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The Decline Of The Industry Continued
After Nationalisation 1947


1970 - Page   1     2     3     4  

1970 - Page 1 Continued

Men Bussed To Nearby Shafts

Men were taken by bus from Donisthorpe to travel the shafts at Oakthorpe to be nearer to the working area.

7 Day Working Abandoned

Planing Machines
Planing Machine
The 7 Day Coaling Agreement was terminated at Bevercotes (Nottinghamshire) at the NUM’s request and miners went onto the NPLA rates of pay and systems of work from 2nd May 1970.

Planing Machines

Planing machines as shown in the picture, to the right, were introduced to eliminate stable holes at gate ends. Also several types of heading machine were tried at various collieries.

Pit Ponies

The last 5 pit ponies were brought out from underground at Ireland in the spring of 1970, (and last ones in North Derbyshire, see Shirebrook 1971). The stables at Ireland were extensive and impressive. Similarly at Warsop, ponies were dispensed with in the High Hazles seam in 1970. There were 2 sets of stables, one in Top Hard (seam finished working 1959) and one in High Hazles.

In the summer, the last ponies in North Nottinghamshire were released from underground at Teversal where the output record reached 14,892 tons by 19th September 1970 at an OMS of 73.8 cwts.

It used to be wonderful to see the ponies frolicking in the field adjacent to the Pit Lane at Teversal at pit holiday fortnight when they were brought out for a well earned rest, however it was quite a job to round them up at the end of the fortnight as they seemed to know that they were off down ‘there’ again. Tommy Smith the Ostler used to try to lasso them when they were herded into a corner. Some were quite docile but several of them would kick and lash out when it became their turn to be put on the cage, as on a couple of occasions I assisted. I remember some of them had to have a bag put over their head so that could not see where they were being taken to. Ponies were still employed underground in South Nottinghamshire at Bentinck and New Hucknall until after the 1972 strike as some surveyors were given the job of feeding and watering them in that period. The last ones in North Derbyshire were at Shirebrook in 1971.

Practically every ‘large’ pit in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire had pit ponies at one time. A major dealer in the area was Jack Bamber at Tibshelf. They were obtained from Dartmoor, Fells, Wales, Iceland and Russia. They were ‘trained’ to accept pit work by pulling tubs round the surface for a while to get used to the noise, trained to accept orders such as ‘Goo on’, or click with tongue, ‘Cum on’, ‘Cum again’, ‘Cum back’, ‘Cum bye’, ‘Easy’, ‘Gee up’, ‘Goo on you lazy bastard’, etc then unceremoniously dragged onto the cage and lowered into the pit. Some would put up a fight and lash out, whilst others would be terrified and rightly so, for they may never have seen the surface again. Usually under private enterprise they were worked until they were worn out, then sold to the knackers man for dog meat, or glue, providing of course that they escaped injury, when, if serious, they were killed down the pit, sometimes using a humane killer powered by an explosive and sometimes using a spike driven into the horse’s head with a 7lb hammer. HB Stevens of Etwall, Sutton-in-Ashfield invented a horse killer called ‘Exit’ which was humane and complied with the Explosives in Coal Mines (Horse Killers) Order, 1931, made under Sec 61 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911 (known as the ‘Pit ponies Charter’). Life underground obviously would be very strange and of course dark and the difference in pressure would affect them, as even men travelling down a shaft have to swallow, probably several times depending on the depth of the shaft, to relieve pressure on the ears. There was at least one instance when a pony rearing up and broken away had fallen to its death down the shaft when being put onto the cage.

After 1947 when the NCB took over the mines, horses past their best would be retired. Following the Coal and Other Mines (Horses) Regulations, 1956 horses not fit to be sold for further work when made redundant could only be sent to places approved by the NCB or to recognised homes or private owners approved by the RSPCA. Horses now had to be examined at least once a year by a qualified veterinary surgeon and were not allowed to work more than 2 shifts in 24 hours, 3 shifts in 48 hours or 7 shifts in 7 days.

Contrary to popular belief pit ponies were not blind, however some would have cataracts or eye injuries due to roofing etc. Skull-caps made of leather usually were worn before 1911 to afford some protection. Some ponies had cap lamps fitted. After this date, extra eye protection would be afforded also, albeit that the design varied area by area. Most ponies were quite adept at lowering their head in low gates but unfortunately they could not avoid roofing or scrubbing their backs on occasion. They would have to have the injuries treated and time off to recover, however where the number of ponies was small, they would be forced back to work more or less immediately, sores and all. Horseshoes had to be fitted ‘cold’ by Farriers or Ostlers which meant that the hooves had to be shaped with a file to allow the shoes to be fitted, and of course not all were fitted ‘correctly’.However treatment of ponies varied immensely pit by pit, some being poor whilst others were good.

In 1897, three gangers at Clifton (South Nottinghamshire) were prosecuted and fined £1 each (a considerable sum at the time) for ill-treating their ponies. Sometimes colliers would beat the lads if they were observed ill-treating the animals.

