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The Continued Rise Of The Industry
To 1913


1842 - Page 1

Union Founded

The Miners Association of Great Britain and Ireland (MAGB) was founded in 1842. This was the first attempt to form a National union of miners. Several other attempts at forming unions had failed.

Thomas North

Although he was making quite a lot of profit from his other mines as he was a coal merchant as well, these old mines were not very efficient. Thomas North saw the advantage of sinking new shafts at Cinder Hill, however he needed more capital. Some of ‘his ideas’ revolutionised the industry as he put cast iron tubbing in the brick shafts whilst passing through the water-bearing measures and built a furnace underground to create a good ventilation flow of air.

No doubt the ‘ideas’ came from John Thomas Woodhouse the consultant engineer. Other partners were sought for the new venture. Shaft preparation for sinking began in 1841.

Example of a Contract

Collieries Sunk or Opened in 1842

  • Bailey Brook (Butterley Co) 2 shafts at 8 ft dia (2.44m) sunk 80 yards (73m) apart to Deep Soft and Deep Hard
  • Old Birchwood at Alfreton
  • 2 more shafts at Portland, Nos 6 and 7 (Butterley Co), Nos 3, 4 and 5 being sunk earlier, Chief Surveyor for Butterley was John Wardle.  A 25hp steam-winding engine was put to work at the Portland No2 pit, (Jerry’s) in 1841
  • Moorhole (Sales and Gibbs) at Mosborough, Engine pit put down to Silkstone, coke ovens erected on the opposite side of the road. There were 2 other pits working at Mosborough on Swallows Lane, one down to Flockton and one to Parkgate.  From a report by John Spencer, Engineer there were 2 other Mosborough Common pits (Swallow?) nearby, one working Flockton and the other Parkgate
  • Rose Hill colliery (…?) worked Silkstone coal towards the basset out
  • Winterbank (...) near South Normanton. 

Pentrich Colliery

Pentrich colliery, 3 shafts A, B and C sunk at 8 ft dia (2.43m) in 1842 by WC Haslam, Manager William Walker.  ‘A’ shaft 180 yards (165m) to Low Main or Furnace coal, but coal raised from Deep Soft inset at 75 yards (69m), ‘B’ pumping shaft, water raised from 120 yards (110m) and ‘C’ fan shaft, 95 yards deep (87m) at 26 yards (24m) from This was the old plant. (7)

The pit bottom is shown in the picture with men on the cage and the Deputy standing by.

There were 29 boys below the age of 13 at the Portland pits (Butterley Co). 


The youngest was 7 years old. Wages were 8d (3⅓p) a day.
A further 27 were aged between 13 and 18
Wages were between 2s 0d (10p) and 3s 0d (15p) a day.
This was out of a total workforce of 160
The younger ones were door trappers and Levi Bradby aged 10 earned 1s (5p) a day on such duties. 

Before 1844 the colliers worked between 12 and 15 hours a day and the door boys had to do the same.

Kirkby Fenton was still working Bagthorpe colliery near Underwood (Nottinghamshire) at this time.

