The following are articles on the coalfield from SCMC Journals and elsewhere. Click on the title in the index below.
1. Coal Nationalisation 50 Years On
2. Coalbrookdale Coalfield
3. Coalbrookdale Coalfield
4. Early Mining Maps of the Ironbridge Gorge
5. Granville Colliery Disaster 1904 - its Aftermath
6. Meadow Pit Colliery
7. Memories of Madeley
8. Review of the Geological Memoir of Telford & the Coalbrookdale Coalfield
David Coxill, SCMC Journal No.3
The Coalbrookdale Coalfield, centred on the new town of Telford, stretches some 15km from Linley in the south-west to Lilleshall in the north-east. At its broadest, it only has a width of 5km. It is fault bounded to the north by the Boundary Fault against Triassic strata; dips beneath later sedimentary rocks to the east; and rests unconformably on older strata at its southern and western margins.
The coalfield has yielded an abundance of minerals, chiefly but not exclusively from the Productive Coal Measures. The simplified structure of the Productive Coal Measures is of a series of folds that have been multiple fractured, predominantly by a series of major faults with a south-west to north-east trend. The most significant fault is the Lightmoor Fault, which has divided the coalfield into an exposed western coalfield and a concealed eastern coalfield.
After the Productive Coal Measures were laid down in the classic tropical swamps, Variscan earth movements folded the sequence and subsequent erosion removed part of the antiform (domes) of the folds before the Upper Coal Measures were deposited. This produced a sharp angular contact between the Productive and Upper Coal Measures, the famous Symon "Fault", incorrectly named because it is an unconformity. Beneath the plane of the Symon, the Productive Coal Measures are preserved in the synform (basins) of the folds. As the core of an antiform is approached, coal seams successively pitch against and are cut out by the Symon until sometimes even the whole workable succession has been removed. This has produced a localised south-west/north-east trending barren zone in the Brookside-Hinksay area of south Telford, between the Donnington Wood and Madeley synforms, which has no mines.
The deep gorge at Ironbridge, cut by escaping glacial melt waters from Lake Lapworth in late Pleistocene times, has exposed the Productive Coal Measures on either side of the River Severn between Ironbridge and Jackfield. Mineworkings and borehole evidence indicate that the Donnington Wood synform extends into Staffordshire at increasing depth due to faulting and the general north-east dip of the seams. The concealed coalfield has never been worked east of Sherrifhales.
The earliest evidence of exploitation comes from the discovery of coal that is believed to have come from this coalfield in the central heating system beneath the baths in the Roman city of Viriconium, near Shrewsbury. The Romans certainly would have come across coal when they were constructing their military highway, Watling Street (A5), in the vicinity of the Nabb at Oakengates, where the Fungous coal seam outcrops.
The first known record of mineral working comes in 1250 when Phillip de Benthall granted the Buildwas monks the right of way over his estate for the conveyance of coal and ironstone. Mineral extraction would have led to the progressive deforestation of the area to be worked. This was apparently considered a problem from an early date for a proclamation was issued in 1308 prohibiting the use of coal as a fuel, to safeguard the interests of the timber growers. How much emphasis was given to enforcing these early laws is not clear, for 14 years later the Wenlock Prior granted Walter de Colebrook a license for "the digging of coles at the Brocholes (Madeley)" on the payment of six shillings a year.
By the 16th century, ironstone extraction from near surface outcrops was widespread, supporting the iron making industries of the Ironbridge Gorge and adjacent areas. Coal extraction was also widespread but on a small scale. In 1535, Wombridge Priory recorded an annual income of five pounds from one of their mines and in 1541 the Wenlock Priors had a "mine of ironstone" valued at £2.6s.1d. Coal mining continued to expand in the 17th century and Treasury records show that Coalbrookdale produced 95% of the entire output in Shropshire. It was, however, Abraham Darby's successful use of coke instead of charcoal to smelt iron in 1709 at his Coalbrookdale ironworks that provided the catalyst for rapid expansion of coal and ironstone mining in the area. He was fortunate in that the Coalbrookdale coals, particularly the Clod Seam, were low in sulphur. It was this coal seam that was much sought after by the miners of the early industrial age, often to the initial exclusion of the others. Had the coals been high in sulphur, like those experimented with earlier by Dud Dudley of Dudley, his experiments would have failed.
Coal and ironstone were initially mined from seams that outcropped near to the surface in the southern and western areas, particularly around Ironbridge. As these eventually became exhausted, mining generally moved to the northern part of the coalfield. A copy of the lost original plan of Donnington Wood Colliery, dated 1788, shows several areas as "Coal Got" or "Worked Out"; over 100 inter-connecting shafts; two underground canal systems (at the Cockshutt and Donnington Wood) onto which coal would have been loaded directly into barges; and several staple shafts between the underground levels, through which coal from a thin seam of 18" could be transported in a thicker seam.
During this period, limestone extraction also expanded, mainly for use as a flux in the iron making process. It was won by quarries and shafts from the Carboniferous deposits at Steeraway, The Hatch, Little Wenlock, Lilleshall and Church Aston; and the Wenlock Limestone deposits at Lincoln Hill and Buildwas. Developing alongside the iron industry was an important clay industry in the southern part of the coalfield that produced tiles, bricks and ceramic products. It was during this period that the great company partnerships were formed. Well known companies including the Coalbrookdale Company, the Botfields, Madeley Wood Company and the Lilleshall Company came to dominate industrial activity in the coalfield. The last two companies were multi-industrial based and, during the 19th century, the Madeley Wood Company became the major concern in the southern half of the coalfield and the Lilleshall Company in the northern part.
Developing the coalfield led to many acts of ingenuity. Using the River Severn to transport coal by barge was adequate in the early days but, as the focus of mining moved north of Ironbridge, a more intricate system was needed. The road system was poor and solutions often involved the driving of tunnels, especially by Richard Reynolds who was described as "tunnel mad". The most innovative approach was the development of a canal system that linked the various components of the industrial process together. The forerunner partnership to the Lilleshall Company constructed the first canal in Shropshire, the Donnington Wood Canal, in the 1760s, based on the principles of the Duke of Bridgewater's first canal in Britain at Worsley.
This canal linked the limestone workings at Lilleshall with the coal and ironstone mines and iron works at Donnington Wood. It was later extended to Church Aston, Pave Lane and the Lodge Ironworks (which replaced the old Donnington Wood Ironworks). This proved an outstanding success and more canals were built that were eventually linked up to form the Shropshire Union Canal. Locks were introduced to overcome sloping ground, which later gave way to incline planes, as at Hughs Bridge near Lilleshall and at Wrockwardine Wood. This system of transport dominated until the mid-19th century, when it gave way to the railway building mania which provided much quicker transport.
The next major stimulus to the mining industry was the invention of the steam engine, in the latter half of the 18th century, which greatly increased the pumping capacity of the mines. This led to the development of larger and deeper mines on the eastern part of the coalfield, where exploitation had previously been limited because the valuable mineral reserves lay beneath the water table. This was particularly important as the exposed coalfield was becoming exhausted. These new mines were fewer in number but the advantage of economies of scale led to vastly increased output which far exceeded that of the many smaller primitive mines of the exposed coalfield. The new mines also differed from the earlier ones by using chain instead of hemp rope and they were legally required to have two separate shafts. This followed the New Hartley Pit disaster in Northumberland where the sole shaft of a mine collapsed, causing the miners to die of suffocation. Many primitive mines bypassed this legislation by linking up underground with another mine, thereby providing more than one access.
Miners were normally employed by chartermasters, who were a kind of labour sub contractor to the mine owner. This system was often abused causing great hardship to the miners. For example, chartermasters often owned "tommy shops" where miners under their employment were required to buy their goods, often at inflated prices for poor quality products. This system came under increasing attack during the 19th century but it survived into the 20th century. The last chartermaster, a Mr Cooper, retired from Granville Colliery in 1913.
Shropshire is credited with developing the "longwall" method of mining, where all the coal is taken out in a designated panel of coal. This system eventually spread across the country and took over from the more primitive "pillar & stall" method, which left a large proportion of coal in situ acting as pillars for support. Despite this, the pillar & stall method remained in use for working ironstone, common clay and limestone. Sometimes in the search for coal, unexpected minerals would be found. The Tar Tunnel, on the north bank of the River Severn at Coalport, was driven in 1797 with the probable intention of assisting in the transportation of coal from the nearby Blists Hill Pits. The drivage hit a spring of natural bitumen and this "tar" was pumped for commercial use well into the 19th century. Part of its course now forms one of the tourist attractions at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
Coal production reached a peak in Shropshire in 1871, when over 1 million tonnes was produced, and ironstone production reached its zenith two years later. The actual output for the Coalbrookdale Coalfield is not known as the production figures are for Shropshire as a whole, including the other coalfields. The output of fluxing limestone from Church Aston came to an end in 1860 when the mines became flooded. Good quality fluxing limestone had long been exhausted at Lilleshall by this date. Underground limestone mining at Lilleshall finally came to an end when the Willmoor Mine, which worked the hydraulic limestone seam, closed in 1882. Limestone mining in the Steeraway and Lincoln Hill areas fared a bit better and lasted into the early years of the 20th century. The last recorded limestone mining took place at The Hatch near Steeraway in 1918.
The 20th century is a story of decline and finally termination of underground mining in this coalfield. Many pits closed through exhaustion of reserves but economics played its part. A combination of the great depression, losses occurred during miners strikes (particularly the 1921 and 1926 strikes), manpower shortages and increased competition from the Staffordshire Coalfields led to a series of pit closures. Ironstone production ceased completely in the early part of the 20th century but clay mining remained active in the southern part of the coalfield. The last fireclay mine, The Rock, which actually lies in the northern part of the coalfield, closed in 1964.
