First Coal To London By Rail
Clay Cross Co was the first to send coal direct to London by rail in 1844, the trucks being covered by tarpaulins ‘to hide the coal from public gaze’. They had previously sent coal to London in 1840, but it had been carried partly by canal, rail and road. This was the first time coal from the Midlands had entered London directly.
Collieries Sunk or Opened 1844
- Ashgate Engine pit (John Mason and Co)
- New Langton mine was being sunk (since 1842) by Coke and Co using a horse gin, to replace the Old Pinxton pit sunk in 1780, which was now flooded. The modern method at the time was to use steam power with a small horsepower engine called a Whymsey. The two 8 feet (2.44m) diameter shafts were sunk to a depth of 150 yards (137m) and 30 yards (27.5m) apart. They were part of the Pinxton pits and numbered 7 and 8. No 8 was the furnace shaft. A Cornish pumping or beam engine at Green shaft effected pumping from the old waterlogged area of Pinxton Top Hard workings. The beam engine was replaced later around 1850 by a horizontal steam engine built by Handysides of Derby, working a rocker shaft. The horse winding gin was taken to Green shaft in 1856. The rope was a flat hemp one 7” x 1½” (0.18m x 0.038m.
- Portland No 6 and 7 (Butterley Co)
- Speedwell pit sunk by Richard Barrow 1841-1843.
Colliery Closures 1844
- Britain pit (Gabriel Britain) at Butterley Park, Hard coal
- Granville (South Derbyshire), old works abandoned 1844
- Grassmoor (Duke of Devonshire) Grassmoor Bed or 2nd Waterloo 1835-1844, adit or sough mentioned
- Newland’s (Butterley Co)
- Complex of pits Nos 1-No 9 at Pinxton (Coke and Co) was closed, including Rectory colliery, Sleights pump,
Old Engine, No9 (Ben Moore’s) Barley Croft, Top Hard or Staveley Portland seam, (some workings 1700 to 1800). No1 colliery sunk by Coke and Co, was to south of later Pinxton colliery
- Wood pit, Springwood (Skegby Colliery Co) in the Upper Meden Valley, sunk around 1830 was closed after 14 years life. Water had broken into the Deep Level during 1842. John Hobson was Agent. The Top Hard had been worked as far as the down throw 12 yards (11m) fault by 1832, then the coal pillars were robbed on way back to shaft in the years 1838-1844. Trial heads were made from Wharf pit (Dodsley) through a fault under Meden Bank, but were not pursued. (Note these workings were not plotted on the abandonment plan but found by me on another old plan. My boss at the time Bernard Bailey after checking same added them to the working plan. This is yet another example of workings being missed off a plan. How many more are there?)
Marquis and Rawdon pits were shut down for coal production (until 1874) the Main seam reserves were limited to the west side of the Moira fault.
At Selston the Deep Soft working was stopped. Brinsley Engines continued, mainly working under Lord Melbourne’s lands, Henry Teal, Surveyor
Wood pit (Meden Valley).
First Union Lodge
In the New Year 1844, the first Lodge of the Nottinghamshire Area of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) was founded at Kimberley, where there were 101 members by the third week in January.
Many Accidents Recorded
Joseph Nadin a colliery Viewer (Mining Engineer) and Surveyor stated that there had been many accidents in the South Derbyshire Coalfield from ignitions or explosions of firedamp.
The Main coal seam about 15 feet (4.6m) thick was gaseous and liable to heatings or spontaneous combustion.
The ventilation system in the area was usually by underground furnace or hanging lamps in the shaft or in some cases natural ventilation. If the air was sluggish on occasion an open brazier of burning coals was put in the workings to assist the ventilation. He quoted that a furnace 7 feet (2.14m) wide at the base of a 9 feet (2.74m) dia shaft some 120 yards (110m) would give 30,000 cu ft of air per minute in a mine employing 200 men and boys.
The benks were 200 yards (183m) long consisting of several panels coupled together.