Pony gangers were supposed to lead from the front, but this rarely happened as the lad would be riding on the tub or tram or illegally on the limbers or crank or even on the pony’s’ back if conditions allowed. At some pits, such as Creswell (Derbyshire) in the 1920s ponies transported the colliers to the coal face by 4 or 5 men riding on a wooden tram or tub. Some ponies were susceptible to profuse sweating due to the hard work or heat. Stiff dogs or chain dogs were used to connect the vehicle to the pony’s harness. This led to the term ‘dogging on’ when coupling tubs in the pit bottom.

At Langwith (Derbyshire) the stables were painted green to afford some recollection of surface fields whereas generally most stables were painted brilliant white with whitewash.

In the past Pony feed varied, but one particular mixture comprised about 40% chopped hay, 20% oats, 10% pulse and about 30% maize. A cheaper mixture comprised 30% hay, 10% peas, 5% beans and the rest maize. By 1940s (in War time) the mix could be pony nuts, silage, grass, straw-pulp with a portion of bran once a week. Each pony was fitted out with its own feed bag. Some lads and men would bring carrots, apples, bread crusts and even sweets as tid bits. Most ponies would know when it was snap time, and could even find their way back down a gate in pitch darkness to their inbye feeding place, and many could find their own way back to the stables, generally situated near the pit bottom. They could even push ventilation doors open, providing they were to open in the direction they were going. At Teversal (Nottinghamshire) at least one door was fitted with a counter weight that made the door close again after passing through.

The last competition for working pit ponies was held at the Moorgreen Show, near Eastwood, Nottinghamshire in August 1970 a very popular event in the past. Bringing the ponies up the pit for the pit holidays gave them freedom and many would prance around the field for quite some time when let loose. Sometimes it was quite a problem when it came time to catch them to get them back down the pit again. Competition for retired pit ponies continued at the Badger Box public house, Annesley.

In the 1926 strike, pony races were held. Such events were banned when the NCB took over.

There was a lengthy list of possible ailments etc for ponies including: ageing/weakness, anaemia, bruised heel, colds, colic, coughs, constipation, cracked heels, diarrhoea, other digestive disorders, grass sickness, influenza, lameness, lymphangitis, lice, parasites, punctured sole, respiratory disorders, ringworm, seedy toe, skin diseases, strain injuries, strangles, tetanus, wounds, scraped backs etc which could affect the work performance. Most could be treated but maybe a pony could be off work for some time with the more serious conditions.

Good conditions underground could prevent many of the above with sufficient height, even ground underfoot etc. Kind treatment by the gangers could help. Well planned and comfortable stables with good bedding, feed (as above), a good kind Ostler interested in his charges, able to do tail and mane plaiting, trimming, washing, grooming, cleaning out, checking harnesses and other equipment, assist in shoeing, noting when needed, etc and note and treat minor cuts and bruises at each shift and prepare the ponies for the next shift in good fettle and send for the vet quickly should he note a more serious condition. Glanders was a condition untreatable and could be passed to humans and generally the pony would be put down. One Ostler at Gedling died of the disease.

Strangely most visitors on their first trip underground would wish to see the ponies in the stables, as I did, way back in 1947 I remember.

But sad times were to come. At Gedling (South Nottinghamshire) as they dispensed with horses as mechanical engines were introduced in the 1960s so many horses at a time were brought out of the pit and killed humanely, put in the overhead tip buckets and off loaded into a hole on the dirt tip.

At Cossall (Nottinghamshire) similarly a few horses were brought to the surface and shot on Saturdays in a field nearby. Such a sad ending for such stalwart hard worked animals. At other pits as they reached the surface they were sent to the Knackers yard where they were killed and their meat made into pet food and hooves and other bits made into glue. At Sutton-in-Ashfield overlooking the Lawn Pleasure grounds off Station Road there was a local yard and the terrible smell that drifted all over the area on certain days gave to the cry ‘Mickey’s brewing again’. There was no retirement for them to go to at that time.

Later on there was and it was decreed that in future where possible all ponies would be well cared for and go to 'retirement homes' to live out their natural life span in the sunshine and showers.

Westthorpe Drifts.

Two drifts to the Chavery seam were driven at Westthorpe (North Derbyshire) between 1968 and 1970, production starting in 1971.

Rescue Station

John Blunt was appointed General Manager of Mansfield Woodhouse Mines Rescue Station 1970-1981.

A ‘mole’ was maintained at Mansfield Woodhouse Rescue Station. It was a device whereby a service pipe could be pushed through unconsolidated ground, for example where men could be trapped behind a fall.

Aerolux (liquid oxygen) superseded Aerophor (liquid air) for Rescue equipment. Self Rescuers used.

St John’s Ambulance

The St Johns Ambulance team from Markham colliery, (Derbyshire) won the National title and went on to win the European competition at the Hague against rivals from 6 other countries.


Robert B Dunn (4318) (d Nov 2008) was appointed Director, North Derbyshire Area (1970-1973), John H Northard (4954) (d 2012) as Deputy. Len Harris (7388) appointed Area Production Manager North Derbyshire 1970-1974 (previously Manager Shirebrook, Langwith, High Moor, and Undermanager Oxcroft). Manpower dropped to 17,000 with a lowered turnover of £42m.

