A Unique History From My Work Diaries - 1953 - 1990
No4 Sub-Area, No4 Area, East Midlands Division, NCB from 1st January 1947
Page - 1
The Office block was built in 1870 for the staff of the Stanton Ironworks Co Ltd.
Ground floor: Manager’s Office, Chief Clerk Jack Limmer, Training Officer Jack Clews, Safety Officer Fred Daft, Fire Officer Mod Jones and Ventilation Officer Jack Barker.
Prior to Survey offices being created at Pleasley (1954), Silverhill and Sutton (1955/56) when the staff moved to their respective colliery accommodation all Survey staff worked from this building and only attended their relevant colliery to carry out survey duties underground or surface or when sent for by the relevant Manager or others.
First Floor: A large office at one end of the corridor with 2 large tables, one shared by the Sub-Area Surveyor, the Lady Tracer and Silverhill Surveyor and his Assistant and Apprentice and the other table for Pleasley Surveyor and Teversal Surveyor and their Assistants and Apprentices, plus there was a large print room attached and at the other end of the building was a further Office with a medium sized table for the Surveyor for Sutton Colliery and his Assistant and Apprentice.
It was in this room where we had our half hour snap time and played a few hands of cards, a game called Crash and for the first two weeks I got fleeced every day until the penny dropped and I was as smart if not smarter than them and began to win. Throughout the years a game of cards at lunch time made the mind sharper for the afternoon session. When I became a boss we played Cribbage, Solo and others but probably the game I loved most was Black Maria because it was exciting. All my Assistants and Apprentices were taught these games with the object of me trying to take money off of them. I was always pleased when they started to win because I knew then that they were thinking sharper like I did years before.
The Sub Area Surveyor had a small personal Office within the large Office. There was a steel set of 100 pigeon holes along one wall to hold all the plans that were rolled up and drawers in the tables for plans that were to be kept flat.
There were only 4 stools, one for each Surveyor and one chair for the Sub Area Surveyor in his small office, so everyone else had to stand up, generally leaning on the table to do jobs.
There was a bathroom adjacent with bath and WC and 5 small wooden lockers, one for each of the Surveyors and Sub Area Surveyor.
Office jobs consisted of drawing, tracing, calculations of surveys and levellings, copying up underground work into office books, plotting, construction of plans and sections, use of printing machine, measuring and plotting and preparing plans of serious incidents and accidents including fatal accidents, Working plan, Support plans, Ventilation plans, Rescue & Fire-fighting plans, Deputy’s Districts, Means of Egress, Dust Zones, Conveyors, Electrical plans, Haulages, Surface plans and Dirt tips, Boreholes and geological information, SM1 forms from Surveyor to Manager informing him of hazards such as old workings, gas, water etc, Mining reports, yearly scaling of workings to calculate tonnages for various Parishes, making notices, attending meetings, using the printing machine and colouring by paint or pencils or stippling various prints off negatives, plus other numerous tasks …. such as answering queries or mainly taking messages by using the Ericsson wall mounted telephone with ear flaps and wallowing handle connected to the colliery switch board. There was one ordinary telephone in the private office but no dial and that was also connected to the colliery switchboard situated in the Power House.
Other miscellaneous duties included making the fire before the bosses arrived and dampening it down at knock off, but not a minute before, removing the table dust covers first thing and covering the tables at shift end and similarly not a minute before, plus tea mashing and pot washing and cleaning up, printing for everyone etc, etc.
On Saturday morning two linesmen from each colliery came to the office from the 4 pits to make up several copies of the progress plans with up to date coal face and heading positions measured the day before, plus the 3 men at each pit plus the Sub-Area Surveyor and Tracer. My task on Saturdays besides any job I had been given from any of the Surveyors was to mash tea for all using a tea pot that held 7 cups. Including everyone there was a complement of 22 so I had to mash 3 times and wash the cups also in between.
Sub-Area Surveyor Clarence Skeavington
Lady Tracer June Baker
Teversal Colliery Denis Hill (DH) Surveyor and Keith Mitchell (KM) Assistant and Robert Bradley (RB) (self) Apprentice plus 2 linesmen Tom Pickering (TP) and Les Ryde (LR)
Assistants and Apprentices were seconded to all pits if or when required, so as to gain experience of all methods of surveying practice that varied sometimes pit by pit …
Manager Jimmy Wright, Undermanager Jim Davies.
Silverhill Colliery Percy W Hett (PH) Surveyor and Frank Gearing (Assistant uncert) and Colin Burlinson, plus 4 linesmen
Manager Robert Moncur, Undermanager Joe Morley
Sutton Colliery Jack Brown (JB) Surveyor and Colin Hardy (CH) Assistant and Geoff Austin (GA) Apprentice plus 3 linesmen, staff Alan Elliott (AE)
Manager Horace Gubbins, Undermanager Andrew Stones
Pleasley Colliery Norman Smedley (NS) Surveyor and Ted Bucklow (EB) Assistant and Peter Holmes (PH) Apprentice plus 5 linesmen
Manager Joe Brealey, Undermanager Charlie Hall
Planner Frank England. Area Surveyor Leslie H Watson, Assistant Area Surveyor Roland Mettam.
Other Sub-Area Suveyors, Clem Jackson, E Emerson, Freddie Parr
I attended Silverhill Training School 22 Dec 1952 to 12th April 1953 … 54 underground shifts … and was taught all haulage duties such as clipping on, dogging and undogging and lockering tubs etc, coal face work included shovelling coal, setting supports, packing, conveyor erecting, pony handling in the Training Gallery. I had a couple of shifts drawing off old rings in old abandoned Threequarter workings nearby. I had a visit to 71s panel in the Deep Hard and to a Yard seam face.
