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Coal Mining in Eastwood Circa 1900

Philip Wyles

Philip Wyles
22 May 2013
Coal Mining in Eastwood Circa 1900

Hello Fionn,

I have managed to get the next article completed. I suspect it is based on operations at Barber Walker pits, with Moorgreen and High Park being the most likely locations.

The next one will take a bit longer to produce but it will be worth it for the detailed information on Cinderhill Pit, circa 1860.

Regards Phil

North Of England Institute Of Mining And Mechanical Engineers

Students’ Meeting

Held in the Wood Memorial Hall, Newcastle uponTyne, July 21st, 1900.

Mr. H. S. STRATTON in the Chair.

Mr. N. M. Thornton read the following paper on “ Longwall Methods in the Eastwood District, Nottinghamshire ”

Longwall Methods In The Eastwood District, Nottinghamshire.

By Norman M. Thornton.

Eastwood is a small town situated in the west of the Nottinghamshire coal-field, about 9 miles north of the city of Nottingham.

Geology.—The Coal-measures on the eastern side of the district are overlain by Permian Limestones. These run out towards the west, from which locality they have possibly been removed by glacial action. The coal-seams lie deepest near the eastern boundary of the district, and the general dip of the strata is 1 in 20 in that direction.
The following section exhibits the succession of strata in de­scending order:—





Depth from Surface

Permian Rocks: -

Magnesian Limestone



20ft 0in

20ft 0in

Marls and Sandstones



336ft 0in

356ft 0in

Middle Coal-measures: -




607ft 6in

963ft 6in

Coomb Coal-seam     



2ft 6in

966ft 0in




0ft 0in

966ft 9in

Top Hard Coal-seam



5ft 3in

972ft 0in




358ft 10in

1,328ft 10in

Deep Soft Coal-seam

.. .


3ft 2in

1,332ft 0in




18ft 0in

1,330ft 0in

Lower Hard Coal-seam ...



3ft 0in

1.363ft 0in*


* The strata to the Kilburn coal-seam have not been proved, except at a faulted place where the seam was found only 2 feet 8 inches thick.

Top Hard Coal-seam.—The bottom portion of the seam con­sists of a band of cannel coal 17 inches thick; the entire seam (5 feet 3 inches thick) is perfectly clean, and contains no dirt- bands. It is extensively worked on the Iongwall system.

The gateroads, 11 feet wide, are made 120 feet apart, and are supported by pack-walls, 12 feet thick, on either side. In those dis­tricts of the seam, where stone is more plentiful, additional pack- walls, 6 feet wide, are built between the gateroads. The roof is good sound shale, easy to rip and with a tendency to bend towards the goaf without fracturing. About 2 feet 9 inches of this shale is taken down in the gateroads, usually without the assistance of explosives, and these canches or “ lips” are kept within 9 feet of the working-face. Owing to the excessive pressure, the roads become squeezed and narrow, and require to be side as well as top-ripped. The roof subsides more or less quickly, but after a second ripping it stands firmly without requiring to be supported by timber.

Cross-gateroads are driven 800 feet apart at an angle of 50 de­grees to the main roads, and the pointed ends of their pack-walls are secured by V shaped chocks built of soft wood.

The gateroads are laid with double way, for a distance of 180 feet from the working-face, and flat-sheets are used to form turn­tables for the tubs. A tram-line is laid along the working-face, and is shifted forward as the face advances; it is only of a tem­porary nature, the rails being held in position by notched wooden sleepers.

The seam is holed or undercut to a depth of 5 or 6 feet, and the holing only measures 18 inches in height at the highest point. The holing is made partly in a thin fire-clay, which underlies the seam, and partly in the coal. The quantity of small coal made during holing is insignificant, and after it has been mixed with the fire-clay debris, to reduce to a minimum the risk of spon­taneous combustion, it is thrown into the gob among the larger stones of the packing.

Holing commences in the early morning, and the coal, when undercut, is supported by sprags, set not more than 6 feet apart. After some hours have elapsed, advantage is taken of the great pressure which has been brought to bear upon the under-clay at the back of the holing; the fractured stone is removed and often 6 or 7 inches is added to the depth of the holing. The sprags are then withdrawn, two at a time, and the coal falls in huge masses, which are broken into convenient lumps and loaded into tubs.