Clay walls were made at the gate sides to seal off the gobbing to prevent fires. This system was first tried at Donisthorpe Brook pit by Joseph Wilkes and Edward Mammott early in the 19th Century. Here they built wooden brattices (squares of small boughs or branches around 2” to 3” dia (0.05 to 0.07m) from trees and about 3 feet square (0.91m). A yellow clay was kept pliable by adding salt and was built up the side of the brettice.
Mammott was Agent to the Marquis of Hastings.
The miners used candles for illumination but safety lamps were used in periods of low pressure when firedamp could flow out of the wastes and cause explosions. Many accidents were found to have been caused in that period.
John Meller’s lease from the Duke of Devonshire and others in the Blackwell and Hilcote Estate begun in 1825, ended.
The Hucknall pit (Mellers) was 23 yards (21m) deep to the Top Hard and 48 yards (44m) to the Dunsil. A coal wharf yard was on the opposite side of the road.
Truck System Was Still In Operation
Although it was illegal, the Truck system was still in operation at Haslam’s Pentrich colliery and also at South Derbyshire collieries.
The Northumberland and Durham miners came out on strike on 5th April 1844, however the owners showed solidarity by bringing up the pit ponies from underground, a sign that they were not going to give in easily, if at all.
The miners held together in solidarity but after several weeks were forced to pawn everything of value, the clock, best suit and hat, the wife’s wedding ring etc. The owners fetched in blackleg labour from Cornwall and Wales and evicted families from their homes so as to accommodate them. The weather was good for a while that year and shanty towns grew up made out of beds and drawers etc. Miners in other parts of the country had sent financial help in the early days however on 12th May the Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire miners stopped work. The union of miners were supporting the grievances of the North East miners who were against bonding and hiring of men, however hiring by the fortnight would persist in Durham for another 30 years or more.
On 20th May 1844, an attempt was made to blow up the house of William Hattersley the Manager of Oxclose colliery, by a mob of around 200 employed at Cottam colliery, owned by Booker and Co of Dronfield, (North Derbyshire). The reason was probably that the men at Oxclose were still working in the great strike of that year, which lasted for about 16 weeks. The strike that affected all pits was as much against the Butties as against the owners. Colliers throughout the country demanded less hours, better pay and better conditions. Colliers were earning 2s 6d (12½p) for a 12 hour shift.
The national union was discredited and after the strike was over some of the leaders were victimised (as will always be the case), and the men went back to work no better off in wages than before, but as always worse off, because to try to recover a day’s pay is difficult, to try to recover a week’s pay is more than difficult and to try to recover 16 weeks pay is an impossibility, never mind a year!
(Note the future strikes to come e.g. 1893 lockout, 1912, 1921 (Datum line), 1926, 1972, 1974, 1984, when in the later case pay rates were increased dramatically, but jobs, families, way of life had to suffer – as always!)
Coal turning ceased at the Green shaft at Pinxton (Coke and Co). The shaft was 7 ft dia (2.1m) and worked by a horse gin. Horse gins had been phased out normally by this time.
An early vertical cylinder high-pressure direct acting steam-winding engine was installed at Church Gresley (Marquis of Hastings). The engine manufactured by Thornewill and Wareham of nearby Burton on Trent had a 36” (0.91m) diameter cylinder and a 5 feet (1.5m) stroke, a steam brake and reversing gear. Interestingly it would remain in use until 1941
Prior to 1840 the horsepower of engines never exceeded 50 hp, whereas after this date engines of 150 horsepower were quite common.
Miners' demonstrations and meetings were held all over the Midlands counties and short time working was practised at some pits in accordance of the decision to restrict the hours of work to 8 hours per day.
Of course this was completely against the coal owners and they held a meeting at the Midland Hotel in Derby with EM Mundy in the chair where it was decided that they should not employ anyone who was in a union. It was also agreed that any man after 1st April 1844 should not be employed unless he could produce a certificate from his master to say that he had given due notice and behaved himself properly. The coal owners decided that in doing so they would crush any union. However groups of miners travelled around the area collecting the odd penny here and there from parties interested in helping the cause hoping to swell the strike fund for miners locked out.