At nationalisation, there were 3 principal deep mines remaining open - Granville and Grange Collieries of the Lilleshall Company and Kemberton Colliery of the Madeley Wood Company. A few small private pits also operated. Most of the small mines were soon closed but small private drift mining did not finish until Shortwoods Mine, near Wellington, closed in 1971. Under reconstruction, Granville and Grange Collieries merged into a single unit in 1952. After this date, the Grange shafts were used solely for ventilation purposes. Kemberton Colliery finally closed in 1967 through exhaustion and, with the closure of Granville Colliery in 1979 through heavy faulting, underground coal mining ended in Shropshire. It is thought that over 6,000 mineshafts have been sunk throughout the coalfield.
There was a renaissance of coal extraction in the 1970s in the western part of the coalfield. To the north-west of Dawley, large areas of the exposed coalfield have been opencasted for coal and fireclay, the restoration of which formed part of the major land reclamation projects associated with the development of Telford New Town in the 1970s. This continues at a reduced rate today. It is unlikely that underground mining in the coalfield will resume. Even until the 1950s there was hope that a new colliery would be sunk in the vicinity of Sherriffhales. That is now not likely to happen and, given modern day concerns for the environment, some would argue it is a blessing in disguise.
The history of this coalfield is part of our national heritage. It helped to lay the foundations of the Industrial Revolution that provided that industrial and financial power to create the British Empire. But let nobody be under any illusion that this was achieved by anything other than much toil and misery. Working conditions were at the best grim and, although Shropshire managed to escape the great mining disasters, like at the Oakes Colliery near Barnsley where 361 men died from a methane explosion in 1866, it did not get off lightly. Mining could involve accidents in many ways such as methane explosions, roof falls, flood waters, suffocation from inhaling carbon monoxide in shallow workings, shaft collapse, chain/rope breakage, collision with equipment, etc. There are cases of intoxicated people falling down shafts and shafts unexpectedly opening up in people's homes. On an eery note, there is the tale of a young engaged girl who was picking ironstone nodules on a tip. Asked by another girl where the wedding reception was to be held, she replied "In Hell". On that note, she lost her footing and fell down a mine shaft.
The worst case of fatalities in the coalfield was at the Dark Lane Colliery, near Priorslee, in 1862 involving a shaft accident. Lodgebank Colliery, Donnington Wood, was renamed the "Slaughter Pit" after 1875 when toxic gases from an underground fire caused the death of 11 men and a horse. Against this background, it is easy to see how religion took hold on the mining community. An accident at Woodhouse Colliery, near Priorslee, in 1916 resulted in a notable act of heroism when 5 men were injured by a winding mishap. While they were being rescued a local doctor, Justin McCarthy, descended the shaft by a sling to give them medical supervision. Such conduct, beyond the call of duty, should never be forgotten and be a source of inspiration for us all. Limestone mines were surprisingly even more dangerous then coal mines, reflected by the higher wages limestone miners received. Accidents at Church Aston and Lilleshall are recorded in 1858, 1875 and 1881, normally involving roof falls. It is surprising that no miner got killed at Church Aston in 1860 with the inrushing flood waters that led to the mine's closure. There was insufficient time to bring out the horses who were drowned, polluting the local water supplies for some time after.
Ivor Brown, SCMC Journal No.3
A report was published in 1988 by Catherine Clark and Judith Alfrey for the Nuffield Archaeological Survey. The volume "Jackfield and Broseley" is in the Ironbridge Institute and most of the following has been extracted from this or from one of the two books by the report authors that are listed at the end.
The collieries of the Ironbridge Gorge were of national importance during the 1600s, important enough in fact to have been seized during the Civil War to prevent their produce getting into the hands of the Royalists. It now seems likely too that the mining maps produced at this time may be some of the earliest in Britain. The report by Clark and Aldrey gives some information on several of these early maps as detailed below. It is unlikely that any of the insetts (adits) will still be accessible, even if they survived later mining activity, since they would probably have been destroyed during construction of the Severn Valley Railway.
a) "The Plott of Broseley by Samuel Parsons" (SRO 1224/1/32)
Four insetts (c.1621) are shown beneath present-day Ladywood. Two insetts belonged to a Mr Cage, another called "Priory Insett" was occupied by John Eves and the fourth is not described. A "Priory Insett" was recorded in 1545 and may be the same, all of the insetts seem to have been in use since at least 1608. The map shows four single entries, each about 90yds long. The same map shows "Croppers Holes", ie Outcropper's diggings (?) which is perhaps the earliest map showing opencasting in Britain. It also shows "Mr Benthall's Coalworks" and "The Olde Cole Pitt on Fire" on Coalpit Hill (now called Fiery Fields).
b) "A map of those lands in Broseley through which the Several Insetts do pass, Anno Dom 1676, RH 1730"
A plan showing two long adits with branches and commencing close to the present Free Bridge. They were searched for but not located during recent excavations for the new bridge. "Williams Insett" is about 1,000yds long with 500yds of branches, "Reynolds Insett" is about 750yds long. The last dated workings on the plan are marked December 1676 but the title indicates that it was used after this date. It shows several shafts including Calcutts Pit, which is recorded as early as 1588. It is known that working continued in the adits beyond 1679 (SRO 3703/10).
c) "A Description of ye Widdow Crompton's Insetts in Broseley taken Dec 6th 1675"
This is similar to the above map and is also signed "RH 1730". It shows two roughly parallel adits, each nearly 800yds long but varying in separation by 40-100yds (original measurements were in perches). At the mines end they seem to be connected by a 50yds long longwall face and there is also a fine drawing of a section along the adits showing the cover thickness to an undulating surface. This may be the first diagram of a longwall face and the first colliery section. These adits were situated on the upstream side of the Free Bridge. Until 1940, there was a pub here called the "Dog & Duck" which had an inscription "C - AM May 30 1634" reputedly recording Crompton-Adam and Margaret's marriage date. The house remained in this family for many years. Crompton's Insett appears to cross Reynolds Insett underground so it was likely that they were in different seams (SRO 3703/10). One of these insetts must have been (or been close to) the Ladywood Sough, still producing water, and described in SMC Journal 1973/74, p.19 as the Hairpin Bend Levels.
d) "A survey of several lands in the Lordship of Broseley, etc plotted by W C Anno Domini 1686" (SRO1224/1/34)
This map does not show any underground workings but it is notable because it has a mine depicted by a form of hand winch on it. The mine was situated between Benthall Brook and Cockshutt Lane, it is probably the earliest depiction of a Shropshire mine.
1. 17th century Shropshire terms for mineworkings are very interesting, eg an adit can be a Footridd, Insett, Waggonwaye, Gatewaye, Comegate Waye or Windway. Surface routes are usually shown as Horseway, Wayboard or Railroad. Inclined planes were Tylting Rails and drainage levels were Soughs, Suphs or Sows. A mine would be shown as a Pit, Delph, Gin or Head.
2. From 1700 the maps became more sophisticated, that of 1728 mentioned in the report shows five workings, one at Woonhay being particularly complicated.
3. The report also describes two late 18th century or early 19th century pumping houses now used as dwellings at Jackfield. The Tuckies Hill enginehouse has been proved to be a pumping house but the Lloyds Head enginehouse, although it certainly looks like one, has yet to be proved.
Harry Micklewright, SCMC Journal No.5
The following extracts are taken from the memoirs of Harry Micklewright, whose mother Sarah Fletcher was a member of a family who were local chartermasters.
"In the middle of the last century, the district between Madeley and Wellington was prosperous; the hilly ground was dotted with coal and ironstone mines and furnaces. Their names are amongst my earliest recollections - Kemberton, the only pit still working, of which Uncle John Fletcher was chartermaster, Hill's Lane, my great grandfather Jones and my grandfather Fletcher's pits, the Meadow pit in the centre of the town and the Court pit and furnace."
"Each pit was worked by a contractor, known as a chawtermaster (chartermaster), who until the Mines Inspectors were appointed was entirely responsible for its working. On the whole they were extremely knowledgeable men. Uncle John Fletcher could talk very interestingly about geology, ponies, machinery and management of fields and coppices belonging to his pit. Most of them made a comfortable income, built their own houses and worked with the men till they died."
"As a boy, on hot summer afternoons I climbed on the wall at the end on the garden. Across the field on my left was a wooded hill, once a slag heap. To the right I could see an old Newcomen engine patiently winding coal."
"Eleven o'clock! And Topsy is going to take me to Kemberton with her father's and brother's midday meal. So down the narrow lane we go, past the great barn and the eerie house with its walled garden, sundial and fishpond, the old windmill, the Court furnaces, where we may be lucky enough to see the molten iron being tapped into the sow and pigs, over the canal, past Perkses, up the lane to Rowe's Pit (Uncle Harry's brother-in-law), just a little scared by the huge boiler which once blew up, till we reach the incline with its double row of ironstone wagons attached to an endless chain which rattles over wooden pulleys, the full trucks from Kemberton to the canal wharf pulling the empty ones on the return journey. It is fun to ride on an empty, jump off, overtake the next, and so on till we reach the top. First find cousin Will superintending the women chipping the clay off the ironstone on the pit bank, and then uncle, who is sure to take me to have a look at the grand new engine, so superior to the old Newcomen one. For a time I watch the trucks of coal coming up one of the pitshafts, and tubs of water up the other. There must have been three shafts - another for ironstone for the coal and ironstone were on different levels, or they may have had an incline underground for one or other."
David Coxill, SCMC Journal No.5
Following the passing of the Nationalisation of the Coal Industry Act 1946, after it was initially delayed by opposition in the House of Lords, valuation reports of the coal industry's assets for each coalfield were prepared in order that the appropriate level of compensation could be paid to the private owners. The report for the East Shropshire Coalfield (Coalbrookdale, Shrewsbury and Forest of Wyre) was written by George Price. He was a mining engineer from Sheffield and the report gives us a valuable insight as to the state of the industry at that time. It also allows us to reflect on expectations for the future and how it all turned out. The Oswestry Coalfield is not included in this report as it formed part of the North Wales Coalfield for convenience.
Centred on the new town of Telford, coal seams from the Productive Coal Measures have been heavily worked. For brief details on the geology see Coxill (1995) and the review article on the IGS Telford Memoir in this Journal. The two major companies were the Lilleshall Company in the north and the Madeley Wood Company in the south-east. In addition, there were a number of companies who worked small mines.
