Information and photographs submitted by subscribers are posted in good faith. If any copyright of anyone else's material is unintentionally breached, please email me


Book 7 The Death Throes

1997 - 2000


1997 Pages

1997 - Page 3

Bilsthorpe Closed After 70 Years

- Continued -

Two long drifts at 1in4 and 1in6 grade were driven down from the Top Hard pit bottom area and the Low Main seam was developed and opened in June 1946 to supplement the output from the Top Hard seam. The Parkgate seam was opened up initially to drive connecting roadways for the transportation of Low Main coal. The seam originally called the Dukeries seam was considered to be of inferior quality despite the thickness being 5’ 9” (1.74m) or more. However a panel was worked later and the product blended with rest of the output. The first Low Main panel was 1s advancing in a Northerly direction, the second face being 2s advancing south. The third face 3s advancing west. The numbers of these panels were changed later, to 61s, 62s and 63s, why?

A cable belt was installed in 1955 to the Low Main, the panels working were Top Hard 21s, 22s, 40s, 41s, 45s and 62s, 67s, 69s, 71s in Low Main, with 2 developments, 23s and 63s.

Record Output
3s Panel Celebrated a Record Output w.e. 24 Jan 1970

Many oil bores from the Eakring Oilfield constricted the layout of the mine as well as the 50 yards (46m) cover line in the Top Hard seam to the water-bearing Permian measures.

The ‘three pyramid’ water bores of Severn Trent would also hamper the colliery layout as a support pillar would have to be left, and in 1988 a planned Low Main face was refused permission to undermine the site.

A new fan house and drift constructed in 1956/57 and new Miners’ Welfare 1958 complete with bar, hall and snooker table.

A Dawson Miller stable-hole machine was in use in 1964.

A new canteen opened in 1965.

As mentioned earlier against all reasoning a single pit pony was introduced underground to gang salvage items, where it would have been laborious and expensive to install haulage engines. The pony named Prince came out of the pit on 6/3/1965. The Ostler George Wardell also looked after the blade cabin in the pit bottom. This was where men took their picks to be sharpened.

Originally 2 tubs on 2 decks were raised at both shafts. The fire holes were dispensed with in 1978 when electrification of the winders was completed.

No1 DC shaft had an electric winder with a 7.3m dia drum driving through direct couplings from a D.C. 2,984 Kw motor.

No2 UC shaft had a 671 Kw A.C. electric winder with a parallel drum at 4.27m dia.

Coal was raised in 7.8 tonne capacity skips at No1 shaft. Men and materials were transported at No2 shaft on single deck cages.

coal preparation plant
Part of the Coal Preparation Plant

In 1974 there were 2 shearer faces in Low Main, one basic shearer and one DERDS (double ended ranging drum shearer). 11s face chocks were fitted with gaiters to keep dust out of the hydraulics in Apr 1977. A methane drainage house operational Apr 1977 also.

In 1987 the European record was broken with 22,700 tonnes in a week and later in 1992 the pit record was broken again using more modern efficient equipment when 40,121 tonnes was produced from 43s panel in the Parkgate seam.

117s panel in Low Main was approaching the Permian water-bearing measures in December 1988 and would have to stop.

Roof bolting was introduced in development headings (see incident 1996). 10 gallons of underground water from 460m deep at No2 shaft was pumped to the surface and discharged into a tributary of Gallow Hole Dyke.

A new coal prep plant was operational in 1974. Part of the tip was grassed over also in 1974.

A new timber stockyard was built and yard cleaned up 1976.

Methane drainage practised and the gas utilised at surface from Apr 1977.

A new engine house for the new electric winder 1978, built behind the old steam operated winder in the corrugated sheet covering which was then demolished.

A new boiler plant and a new stores building were operational 1978.

Another new coal prep plant was commissioned in Dec 1980. Merrik Spanton (4612) the Area Director presented the Manager Peter Watt (4975) with a commendation on behalf of the colliery staff in 1980. Coal was delivered to a rapid loading bunker by conveyor and transported away by merry-go-round trains to the Trent side power stations, mainly Cottam and High Marnham.

Underground materials handling was by endless rope haulage systems. Manriding was by endless rope haulage and also manriding conveyors.

Underground loco: 2’ 4” gauge 0-4-0 DMF No16 65hp 1949.

It seems incredible but the number of job descriptions of men having accidents from 1926 to 1936 was over 130 according to the accident book for that period.