Collieries At Work in 1841/1842 With Winders Included

  • Babbington Rough (Thos North and Co) no bonnet on cage, 55 yards (50m) deep app, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway
  • Bagthorpe 15hp winder, 126 yards (115m) deep, 3’ 4” headway (1.0m)
  • Bagthorpe (Creswell’s) 10hp winder, 78 yards (71m) deep, 3’ 2” (0.96m) headway, (Kirkby Fenton)
  • Beggarlee (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 10hp winder, 104 yards (95m) deep
  • Old Birchwood Hard (Samuel Woolley) had a bonnet on cage, 12hp winder, 130 yards (119m) deep, 4’ 5” (1.34m) headway.
  • Old Birchwood Soft (Samuel Woolley) had a bonnet on cage, 12hp winder, 95 yards (87m)  deep, 4’ 5” (1.34m) headway
  • Old Birchwood New Hard (Samuel Woolley) no bonnet on cage, 10hp winder, 115 yards (105m) deep, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway
  • New Birchwood Balguy (Samuel Woolley) 80 yards (73m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • New Birchwood Shady (Humphrey Goodwin), 60 yards (55m) deep,  4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • New Birchwood Landsale, 1 horse gin, 60 yards (55m) deep, (Humphrey Goodwin)
  • Brinsley 2 (Barber Walker) 14hp winder, 158½  yards (145m) deep, (very bad shaft), 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Carnfield 1 and 2, (John Coke) 30hp winder, 112 yards (102.4m) and 100 yards (91.5m) deep, 3’ 9” (1.14m) and 3’ 2” (0.96m) headways, (John Coke)
  • Cossall (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 64 yards (58.5m) deep, 3’ 2” (0.96m) headway
  • Cresswells Bagthorpe (K Fenton) no bonnet on cage, 10hp winder, 78 yards (71.3m) deep, 3’ 2” (0.97m) headway
  • Eastwood (Barber Walker) depth ?, 3’ 0” (0.91m) headway
  • Greasley Moor Green (Willow Lane) (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 20hp winder, 190 yards (174m) deep
  • Henry Hunts Hard (Thos North and Co) no bonnet on cage, 101 yards (92m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Kirkby Portland No1 (Butterley Co) worked out; Nos 2, 3, 4 and 5 shafts, 25hp winder, all app 180 yards (164.6m) deep
  • Nos 2, 4 and 5, pits 4’ 6” (1.37m) headway and No3 pit 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Kirkby Portland Nos 6-7 shafts not yet at work in 1841
  • Newthorpe No2 (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 91 yards (83m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Newthorpe 3 (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 100 yards (91.5m) deep, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway, 
  • Newthorpe No3 (Thos North and Co) no bonnet on cage, 23 yards (21m) deep, 3’ 8” (1.1m) headway, (Barber, Walker and Co)
  • Newthorpe Common New (Thos North and Co) no bonnet on cage, 16hp winder, 70 yards (64m) deep, 3’ 8” (1.12m) headway
  • Newthorpe Common Cottage (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 16hp winder, 40 yards (36.5m) deep, 3’ 4” (1.0m) headway
  • New London, Greasley (Thos North and Co) no bonnet on cage, 70 yards (64m) deep, 4’ 4” (1.32m) headway
  • Nuthall / Awsworth Hutchbys 50 yards (46m) deep, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway
  • Nuthall Twiggers or Flying Nancy (Thos North and Co) 50 yards (46m) deep, 3’ 0” (0.91m) headway
  • Pinxton No1, 14hp winder, 60 yards (55m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Pinxton No1 (John Coke) 14hp winder, 60 yards (54.9m) 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Pinxton No9, 8hp winder, 70 yards (64m) deep, 3’ 9” (1.14m) headway
  • Radford (Lord Middleton) bonnet on cage, 9hp winder, 63 yards (58m) deep, 4’ 6” (1.37m)  headway
  • Skegby Wharf (John Dodsley). Many of the shafts were not more than 7 or 8 feet (2.13 or 2.43m) in diameter
  • Sleights 2, (John Coke) 130 yards (119m) deep, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway
  • Sleights 3, 20hp winder, 114 yards (104m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • (Summercotes) Somercotes Upper and  Somercotes Lower (Butterley Co) Whim Gins, 38 yards (35m) and 27 yards deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headways
  • Somercotes Coal Pit being developed, (Butterley Co)
  • Strelley Robinett (Barber Walker) 3’ 0” (0.91m) headway
  • Somercotes, 8hp winder, 42 yards (38.5m) deep
  • Swanwick Crabtree (W Palmer Morewood) 2 horse gin, 35 yards (32m) deep, 5’ 0” (1.5m) headway
  • Swanwick Landsale (W Palmer Morewood), a one horse gin, 20 yards (18m) deep, 5’ 0” (1.5m) headway
  • Trowell (Lord Middleton) 6hp winder, bonnet on cage, 112 yards (102m) deep, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway
  • Underwood (Barber Walker) 18 hp winder, 149 yards (136m) deep
  • Watnall Trough Lane (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 142 yards (130m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Watnall Middle (Barber Walker) no bonnet on cage, 134 yards (122.5m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Watnall Wharf 134 yards (122m) deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Williamsons Eastwood 3’ 0” (0.91m) headway
  • Williamsons Soft Bagthorpe (Kirkby Fenton) no bonnet on cage, 70 yards (64m) deep, 3’ 3” (0.99m) headway
  • Williamsons Hard 158 (145m) yards deep, 4’ 0” (1.22m) headway
  • Willow Lane or Willey Lane (Barber Walker and Co)
  • Wollaton (Lord Middleton) 8hp winder, bonnet on cage, 100 yards (91m) deep, 3’ 6” (1.07m) headway.        
    Not all of these pits had bonnets or covers over the cages and injuries were frequent, caused by coal or bits dropping down the shaft.  Many of these cages only held 4 or 5 men at a time.  Usually the winding ropes were flat and made of hemp. 

Other Pits Working Included

  • Barrow’s Staveley
  • Ilkeston Bath
  • Marehay
  • Morley Park
  • New Ripley
  • Waterloo Field

Staveley Upperground mine (Derbyshire) under lease by Smith and Co from the Duke of Devonshire was taken over by Barrow around this period. It was connected through to the Lowerground mine. Kirkby Fenton was still working Bagthorpe colliery near Underwood (Nottinghamshire) at this time.

Hours of Work

The hours of work in the Erewash Valley were now between 13 and 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. The only recognised holidays were Christmas Day, Good Friday and a day or two at Whitsuntide for Wakes week.