I attended the Technical College, West Gate, Mansfield for theory of mining, maths etc and also had to construct a spanner in the workshop from a solid piece of steel and we also had practical lectures by the Instructors in the underground class room in the Training Gallery. Horace Marshall was the Chief Instructor and others included Bill, Sam, Tom as I remember. Our course lasted 16 weeks for under 18 year olds but those entrants aged 18 plus only had 3 weeks training.
Best Trainee of the Session - There was a ceremony at Bentinck Welfare on 13 April 1953 where I was presented with a mantelpiece clock by Harry Hicken NCB Labour Relations Officer for being the best trainee of the session. It was quite a shock whem my name was read out as I had no idea of my achievement.
(When I left Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Mansfield in June 1952 I was employed as a trainee Architect at Warner & Dean, Sutton in Ashfield for 6 months where I learnt the very basics of measuring properties with a Clerk of Works, then with several architects in the office the art of preparation of plans, use of drawing equipment and pens and tracing, calculations, use of a printing machine, tuition on the use of a theodolite and a levelling instrument, etc. Following that initial period of training I was offered a permanent job but that meant paying the Architect articles of £3 3s per week. That was impossible as I lived with my grandparents who were pensioners and could never ever afford to pay such an amount so I was advised by the Architect to apply for an apprenticeship with the National Coal Board. When I started work as an Apprentice Surveyor in April 1953 I knew most of the basics which were similar to the Architectural work. I never mentioned that I could use surveying instruments etc so my new bosses seemed impressed when I was able to do jobs with very little training ….. and it was very obvious when I started at the Technical College in September 1953 that I was far more advanced than any of the others in the class as they had not had the opportunities to use instruments or do jobs in the office on their own.)
All jobs underground or surface at Teversal Colliery, unless stated otherwise, until Feb 1971
* Denotes in charge of a job or alone.
The stables were in No1 pit bottom and the Ostler was Tommy Smith whose other duty apart from looking after the ponies was to be Onsetter at the No2 Shonkey shaft. Because we had completed our surveying tasks and usually in the pit bottom by 1pm on numerous occasions although we were staff people he would refuse to leave the stables, saying he was busy, so unless you waited until 2 pm or later to come out of the pit with the dayshift men you rang yourself out of the pit (completely illegal of course). There were about 10 pit ponies on supplies in the Dunsil seam workings when I started, occasionally obstructing our jobs in the gates. They were also used in the Waterloo seam on supplies from 1957/58 before small Pikrose engines were installed. A bit of ancient and modern … ponies on supplies and a modern Anderton shearer coal cutting machine on the face. Two ponies were kept on salvage duties in the Dunsil seam when that was abandoned in 1969 and would be the last to be brought out in the North Nottinghamshire Area in July 1970. On a couple of occasions I assisted in catching or trying to catch the ponies somewhat cowboy fashion by lassoing them with a rope after several of us including the Ostler had herded them into a corner of the Pit Lane field where they had been released from their underground drudgery for two weeks during the pit holiday period. It was lovely to watch them frolicking about in the field but what a difference when the holiday period was over and they needed to be sent down the pit again. They seemed to know of their fate and resisted catching at all times. Eventually each one was caught and a hood placed over its head so that it could not see where it was going and then gently walked from the field across the pit yard and tied in the cage each one in turn separately and lowered into the pit on the slow speed and then led back to the pit bottom stables in readiness for starting work again on the following Monday. They were very well looked after and practically all the gangers were extremely kind to them bringing tid bits of carrots and apples and such for their daily snap time where they had the nose bag or ‘leather bucket’ fastened round their neck to be able to eat their chaop etc. At one time until eradicated by poison in the late 1950s dozens of rats infested the snap time areas where they lived on the food droppings and carelessly thrown away bits of bread etc. My first boss Denis, of the old school, insisted that we knocked off for our 20 minutes snap and on occasions I remember sitting in a switch house or engine house where we attempted to catch a rat and sometimes did by using a large piece of rock or bind pulled out of the pack side and carefully balancing it on a stick of wood say a split piece off a cap lid and fastening a length of millband string to it. We would place a bit of bread or meat or cheese under the stone and sit there with our cap lamps on pilot bulb and wait for a rat to emerge from the packhole where they lived and cautiously creep towards the food. With great dexterity we would in turn yank the string pulling out the stick and in doing so squash the rat. That was the plan, but on numerous occasions the rat would sense what was happening and escape, however they always came back, the food being too tempting for their sparse existence. In the 1953 holiday period we and others caught several and threw them into an empty tub nearbye. At the end of the holiday the stench of the dead rats was indescribable, a smell never to be forgotten. Pleasley was joined to Teversal Top Hard by a common goaf and had rats too. At Silverhill we would catch mice. There we would use an empty glass bottle such as a milk bottle with a wide neck. Placed on its side and armed with a bit of bread, cheese or fruit the mice eventually would be tempted in and were caught in the bottle as they could easily get in but found it difficult if not impossible to get out up the inner slope of the bottle. It was different, because you never find rats and mice together in the same pit. I think they had mice at Sutton as well. I was told that the vermin found their way into the pit in the pony food being sent from the pit yard store where all the food for underground was prepared, generally a mixture of straw or hay, beans, peas, chaop and so on sent down the pit in tubs to the stables where they spread and multiplied and followed the ponies inbye.
LG or DG denotes Loader Gate or Delivery Gate.
LH denotes Left Hand Supply Gate. RH denotes Right Hand Gate, TG denotes Top Gate and BG is Bottom Gate. MG is Middle Gate. AW is Airway or Supply Gate. TG is Tail Gate, again a Supply Gate for materials.