A Trade Union was formed in South Derbyshire in 1844 but lasted less than a year
Teal’s map of Selston (Nottinghamshire) in 1844 referred to Cook’s pit, Dryhurst, Engine, Bye pit, Engine pit, Williamson’s, Creswell’s, Basset and Deeps (Kirkby Fenton’s) pits.
On the Blackwell and South Normanton Mineral Plan (5 chains to 1 inch) – Waterloo supposed to be gotten from 1807-1844 from Normanton Woodhouse to South Normanton also Dunsil gotten from 1795-1830. In the Blackwell area Dunsil gotten from 1830-1844.
Spelling Of Seam Name
As mentioned before the Dunsil seam had various spellings depending upon the locality –Dunsell, Dunsill, Duncil, Duncehill etc, albeit that it was named after the house Dunsil nearby its discovery in 1780.
Fatal Accidents 1844
- Babbington, Strelley (Thomas North), Mark Day (app 20) on Tuesday last whilst working at the bottom of the shaft ‘hanging on’ a piece of coal fell down the 167 yards (153m) deep shaft and struck him on the head making a wound some six inches (0.15m) in length. He was taken home but died within 48 hours, 22 Nov 1844.
- Cinderhill (Thomas North), Mark Day (21) hit by coal falling down the shaft 26/11/1844.
- Crick’s pit, Pinxton, there was an explosion, and a boy named Stocks (?) was killed.
- Eastwood (Barber Walker and Co), John Phillips (65) along with others fastened themselves in the chains to descend the pit at 3am but at about 40 yards (37m) down the deceased fell down the shaft. Robert Sisson who was with him had not noticed he had fallen as he was busy watching for the ascending chains. When they reached the pit bottom Phillips was found to be dead, 25 Aug 1844.
- Eastwood, Joseph Reeves (20) fall of coal 8 Nov 1844.
- High Headstocks, Newthorpe Common (North, Wakefield and Morley), a double fatality occurred when Joseph Meakin (18) and Aaron Ledbeater (31) were buried under a huge piece of stone weighing between 4 and 5 tons that had fallen from the roof, 6 Dec 1844. A prop set at the edge of the fall had run out allowing the roof to fall.
- Kimberley Thread pit (North, Wakefield and Morley) on Wednesday at about 3.30am the deceased George Chambers (14), his father and other men were waiting at the pit mouth to go down and although there was a large fire about 7 yards (6m) from the shaft the lad stepped in the dark within his own shadow cast by the fire and fell to the bottom of the 41 yards (37.5m) deep shaft. He was taken home alive but such were his injuries, both his thighs, right leg and left ankle broken, and there was a large hole under the left side of his jaw and some of his teeth were knocked out. He died the next morning, 4 Mar 1844.
- Loscoe, colliery (EF Whittingstall) between Heanor and Ripley (Derbyshire) in November 1844, three men were killed in an explosion, and several others burned. All were using candles for illumination.
- Loscoe, Reuben Flint died by being burnt by wildfire when he exploded some firedamp gas by using a candle. The men had been cautioned and advised to use a safety flame lamp, but a candle gave a better light. Another with him, Oliver Wardle died from burns later.
Loscoe, George Allen aged 12 died when he was burnt at the same pit by wildfire on 9th Oct 1844.
- Old Loscoe, Samuel Weston (14) fell down the Soft coal pit to his death when he missed his footing.
- Portland (Butterley Co), all the workmen had returned to work on the master’s terms of an advance in wages and a total relinquishment of the union and on Friday Jacob Newbury who had signed out of the union was killed by a fall of roof. He left a widow and 4 children, 24 May 1844.
