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The Decline Of The Industry
And Nationalisation 1947


1919 - Page 1

Price of Pit Ponies

The price of pit ponies now varied dramatically between £15 and £32 each due to scarcity after the War. Thousands of horses were killed as they were used on front line duties hauling artillery and ammunition to the trenches in diabolical conditions and were in the line of fire during the fighting.

Nationalisation Of Mines Rejected

President of Board of Trade, Sir Auckland Geddes (Lib Coalition), 26th May 1919-1920.

The Government offered better wages and a cut in hours of work in 1919, but rejected the call for the Nationalisation of the mines. The MFGB then asked for a reduction in the price of coal to cut the cost of living, and although the Alliance was unwilling to strike, the railwaymen did. The Government took action. Although it was only a 2 week long strike it had a heavy financial toll on the NMA (see September/October).

Collieries Sunk or Opened in 1919

Sinking began again at Harworth (Nottinghamshire) in 1919, but at a different site but only a few yards (metres) away from the original sinkings. It was thought that the German sinkers (for the Northern Union Mining Co) in 1914, knowing that they were to be interned, had spiked the first shafts with explosives? It was a risk that the new company could not take. The Harworth Main Colliery Co was formed to start with, but was then bought out by Barber Walker and Co in 1921-1922. Colliery houses were built at the new village of Bircotes.

Manager for the Barber, Walker pit was Len C Hodges (2548) and the Agent John Robert Harrison.

  • Blackfordby Clay Mine (TG Green and Co Ltd) opened Sep, coal worked with clay
  • Sinking continued at Hornthorpe (J and G Wells)
  • Stanton Ironworks Co began preparing to deepen the South shaft at Pleasley in June 1919 and a cross-measures drivage was driven from the Top Hard horizon to the Waterloo at 1 in 4 and this would be continued down to the Deep Hard level pit bottom at 1in 2 and finally to the Blackshale seam
  • Arden No2 (Burnd Edge) (JW Swindell) 2 day eyes to Yard seam, Apr
  • Barlow (Henry Booker and Son) Nesfield, Ashgate 2/2, Undermanager: H Booker
  • Cutthorpe Nos 1,2,3 (Cutthorpe Colliery Co Ltd) Chesterfield, Ashgate
  • Heage Naughton (Heage Naughton Colliery Co) Belper, Naughton seam and Ingmanthorpe (Ingmanthorpe Colliery Co) Cutthorpe, Kilburn
  • Starveham Valley (E Glossop) Hartshay, Mickley
  • Waleswood (Skinner and Holford) DC 99 yards 1 ft (90.8m), UC 481 yards (439.8m), High Hazels, Thorncliffe opened May 1919, Wigwell (Major FR Griggs) Whatstandwell
  • Wood Lane (New Kilburn Colliery Co) Horsley, Kilburn.
    (11 Pits)

Butterley Co expected to sink Ollerton and Bilsthorpe collieries in conjunction with the Stanton Iron Works Co and planned out exploratory boreholes in the concealed Coalfield of Nottinghamshire. This alliance however did not last and the respective companies sank both collieries separately in 1923-1925 and 1925-1927. At one period there was talk of a tripartite association with the New Hucknall Colliery Co as well, but this did not materialise either.

Sheepbridge Co decided not to proceed with the development of Firbeck and Finningley collieries.

Explosion At Oxcroft

On 6th April 1919 there was an explosion at Oxcroft, (Derbyshire), caused by a build up of methane gas and unfortunately 6 men were killed and 7 injured, caused by the use or misuse of 2 booster fans, there being one inbye and one outbye. In the High Hazels seam there was only one door between the intake roadway and the return airway in several places and some had been spragged open as one of the fans had been stopped over the weekend as was usual, to save money, and another fan was installed and started up. The ventilation was then improved by the introduction of double doors and taking out the booster fans.

First Inland Oil Well

On 15th October 1918, the first UK inland oil well had commenced drilling at Hardstoft in Derbyshire and crude oil was found at No1 well on 27th May 1919 at 3,077 feet (938m) deep, in the basal coal measures, on land owned by the Duke of Devonshire. American drillers had been commissioned by Lord Cowdray’s firm of S Pearson and Son to do the drilling as they had expertise in the States.

Oil had been seeping into several coal mines and numerous lead mines in the High Peak Derbyshire and the county had been seen as an obvious choice for exploration. Prior to the Great War oil had been imported by tanker ships but the enemy had been sinking them at will therefore it became more or less a necessity that Britain should have its own onshore oilfield if possible. Eleven wells were drilled throughout the country with 7 of them in Derbyshire – Hardstoft, Renishaw, Heath, Ridgeway, Brimington and 2 at Ironville.

Clipstone Colliery

The Bolsover Co was now planning their 5th colliery, Clipstone, (Nottinghamshire) following the end of the War and sinking that had been suspended re-commenced in 1918.


At Bestwood (Bestwood Coal and Iron Co Ltd) (Nottinghamshire) the High Main seam 4 feet 3 inches (1.3m) thick at 200 yards (183m) deep was opened out to supplement the Top Hard working 3 feet 6 inches (1.07m) thick at 420 yards (384m) deep, which had been worked since 1878. The Managing Director was Captain CG Lancaster.