At the face, the roof is supported by three rows of stout Norway props set 4 to 5 feet apart, and fitted with head-trees and tail-trees. When necessary the row of props next the gob is drawn by a chain and lever. No timber is allowed to be lost, and a fine of 3d. is im­posed for each prop left in the goaf.

The Coomb coal (2 feet 0 inches thick) is removed in the gate- roads, during the second ripping, and being (like the Top Hard) a good house-coal, it is sent to bank. When the goaf settles, and the district boundary has been reached, this Coomb coal is worked by the longwall retreating method, and the coals are conveyed along the old gateroads, previously constructed in the Top Hard seam.

Safety-lamps are used in both of these seams, and no blast­ing is required to blow down the coal, after it has been holed.

Deep Soft Coal Seam. This seam measures from 3 feet 2 inches to 3 feet 8 inches in thickness, and is mostly worked during the winter months.

The gateways are driven 132 feet apart, and supported by pack- walls 12 feet wide, with intermediate pack-walls, 6 feet thick.

The holing is made in two dirt-bands and 3 inches of coal, and is supported by sprags set 4 feet 6 inches apart. No blasting is permitted in the coal. The method of getting the undercut coal is the same as that adopted in the Top Hard coal-seam.

Two rows of timber are set to support the roof: the foremost row of props carries planks running at right angles to the fact', with one extremity notched into the coal.

Lower Hard Coal-seam.—This seam, 3 feet thick, is worked on the same general lines as the Deep Soft Coal-seam. Safety-lamps are used in the Deep Soft and Lower Hard coal-seams, and blasting is only permitted in the gateroads.

A great factor in the success of this longwall working, which applies to all the seams already mentioned, is the keeping of the working-face as near end-on or face-on as possible: thus securing the most regular shape and size of coal, and avoiding the produc­tion of small coal, which is of little value. This factor of course necessitates keeping the face in as straight a line as possible, and of producing an even settling of the weight on the pack-walls.

Labour —The labour arrangements are upon the butty system. Three contractors or stallmen usually rent a gateroad or stall, and having a superior position to the other workmen they are, or should be, chosen from the most experienced and skilled work­men. The contractors are paid a tonnage price and provide all labour required in their stall, usually including 2 loaders, 2 stone- men, 1 dayman, 2 holers, and 1 boy. This system provides suit­able employment for young men and youths, and enables them to gain practical experience. The employment consists of holing or undercutting the coal by piece or stint or by day’s wage; or of day-work, which may include loading the coal, throwing back dirt into the goaf, and building pack-walls. The contractors do all work requiring skill and judgment, such as setting and draw­ing timber, taking down coal after it has been holed, and blasting.

The second and succeeding rippings in the gateroads are per­formed by  master-men, or shifters, who go into the mines at night.

Ventilation. A scale of air flows along each gateroad, and by placing a hurdle-cloth across the road it is conducted into the cavity, formed by the “ lip ” which might form a receptacle for gas; and, as an additional precaution, a safety-lamp is suspended on the inbye-side of the hurdle-cloth, as near to the roof as possible. Although the ventilation rarely permits gas to ac­cumulate, its presence in such a position, would at once be detected from the tailing of the flame, by the men working in the gateroad. Officials frequently travel along the working-face during the shift, and test every  lip and break in the roof for fire-damp.

Faults, etc.—Faults are practically unknown in this district, even hitches are seldom encountered in the workings, and the seams vary but little in quality and section over large areas. Occasionally small anticlinal ridges traverse an area in a north-westerly and south-easterly direction. These irregularities interfere but little with the mining-operations, beyond requiring a few crooked gateways to be made in the synclinal hollows.

Subsidences.—While several of the shafts were being sunk some difficulty was experienced in dealing with feeders of water, which permeated through the fissures in the Coal-measure sandstone from a large water-reservoir. It has been found that the whole of the coal can be safely removed from under the reservoir; and little water is encountered during the operation, beyond a small feeder which is utilized to spray the roads of the mines.

A seam 600 feet below the surface, is being worked under one end of a water-reservoir, which is 1 mile long. The bottom of the reservoir has subsided in a gradual wave, leaving a dry tract of ground at one end of the reservoir. After the seam has been removed, the surface subsides so regularly, that ultimately it is expected the reservoir will assume its former shape.