of 127 years. Eventually this engine was removed after standing for 8 years and is preserved in the Science Museum in South Kensington, London. Care must be taken when researching these two collieries with similar sounding names. The word ‘gin’ is a corruption of engine.

Steam Engines Introduced

These small steam-engines of between 8 and 20hp were called Wimseys, Whimseys or Whymseys and unfortunately when they broke down it could have been several weeks before repair was completed, therefore at many pits an old Whim gin or horse driven engine’ would be kept as a standby.  One of the first Whymseys in Nottinghamshire was put to work at a pit at Bilborough, north of the village of Bilborough and the old Strelley wharf. The cost of these engines was about £500 and could raise corves containing between 5cwt to about 12cwt according to the depth of the shaft.

Sinkings in 1790

  • Tissington Engine, (probably Anthony Tissington?) Newlands, 70 yards (64m)
  • New Rise Pitt (….?) near Axe Edge began October 1790 after completed sinking 64¼ yards (59m) to the House coal seam at a cost of £23 7s 10d (£23.39)
  • Ripley Foundation, 80 yards (73m), (Engine pit and Bye pit) (Outram and Jessop?) sunk at Greenwich near Ripley.

Closures 1790

  • Old Rise Pitt (….?) was closed at Axe Edge (North West Derbyshire).

Benjamin Outram And The Butterley Co

Benjamin Outram and Co was formed.  The partners were Benjamin Outram (1764-1803), born Alfreton, Francis Beresford, Solicitor (1737-1801), John Wright (1758-1840) Banker, and William Jessop (1745-1814) Engineer.  The firm established an ironworks and bought the freehold of the Butterley Hall Estate in 1790 from the Horne family and began developing the ancient coal and ironstone workings.  Benjamin’s father Joseph was born at Alfreton in 1732. The Butterley Company was formed in April 1791.  The new company paid 8 sinkers up to 2s 3d (11¼p) a day and 5 labourers 2s (10p) a day.

Price of Bread

Bread, part of the staple diet was 3d (1¼p) a pound at this time.

Ironworks at Brampton

John Smith acquired several collieries and ironstone pits and built a new ironworks to the north of Griffin at Brampton near Chesterfield.

Burdett's Plan

Burdett’s plan published in 1791 (surveyed 1762-1767) shows cole pits in the Dale of Goyte west of Folds and between Burbage Edge and the turnpike from Buxton to Macclesfield. The Bucket Engine pit was an important one and reference has been made to coals being transported by boat, probably along a sough.

Pits (7 shafts) were also shown north of Cadley Hill at Hallfield as well as Donkil pits and Pestle pits west of Coton, all in South Derbyshire. It is not known whether the pits surveyed in 1760s were working in 1791. A New Colliery was sunk at Coleorton (Godolphin Burslem). Burslem had opened a colliery at Thringstone but it closed in 1796 because of the inadequacy of transport facilities. A start was made on the Forest branch of the Canal.

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Pit Terminology - Glossary