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The Continued Rise Of The Industry
To 1913


1841 - Page 1


Prime Minister: Sir Robert Peel (Tory) 1841-1846.

President of Board of Trade was Frederick Robinson Ripon (Con) 1841.

(Photo Sir Robert Peel)

Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland

During 1841 Martin Jude formed the Miners Association of Great Britain and Ireland at Wakefield


Disputes began in Derbyshire over wages, hours, butty system, methods of weighing coal and working conditions so that the Association was able to recruit a fair number of Derbyshire miners.

Cromford Canal

The Cromford Canal had enjoyed prosperity until now, but the railways were now quickly taking the trade away.  Although it was dearer to send coal by train, it was much quicker and larger amounts could be transported. A toll house is shown.


A Mineral plan of 1841 by John Boot of Skegby shows workings at Molyneux in Top Hard from 2 shafts and the Dunsil seam worked from a separate Dunsil shaft some distance away to the north.

Clay Cross No1 Pit

In 1841 three men using candles whilst bricking a shaft at Clay Cross No1 pit (Clay Cross Colliery Co) were burned by a flash as they ignited some methane gas.


At the newly opened Robbinett pit at Strelley, and at Twiggers or ‘The Flying Nancy’ nearby at 50 yards (46m) deep (both owned by Thomas North), ponies were generally used in 4 ft to 3 feet 6 inches (1.22m to1.07m) high. 

Ponies, Asses And Mules

The ponies were replaced by asses, although stronger and more difficult to control, when the seams got thinner (i.e. when the headroom got lower), no doubt they would have to bend their heads or some scufting was done.  The gateways underground at all pits were kept as low as possible to save taking out the roof above the coal seam which was un-saleable and as much of the dirt as possible was kept underground and stowed.

Dirt Tips

The dirt tips at most old collieries were very small, generally comprising only the shaft-sinking and pit bottom excavation dirt. Many of these small hillocks are now covered by mature self-set trees and bushes, e.g. at Brinsley (present day 2011).


Lockoford (Robert Stephenson); Speedwell (George H Barrow) was sunk in Derbyshire.

Radford (Lord Middleton) (Nottinghamshire) began production.

In The Strelley / Nuthall Area Were The Following Named Pits

  • Aspley Engine
  • Babbington
  • Barbers Engine
  • Bilborough Engine
  • Bobbers Mill
  • Broxtowe
  • Burdetts
  • Cinderhill
  • Cloughs
  • First Whymsey
  • Harriss
  • Hempshill
  • Hollywood
  • Kimberley
  • Newcastle
  • New Engine
  • Nuthall
  • Nuthall Wood
  • Pay for All
  • Radford
  • Old Strelley
  • Trowell Moor
  • Catstonehill
  • Walkers
  • Watnall
  • Old Wollaton.

There were numerous other unnamed pits including ancient bell pits and dozens of old coal shafts at Bramcote Moor.

George Stephenson and Co began mining on an extensive scale at Tapton, Brimington and Newbold.   James Campbell supervised the sinkings. 

Master and Servant Law

Several men approached the Stephenson Co regarding a pay rise at the Clay Cross pit and the 7 leaders were tried under the Master and Servant law and sent to jail at Derby for 14 days for leaving their place of employment without permission.


Wages for young boys was 8d (3⅓p) per day and for over 16 years between 2s (10p) and 3s (15p) a day. 

Fred Johnson (27) mentioned as being a labourer at Tibshelf and Job Barksby was a collier at Heanor.

Children Working Down The Pit

Some evidence collected at various collieries in South Derbyshire and Leicestershire regarding the Bill for the 1842 Coal Mines Act:

Riding the Chain
Riding the Chain

Moira Bath pit: Agent to Marquis of Hastings was John Thomas Woodhouse. Stephen Evans was the Ground bailiff. The headgear was made of wood and the winding rope was of the flat kind where several single ropes laid side by side are stitched together and this rope went over pulley wheels at the top of the headstock and then down the shaft driven by a steam engine.

The method of descent into the mine was by putting the feet through the loop of a chain and the thighs and as such one cannot fall through the loop. One then hangs on to the chain which has a type of steel umbrella over it to protect the rider from anything falling down the shaft which is 236 yards (216m) deep. Several men or boys could ride at the same time.