- Riddings on 7th Oct 1844 a young girl, Betsy Banner aged 6 whilst on the pit bank on that Monday evening strayed too close to a fire burning there and her clothes set alight and she was dreadfully burnt and expired aboutv 12 o'clock next day.
- Shipley, 25th Sep 1844, Luke Thorpe aged 17 fell down the shaft by falling off the chains whilst riding out the shaft.
- Skegby colliery, there was an incident in early December 1844. William Hardy (59) (tall and stout), a header was engulfed by an inrush of water from old workings. He thought he had at least 13 clear yards (12m) to an old gate. The water bowled him over like a feather and although tumbled on several occasions by the force of the water was able at last to get to high ground. An ass was there and he rested his belly against it for warmth. Whilst he was in this precarious position the sound was like the bellowing and roaring of animals. He stood in the middle of the rushing water until it subsided and found its level. He struggled back to the place with great difficulty to where he thought he would get some fresh air but then had to return to his former position. Of course this was in complete blackness. At midnight he had been in this position for 12 hours and he began counting the minutes and hours. About this time two men descended the shaft and went down to the mouth of the pit but because of the water were forced to retreat. Assuming their workmate was drowned the two men went out of the pit. At about 5pm the water suddenly subsided, more than likely forcing its way through the old hollows to the dipside. Hardy made his way to the pit bottom where the water had been 15 feet (4.5m) deep at one period and shouted up the shaft. His cries were heard and a horse and tacking soon drew him to the surface after 18 hours in darkness. At a house nearby he was given refreshments and he then made his way home unassisted about half a mile away still in his sodden wet clothing where he found his wife surrounded by neighbours consoling her on the assumption he had drowned. When he appeared in the house they at first thought he was an apparition, a ghostly visitor, and until he began to smoke his pipe did they realise that he was saved. It would appear that there were 4 other men and 4 boys were working in the pit bottom area and as the water rushed in the tallest man lifted the others onto the tacking and they were raised up the shaft. The water quickly rose up the shaft some 10 feet (3m) and had they not got out then they would undoubtedly have drowned. This is a résumé of a report in the Nottingham Review 20 Dec 1844. Nothing was mentioned regarding the ass as to whether it survived the ordeal or not. Nor was there any mention of the method of illumination used by Hardy but it is without doubt candle light which would have been extinguished when the inrush occurred.
- Turkey Field, Geo Chambers (14) fell down the shaft 28 Feb 1844.
Output for 6 months to 31st Dec 1844
- Bagworth 7,449 tons, ave 286 tons per week
- Ibstock 7,549 tons, app 290 tons per week
- Snibston 34,189 tons app 1,315 tons per week
- Whitwick 33,075 tons app 1,272 tons a week.
Wages, Hours, Union And Strikes
The miners had sought an increase in wages and it was noted that the coal getters were on about 3s (15p) for a ten hour shift at the coal face at the bigger pits whereas at the smaller pits longer hours were worked varying between 12 and 15 hours a day. The miners were now asking for 4s (20p) for an eight hour shift and also the wages to be paid weekly instead of fortnightly or even monthly and that the ‘Truck system’ associated with this type of pay method when token tickets were issued to be spent at the ‘Tommy Shop’, where poor goods would have to be bought at inflated prices. There was no escape from this system at the time and the idea of unionism among other things was to try to prevent the coal owners from carrying out this type of thing as well as getting a fair rate of pay for a fair day’s work. This would be a long time in coming! Most coal owners would not employ men known to belong to any form of union.
However men at some pits returned to work in April 1844 whilst others refused to do so. For example miners at Radford employed by Lord Middleton achieved their demand for 4s (20p) for the 8 hour shift and returned to work. Miners at Cinder Hill and Babbington pits owned by Thomas North, Wakefield and Morley followed their lead but men at Kimberley also a Thomas North and Co pit were still out on strike. At the Portland pits (Butterley Co) most of the 160 employees returned to work.
Unfortunately the prosperity of early 1844 gave way to and heralded the ‘Hungry Forties’