The ownership of mines before vesting day (1st January 1947) was as follows. Only Granville, Grange and Kemberton were major producers.
(with Grid Reference)
|Brandlee (SJ678076)||J A Smallshaw||1956|
|Castle Place||Castle Place Co Ltd||Not known|
|Common||Common Colliery Co (Dawley) Ltd||1956|
|Farm||Farm Lane (Lawley Bank) Colliery||1950s|
|Good Hope||H S Pitt & Co Ltd||Not known|
|Grange||Lilleshall Co Ltd||1979|
|Granville (SJ725120)||Lilleshall Co Ltd||1979|
|Huntington||Huntington Mining Co Ltd||1956|
|Kemberton (SJ712055)||Madeley Wood Co Ltd||1967|
|Moors||Moors Colliery Co Ltd||Not known|
|Wellington||H A L Price||Not known|
|Old Park (SJ685088)||E Harris & Sons||Not known|
|Plants Farm||Dawley Mining Co Ltd||Not known|
|Princess End & Lawley||Unknown||1948|
|Rock (SJ680092)||J Jones & Son||1964|
|Shortwood (SJ658096)||Shortwood Co||1970|
|Shrubbery||J H Woodfin||1950s|
|Smalley Hill||London Fields Colliery Co Ltd||Not known|
|Stoney Hill||Doseley Pipe Co Ltd||Not known|
|Woodside||Woodside Mining Co||Not known|
The output for the small mines was quite small, although they made a useful contribution to the local economy. Output figures for 1936-46, for those still open on Vesting Day, are as follows :-
|Wrekin Coal Co Ltd||9,170||6,601||6,962||5,740||5,786||7,103||8,166||8,446||8,564||7,325||7,465||81,328|
|J H Woodfin||2,811||436||820||1,249||951||1,406||1,377||1,928||1,870||1,156||664||14,668|
|J Jones & Sons||1,606||1,811||1,837||1,921||2,061||1,712||1,714||1,661||1,475||1,391||1,524||18,713|
Co (Dawley) Ltd
|J A Smallshaw||-||3,517||4,786||2,485||2,721||1,404||3,593||5,008||2,402||2,188||2,649||30,753|
|Huntington Mining Co Ltd||-||-||1,067||2,555||4,034||4,146||3,615||3,249||3,554||3,661||2,954||28,835|
|Farm Mine (Lawley Bank)||-||-||675||2,327||816||1,595||2,028||675||4,400||5,061||5,680||23,257|
|Moors Colliery Co Ltd||-||-||-||1,888||3,339||3,487||3,853||5,218||6,030||5,782||8,159||37,756|
|H A L Price||-||-||-||275||3,397||3,504||1,590||2,066||2,520||2,298||118||15,768|
|E Harris & Sons||2,172||2,336||1,951||1,729||-||-||339||1,625||2,540||2,995||3,203||18,890|
|Doseley Pipe Co Ltd||-||-||-||-||2,249||5,584||4,572||3,971||2,961||3,275||1,938||24,550|
|H S Pitt & Co Ltd||-||-||-||-||1,333||2,581||2,056||1,882||1,137||1,934||2,295||13,218|
|Dawley Mining Co Ltd||-||-||270||-||1,046||3,004||3,470||1,886||1,754||999||1,097||12,506|
|London Fields Colliery Co||-||-||-||-||-||-||1,339||3,830||4,588||4,621||3,743||18,121|
|Woodside Mining Co||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||70||1,912||3,724||5,706|
|Castle Place Colliery||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||60||60|
|Tonnage at mines closed|
by Vesting Day
The last small private drift coal mine closed at Shortwoods near the Ercall in 1970. The total estimated reserves per coal seam were estimated as follows :-
|Fungous or Marquis||22,653,000||-|
|New Mine or Vigar||38,928,000||945,000|
|Clunch, Two Foot, Best||54,342,000||1,820,000|
The production for the Coalbrookdale and Forest of Wyre Coalfield combined was only just over 500,000 saleable tons in 1946. That would suggest reserves sufficient to last about 740 years but 19 years later Brown (1965) estimated the Coalbrookdale Coalfield to still contain 120 million tons. This was sufficient to last until about 2165 AD. Deep coal mining actually finished in 1979.
Madeley Wood Co Ltd
This company operated Kemberton Colliery (SJ112055) and the shafts were completed at a depth of 1,092ft in 1864. In 1946, three seams were being worked viz. the Yard, Big Flint and Vigar. During the Second World War output varied between 148,675 (1944) to 173,132 (1941) tons per annum and in 1946 the annual output was 190,000 tons. The old Halesfield Colliery (SJ704051) was closed in 1925 and joined underground to Kemberton in 1939. It was used thereafter for pumping, ventilation and emergency egress. During 1946, 558 men were employed but after nationalisation the colliery prospered and the workforce increased to nearly 800. Unfortunately, to the north-east the coal seams were being progressively cut out by Symon unconformity (see Stonehouse 1950 and Coxill 1995). This severely limited the mine's future and, with a possible north-east extension of the Coalport syncline east of the Madeley fault not proven, the mine closed in 1967.
Lilleshall Co Ltd
When miners returned from the First World War, management of the coal mines was returned to the private owners. Although not nationalised during that period, the war required coal mining to be nationally planned. The Lilleshall Company had several deep mines working at that time but, due to adverse trading conditions, all but two closed, viz. Stafford in 1926, Freehold in 1928, Woodhouse No.1 in 1931 and Woodhouse No.2 in 1940. A borehole programme commenced in the 1920s/30s to prove coal reserves in the Lilleshall / Sheriffhales area was quite promising and justified further investment at Granville Colliery, despite heavy losses experienced in the 1930s. It was also expected that a new mine would be sunk in the Sheriffhales area (to be called Woodlands Colliery - E Wood per communication) after the war at cost of £45,000. Originally the new mine was to have come into production at 500,000 tons per annum but an obvious manpower shortage prevented this. The Lilleshall Company were paid £10,498 as a repayment of capital for proving the concealed extension in the Lilleshall / Sherrifhales area.
The new mine was in fact never sunk and the proven reserves were added to that of Granville. It was forecasted that the existing coal reserves were sufficient to maintain existing outputs at each of the three main deep mines (Alveley, Granville/Grange and Kemberton) for over 50 years. It didn't work out like that. Reconstruction led to the merging of Granville and Grange into one single unit in April 1952. Grange was not allowed to cross the A5 (Watling Street) until after World War Two, where it worked in a small area until it met a fault that upthrowed the coal seams to the south, where they had previously been worked by Woodhouse Colliery. A roadway was also driven to connect Granville and Grange collieries underground. After merging, the shafts at Grange were used for ventilation, emergency means of egress and for training purposes. It was regarded as somewhat of a primitive mine by some miners for having flat ropes.
Granville prospered in the post-war years with production often around 300,000-350,000 tons per annum. It reached a peak of around 600,000 in the 1960s, when a new manager went for peak production. He was considered by some local people to be inferior to the previous manager, Mr Blower, who always had a new face prepared to replace an existing one that finished when it hit a fault, a regular feature in this mine.
The mine was severely faulted, which almost led to its closure in 1972, but was given a last minute reprieve due to the energy crisis caused by the Arab /Israeli war of 1972-73. There was an underground shaft to assist in developing faces in seams affected by significant faults, eg Abbey Wood and Great East. One of the shafts was deepened from 1,227ft reached in 1860 to 1,332ft in the 1950s, penetrating the Carboniferous Limestone and becoming the deepest shaft in the coalfield. Curiously, as mine worked coal seams in an eastwards / north-eastwards direction only, it was not affected by the Symon unconformity, an advantage its neighbour Kemberton did not have. Following the closure of that mine in 1967, men transferred to Granville and almost 900 men were being employed. This number quickly fell to about 600 men in the 1970s.
Faulting was the main problem at Granville and by the Second World War coal faces extended to Sherrifhales Manor. During the 1960s, Lilleshall Abbey was undermined in the Top and Double coal seams. This resulted in 2ft of subsidence causing the size of the pool to double and the Abbey walls having to be shored up. Workings in that direction extended to about the Lilleshall Golf Club pavilion and close to Hugh's Bridge. It wasn't the major faults that interrupted production but the smaller ones and the NCB's insistence on working a few long faces instead of several short faces that could more easily accommodate small faults. The high risk / high reward strategy was costly and led to production decreasing in the mid-1970s to around 250,000 tonnes per annum.
The proven reserves in the Sherrifhales area were little worked and remain to this day, where they could prove a source of coal bed methane. This is obtained by pumping water down boreholes into coal bearing strata that has been deliberately shattered by blasting, where the water absorbs methane. On return, the gas is separated from the water as it is under lower pressure. Old mine goaf workings are also a source for coal bed methane since the workings, even if flooded, are still gassy. It is worth remembering that gas was deliberately collected from Granville and sold to the Gas Board from 1957, the methane drainage plant being attached to Grange Colliery. In the 1970s, the plant was discharging 600 cu ft of methane per minute. Not all coal was cut at Granville for a lot was blasted. The seams were so gassy that the pressure of the methane coming out of a drilled hole on occasions forced the coal face to collapse.
The New Mine seam was abandoned in 1973 and the last face finished in the Heath Hill, near Sherrifhales, in March 1979. The last coal was raised in May and the mine closed in June. An appeal to save the mine was dismissed by the then Secretary of State for Energy, Tony Benn, saying that there was no evidence that the mine would not experience the same problems as had occurred in the past. With the closure of Granville, deep coal mining came to an end in Shropshire.
Perhaps the biggest insult Granville Colliery received was a speech in Telford in the 1980s by Tony Benn to denounce the pit closure programme. It was his decision to deny the necessary investment to develop new districts that led to Granville's closure. Whilst I am sympathetic to the written reply that he gave to Wrekin's then MP, Gerry Fowler, that the mine had suffered heavy losses for several years and that the social costs of its closure had been taken into consideration for some time, I regard Tony Benn to be a hypocrite. The coal industry undeniably has been butchered but Benn supported Arthur Scargill in trying to keep some mines open that were hopelessly uneconomic.