Butties And The Truck System

The Derbyshire mines were wrought with Butties who hired all the work people. This had also led to the Truck system whereby mine owners paid their workers in tokens or tickets that could only be exchanged at their stores for goods and provisions. It was also noted that about 16% of boys underground were below 13 years of age and worked the same number of hours as men 6am to 7pm except for Sundays and alternative Fridays.

Huskar Pit Disaster

The Huskar pit disaster at Moor End Lane, Knabbs Wood, Silkstone Common, Yorkshire on 4th July 1838 where a thunderstorm flooded a day hole and drowned several boys and eleven girls, one as young as 8 years old. Another was 9, two aged 10, two aged 11, two others 13, two were 15 and one aged 17, This incident set up the Children's Employment Commission of 1842, see below.

All Females And Boys Under 10
Banned From Underground Work

The Mines Act of 1842 was passed after much campaigning by Lord Ashley (1801-85) and received Royal Assent on 10th August that banned all women and girls, as well as boys under 10 years of age from working underground from the following year.

Boys between the ages of 5 and 10 years old were employed at many pits.  But, it took 2 or 3 years or longer in some areas to implement fully – for out of work, meant out of money!  In some instances the boy’s wages were very important and needed if the mother was widowed. It actually created poverty.

The Act also made it lawful to appoint Inspectors of mines.

One hundred and fifty years after the disaster, funds from the Silkstone Parish Council made available for the upkeep of the old memorial to the children and a new memorial was dedicated at the site of the disaster.

Minimum Age For Winding Engine-Men

The Act had also fixed the minimum age for winding engine-men at 15 and made it illegal for Mine Owners and Butties to pay wages out in Public Houses. Wages at the time were around 3s (15p) a day, paid fortnightly. A collier could earn 3s 6d (17½p) if he had a good place.

Truck Outlawed

It also outlawed the practice of Truck, where everything had to be obtained from the Company's store (or Tommy shop) at highly inflated rates. However as with all laws it took some time for things to happen. And it was noted in a Census at Clay Cross some 9 years later in 1851, that young boys under 10 were still being employed illegally below ground as well as the practice of Truck.

Union Members Found Guilty

At Pegg's Green colliery George Perry of Thringstone and several members of the Miners' Union were found guilty of neglecting their duties and were sentenced to 3 months hard labour.

Benjamin Smith and Co

Benjamin Smith and Co worked 3 coal pits and 20 ironstone pits near Chesterfield. George Booker was his Coal and Iron Agent.

Further Extracts From The Royal Commission Report

The early nineteenth century saw a dramatic rise of activity in the mining of the country's coal fields. Thousands of people were drawn off the land and from factories into the coal mines. Stories of how these people lived and worked began to circulate among the general public. They were thought of as wild, hard drinkers who had no morals and were Godless and without any education. It was said that women and children worked long hours underground in cramped and dangerous places doing hard, back-breaking work. The public conscience was stirred and Victorian philanthropists pressed Parliament for some action.

A Royal Commission appointed Commissioners and they were dispatched to examine the conditions in the coalfields of the country, to take evidence and to report their findings back to Parliament.

The Commissioners who reported on the conditions in the coalfields and travelled round gathering his evidence with a secretary, who was skilled in the new Pitman's Shorthand and who took down every word that was spoken at the interviews with coal owners, mine officials, teachers, Poor Law officials, the Police and the men, women and children who worked the mines.

Their Reports provide a unique insight into the social and working conditions of those involved in coal mining in the coalfields of Great Britain in the mid-nineteenth century in the words that were spoken at the time. In some of the Reports there are contemporary illustrations that graphically illustrate the conditions of work in the mines.

Ian Winstanley


Further extracts from the Royal Commission report on the employment of children in mines 1842, published by HMSO 1843.

Several boys aged 9 to 13 stated that they worked from 6.30am to 8pm and a half-day is 6am to 2pm at Brookbottom, Shipley and Loscoe pits (Derbyshire). One helped a collier to load, another dragged wagons, another now drove asses in about 4 feet (1.22m) high but prior to that, opened and closed ventilation doors, and wildfire was a problem, at other times blackdamp. At other places boys 8 to 18 years were working 14 to 16 hours a day from 6am to 8pm plus.

Many children were bow legged from an early age, they were not as bright as other boys not in the industry, they suffered from asthma, in fact most if not all were old before their time. Corporals in charge of haulage were slave drivers and many had a stick or thong to thrash the boys for the slightest thing, such as being slow on taking the coal to the pit bottom or other place. As can be seen, it was not a pleasant life for children. A candle on the tub appears to be their form of illumination.

Because of the continual working and walking in low roadways many boys ended up being very bowlegged
when they grew up, as shown above.


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