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Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire
and Leicestershire



Nottingham Canal and Others

In 1796 the Nottingham Canal had reached 14¾ miles long, from the River Trent lock to the junction of the Cromford Canal at Langley Bridge.  The Nutbrook Canal at 4½ miles long completed in 1796 (Act of Parliament 1793) was built by Outram for Sir Henry Hunloke of Wingerworth owner of West Hallam colliery and Edward Miller Mundy owner of Shipley collieries at a cost of £22,800.  The Derby Canal was completed also in the same year. Robbinetts Cut at Cossall was opened and also the Pinxton Canal.  The price of coal dropped dramatically as competition between the coal owners increased.

These canals excavated by navvies, were driven mainly for the transportation of coal although there was also a pottery, china or porcelain works at Pinxton Wharf. It was started by John Coke, the third son of Rev’d D’Ewes Coke of Brookhill Hall.

The Hollingwood Common Canal at 1¾ miles long was driven mainly in the Deep Hard or Squires coal seam except for about 300 yards (275m) at the south end, being about 80 yards (73m) at its deepest. The tunnel was 6’ 0” (1.8m) high x 5’ 9” (1.75m) wide and driven to drain workings and also to mine coal and ironstone. The water was about 2’ 0” (0.60m) deep.

Boats were 21’ 0” (6.4m) long and 3’ 6” (1.07m) wide could hold 7 boxes of about 21cwts of coal and were feet pushed along. There were 7 ventilation shafts along the shallow length. This waterway was not connected to the Chesterfield Canal but adjacent to it and a crane hoisted the boxes and emptied the coal into 70’ 0” (21.33m) long x 7’ 0” (2.13m) wide barges on the Chesterfield Canal holding around 20 tons. The mine was owned by the Duke of Devonshire and worked by Smith and the Duke’s Agent was George Dickens.

A Canal was built from Tom Lane in North Derbyshire near Duckmanton to the ironworks. Barges off-loaded the coal then it was transported by road to the Chesterfield Canal at Staveley.

Pinxton Porcelain

William Billingsley came from a Derby factory and his superb knowledge of porcelain and skill and magnificent workmanship gave the ware a unique advantage, but unfortunately the factory was not to last many years when the source of the local clay diminished and it was closed in 1813. The above picture shows the building after closure when it had been changed to living accommodation.

This service showed views around the estate of John Coke, co-founder of the Pinxton factory alongside William Billingsly. 


On 24th June 1796 a mining lease for a shaft in Fox Holes Close and Stone pit Close, lately mined, for 25 years at £450 per annum. On the same day Benjamin Outram and Partners leased a parcel of land at Codnor Park (North Derbyshire) for a term of 63 years at £10 per annum so as to erect furnaces etc. The Rev’d Leigh Hoskins was the lessor. Four lime kilns would be built on the site in the following 4 or 5 years.

Small Pits

Small pits were working in 1797 at Goseley Waste to the south of Hartshorne. John Farey noted that there was also a pit at Bradby, ¾ mile northeast of Newhall and another 1 mile northwest of Newhall in Stapenhill.

Swannington was closed in 1798 by John Raper and William Fenton.

Stack Load Of Coal

A stack load of coal in 1799 represented 55 cwts (2¾ tons) and was valued at 20 shillings or £1. I don’t think that it was weighed each time but was assumed that it was that weight according to the size of the stack.

Sinkings 1799

  • Brook pit near Donisthorpe (Leicestershire)
  • Donisthorpe colliery (Joseph Wilkes), 1798-1799 , Block seam 3’ 6” (1.07m) at 86’ 0” (26.2m), Little 4’ 0” (1.22m) at 265’ 0” (80.8m) and Main seam 14’ 0” (4.27m) at 457’ 0” (139.3m)
  • Old Engine pit (owner…?) 64 yards (58m) deep at Newlands Swanwick (North Derbyshire)
  • Wigleys pit was sunk near Nuttall, (Nottinghamshire)

Boys' Wages

9 years old Joshua Gibson was paid 1s 6d (7½p) a day at one of the Cossall pits.  When he was 7 years old he had only received 1s (5p) a day. Similarly in 1799 a boy named John Hayes (age?) worked from 6.30am to 8pm at Pinxton, a total of 13½ hours
per day.