David Coxill, SCMC Journal No.5
I have now commenced to write a future SCMC Account which will be entitled "The Coalbrookdale Coalfield". This is by popular request and will be targeted at the mining historian who wishes to read about the coalfield's mining history but also to understand the geology regarding those horizons that produced such mineral wealth. It will be based upon my own researches into the geology and history of the area which I have undertaken periodically from the mid-1970s.
This will be a more detailed follow-on from the two chapters covering the coalfield in "Mining in Shropshire" (1995), written collectively by Kelvin Lake, David Adams and myself. This, like my 1992 book "The Mines of Lilleshall & Church Aston, Shropshire", and a more illustrative production on that subject which is currently in preparation by David Adams, will be fully referenced. That will hopefully placate the critics of "Mining in Shropshire" that regard it as having no academic value. [Ed. - the latter book was specifically written for a general audience and was never intended as an "academic" publication. Its sales more than justify its format - which I would like to see academic ones match any day!]
The new geological memoir that was published on the coalfield by the B.G.S. in 1995 provides a golden opportunity to review the contents of an excellent piece of work that brings new information to the public domain for the first time. Its presentation is superb and it is written by some very gifted individuals. Time goes by rapidly for science and already some new data has become available since the memoir was written and this will be commented on. For anyone wishing to briefly acquaint themselves with the geology and mining history of the coalfield, they are referred to an article I wrote in the 1995 SCMC Journal.
The long awaited new geological memoir updates and replaces the earlier out of print edition entitled "The Country between Wolverhampton and Oakengates" by T.H. Whitehead et al (1928). It is based on a fundamental re-survey of the Coalbrookdale Coalfield that was carried out in the early 1970s, complimenting the 1:25,000 and 1:10,560 scale geological maps of the new survey that were published in 1978. The new 1:25,000 map is far easier to use than the older 1:63,360 Wolverhampton sheet (1929) that accompanied the older memoir. The price of the new 1:10,560 map has risen dramatically in recent years and is not recommended for purchase. At £50.00 the new memoir is pricy but acceptable for the serious individual.
There was concern that funding would never be found for publication. It benefits from the extra information that has been gained from boreholes, opencasting and geophysical surveys since the old memoir was published. The survey was carried out while Granville Colliery was still working. It does not entirely cover the northern part of the coalfield in the published maps as the Lilleshall, Church Aston and Sherrifhales area is excluded.
The log sections, maps and diagrams are excellent. An OS map base would have been preferable in many places but OS copyright costs no doubt prohibit this. Since the analysis if the memoir includes th eLilleshall limestones, the title should have been "The Geology of the Coalbrookdale Coalfield" in keeping with its traditional name. Although centred on and dominated by Telford, peripheral areas outside the new town lie within the coalfield, eg Broseley. Composed of 9 chapters, 6 appendices, 53 figures and 4 tables covering 158 pages, it is well written but in places will be too detailed for the non-geologist to read. It quite rightly concentrartes on the Coal Measures which is where the main mineral wealth was exploited. The recognition of the works of Dr Ivor Brown is conspicuous by its absence. A brief history of the mining development of the coalfield was published as "Mineral Resources of the Coalbrookdale Coalfield - Basis of the Industrial Revolution" (R Hamblin, I Brown and J Elwood, 1989). Consequently no mining history is included in the present memoir. I believe this to be a mistake since the memoir will stay in print longer than the Mercial Geologist article. Still this is an opportunity for the SCMC to expoit.
Before commenting on the memoir text, the reader needs to know the very basics of the coalfield's geology. The coalfield, centred on the new town of Telofrd, is very small by national standards. It extends from Linley in the south to Lilleshall and the Wrekin in the north and it is very narrow at outcrop. The outcropping Productive Coal Measures are bounded by the Boundary Fault in the north, against later Triassic Sandstones, dips beneath these sandstones roughly east of Sheriffhales and Shifnal, outcrops updip against older strata to the east and is cut out uncomformably beneath Upper Coal Measures strata south of Linley.
Within the Coal Measures, valuable coal, ironstone and clay seams were exploited for many centuries. Even natural bitumen was discovered and pumped from the tar Tunnel at Coalport. On the flanks of the coalfield, Lower Carboniferous Limestone was worked at Lilleshall/Church Aston in the north-east and Steeraway, The Hatch, Lilttle Wenlock in the north-west, mainly as a flux for the iron furnaces. The older Wenlock Limestone was worked for similar purposes at Lincoln Hill near Ironbridge and Buildwas south of the River Severn. Small aggregate quarries have also worked Uriconian lavas at Lilleshall, Lawrence Hill (near to Ercall), basalt lavas at Doseley Quarry, igneous "camptonite" intrusion at Maddocks Hill and the sedimentary rock quartzite at the Ercall Quarries. Even brine has been pumped from several wells, eg at Preston-on-the-Weald. Iron pyrites and Walker's Earth (an inferior version of Fuller's Earth) have been worked locally from the Wenlock Shales at Coalbrookdale.
The coalfield is heavily and multiple fractured. The main trend belongs to the Variscan oogeny (mountain building epoch) which created north-west/south-east trending fractures. The most notable examples are the Lightmoor Fault, Great East or Limestone Fault and the Ketley Fault. The Lightmoor Fault divides the coalfield into an uplifted exposed western section and a downfaulted concealed eastern section. It is not surprising that the western part of the coalfield, where the coal seams are shallower, was worked first, while the deeper concealed section had to await technological developments, ie the steam engine to pump themines dry, before it yielded its mineral wealth.
The Variscan earth movements also folded the strata into three distinct basins, the Donnington, Madeley and Coalport Synformal Synclines. The coal seams were reasonably well protected in these basins from erosion but the reverse was true of higher land in the antiformal (dome) areas between these basins. The famous Symon Unconformity removed all the workable coal seams in a south-west/north-east trend, sub-parallel with the Great East Fault, from Coalbrookdale, extending through Brookside to the north of Shifnal. This barren zone, now called the Stirchley Anticline, has no mines and divides the coalfield between a northern and southern area.
A simplified stratigraphical succession of the traditional coalfield is as follows :-
|Enville Formation||sandstone & clays||}|
|Keele Formation||sandstone||} UPPER COAL MEASURES|
|Coalport Formation||sandstone||} (Upper Carboniferous|
| Productive Coal Measures|
(Middle & Lower)
| coal, ironstone, pyrites |
|UPPER COAL MEASURES|
| Lilleshall & Steeraway |
Dinantian Limestone Series
| limestone, sandstone |
Little Wenlock basalt
|Basement Beds Lilleshall||oolitic limestone||DEVONIAN ?|
|Wenlock Shale||mudstone, siltstone||} SILURIAN|
|Dolgelly Beds||black radioactive mudstone||}|
|Comley Sandstones||glaucastic sandstone||} CAMBRIAN|
Chapter 1 is the introduction and summarises the geology and history of research. The latter could have been expanded and been a forerunner to an extra chapter on possible concealed connections with other coalfields. Sadly this is missing.
Chapter 2 is about Pre-Coal Measures. This ranges from the Pre-Cambrian Rushton Schists, includes the Silurian Wenlock Limestone, the the Lower Carboniferous Limestones. It is interesting to note that the latter have been discussed but not the faulted rhyolitic inlier of Lilleshall Hill. Both fall north of the mapped area. The memoir covers a square area and consequently includes an area in the south-west that is not traditionally associated with the coalfield. Boundaries have to be drawn somewhere so it is only right that the non-coalfield strata is sensibly underweighted. Figure 2 on page 4 is innovative since it shows the conjectured incrop boundary of Dinantian (Lower Carboniferous) and Ludlow (Silurian) strata. Incrop means the line where a concealed horizon pitches against and is cut out by a later higher horizon unconformably. This has resulted at the Lincoln Hill Mine of the Lower Carboniferous Limestone in the north of the district being absent and the Lower Coal Measures resting unconformably on Silurian Wenlock Limestone.
In the Cambrian strata of southern Lilleshall, the memoir notes that the Croft borehole (1972) discovered the Dolgelly Beds above the Comley Sandstone. Since the new memoir was first drafted (many years prior to its publication) there has been a major borehole programme for investigations into the stability of mine workings, principally done by Arup Geotechnics. This investigation programme has established that the Dolgelly Beds are unconformably cut out by by the basal limestone strata. Fortunately it does not underlie any housing since a high gamma reading is recorded, caused by the decay of uranium, emitting radon gas.
On page 15 it is suggested that possibly Silurian strata lies beneath the Lower Carbonifeous strata at Lilleshall. That was possible since the Cambrian/Carboniferous outcrop contacts are all faulted. However, recent borehole evidence has proved that Cambrian strata lies directly beneath Lower Carbonifeous strata, the Silurian being absent (Coxill, 1992). The Arup Geotechnics investigation programme proved that there are several local unconformities within the Lilleshall limestone sequence. Had the new memoir been edited to reflect new data available in the late 1980s and 1990s, it would more accurately reflect the current state of knowledge at the publication date. Coxill (1992) interprets the basal part of the Lilleshall limestone series (Dixon's Group 1 Beds in Whitehead at al, 1928) as possibly being of late Devonian age, based on sedimentological evidence, ie they resemble cornstones of that age. Nevertheless I accept that there is yet no faunal confirmatory evidence. The memoir incorporates the work of Mitchell and Reynolds (1981) that through studying the conodont fauna and re-assessing the brachiopod species identifications, eg th eoriginal survey's collection, proves that Dixon's Group 2 Beds are a much older Tournaisian age within the Lower Carboniferous than previously thought.
Chapters 3-5 concern the Coal Measures and they give an excellent account of the mineral bearing horizons. The Limesotn/Great East Fault has always been used to divide the coalfield into the two synformal synclinal basins north and south, with the Symon trending sub-parallel to its axis and in the south-west removing all workable coal seams. The memoir names this antiformal anticlinal dome as the Stirchley Anticline. Curiously, the north is called the Dawley area but it should really be called the Donnington or Lilleshall Company area by tradition. The south Madeley area is acceptable terminology.