Seams Worked

  • Top Hard 1927- 23rd Aug 1969, finished production Aug 1968, last panel worked slowly from June 1968. A connection was made from Rufford to 20s Top Hard for emergency egress, and small amounts of coal worked in pit bottom 1984 and whilst constructing a vertical bunker in 1986
  • High Hazles dev coal 1.22m started July 1985 but halted quickly, operations finishing 16th Nov 1985, abandoned 6th Dec 1986, due to a change in policy.
  • Low Main 224 yards (205m) below was developed by twin drifts from Top Hard, 1946 / 47 (originally planned for Deep Hard seam) and worked to 10th Sep 1993, Parkgate 20m above Low Main accessed in Nov 1966 worked to 3rd Oct 1996 and Blackshale / Ashgate developed by 2 drifts off Low Main Trunk Road Nov 1992, Intake 1in4 dip off Cs Trunk and Return rising drift 1in4 off Motorway - 27th Mar 1997. A new cross-measures ‘motorway’ had been driven through the anticline to access the last seam.

Top Hard Panels

After driving roadways in the pit bottom shaft pillar 1927/28, the first coal working was

  • West district, short life, finished 31st July 1929
  • North West district short life 1928 - 31st July 1929
  • North district short life 1928 9th August 1929
  • North East district short life, Sep - 7th Nov 1929
  • South West No1 short life, conveyor face Jan 1929 Aug 1929 31st July 1930
  • South West 2 short life, Sep 1929 31st July 1930
  • West 1 and South West 5 first long life panel 22nd Oct 1938
  • North West 2 1929/30 19th June 1940 and cont to Jan 1944 and 3rd Apr 1944
  • South East 1 Dec 1930 31st July 1934
  • East No1 Dec 1930 31st Oct 1933
  • South No1 May 1931 11th Aug 1931
  • South East 2 1931 renamed South East II - 30th Apr 1936 and South East 3 to South East III 18th Aug 1937
  • South W 3 Aug 1931 Nov 1931
  • North West 5 and North West 6 1932 26th July 1944
  • South 3 1932 15th July 1939
  • North East 2 1932 8th Feb 1943
  • South 2 Nov/Dec 1932 15th July 1933, joined up with South 3 continued 5th July 1939
  • East No2 1933 31st Jan 1936
  • South West 4 Nov 1933 18th Sep 1935
  • East 3 and South East 3 1933/34 - 30th Apr 1936
  • East 3 1934 31st July 1937
  • South West 2 re-opened after fault
  • South 5 re-opened Oct 16th Nov 1936 stopped and headed forward; renamed new South West 5 1938 22nd Dec 1938
  • South West 5 1935 22nd Oct 1938
  • North district Jan 1935 21st Oct 1939
  • East Headings to prove Permian water-bearing measures stopped 25th Sep 1937 and 14th Mar 1939 respectively
  • South East 4 1937 27th Mar 1943
  • North West 7 1939 19th June 1943
  • North 2 district 21st Oct 1939 stopped re-headed North district Mar 1944 11th Jan 1947
  • South 5 1943 17th Nov 1944
  • North West 8 May 1943 5th June 1944 and 14th Mar 1945
  • North district headed out July / Aug 1944 11th Jan 1947 also the re-headed out new face Nov/Dec 1946 finished 11th Jan 1947
  • North West 9 Mar 1944 9th Dec 1944
  • North East 1 May 1945 30th Apr 1946
  • North West 10 Sep 1945 17th Sep 1946
  • South East 6 1946 25th Aug 1948
  • North West 11 May 1946 9th Jan 1947
  • 52s Feb/Mar 1947 19th Mar 1948
  • 20s Mar 1947 31st Jan 1954
  • 90s Aug 1947 31st Dec 1948, Training face
  • 53s June 1948 31st Mar 1950
  • South East 5 1949 12th Sep 1953
  • 21s June 1951 30th Sep 1956, slow from Dec 1954
  • 40s Mar 1952 31st Mar 1955
  • 22s May/June 1953 17th Aug 1957
  • 41s Mar 1954 26th Feb 1960
  • 45s Feb/Mar 1955 2nd Dec 1960
  • 46s Dec 1956 30th June 1957
  • 23s June 1957 19th Sep 1959, slow from June 1959
  • 24s Dec 1957 16th May 1959
  • 48s Feb 1960 31st Aug 1962, slow from June 1962
  • 43s Sep 1960 21st Oct 1960
  • 44s Dec 1960 14th Mar 1964, slow advance from Oct 1962
  • New 42s June 1962 23rd Dec 1967
  • 49s Feb 1963 25th Sep 1965
  • 47s Dec 1964 20th May 1967, slow advance from Jan 1967
  • 51s Dec 1965 24th Aug 1968, slow advance from May 1968
  • 53s Apr 1967 7th Sep 1968, slow advance from June 1968 this being the last face.
    (Total of 59 panels or districts).