There must have been quite a deal of oscillation whilst descending or ascending the shaft. Riding was done at the upcast shaft where smoke from the underground furnace for the ventilation of the mine came up.

The roadways underground were made that tubs or other vehicles pulled by horses could negotiate. These animals were driven by boys or young men and the younger boys were engaged on keeping the rails clean by sweeping and were also engaged on opening and closing air doors to allow the vehicles to pass through. These doors separated fresh air from foul and whilst they were open a short circuit of air would occur thus depriving the working faces of fresh air. The boys were expected to open and close the doors as quickly as possible.

The roadways back to the pit bottom were very warm and the heat was caused by about a hundred or 200 or so candles being used by the 80 odd colliers and boys and 30 horses also some stuck in clay to the side of the roadways here and there to illuminate same.

There were between 15 and 20 pits operating in the Ashby area and some working the good Ashby Moira coal which could sell at 11s 0d (55p) a ton. Some of these pits only employed around 20 men and boys whereas some of the larger ones employed more than 80 men and boys.

Some of these boys went into the pits when they were 7 or 8 years of age at Bath pit earning 8d (3p) a day.

Some men were aged 60 plus doing a collier’s job but many were worn out at 50. For example at the Snibston pits (Ground bailiff Michael Parker) there were around 200 men and boys employed and the youngest boy was aged 10 and there were 6 under the age of 13. Here coals are loaded out at the coal face in baskets or corves holding around 7cwts that are placed on wagons, then 2 boys, one at the front and one at the back push and pull these corves to the main road where they are then pulled to the pit bottom by horses. Boys driving the horse are paid 1s 5d to 1s 8d (8½ to 9p) a day. At 16 years old they get 2s 0d (10p). A filler’s wage was 2s 8d (To descend the shaft 4 men sit in a basket and up to 6, if all boys.

At Swadlincote owned by Court Granville there were 65 men and 27 boys the youngest being 10 years old. There were a total of 375 men and 97 boys at the 3 pits. The hours of work were around 12 hours a day and they were not allowed up the pit until their allotted task was finished. Colliers were paid between 3s 0d (15p) to 4s 0d (20p) a day dependent upon their output.

At Whitwick pits the corves are transported on carriages drawn by horses and asses right from the coal face to the shaft. George Vaughan was Agent to Stephenson and Co, Price was Agent to Leicestershire Coal Co, Stephen Evans Ground bailiff and John Thomas Woodhouse as Mining Engineer for Moira (Marquis of Hastings) and Dooley for Swadlincote with Thomas Shuttlewood Agent to Viscount Maynard.

In 1832 two men were burnt in an explosion. 2 men were killed in 1838 when the wheels broke. A boy of 13 fell out of a skip (a container) whilst descending the shaft, and at another pit a man and 3 boys were killed by a fall of roof.

Joseph Dooley was Ground bailiff at Granville colliery (South Derbyshire). The top bed was 226 yards (206.6m) deep and between 5’ 2” and 4’ 6” (1.57m and 1.37m) thick. 65 men employed and 27 boys. The boys assist the men who fill the skips by placing the garlands which are iron bands that hold the large lumps of coal together on the vehicle. The youngest boy aged 10 earned 8d (3p) a day. The oldest man was aged 70 and many were around 50. The holers got 3s 4d (17p) besides 4cwt of coals per week and a quart of ale on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Boys had their quart of ale on Wednesdays and Fridays.

John Thomas Woodhouse Agent to the Marquis of Hastings kindly ordered the Ground bailiff to render every assistance and shew all the works.

Thomas Shuttlewood, Agent to Viscount Maynard stated that.....he never allowed butties to take apprentices. Mr Price, Agent for the Leicestershire Coal Co and George Vaughan, Agent for Messrs Stephenson and Co, Stephen Evans and Joseph Dooley of Moira and Swadlincote stated that they had no apprentices either. James Mitchell taking the statements added that no females were employed either underground or on the banks.

Ashby de la Zouch Coalfield in Counties of Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Stephen Evans, Ground Bailiff under Mining Engineer John Thomas Woodhouse.... Moira pit 55 men and 20 boys underground and 6 men on the bank. No women employed. Men and boys descend the pit after 6am, taking up to three-quarters of an hour at 9 a time to do so. They come up at 7pm.