General mention is made where each mineral horizon was worked which is useful. It would have been preferable for the mine plans for each worked horizon to have been shown in summary form but I suppose this is a geological, not a mining publication. It is shown for the first time that, in addition to the Symon, there are other local washouts within the Productive Coal Measures. It is field observations of this quality that justifies the re-survey of classic geological areas. Excellent examples are shown in Figures 22 and 24 on pages 56 and 60.
The Coalport Formation has been sub-divided so that its lower part is now called the Hadley Formation, which is the diachronous equivalent to the famous Etruria Formation of Staffordshire. The isopach contour maps of Figures 11 and 12 showing the changing thickness of named formations are an excellent diagrammatical inclusion in the memoir. The famous Symon Unconformity has been re-named the Hadley Unconformity because the name Symon means unconformity, making it a a tautologous phrase.
Chapter 6 concerns Permian and Triassic rocks which occur on the flanks of the coalfield to the north and east. It updates the stratigraphical nomenclature of these formations as follows :-
|Old Name||New Name||Period|
|Lower Mottled Sandstone||Bridgnorth Sandstone||PERMIAN|
|Bunter|| Kidderminster Conglomerate } Sherwood|
|Upper Mottled Sandstone||Wildmoor Formation }Group||} TRIASSIC|
The memoir takes the conservative view, as I do, that the Enville Beds of the Upper Coal Measures belong to the Upper Carboniferous and not the Permian.
Chapter 7 is about structure. The memoir and maps illustrate how heavily mined the coalfield is, much more than is possible to show on the old Wolverhampton sheet. Some of the problems mining engineers had can be appreciated in the area immediately west of Grange Colliery and north of Watling Street (A5). It is shown as so severely faulted that it seems incredible that it was ever worked. Yet it worked as an independant mining unit from 1868-1952. The cross sections on Figure 37, page 101 illustrating the folding as well as the faulting are excellent. In Figure 36, page 100, it is postulated that the Coalport Syncline extends in a north-east direction beneath later strata. This theme could have been expanded, as previously noted, updating the work of Wills (1956) for this area.
The new memoir concludes that the Symon does not affect Productive Coal Measures strata north of a line roughly from Granville Colliery to Ketley. This is confirmed by a borehole sunk in the Lilleshall/Sheriffhales area that has been reported by Stonehouse (1950). This is interesting since sheet sections of Crow Hayes (Coxill, 1992) and of the Hugh's Bridge borehole in the 1920s show an incomplete coal seam succession, with the highest seams apparently being cut out progressivley northwards. It now seems that this is due to a combination of faulting and coincident, rather than the Symon being involved.
Chapter 8 discusses recent geophysical surveys. Chapter 9 on Quaternary drift deposits shows new drift patterns being mapped as compared to the old survey. The discovery of the buried drift channel at Oakengates is particularly interesting. There was a major landslide at Jackfield, east of Ironbridge on the River Severn where many houses fell into the river. That was a combination of collapsed workings from the nearby old Tuckies Mine clay workings and unstable slopes (Brown, 1975).
Appendix 2 is a list of shafts, pits and collieries. It could have been improved by stating the owners and when the mine was worked. Appendix 5 is a glossary where surprisingly the term Symon is missing.
David Coxill & Kelvin Lake, "Mining in Shropshire"
A casual visitor to the Ironbridge Gorge in the 17th century would have wondered what was in store for them as they descended the steep hill from Madeley to the River Severn. A scene full of smoke and fumes belching forth from numerous blast furnaces, lead smelters, tar distilleries, brick and tile works would have lain before them. Squeezed between these works were dozens of mines tipping their waste onto the river banks, while a seemingly endless stream of trucks and carts carried coal and other minerals to the gaping mouths of furnaces and kilns. Apart from the few sites now preserved as industrial monuments and museums, little now remains of all this activity.
The steep sides of the Gorge were a natural place for exploiting numerous exposed seams of coal, ironstone, clay, fullers earth, sandstone and limestone. In addition, the densely wooded hillside would have provided a good supply of timber for charcoal. Exactly when mining started in the area is not known but the Romans used coal in their underfloor heating at nearby Wroxeter. There is evidence that they worked small coal mines near Oakengates. It seems reasonable to suppose that the Romans could also have made some attempt at mining in the Gorge.
By the 13-14th centuries, mining was well established in the area. The first reference was in 1250 when Philip de Benthall granted the Buildwas monks a right of way over his land to carry coal and ironstone. Since mining began to deplete the local forests of timber, a proclamation was made in 1308 banning the use of coal as a fuel. This doesn't appear to have been strictly obeyed since 14 years later Wenlock Priory granted a licence "for the digging of coles at the Brocholes (Madeley)". The monastic settlements of Wombridge Priory, Buildwas Abbey and Much Wenlock were amongst early exploiters of the local mineral resources. The Buildwas monks operated a system whereby people who worked for them could cover their debts to the Abbey, such as rent, by working at certain times of the day without pay. Occasionally during periods when mines could not be worked, the miners were given a quantity of ale in lieu of pay. This system, known as "Buildwases", carried on until the mid 19th century.
By the 16th century, there was widespread mining of ironstone to feed the growing number of furnaces in the area. In 1535, Wombridge Priory earned five pounds per year from one of their mines and in 1541 Wenlock Priory had an iron mine valued at £2 6s 1d. James Clifford, Lord of the Manor of Broseley and owner of the Boat Leasow Mine, was ordered in 1575 to remove rubbish and stone that he had thrown into the deepest part of the River Severn from his "coaldelf at a place called the Tuckeyes". This mine is known to have worked for almost 300 years but was capped and built over by Maw's & Co when they constructed their works at Jackfield.
By the 17th century, the Coalbrookdale Coalfield was the second most important coal mining district in the country. It produced 95% of all the coal mined in Shropshire and was only surpassed in output by the North East Coalfield. Despite this, it only covers about 24 square miles in area from the Severn to Shifnal and Wellington to Bridgnorth. Prior to Abraham Darby's success in smelting iron using coked coal in 1709, the most important mineral was ironstone for use in charcoal fired blast furnaces. At this time, coal was mostly used for the brick and tile industries and for export.
As industrialisation of the Gorge began after 1709, there came an unprecedented demand for coal, iron and limestone. Limestone came from mines at Steeraway, The Hatch, Little Wenlock, Lilleshall and Church Aston, coal and iron were mined all along the Gorge and clay was mined south of the River Severn. During this period, large companies were formed and the coalfield was eventually divided up between the Madeley Wood Company in the south and the Lilleshall Company in the north.
The early mines were opened as adits or drift mines, tunnels driven into the side of a valley following a workable seam. A local name for these was "footrids", although some Broseley people call a clay level a "Stocking of Clay". Until recent years, the entrances to several footrids were open near the picnic site on the Broseley side of the Iron Bridge. One of these was unusual in that the entrance was supported by steel girders. These were all collapsed in the 1970s during landscaping operations and only shallow trench-like depressions remain near the path on the Benthall Edge Nature Trail.
Attempts by the Shropshire Caving & Mining Club to explore adits in the Gorge have often been thwarted by bad air. This can be methane (fire damp) in coal levels or carbon dioxide (black damp) in clay or ironstone levels. Hydrogen sulphide (stink damp) is often found where there is natural bitumen or tar deposits. The term "damp" is an obsolete term for gas but it is still used in mining circles. Concentrations of these gases build up in the levels and it cannot be stressed too strongly that the casual visitor should not explore mines since it might prove fatal.
The late Alderman T Jones (a Broseley mining entrepreneur) used to recall how the Red Church Pennystone Pit, a local iron mine, was plagued with black damp. The miners claimed that it was "damper" when the wind was from the south and on one occasion the fireman inspected the mine on two consecutive days and declared it "unsafe to work due to damp". On the third day the fireman looked at the church weather cock and decided that it wasn't worth inspecting the mine since the wind was shown as blowing from the south. What he didn't know was that two miners had climbed the tower and wedged the weather cock in position, the pit was off work a week before they were found out!
To overcome ventilation problems in long levels, shafts were often dug higher up the hill to help create a through draught. These could also be used as an emergency escape route if the main level collapsed. If the material had to be taken up the hill it could be wound up the shaft in a basket or "kibble". In shallow pits, the winding gear would be a simple hand-operated windlass called a "jackroller" or "jinny". Sometimes the rope was not completely wound onto the drum but only had a few turns around it, a counterweight then balancing the weight of the kibble. The last windlass of this type was used until 1964 at Rock Mine but it has not survived. At the time of writing there is still a jackroller over the escape shaft of Gitchfield Pit at Jackfield.
Rope used on early windlasses was made of hemp but this tended to break when wet. To help preserve ropes, they were coated in local tar which was often found oozing from tunnel walls, such as can still be seen at the Tar Tunnel at Coalport. In later years, locally invented chains were used and then wire. The rope on the drum at Gitchfield is a wire rope with a hemp core, this makes it more flexible and allows it to be wound onto a smaller diameter drum.
