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Forum Home > Mining History. > Stourbridge Fireclay Mines.

Alaska.
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Nagersfield Fireclay Colliery. c1904.

As already stated, Coal was not the only reason for digging a deep hole in the ground, Fireclay was also a precious commodity. The main Clay deposits are to found around the Stourbridge area, from Lye, Brockmore, Amblecote, Wordsley, Bromley, and Kingswinford. The deposits were overlain with both Coal and Ironstone, which called for different approaches to each, but the end result was always the same. Dig it out and send it to the surface. The larger Brickworks, or Refactories as they liked to be called, required immense quantities of Clay, and they bought up many acres of land, to start their own mines. Several mines of note around Lye. J.B. Fisher & Company owned the Hayes (Fireclay) Colliery from the 1860s until it was sold to Mobberley & Perry, in 1890, anjd still going strong in 1922. There were several deaths at this mine. In 1867, Joseph, or James Chance, was killed by a fall of roof coal while extracting the clay from beneath. In 1882, while expanding the mine, two men Thomas Hipkiss,24, and Edward Hart,40, were buried alive digging a new shaft, as the clay they removed failed to hold up the coal above. It took two days to dig them out. The new owners had problems as well, as in 1892, Noah Cartwright,47, was struck a severe blow on the head from a large chunk of clay, which fractuered his skull. He died before he got to the surface. The other mine, Lye Fireclay Colliery, owned by Hickman & Company, had a loader, Benjamin Aston,19, killed in 1889, suffocated under a heavy fall of clay after he apparently ran the tub into a pit prop. Three years later, and his relative, the mines Charter Master, George Aston,38, was also suffocated by a fall of clay, while carrying out an inspection. This mine was later sold to George Harrison and King, and was still producing coal in 1934. Over in Amblecote, messers J.Hall & Company, had their safety record broken in 1874, by young David Skeldon,18. Working as a loader, he was running a bit late to meet his lady friend, so he decided to get a quick ride up in a loaded skip. He fell out, and made a date with the undertaker instead. Also in the area, Hill & Allchurch, owners of Amblecote Colliery in 1865, lost their Manager and part owner, Joseph Allchurch, when the skip, on it's way down, slipped off the rope, and plunged to bottom of the shaft. Also killed in this accident was the pit's Deputy, James Griffiths. Production for a time came to a dead stop. Just down the road, at the Stourbridge Fire Clay Company, owned by F.T. Rufford,  four years later, Joseph Brooks, the mines Charter Master, for no known reason, simple walked into the pit shaft, and was found in the deep sump. The main danger though, was the habit of roofs falling down, nearly always composed of coal, they tended to be very heavy when they fell. The Himley Firebrick Company could have testified to this, as in their Stourbridge Extention Colliery, in 1877, they lost Alfred Guest,27, and again in 1889, Henry Blakewell.15, to roof falls. The former was actually repairing the timber at the time, and the latter minding his own business, leading his horse. It was a tough old life digging out clay.

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March 31, 2012 at 4:42 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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The famous firm known as the Stourbridge Glazed Brick and Fireclay Company, owned the Thornleigh Colliery, off Bromley Lane. On 24th February,1899, it became necessary to use Blasting powder to shift some large rocks. The charge was rammed home, and for some reason, the shot firer either failed to ensure a warning was given, or just fired it anyway. Joseph Watton,31, and George Pritchard,45, were caught in the resulting explosion, Watton being killed instantly, and Pritchard lingering with his massive injuries, until the1st of March. This came on top of the tragic death of a pit deputy, Thomas Clark,40, on the 9th January. Sheltering from a roof fall, in a bolthole cut into the roadway wall, he was rather unlucky to be buried and crushed when the roof of this also collapsed. Their last major injury was in 1910, when a horse driver, Albert Cooper,22, was hit by a falling piece of Ironstone, fracturing his skull. He died on the way to the Hospital. Going back a bit further in time, two young lads had a nasty end. Daniel Morris,13, employed as a dirt carrier, ( pit spoil ) was filling up his basket in 1860, no doubt looking forward to some August sunshine when his shift finished. He wouldn't have felt much as about 20 tons of coal fell on him. His employer, Samuel Bradley,  who had owned the Brookmoor Colliery for some years, paid for the funeral. Trotter and Haines, who owned the Brettell Lane Colliery, did not follow this example in 1867, when a lad called Bishop,14, was killed in a similar fashion. They were too busy fending off a charge of failing to install enough pit props, which according to witness's, was perfectly true. Down at the Lays, at the Lays New Colliery, a year earlier, William Noakes,21, had just finsihed loading a tub with clay, when a Collier dislodged a piece of coal from the roof. It hit, and then forced out of position, a pit prop. The resulting roof fall killed both him, and the horse. Messer's Brown and Freer, the mines owners, were most put out at the cost of replacing the horse.There are a couple of unfortunate accidents that really can't be placed at the owners door. Samuel Pearson, 39,who worked on the cages at the Oldnall Colliery in 1882, was instructed to fetch a load of Bricks and convey them down the mine. He was fine until he came to a slope, and then, trying to slow down the fully loaded tub, he went round the front to hold it back. He failed. In July 1873, Samuel Woodward, a pikeman at the Lower Delph Colliery of Hickman and Company, later to be owned by Harper and Moore, was acting as a shot firer. Dispite being supplied with copper bars and wooden rammers, he decided to use an Iron bar and a brickbat to ram home the unstable blasting powder. By a great stroke of good luck, well it was for his workmates, he was the only one killed in the predictable explosion. At least he went out with a bang, unlike William Little,26, another cageman who stepped out thinking it had stopped at the right level. It hadn't, and he fell down the shaft of  Timmis Brothers, Hills Field Fireclay Companies Mine. Mind you, he had been drinking prior to going to work, the pubs in 1886 opened very early in the morning.