John H Rippon BSc Senior Geologist for North Derbyshire, based at Eastwood Hall (1970-1981).

Mono-Rail Stone Dust Barrier

A revolutionary method of mono-rail mounted stone dust barrier was installed at Annesley (South Nottinghamshire), to cope with the rule of maintaining a light stone dust barrier within 70 to 130 yards (64 to 120m) of the face.

Holiday Pay

Annual and Statutory Holiday payments 1970/71: Annual holiday payments from 1st May 1970 to 30th April 1971: Males and females per week: 21 years and over £20 8s 0d (£20.40); 18 to 20 years £16 6s 6d (£16.32½); under 18 years £12 5s 0d (£12.25). All in accordance with the provisions of the MineworkersAnnual Holiday Agreement dated 22nd July 1954, as amended.

Statutory Holiday payments: Males and females per Statutory Holiday: 21 years and over £3 8s 0d (£3.40); 18 to 20 years £2 14s 5d (£2.72); under 18 years £2 0s 10d (£2.04). These rates were in accordance with the provisions of the Statutory Holiday Agreement of 23rd May 1947, as amended.

These rates apply to all classes of Daywage man and Pieceworkers (adults and juveniles under 21 years of age) whose wage and conditions are regulated by Coalmining Industry Agreements but they do not apply to (i) persons in receipt of fixed wages employed in the coalmining industry; (ii) Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers; (iii) Canteen and Snack Bar personnel; (iv) persons whose wage and conditions are regulated by the Ancillary Workers Agreement of 5th August 1948.

Silverhill To Sutton Connection

At Silverhill (North Nottinghamshire) the Piper seam was worked from 1965-1970. An emergency connection road was made through to Sutton colliery at this horizon to a Deep Hard seam roadway.


Sir Edward HeathA Conservative Government was returned to power from 19th June 1970 until 4th May 1974 with Edward Heath as Prime Minister. Minister of Technology Geoffrey Ripon (Con) replaced Tony Benn (Lab). President of Board of Trade was M Noble (Con). From October 1964 to June 1970 the Labour Government closed 235 pits.

Dennis Skinner North Derbyshire NUM official was elected Labour MP for Bolsover 1970 (was returned several times and still in Parliament in 2016). His trade mark was to wear a sports jacket, instead of the traditional suits worn by other Members of Parliament. His brusque manner, at times uncouth, has caused him to be banned from the House of Commons several times.

Mines Inspectorate Now Under the Department of Trade and Industry 1970-1973

Diesel Manrider

Diesel loco3½ miles manriding facilities for 108 men using Hudswell Clarke diesel locomotives were introduced at Babbington (South Nottinghamshire).

Nottingham University And Polytechnic

On 1st June 1970 the Regional College of Technology was designated a Polytechnic. In June 1887 ad hoc arrangements had been made for mining students at University College Nottingham for 1st and 2nd Class certificates. It was then established on a regular part-time basis allowing men at work to attend in the evenings for tuition. From 1907 a 3 year full-time Diploma course was run by the Home Office that exempted students from 2 of the 5 years experience for a Colliery Managers certificate. The first Chair of mining was William H McMillan in 1911. He left in 1936 to a position at Heriot Watt College in the University of Edinburgh. Staff and students moved to the University Park in 1945. The former University became Nottingham and District Technical College and although bombed by German planes in 1944 was repaired and a mining department was opened by 1947 and was designated a Regional College of Technology from 1964-1970.


In June 1970 the Waterloo seam was abandoned again at Pleasley (North Derbyshire). Manpower stood at 1,200. Workings in the Piper seam continued with 556 underground and 211 men on the surface.

High Moor

OllertonA new Medical centre, pithead baths and lamp room was opened at High Moor (North Derbyshire) in July 1970.

Record Area Face Output at Ollerton
To Last For 8 Years

Also in August 1970, Ollerton (North Nottinghamshire) produced a record 16,956 tons from a single advancing coalface in the Top Hard seam. This was a European, National and Area record, and the Area record would last for 8 years until broken by Sherwood (North Nottinghamshire) in May 1978, and then only by a few tons. Skip winding had been introduced at Ollerton No1 DC shaft as well as new major conveyors, releasing the six 100hp diesel locomotives, which were transferred to Welbeck (North Nottinghamshire) for coal and man-riding duties.

Deaths at Doe Lea Drift Mine

On 13th August 1970, 2 men died at Doe Lea Drift mine, due to poor ventilation. A workman went to measure the water level inbye that was flowing into Glapwell workings and after a time Walter Lavin (6548) Manager and son of Dominic Lavin (385), owner of the mine went inbye to check on him and both were overcome by blackdamp and perished. After some time a Deputy went inbye to the site and found them and tried to lift them to safety but he too was almost overcome and had to retire to fresh air to recover before raising the alarm. Quote to me in Nov 2007- by John H Northard (4954) Deputy Director who was on an underground visit at a colliery in North Derbyshire Area on that day. Following investigation by the Mines Inspectorate a new air shaft was sunk to alleviate the problem.




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Pit Terminology - Glossary