Typical Manpower

  • South West 5s district Mar 1948 - 30th June 1951 per 24 hours - stall No: 40 (4 getters), 41 (3 men), 42 (3 men), 43 (3 men), 44 (3 men), 45 (3 men), 46 (3 men), 47 (3 men), 48 (3 men), 49 (2 men), plus 8 contracts for ripping (7 and 6 men), cutting (5 men), fault work (4 men), back ripping (4 men and 6 men), moving over (18 men), boring (2 men), plus 3 Deputies, 4 Shotfirers, 3 engine drivers, 1 Corporal, 5 haulage, 4 on Loader end, 2 on Timber, 2 pulley oilers, 1 steel checker, 1 fitter, 2 conveyor fitters, 2 face conveyor drive, 1 clipper on of tubs, 1 on empties, 1 knocker off, 3 powder men, 2 men cutting fault, 1 tandem point attendant, face sanded off to prevent heating.
  • South East 5s district Sep 1948 -12th Sep 1953 stall No 75 (2 men getting), 76 (2 men), 77 (2 men), 78 (2 men), 79 (3 men), 80 (2 men), 81 (2 men), 82 (2 men), 83 (2 men), 84 (2 men), 85 (3 men) plus 9 contracts, similar to above but including 6 and 3 drawing off, 3 heading, 3 drifting, 10 back rip development, 1 paddy engine, 1 cleaning up, 2 gearing drive, 1 squeezers, 1 Road layer, 1 scraper chain, 2 tandem face belt, 2 stone dusting, 1 man in slack hole and 4 assistant shotfirers, face sanded off after abandonment to prevent heating.

Low Main Panels

  • Originally opened out as 1s, 2s and 3s then the panel numbers changed
  • 63s worked then stopped, and 63s re-opened worked South West direction
  • 72s North off 63s panel
  • 68s North
  • 60s North, right hand gate turned at fault
  • 78s North off 63s heads
  • 79s South off 63s heads
  • 75s South off 63s panel, turned both gates to left
  • 73sA South off 63s and 73sB finished at protection pillar for drifts
  • 65s South off 63s
  • 61s North East turned several times towards North due to faults
  • 63s North West off 61s, left hand gate turned
  • 71s North West off 61s
  • 65s North West off 61s
  • 66s North West off 61s
  • 67s North West off 61s
  • 69s North West off 61s long life panel
  • 77s North West off 61s
  • 100s East
  • 101s North off 100s, 103s North off 100s, 105s North off 100s, stopped and re-opened
  • 62s South East off 61s
  • 64s South off 62s stopped at fault on angle, re-opened on angle
  • 62sA South off 62s
  • 107s SE off 62sA, whole panel successfully turned through 90 to the South. (Note...Mick Siddons, one of the top machine drivers at the pit was instrumental in fly cutting the face successfully to make the turn and was complimented for doing so. Unfortunately Mick having been a coalface machine driver for some years was to suffer with pneumoconiosis and ended his days having to have oxygen tanks to breathe. He was the first Chairman of the Bilsthorpe Heritage Society and it was he who asked me to join the group, which has now gone from strength to strength and all members became involved with the Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum that opened to the public in 2014)
  • A new area was developed through major faults 106s worked to the East over the Eakring anticline with a max dip of 1in2.2 in line of advance, a sulphurous odour was noticed
  • 112s North off 106s
  • 114s North off 106s
  • 120s North off 106s
  • 122s North off 106s face abandoned before working
  • 111s South off 106s, turned panel to right
  • 117s South off 106s, turned panel to left
  • 121s off 106s, longest life face
  • 123s off 121s parallel to 106s. (35 panels in total).
Prior to 1958 plans plotted by protractor. A magnetic correlation at No1 shaft was made in 1927. Underground workings were correlated to National Metric Grid in 1951 by co-plane method.