Gitchfield Mine was typical of hundreds of "footrids". It was driven in 1891 to provided clay for the Coalport Tileries. The area is now the Coaport sewage works and the adit entrance no longer exists, although water coming out of the level has been used as a water supply for the works. It closed in the 1950s and its method of operation was the same as many small mines in the area. Material cut at the face was pulled by children on wooden sleds (known as "mobbies") to the main roadways, where it was transferred to wagons (known as "dans") that were pulled out of the mine by horses. Girls were used for this job until the 1844 Mines Act, after which only boys were used. In 1892, the 13 year old W Yates of Madeley started work at Gitchfield as a "mobbier". During a working day he would crawl on his hands and knees pulling 2 sleds at a time behind him. The haulage chain or rope from the sleds was attached to a metal D-ring on a thick leather belt, which was worn tightly around the waist to prevent chaffing. As the D was worn at the front, with the chain passing between the legs, the excessive loads they pulled meant that by their 20s they would often suffer from severe hip and leg displacement. An example of a "mobbie" and harness can be seen at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
In deep pits where the loads were quite heavy, horse powered "gins" (short for engine) were used and there were two types used locally. The "gear pit" system was the most simple with the horse attached directly to the load and made to walk away from the shaft. This had its drawbacks for, if the horse lost its footing, it could be dragged back towards the shaft. The more complex "gin pit" involved one or two horses being used to turn a large wooden drum, from which the rope ran to the shaft over rollers. Due to the abundance of wood and cheap operating costs, gins were quite a popular winding technique for shafts between 100-300ft deep. When a horse gin was erected at a new mine, it was the custom to hold a "gin rearing" party with free ale, bread and cheese being supplied by the landowner. The last "gin rearing" was held in 1910. Remains of gins could be found at Deep Pit, Broseley and Lightmoor near Madeley as recently as the 1940s and one was still working near Madeley until 1948.
Although old "technology" survived in the coalfield until relatively modern times, it would be wrong to think that the mine owners and industrialists in this area were slow to implement new ideas. One of the most important innovations of the area in the 17th century was the development of the longwall system of mine working. This replaced the earlier pillar and stall system where only about 30% of the seam was removed, the remainder being left to support the roof and reinforce the floor. The longwall system, or "Shropshire Method" as it became known, rapidly spread to other mining areas as it allowed almost all of a seam to be removed as workings advanced from or (as in modern pits) retreated towards the shaft bottom. The space left behind by mining is known as the "gob" or "goaf" and it is packed with waste rock and left to collapse.
In a private garden on the hillside above Ironbridge, is a 50 metre long brick lined adit into an old iron mine. It worked the Crawstone ironstone using the longwall system over 150 years ago but in an unusual way. The miners started at the centre and then worked outwards, using sandstone packs to support the roof, creating an ever expanding circular longwall. This mine is now too dangerous to explore due to gas.
John Wilkinson the local ironfounder built the first coal cutting machine in 1780. The "iron man" was introduced to the Broseley mines where it cut down the side of the coal after it had been undercut. The machine worked very well in the thicker seams but the miners saw it as a threat to their jobs. They refused to set roof supports for the machine, claiming that "if the iron men can do one job they can do the other". One tradition in the area was that of the "chartermaster", who acted as a labour subcontractor to the owner. Many of these owned "tommy shops" from where miners under their employment were expected to buy their goods, often at inflated prices for poor quality. This tradition survived into the present century and the last chartermaster retired from Granville Mine in 1913.
The first atmospheric steam engine in Shropshire was erected at the Madeley Glebe coalworks about 1719, only 7 years after Newcomen's first engine was installed at Dudley. This and other early engines were used for pumping water, allowing deeper seams to be worked. Water was always a problem in the Coalbrookdale Coalfield and a miner who worked at Granville Colliery in the 1920s recalled working in a 3ft seam with 6-9" of water in it. The seam was so wet that it was like working in a permanent shower, sometimes if the "rain" was very bad they would be allowed to leave an hour or so earlier. During the 1940s he was paid an extra 2/- per day for wet working.
Large firms with several adjacent mines would often erect central pumping engines to drain them all. The Lilleshall Company on the northern side of the coalfield drained Muxton Bridge, Waxhill Barracks and Barnyard Collieries through a shaft at Muxton which pumped 9,350 gallons per hour. In the Severn Gorge at least two central engines existed. The Madeley Wood Company had an engine pumping at The Lloyds and, on the other side of the river at the Tuckies, an engine was installed about 1780 to drain several mines including Boat Leasow Mine. The Tuckies engine house still survives, although it was converted into a dwelling in the 1840s with an adjoining house added in the 1880s. During alterations in 1983, the joists of the first floor were found to have curved cut-outs in the middle where they had once supported the steam cylinder. The second floor joists were very thick and had obviously been the original beam floor, with the one end wall about 3ft thick that had supported the engine's beam. The 150ft deep pumping shaft was still open, although covered with a concrete slab and a garden shed!
In the early years, it was customary to give injured miners the job of tending the steam pumping engines. As winding engines began to be introduced in the 1780s to wind material and men, the job of attending these was usually given to a more "respected and sober" person. Once someone was appointed to the job of winding engineman, it was usually passed down from father to son. Men were initially wound up and down the shaft in a kibble or by "riding the chain" - hanging onto loops fitted to the wrought iron winding chain. These chains were made locally and, after 1810, were typically made of three parallel lengths of chain keyed together with wooden pegs.
Shropshire was noted for its use of winding chain despite the introduction of flat wire ropes in the 1840s. Local chain makers did not switch to wire rope making until after several local accidents, notably the tragic death of 9 miners at the Brick Kiln Leasow Pit, Madeley in 1864. They were killed when the chains became unhooked as the men were ascending the shaft. A further 8 miners were killed "riding the chain" at Springwell Pit, Dawley in 1872 because there was no cage and the chain was old and worn. Despite this, many local pits carried on using chain well into this century.
One of the last winding enginemen at Blists Hill Mine (now reconstructed by Ironbridge Gorge Museum) was Frank Turner. His typical routine in the mid 1930s was to arrive at work about 6.15am. The stoker Billy Lewis (from the All Nations pub) would have arrived at 6am to get the steam ready. The cage was first wound down empty so that the Banksman could check the main cable and then the Manager and Onsetter would be wound down, standing on top of the cage to check the guide wires and shaft. At the bottom, they would inspect the workings to check for gas and other problems.
While the pit was being inspected, Frank would cook his breakfast on a stove in the engine house and miners arriving for work would creep past so as not to disturb his "snappin" and suffer a rough ride down! The inspection was usually finished by 6.50am and, after the safety book had been signed, the miners would be wound down in groups of six so they were at work by 7am. They worked through to 3pm, often in one foot of water since this was a very wet mine. When the Lloyds pumping engine was stopped in 1911, water was wound out of the pit in a large kibble (in a second shaft). The kibble went down as the cage came up and then vice versa. The water was emptied into a trough draining into the canal and in hot weather local children came to paddle in the icy cold water. Frank would often work until 6pm (4.30pm on Saturday and Sunday) to get the water down to a safe level.
Coal production reached a peak in Shropshire in 1871 when over 1 million tonnes were produced, iron production peaking two years later. By the beginning of the century, however, many of the mines were worked out and began to close. The last limestone mine at The Hatch closed in 1918, ironstone mining ceased in the 1940s and the last fireclay mine at The Rock closed in 1964. By nationalisation, only 3 deep collieries were still at work at Kemberton, Grange and Granville. Kemberton Colliery closed in 1967 as the coal became exhausted. The last small coal mine at Shortwoods closed in 1970. In 1979, Granville Colliery (which by then had merged with Grange) finally closed and with it came the end of deep coal mining in Shropshire. Today it is more economical to opencast and this is currently being done around Telford for coal and fireclay.
Old accounts of working life in the past can often seem rosy and simple but in truth it was very grim. The old Granville miner previously mentioned started work at 14, removing tubs from the cage at the pit bottom. He only just had time to push one tub away, return and push the second tub away before the next cage load arrived. Where he worked, the roof bulged down and he once cut the full length of his back open on a girder. At the end of a shift he would go home still covered in dirt and fall asleep on the couch, without having any food or drink.
Although this coalfield did not have the big mining disasters that other areas did, thousands of lives have been lost from "minor" accidents, such as roof falls, fires, accumulations of gas, people falling down shafts or winding accidents. Lodgebank Colliery was renamed Slaughter Pit after 1875 when 11 men were killed by gas. One sad tale concerned a young engaged girl who was picking ironstone nodules on a tip in Donnington Wood. Another girl asked her where the wedding reception was to be held and she replied "In Hell". On that note, she lost her footing and fell down a mine shaft. Even when the mines closed they were still dangerous and there have been several cases of children falling down old shafts or unwary explorers entering old adits and being overcome by gas. This is the real price of Britain's industrial wealth.
Ivor Brown, "SCMC Journal No.6"
The Meadow Pit shafts were sunk by William Anstice as development proceeded in the north-easterly direction from the older mines on the tip of the Madeley Bank of the Ironbridge Gorge. It was a small but very important step which gave sufficient confidence for the later development of Hills Lane Pit, Halesfield Pit and eventually, Kemberton Pits. (Randall l880).
According to a note on the final Abandonment Plan for the Meadow Pit, the shafts were sunk in 1808 to a depth of 239yds 2ft 9in, having passed through the following seams of economic importance :-
Top Coal and Double Coal 168yds
Big Flint Coal 198yds
Pennystone Ironstone 205yds
Viger Coal 210yds
Best Coal 229yds
Clod and Randles 232yds
Little Flint 239yds
Later records show that No. 1 Shaft was 8ft diameter and eventually 244 yds deep, No. 2 Shaft 9ft diameter and 235 yds deep with a sump to 235 yds depth. The shafts were about l2 yds apart.
The Meadow Pit was the only pit apparently important enough to be actually named on the Ordnance Survey Draft Map of 1827, although Hills Lane Pit was also marked as "Coal Pits" on the published map of l 833. On the 1833 Map the Meadow Pit is marked `Meadow Pit Colliery', a rather odd form for a coal mine but one which seems to have become generally accepted. The pit was well developed by 1849 when the Tithe Map was published and this clearly shows the tramway used to take minerals to The Woodland. This Brick and Tile Works was at one time worked by the Reynolds/Anstice concern. The tramways seems also to have continued from The Woodlands, down an incline under Madeley Wood Green, to the Bedlam Furnaces and Brickworks and possibly a nearby wharf on the River Severn.
The Tithe Map also shows a tramway running in the opposite direction from the mine across the fields and down an incline to the Blists Hill Works. This tramway continued to operate until the 1920s. Few references have yet been found for the early years but an old ballad records that "on the night of January 2nd, 1810, the Meadow Pit accidentally caught fire. At the time there were 13 men and 8 ponies underground but all were got to the surface without injury - unlike a search party the next morning. The depth of the pit was given as 240yds. The ballad states that on the next morning four persons went down to see what state the pit was in and "what best to do, but the sulphur becoming too powerful for the air, all were suffocated". Nineteen children were left fatherless, one widow was pregnant and two infirm.