Combination Act - 1799

The Combination Act of 1799 outlawed combinations of workers (unions) to press for more pay or shorter hours.  Colliers’ wages were 2s 4d (11½p) to 2s 6d a (12½p) day which, during the Napoleonic Wars exceeded 3s (15p) a day when coal was needed to help manufacture weapons.


Colman stated that in 1799 Messrs Wilkes and Mammott took the bold step of crossing the great Stone Wall fault as the Main coal was nearly exhausted to a depth of about 60 yards (55m) at Measham and Oakthorpe. They succeeded in reaching the Main coal at 150 yards (137m) and continued then to work it to the north and northeast to a considerable distance.

The Earl of Moira, Colonel Hastings and Joseph Wilkes had mines between Oakthorpe and Willesley. Joseph Wilkes and Edward Mammott sank Donisthorpe Brook pit to the Main coal.

Steam Winding Engines

During his investigation work in the region John Farey recorded that there were more than 50 steam-winding engines in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in 1800.

He also stated that mines had been worked at Goseley Waste (South Derbyshire) but by the turn of the 19th Century they were closed. It would appear that there were lime kilns and a colliery at Calke but this probably referred to Heath End.

Boultbee opened a new colliery between Peggs Green and Thringstone.

Security Of Collieries And Mines

On 9th July 1800 an Act was passed for the Security of collieries and mines and for better regulation of collieries and mines; however no mention was made regarding the welfare of employees or animals.

Gang Lines

From many of the mines a gang line was built so that coal trucks could be hauled by horses to a wharf at the Canal side. The mines that had no connection to a gang line were soon to find that they could not compete and many had to close down.


There was an Act of 1800 for inclosing the Ashby Woulds where there was the possibility of finding ironstone and also the Oakthorpe seam of coal (Main Coal).

Collieries Opened 1800

  • Deep Foundation sunk by Earl of Moira close by to the Old pit (South Derbyshire)
  • Swanwick Cinder pit 25 yards (22.75m) to Swanwick Hard coal (Top Hard) (Morewood) (Derbyshire)
  • Smoile (Leicestershire) was sunk about this time.

Collieries Closed 1800

  • Coal Aston, (owner …?) Silkstone seam
  • Marsh (…?) Eckington, Deep Soft seam (North Derbyshire)
  • several of the Shilo pits closed in the Meden Valley (Skegby Colliery Co) (Nottinghamshire)
  • Coleorton and Swannington closed (Leicestershire) because of difficulty competing with the pits of the Erewash Valley
  • Some small pits worked by Thomas Woodward and Thomas Oldham had closed by now
  • Sir Nigel Gresley closed his mine at Gresley Hall but continued to work a small slack or sleck pit on Gresley Common.

Fatal Accidents 1800 included

Thomas Rowley a collier at Oakthorpe pit, Gresley (Earl of Moira) suffocated to death by damp in March 1800. His work mate recovered.

Charles Straw (a boy) fell down a coal pit at Ilkeston and was killed in Nov 1800.

Two men, John Smith and Joseph Banks were riding down a shaft at a pit owned by Lord Middleton at Wollaton on 11 December 1800 when a horse fell down the shaft on top of them and killed them both. It is possible that it was a horse whimsey and the horse had either been freed or broke free and wandered off or panicked and fell down the shaft. It was known that the horses were either blinkered or had their eyes covered over so that they would not realise that they were just walking round in circles all the time whilst winding was being carried out.


Output from Nottinghamshire mines estimated at 750,000 tons for the year 1800.

The value of £1 equivalent spending power for 2010 reached the lowest at £32 in 1800 but would rise to about £50 by 1830.

Plan Of Pinxton

The plan made by Frank Smith of Pinxton showing some of the gang lines in that area, copied from his book ‘The Complete History of Pinxton’. I met him at the John King Museum in Pinxton where he gave me permission to use extracts.

The modern pits Brookhill (1910) and Langton (1845) are shown as well as the railways. These two pits had not been sunk at this time.

There were pits at Carnfield, Sleights and several more in Pinxton village.

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Pit Terminology - Glossary