Swadlincote pit called Granville, Joseph Dooley, Ground Bailiff , Coal 5’ 2” (1.57m) at 226 yards (206.6m) deep, 65 men and 27 boys, the youngest boy being 10. Boys are employed to open and close doors and sweep the railways and attend to the horses.

Snibston collieries, Michael Parker, Ground Bailiff. Holers descend at 2am and return at 3pm. Others go down from 5.30am, ready for work at 6pm and knock off at 6pm and it takes half an hour to wind them all out of the mine at 4 men or 5 or 6 boys at a time in the basket.

Snibston Charles Tandy, Book Keeper for 4 years..... 250 men and boys employed. Youngest boy aged 10 at 6d a day.

William Stenson, Engineer at Snibston.....Do not use chains for winding, but flat ropes which we consider safer. Ropes will tell a tale before breaking. Horses and asses used underground. Some men begin work at 7am and leave off at 7pm.

John Davenport, Clerk to the Union since it was formed in 1836.  He was treasurer and guardian for many years under Gilberts Act.....2 boys aged from 9 years old to 16 in the Union house but 23 from 2 years old to 9. Three boys were bound as apprentices to colliers in Staffordshire but none in this area.

....Very few applications from colliers for relief on the ground of debility from old age. A collier wears out from 65 to 70 and an agricultural worker from 70 to 75.

Samuel Dennys, accompanied by John Sommers.... I was born 1821 and went into Moira coal pit at about 14. I drove a jackass. I got up at 4am, went down at 6am, took half an hour, holers had been down since 3am and had coals ready. I took the ass out of the stables, yoked him and went up to the workings. Men loaded the corve. I drove the ass to the mainway when the corve was taken off the slide and put on a skip and a man drew it along a horseway to the foot of the shaft, by means of a belt round him and a chain which passed between his thighs. This is not done now for past 6 years. Horses now draw the coals in trams to the shaft where the skips were hung on a chain to be pulled up. At the New Field pit an engine draws the coals to the shaft. The Bankmaster called to give over and we knocked off at 7pm, 50 or 60 men in the pit to wind out, got home by about 8pm. I then went to Bath pit placing hewed down coals in the skip. I then took to hewing coals. I cannot read. The colliers in this part are all bound for a year from 29th June to June. We are bound to the Masters to work under the Butties. If we get a sup of drink and are not able to come to work on any day the Butties make us work the next day for nothing. If we were to desert our service we would be sent to prison. I have been in prison myself for doing this. I was kept in for 2 cardinal months. It was according to the agreement. Boys between 7 and 8 or higher employed to open doors. They catch mice, chiefly in the corn tubs. There are cats that breed in the pit. There are also black creeping things called sowls and also there are 40 leggers and wood lice. Door boy 8d (3.3p) a day, ass boy 15d (6.25p), driving a horse being from 12 to 16, 18d (7½p) a day and a filler 2s 8d (13.3p) a day.

Thomas Art, in presence of Samuel Dennys....I am near 13 now and started as a door boy at 11. I was allowed candles, there are 36 to a pound. Sometimes I’d get thumped for letting the wheels off the railway.

I deserved it sometimes. I could eat my bread and cheese or meat when I liked but now that I am a horse boy I only get a quarter of an hour for dinner. The door boys sometimes fall asleep and are wakened by a cut from the horse boys. When I find a boy asleep I give him a slap with the whip to waken him. A door boy cannot venture further than a dozen yards from his door.

Moira Bath pit, Stephen Evans, Ground Bailiff......there are 60 men and 20 boys.

At this time of innovation regarding winding engines, there were still 2 pits at Swanwick using Whim Gins and horses, the depths of the shafts being 27 yards (25m) and 38 yards (35m) and the headways being about 4 feet (1.22m) high underground.

At Oakerthorpe (Derbyshire) the gin was driven by a boy aged 10 and at an ironstone  pit at Somercotes the engine driver was only 8 years old and he worked from 5am till 10pm for which the butties paid him 2s (10p). It would appear that adults doing winding duties commanded a wage of 3s (15p) a day so boys were cheaper. (Later legislation would fix the age of winding enginemen at 15 in 1842, 18 in 1860 and 22 in 1887).



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