The Miners' Tragedy - a Ballad
While cheerily around the glowing fire
You may sit in easy mood
Or view the flame extending higher
To prepare your daily food
O let thoughts of mind possess
What must the Collier men endure
Hazards, dangers and distress
The burning mineral to procure.
Down the cavern they descended
To stop the ruins further spread
There their precious lives were ended
All midst sulphor lying dead
All above were concernation
All below was awful death
All around was lamentation
Bursting forth with every breath.
With early steps we wake the morning
And view the awful dell around
When oh the voice of danger warning
Death lies brooding underground
O say not we slight such warning
They can seldom be defined
Our day calls - although alarming
The event lies in the eternal mind.
All were members much respected
Able miners of their day
Careful husbands, none excepted
True to friends and family
Four hearses bore their last remains
In silence to the sacred ground
With thousands weeping in their train
While all seemed lost in awe profound.
Then down the shaft as deep as ocean
Lowered by the engines power
Danger waits our every motion
Death seems really to devour
Yet we seek our daily station
Where the sunbeams never come
Follow hard our occupation
Glad when safety brings us home.
But who can describe the feeling
Of their wives and children dear
Tis a grief beyond revealing
Agonising to despair
The sudden unexpected parting
Forms up the deepest sigh
My husband's gone we feel the smarting
This will follow till they die.
In these dismal excavations
Hollowed by the miners art
Rises fiery exhaltations
Floating over every part
These approach our burning tapers
All the light we have below
And the dread sulphurous vapours
Off in flash and thunder go.
Can the miner be neglected
See them toil in that recess
See them bruised and dejected
Many crushed to instant death
Some in deadly damp expiring
Many show the fires rage
Some with wheezing cough expiring
Few enjoy a good old age.
If standing in the wild explosion
Men and beast in fumes are bound
Passing with redoubled motion
Rain threatens all around
No human help can then attend us
Till the dreaded moments past
Tis boundless mercy doth defend us
Or we perish in the blast.
Then while around the glowing fire
You may sit in easy mood
Let a thought the mind inspire
How we earn our daily food
We supply the burning furnace
Arts and science claim our power
The miner still your coal must furnish
Till the coals are found no more.
Yet we say we may escape from burning
Other deaths may follow then
A sulphor from the fire returning
Oft destroys the strongest men
Witness this oh dreadful danger
Witness this oh fatal day
Barker, Clemson, Ward and Grainger
Four companions snatched away.
Later in 1810, on 6th April, it is recorded that G.Ward and T.Roberts were killed whilst descending the shaft. Many other accidents occurred at the pit during the next 112 year life but none seem to have involved such a loss of life as those above. It is, however, difficult to determine which official accident reports relate to this mine since the Madeley Wood Company registered most of its incidents and production figures under the composite name "Madeley Wood" irrespective of which of their pits was involved.
A glimpse into life at the mine is given in evidence presented by a workman who had received "poor relief" for his father, Mr Thomas Rickus. The son William Rickus had been born in Madeley and believed that "he is about 38 years of age." He had been married 12 years before, on Christmas Day, and had 5 children including Sarah, the eldest who was "aged 12 years or thereabouts". William had been set to work at the Meadow Pit in about 1817 by George Ward, the chartermaster there. He was set on as a collier and had worked from "3 to 5 years", during this time "nothing had been said about wages or notice" but he knew "what the wages per day was, and also that the men should not be at liberty to leave without giving or receiving a fortnights notice and the rule to work 12 hours in a day, and that the wages were paid once a fortnight". (Poor Law Records of the Liberties of Wenlock l3th August 1833). The working conditions referred to are confirmed by the evidence of the mineowner John Anstice and others to the Child Employment Commissioners of 1840.
The Tithe Map of 1847 shows a mound of waste with two shafts and three buildings. Surprisingly it is only described on the accompanying Apportionment as "621, The Meadow Pit mound,, owner and occupier Madeley Wood Company". The Map also shows a lane leading to the Ironbridge Road and connecting with it near the Park Inn. The rows of houses in this area of Madeley appear to have been built for Meadow Pit workers about this time.
There is, in the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, a letter from a JPG Smith to his wife dated 5th November 1869 in which he describes a visit to the "Madeley Wood Mine" with Sir AH Brown, Member of Parliament. The mine visited was almost certainly the Meadow Pit since it is the only one which fits the known circumstances. For example, it is the same depth as that described by Mr Smith and it had an underground shaft between a coal and an ironstone seam of the same distance, 100ft, as that between the two seams usually worked at the mine, the Little Flint Coal and the Pennystone Ironstone. Also the underground shaft on Mr Smith's map seems to be roughly in the same area as one on the Abandonment Plan, situated off Court Street at the entrance to Coronation Crescent. The description is illuminating.
"We drove up to the mine which is near Madeley and belongs to the Madeley Wood Company of which Captain Anstice, as he is called, is the head. Some sensation had been occasioned when it became known that AHB through one of the working colliers had expressed a desire to descend, and the day before Captain Anstice came up to us and politely expressed readiness to give every facility, but he would us go down some other pit than that named because this was not considered in good order - it was very old and almost exhausted but it was for this very reason that we desired to see one of the worst specimens rather than one that might be regarded as a show-mine, that we might see the most unfavourable circumstances as to ventilation and security amid which the men worked.
At the pit mouth when we drove up we found Captain Anstice and his nephew, together with the head underground superintendent and two of the chartermasters of the mine. I should tell you that in Shropshire the owner of the mine contracts with one or more men, who usually have themselves been originally working miners, to take the coal at so much per ton, these men are called chartermasters and they in their turn agree with working men at so much a day. These chartermasters looking after the men to see that they do a fair days labour, by experience they soon arrive at the knowledge how much coal under each set of special conditions the men can fairly excavate in 12 hours, this quantity is called a day's work and if a man be willing to work on for the remainder of the day he is paid extra in so much more as he can "get". The general superintendent is the engineer who looks after the safety of the system of ventilation, the machinery, the sufficiency of the materials used in propping and the chartermasters are expected to attend to the general safety of the miners, to supply tools, candles and all the appliances for winning the coal, if anything in the mine should seem wrong to the men they could directly call the attention of the chartermaster to the same and if he did not see to it, they would then call in the owner, who would send the chief superintendent. This is an outline of the management.
Before descending the pit which is over 750ft deep, we took off and exchanged our coats and hats for others more suitable and, accompanied by the Engineer and two chartermasters, we got into a tub and were soon descending, down, down it seemed as if we should never get to the bottom and as the eye of the pit grew smaller and the chain by which we dangled seemed to grow finer and finer as it grew longer. I thought it was very well that you did not see me there on our wedding anniversary. On landing some men gave us candles stuck in lumps of clay, directly afterwards we set off, for about 50 yards of the gallery from the foot of the shaft and a narrow tramway of iron was layed throughout the mine on which tramway they run the trucks. Sometimes these are pushed along by boys where the incline is very slightly descending or level, otherwise they are drawn by horses. In the most part the gallery is about 7ft high, in others especially at the spots where they are working not more than 3ft.
The outline marks the extent of the ground that contains the minerals and (may) be several square miles in extent. A is the down and B the upcast shaft, near to each of which is the hauling machinery. The mine is ventilated by the air being made to descend A and rise from B, the arrows show the direction in which the air is made to flow and the marks at D are doors across passages used for the conveyance of the coal, opened only to admit the passage of a truck and then closed immediately. At E the air is allowed to divide in order to ventilate a different portion of the mine and if an explosion were to occur in the eastern portion, the men in the western would escape. The mine that we descended is on a bad plan because above it, separated by strata about 100ft thick, is an ironstone mine that is worked by the same shafts, and its ventilation is obtained by means of a shaft C that rises from the floor of the coal mine to that of the iron mine consequently all the air that this ironstone receives has first passed through some miles of passage in the coal before it rises to C to ventilate the mine above and if an explosion were to take place in the coal or mine below, those in the mine above would all be suffocated. By the system of separating, in Shropshire accidents of this kind are very unlikely and it is clear to me that accidents of this nature ought never to occur.
In Shropshire all the coal in the mine is got by gradually undermining the stratum in lengths of about 6 feet and then they drive in a few wedges at the top of the seam when the whole mass falls in a block about 6 feet long, 3 feet deep and just of the thickness of the bed. They are constantly working along the face of the seam and they fill up behind (them) the gap made by the excavation of the coal with the small quantity they pick from the roof in order to get sufficient height to work in. This refuse in its loose state is found quite sufficient for the purpose as in the course of time the pressure of the superincumbent rock compresses this quite solid. As the workings advance the road which is the airway is pushed further and further into the mine, so that there is always a supply of air in the working, across the face of which it is made to sweep to carry away the inflammable gas as it rises. The coal as it is collected is carried off in baskets and deposited in trucks by which it is drawn by boys or horses according to the nature of the ground to the bottom of the shaft.
After wandering all through the mine which is some miles in extent we came to the shaft C and by a series of iron ladders we climbed into the ironstone mine which is about 100ft above the coal. The ironstone is found in a bed of clay in which it exists in nodules, the bed is about 9ft thick but it is mined very much in the same way as coal. We had a good deal of conversation with the men in the two mines".
By the 1870s Madeley town centre was surrounded by mines, the Madeley Wood Company's mines of Meadow, Blists Hill, Shawfield, Hills Lane and Halesfield and the Madeley Court Company's pits.
Between Meadow Pit and the centre the Park Street became known as "Chartermaster Row" since it was here that many of the chartermasters for the Madeley Wood Company lived. A chartermaster was a sub-contractor who agreed to work the company's pits at a set price per ton and to do this he employed his colliers, many working on a similar contract basis. There were often at least two chartermasters at each pit, each working turn-about monthly in charge of surface and underground alternately. Park Street was a central position in which to live relative to the pits. The mining companies later decided to buy much of the land and property in the street instead of paying compensation for damage due to undermining. The local directory for 1881 shows the following list of chartermasters in Park Street :-
Henry Edwards 25 Park St age 44 chartermaster at Iron Mine.
