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Brian Cusworth
My Granddad Wilf Plowman's Story Recorded 1990'ish
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15 December 2011

“Y’ Grandma often say to me,
‘Y’ could write a book if sumbody’d put it down for y’.”


“Y’ know I left school at thirteen, y’ can leave school at it if y’ got a job.

In 1900 the age limit for young boys to work in mines was raised to 13, before 1860 the age limit had been 10 years of age. Twenty years earlier girls and women also worked in the mines.

If not y’ got one y’ got t’ wait ‘til you got one.” Well mi father was in business as a painter and decorator. He employed ten men so ‘e’d a good big business. He had all the Worksop and Retford Brewery Company”

Reference notes:
Worksop Nottinghamshire: The Worksop & Retford Brewery Co Ltd, Prior Well Brewery, Kilton Road.
This company traded as Garside & Alderson until 1877. Registered in September 1881 to acquire Smith and Nephew and the Prior Well Brewery Co, Cresswell Holme Brewery, Worksop.

The whole concern was bought by Tennant Brothers Ltd (Sheffield) in 1959 including 192 public houses.
A Century of British Brewers Plus - 1890 to 2004. Brewery History Society, 2005.
The Brewery History Society:

“Pubs, you know all over Cresswell. Oh all over t’ place from Worksop. Well y’ know, ‘e was in the South African war and ‘e was a reservist. I didn’t know that as a lad. And when the 1914 war was declared ‘e was one of the first to be called up.” Wilf thought deeply then said, “Called up, he was a Sergeant. A bomb instructor and er, well anyway that er. I left school to be an apprentice (for his father). Well then war broke out and that was the end of that.

I didn’t know what to do so I went to a Chemist’s shop in Worksop as an errand boy yeh. Well I got five shillin’s a week (25 pence in modern money). I used to have t’ go in in the morning. Hee hee, and I’d go round the back and there was a great big yard and I ‘ad a key I used to ‘ave to let meself in. Hmm. Make the fire in the kitchen and er I used t’ ‘ave to mash a pot of tea and biscuits and tek them two eh to the chemist, see ee lives at back of the shop. Tek ‘em to the there bedroom knock on the door and then he used to come back.

And then I used to be in a great big place where there was bottles. All kinds of bottles and I used t’ ‘ave to wash these in cold water Winter or anywhere and then he opened the shop. And I used ter ‘ave ter wash that floor ev’ry morning it was an imitation marble, marble. And any errands that wanted runnin’ and that. And in the afternoon I used to go for lunch I used to come right dressed up.

Because I used to serve, we ‘ad a young man in he used to go out travellin’ in the afternoon so I used to ‘af to come back and serve behind the counter in the shop and I could serve anyone the only thing that did me was that anyone come for a, with a prescription well I couldn’t do it could I? So under this counter was a button and I used to just press this button, and ‘e used t’ go an ‘ave a lie down in the afternoon. That used ter waken ‘im and ‘e used to come and make this prescription up see, then ‘e used ter play merry ‘ell wi me once the customer ‘ad gone cos I’d waken ‘im up. But anyway I got fed up wi’ that and all my friends worked down the pit, collery (colliery) see.”

The Pit

“A lot a colleries roun’ Worksop. So er I would gettin’ five shillings a week and they were gettin’ eleven and eight pence (57 pence a week). So I went and asked for a job, it were, ‘Yes’. So I got a job and started down the pit. Now then, I ‘ad to walk I worked in the pit bottom see three weeks to get me acclimatised then I went driving. Driving a pony. Down the pit. To t’ pit face. and I ‘ad to walk four miles from Worksop to Shireoaks.”

Reference notes:
The Shireoaks Colliery was a coalmine on the edge of the village of Shireoaks near Worksop in North Nottinghamshire, close to the Yorkshire border.
The mineral rights were owned by the Duke of Newcastle in much of North Nottinghamshire. The original shaft at Shireoaks was sunk in 1861. The colliery was located close to the main line of the Manchester Sheffield and Linclolmshire railway.

The Manchester Sheffield and Linclolmshire railway as owners of the Chesterfield canal reached an agreement with the railway company, for a link to serve the colliery and to ship coal to the River Trent at West Stockwith.
In 1867 the Shireoaks Colliery Company was formed and had mines all over the area, including those at Whitwell and Clowne and Steetley.
The pit finally closed in 1991.

“An’ I got to be down the pit before half past five in the mornin’. Because I used to have to go to the, walk hundred yards from the pit bottom to a stables and then I used to pick t’ ‘orse up I used to have to put its helter on and ‘is collar and ainchain and then I use’ t’ ‘ave t’ walk three miles. So I had t’ walk three miles and four miles before I started work.

In 1913 there were, on record some 70,000 horses like these pit ponies working underground. Many became injured and were put down as a result.

There was three ponies worked on this road. And one of them was the very rash one and also ‘e could kick like I don’t know what and ‘eed bite anything. Well in the oldest hand of the three lads what were working these ponies on this particular road the oldest one used to drive this one what was rash. He was a dapple grey and they called him Smooky. Well when I got to be the oldest hand I had to take this one. You was issued with a muzzle and a check rein. Well the check rein, y’ see when you put a horse in a .. He had a bit in ‘is mouth didn’t he that’s the only way they can control a ‘orse isn’t it you see. Either t’ tell him to stop him go to left or t’ right or anything y’ like.  It just used to go under his chin, but this one with the ainchain this chain they used to put his bit in and fasten this onto it y’ see and then you could steady him.”  


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Pit Terminology - Glossary