Unofficial Strike

There was an unofficial strike at MansfieldCrown Farm’ pit (Nottinghamshire) in January 1919 when the Bolsover Co attempted to dismiss 25 men to make way for ex-servicemen who had been demobbed. The strike spread to Tibshelf, South Normanton and Pinxton. The servicemen were set on but no one was dismissed and the men returned to work.

Police Constable PC 61

My paternal Grandfather PC 61 James Herbert Bradley born at Hazleford, Nottingham, was the local Police Constable (‘Bobby’) for the Forest Town mining village in the 1920s and lived at 35 First Avenue. The several rows of terrace housing had been built by Bolsover Co for miners at Mansfield Crown Farm colliery, but that house allotted to the police force was equipped with an axe, a hose and standpipe and fire bucket hanging on the wall outside, for any emergency.

He was always known for not arresting anyone, but very quick to ‘feel their collar’, or use his white gloves across the face for a minor offence, or use his belt (and buckle) or truncheon for something more serious, to keep criminals in line particularly when he had been to the pub!

He had returned from distinguished war service as a Sergeant (and sniper) in the Second Battalion Grenadier Guards having been mentioned in despatches twice, and had been transferred from Hucknall Torkard another mining community, living at 4 Florence Street where he had begun his career in the Police Force, the Police station almost next door on the corner of the street.

Hucknall No1 Top and No2 Bottom pits had a large workforce between them. Hucknall No1 Top and No2 Bottom pits had a large workforce between them. His Grandfather (my Great Great Grandfather) John Bradley was a miner, probably working at Clifton Colliery as he lived not far away at Cotgrave village. My Grandmother Mary Ann Jones (lived at Barnby in the Willows near Newark), and before marriage, worked as a domestic servant for a Doctor in Nottingham for 1 shilling (5p) a week all found, with Wednesday afternoon off! My father Jack Bradley born at Hucknall but educated at the local school in Forest Town first found employment at Mansfield colliery on the screens in 1926 (died aged 92 on 9th December 2005).

He was moved to ganging supplies in the stockyard with ponies, a job he loved. However one day he picked up his pay tin to find an extra note – ‘services no longer required’. That was the system in those days. There was no comeback! In the 1930s my father worked at Pleasley for a time, bat picking on the screens.

In 1927 my grandfather was transferred to Sutton-in-Ashfield, living at 53 Martyn Avenue, until he retired in 1935, but was reinstated for the duration of the Second World War 1939-1945, due to the shortage of policemen. He died in his sleep, aged 81, after shovelling a load of coal into the coalhouse earlier in the day!

He was another one of my family "killed by coal"

 Pleasley Deepening

Shaft deepening began at Pleasley South shaft 1919-1923 (Stanton Ironworks Co).

Fatal Accident Due To Electric Shock

On 19th January 1919 at Cossall (Cossall Colliery Co Ltd), the first fatal accident due to electric shock from a coal cutter occurred.

Explosion at Oxcroft

At Oxcroft (Derbyshire) (Oxcroft Colliery Co) on Sunday 6th April an explosion in the High Hazel seam killed 6 men, John William Chappel (27), Eli Hunt (..?), S Parkes (..?), George William Randall (31), James Taylor (30) and Elisha Whitehouse (53) and injured 6 others.

First Electric Lamps

The promised electric lamps were issued at New Hucknall colliery (New Hucknall Colliery Co) in March 1919 to all underground workers, probably the first pit in the country to do so.

The Sankey Commission of 20th March 1919 awarded a pay rise of 2s (10p) a day to over 16 years of age and 1s (5p) a day below 16. A further rise was awarded between 3s (15p) and 4s (20p) a day inclusive of the War wage.

The report also recommended that underground hours be reduced from 8 to 7 from 16th July 1919 and subject to the economic position of the Industry at the end of 1920 that underground hours be reduced to 6 per day from 13th July 1921 and surface workers hours to be 46½ per week exclusive of meal times. One penny (½p) per ton was to be collected on coal raised to improve housing and social amenities in each Colliery District.


Colliery Owners

Throughout the country there were some 3,000 pits owned by 1,500 companies, most of which were inefficient with little mechanisation. There were poor conditions generally and an appalling accident record. This led to the threat of a strike by the Triple Alliance of the miners, railway men and transport workers in February of 1919.


There was a County strike by Derbyshire miners from 16th July to 19th August 1919 over wages.

There were strikes at Nottinghamshire pits and in South Yorkshire at Birley (just 100 yards (90m) outside the North Derbyshire border but worked by Derbyshire miners). There were still 30 Derbyshire pits idle on 24th July 1919.  

7 Hour Day But No Nationalisation

The Sankey report of 1919 granted a 7-hour day (1919-1926), wage ‘rises’, but the proposed Nationalisation of the mines was rejected. From 16th July 1919 the 7 hour day began underground, again meaning a lowering of wages if on ‘piece-rate’. Nottinghamshire manpower was 41,979 underground and 52,883 on the surface.


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