Benjamin Rogers 35 Park St age 65 chartermaster at Coal Mine
Leonard Perks 77 Park St age 52 chartermaster at Coal Mine
Thomas Rowe 28 Park St age 24 chartermaster at Dawley
William Rowe 30 Park St age 62 chartermaster at Dawley.
This is not a complete list and it is not known for sure at which Company's pits these men worked.
As the nineteenth century closed the chartermaster system was coming to an end. It is reputed that it ceased in the Madeley Wood Company pits by 1900, although an item in the local newspaper of 1902 described a J Farmer as being chartermaster at Meadow Pit. Also an old miner told the writer that in Madeley "chartermasters were higher than managers but lower than the Anstices until about 1910". The numbers of men employed often fluctuated as the trade varied but from 1900 coal production increased and ironstone decreased. In 1905 the mine employed 50 (of which 5 were on the surface) working Big Flint Coal; in 1907 it was 57 (6 on surface) working Big Flint Coal; in 1909 it was 65 (8); 1914 it was 70 (12) and 1917 it was 91 (18). The Inspector of Mine's reports also show at least two fatal accidents during this time, a collier R Oakes was killed by a fall of rock in 1905 and W Bagnall was killed in the Big Flint Seam in 1914.
The Meadow Pit was ventilated by a large furnace at the foot of one of the shafts which caused warm air to rise in one shaft to draw fresh cold air in through another. The Mines Inspector's report of 1891 shows that there were 1,958yd of ventilated tunnel at the mine in that year, almost certainly most of this would have been in one working seam. A mine plan shows the `airshaft', a third shaft, to be near the Cricket Pavilion. (In 1891 J.Raspass was manager and TE Owen was undermanager, below them would officially have been the chartermasters).
The mine was becoming exhausted as the l9th century closed. On l7th June, 1889 the Little Flint Coal seam was exhausted as far as it was possible to work it from Meadow. Six weeks later the Best Coal Seam was abandoned as it was "too thin to be profitable". The seam thicknesses were given as, Best 2ft 6in (706ft deep in the shaft), Randle 2ft 3in thick and Clod 2ft thick. The Best Seam workings were mainly on the longwall, tubstall system in the Ironbridge Road direction and around Lees Farm.
The late Mr Frank Turner has written down his memories of the mine in its last years. He was born into a family of steam winding engine drivers, his grandfather, father and uncle had driven the engine at the mine. This had made it possible for Frank to make frequent visits in his youth. The winding engine was situated by the one pit top, known as the Bottom Pit and it hauled from this and a second shaft higher up the pit bank called the Top Pit. The Top Pit was used for winding coal using a chain and a normal pit cage, the Bottom Pit was used for raising water in a tank using a 5 in wide, l inch thick flat wire rope. Raising 22 full tank loads per day was sufficient to keep the mine clear of water. A third shaft was used solely for air. The winding engine was a large beam engine, supplied with steam from three boilers, two Lancashire and a round-ended one, fired from underneath. The pool nearby provided water for the boilers and condensing water for the beam engine. The engine worked at 5lb psi pressure and had a very quiet exhaust. In contrast there was a large bell attached to the engine and operated by gears. This bell warned the engineman that the cage was approaching surface or bottom of the shaft. Each time it rang it could be heard "all over Madeley". Frank Turner wrote that about 1918 it was decided to do away with ponies in the mine. A haulage house was built on the surface (Figure 12) and in it was assembled a two cylinder steam engine. A wire rope worked off the drum and passed down the shaft to the workings, guided on a series of pulleys.
The Kemberton Pit log book shows the movement of the Company's pit ponies at this time. In April 1918 Sam, a roan coloured horse from Meadow pit, was working at Kemberton and in February 1919 a horse named Merry was sent from Kemberton to work on the haulage in the Little Flint seam at Meadow. In June 1920 a brown horse named Turpin was transferred from Meadow to Kemberton where his name was changed to Prince as presumably they already had a "Turpin" there. Five weeks later Prince had obviously not settled in well, he was returned to the surface "owing to being nervous and kicking". However he was later returned underground and was included in the list of 40 horses in use at Kemberton in a survey of November 1920.
The stable for the horses that worked on the surface, to operate the tramway to the Woodlands and in the opposite direction to Blists Hill, was on the lane leading to the Ironbridge Road. Their grazing was the field now used as a cricket pitch (for some years the actual pitch was protected from the horses by a temporary fence made of old winding chain and rope).
During this century the Meadow Pit was controlled by the manager of all the Company's pits but Kemberton Pit had its own undermanager while Meadow, Shawfield and Blists Hill came under a separate undermanager. For many years the undermanager of the smaller mines was Jos Bowen, but at the time of closure it was a Mr R Dodd (J. Bowen continued to work at Blists Hill where he was fatally injured in 1923). Coaling ended at Meadow Pit on 21st May 1920 but winding of water continued until August 1920. All the machinery was left in the mine and the beam engine became derelict. Following a fire in the enginehouse some time afterwards it was scrapped and later removed. According to Frank Turner, Mr J Hardman was the last engine driver to draw a load of coal up the shaft. An abandonment plan was presented giving May 1920 as the final date. It states "in the case of all coal seams except Big Flints the area of payable coal is worked out. The (remaining) Big Flint seam will probably be worked from Halesfield Colliery". All Pennystone Ironstone had been worked out also. The last area of coal working appears to have been under the old Congregational Chapel in Madeley.
The mine site and adjoining pitmounds were sold by the Madeley Wood Company in 1926 and purchased by the local authority. The pitmounds were planted with trees (which still form a satisfying backcloth to Madeley Town when viewed from the east. The shafts however were later used for the disposal of `night soil' and for many years were a place to be avoided.
The top of the Meadow Pit mound formed the highest point in the Madeley area at nearly 152 metres aod. In 1902-3 a reservoir for the Madeley area was constructed on the mound and water from Harrington Waterworks was pumped to it for circulation to the town. It was natural that the mound should also be used as a site for a beacon on important occasions. This was the case and a postcard exists showing the writer's grandfather, Sam Brown and great-uncle Enoch standing by and on the completed bonfire before ignition in 1911. This was to commemorate the coronation of King George V. Samuel was accompanied by his three children including the writer's father. Unknown to them history was to repeat itself when the present writer and his brother helped to build the beacon in the same position for the coronation of Elizabeth II forty two years later, in 1953! The site is still used for a beacon on important occasions.
The mounds are still well wooded and footpaths follow the original tramway routes but no mine buildings now remain. The shaft positions can still be located and one at least has a concrete cap and plinth.
Ivor Brown, "SCMC Journal No.6"
On Tuesday morning 26th April 1904 at 3.30am, a new wooden pump rod was being lowered down the shaft to replace an older one. The rod was 46ft long, 13 inches square and said to weigh 25 tons. It was attached to the rope of a capstan by lashing a 7/8 inch chain once around the rod about 13ft from the end and then passing it through the jaw of a hook on the end of the chain. Three men were placed in the shaft cage a short way down the shaft to guide the rod through the pit top as it was lowered. Although it had been in the lashing for 1( hours before lowering without problems, as soon as movement downwards commenced the rod slipped its lashing and and, as it fell down the shaft, took the cage with it. All three men in the cage were killed and further pumping became impossible.
On Saturday 30th April the Wellington Journal reported the accident and, under the heading "Feared loss of valuable horses", said that due to the incident water had had to be re-directed from the pumping shaft to the coalwinding area. Unfortunately in the Clod and Top Coal Seams within this area there were 19 horses which had not been fed since Monday 25th and it was impossible to get to them. There was 5ft of water in the Lower Clod Coal inset but on the morning of publication efforts were being made to convey food to the horses using a raft. "All the horses belong to Mr William Cooper the Chartermaster and it is feared some will not be got out alive".
On Saturday 7th May the newspaper reported the men had succeeded in reaching the 19 horses which had been imprisoned without food for over 4 days. The men had had to wade through water up to their armpits in order to reach the horses. "It is very gratifying to state that they were sucessful and that the horses were in fairly good condition".
During the week up to the 7th, workmen had succeeded in putting in a new pump rod and on Thursday 5th about 8.00am the "big water engine" was put into motion. Shortly afterwards a further accident occurred involving the cage and rods so pumping of water had to be suspended. Again, it had become impossible to get to the horses to feed them.
Regarding the out of work miners, a miners' meeting decided to give 10 shillings to each of the members of the Federation (Union) and for the non-members a collection would be made. On Saturday 14th May, the newspaper reported the inquest. It added that pumping was still impossible and that the 19 horses had not been fed since the meal on Saturday 7th May. There was, however, happier news about the unemployed men, "a good number of the workmen have been distributed to the Freehold, Grange, Woodhouse and Stafford Pits".
On Saturday 21st May there was a heading "Mine horses rescued". After 10 days without food, miners had managed to get to the starving horses. One was found to be dead and the rest in a very bad condition. In fact 3 more had died since the rescue on the 17th. The horses had been fed only once between 25th April and 17th May. No further reports have been found in the newspaper but work did resume at the colliery and in fact continued for a further 75 years. The fate of the remaining horses was not recorded.
At the end of the year, the Mines Inspector Mr Atkinson reported that he believed the method of securing the rod to the rope had not been as good as it should have been. A more usual and safer method of lashing was to pass the lashing chains twice round the rod and through a link, instead of a hook at the end of the chain.
The pumping engine at Granville was built in the 1860s, reputedly by the Lilleshall Company. It was of the Cornish type with 74 inch cylinder, 10ft stroke, steam pressure 24 lbs per square inch, condensing, worked 3 sets of pumps, lowest 9 inch diameter lifting type, middle and top 14 inch diameter forcing, raising water from 600ft. It was removed early this century. Several illustrations of it exist (see "Mines of Shropshire" by I Brown, page 35).