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April 1, 2012 at 3:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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In answer to several questions, as to the extent of the area in this Topic, you will need to take a little journey. A good point of departure, would be from Russells Hall Hospital, and then head towards Kingswinford, on the A4101. From here, take the A491, the road to Stourbridge, and from the ring road, take the A458, as far as Lye Cross, and then follow the A4036, past Merry Hill, to rejoin the A4101, back at the Hospital. The landscape, which you will have seen on the left hand side, all the way around the route, is the area in question. It includes Pensnett, Commonside, Bromley, Dudley Fields, Brierley Hill, High Ercal, Hawbush, Buckpool, Audnam, Wordsley, Coalbournbrook, Brettall Lane, Amblecote, Holloway End, Bouchall, and Clatterbatch. There may be a few names listed, that some of the younger folk will not recognise, having been left off a lot of modern maps. The whole place, in the 19th century, was a mineral rich place for the many industries which sprang up, and the reason some had started in the first place. There would for instance, have been no tradition of Glass Making, without the deposits of fine fire clay. Clearly marked on the old maps, are the sites of a great many old mine shafts, some long gone and worked out , even in the 1880s. It must have resembled a bit of a nightmare scene, large holes and white spoil heaps next to the Brickworks, intersected by tracks to the Coal pits, with more spoil heaps, this time black, and countless little pools of water to ensnare the unwary. The Parish Church of Saint Marys, in Kingswinford, had a mine almost under the graveyard wall. Several mining disasters occured in this large area as well, although the steady drip of single accidents produced a far higher total. Amongst all this, there were still some working farms, Ketly Farm, and not far away, Bromley House Farm. In isolated pockets, several smallholdings clung on to a precarious living, as did the Ambelcote Hall Farm , which stood near the end of Vicarage Road, roughly where today, there is a little traffic island. There were only two mines listed as still working in the 1950s, Gayfield Colliery, in Turners Lane, and the old No.12 Colliery, at the end of Amblecote Road, near the juction of Stamford Road. It has of course all changed now, the mounds of earth have been leveled off, and houses now cover the eradicated scars. It has still left a few little mysteries though. On the 29th August,1860, Daniel Morris, 13 years old and employed as a ' Dirt Carrier ' by Samuel Bradley, at his pit in Brockmoor. There was an ominous creaking noise, then a crack, and then the roof fell in, and poor Daniels lights went out. Not much of a mystery there you would think, but it's the name of the pit thats had me searching, it was called The Cricket Field Colliery, and I can't find out just where it was located. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

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June 6, 2012 at 10:40 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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In a topic elsewhere on the site, I may have mentioned " Mud City ", aka Lye Waste. The mud of course was actually Clay, a glutenous, sticky substance, the life-blood of the many Fire Brick Works that sprang up all around the place, and the substance the Glass Works couldn't do without. Ruffords, Timmis, Fisher, Mobberly and Perry, King Brothers, Hickmans, Harper and Moores, and many smaller concerns, battled for the resources of this tiny area. Most of the early mines, sunk originally for coal, consisted of just a handfull of grimy workers. All over the district there were holes and depressions in the ground, which must have reasembled the future battlefield of the Somme. Most of the coal was poor quality, only suitable for household use, but underneath, lay the precious clay. There was one thing however, that was never going to make the owners any money, water. Millions of gallons of the stuff, which, if not pumped out every day, made the mine impossible to work. Most of the larger concerns, had mines with three shafts, one of which contained a permanent pump, which of course was a constant drain on the finances. Ruffords, which pumped a vast amount of water just to keep it's own mines in operation, asked the other owners to contribute towards the pumping costs, and, showing a ruthless streak of indifference, they refused. Fighting a losing battle, the company laid plans to extract, and stockpile, as much raw material as they could. Around 1919, they ceased all pumping operations in these pits, and within a few months, the water table began to rise. At first, the other owners simply pumped out more water, others made plans. Timmis, who took a chance, purchased the " The Witley Colliery and Brickyard ", which was already struggling with water problems, the rest carried on. Then came the Miners strike of 1920/21. Not only was there no coal or clay mined, some of the drainage mines stopped as well. Garrot and Fellows, at the disused " Old Hawne Colliery, had been pumping water for some time. but without any income, shut the place down. The owners now approached Ruffords, and offered to pay up if they would begin pumping again, and surprise, surprise, Ruffords refused point blank. So at the end of the strike, faced with further crippling losses, most of the mines closed down. By 1923, New Hawne, Witley, Manor Colliery, and the other lower valley mines had all ceased working. Many more followed, including Hayes, The Dingle, and Cradley Park, leaving a great many out of work. There was of course, a great deal of unmined clay, but to sink new mines, with so many uncharted old ones would have been suicide, so the area was subjected to a new idea; Open cast Mining. It left many large holes, which although unsightly at the time, came in handy later on for tipping the areas rubbish in.  In 1950, the area could only boast of mining at three collieries, Coombes Wood, Oldnall, and Beech Tree, and in 1958, the last one, Beech Tree Colliery, finally closed. Looking at the area today, you wouldn't think so much industrial activity had taken place. It's no longer a waste land though, it's got some nice housing, and unlike many other places, it's still got a Railway Station.

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September 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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I have mentioned previously, that according to the records, there seemed to be a marked reluctance to supply and fit adequate supports. This is starkly illustrated by one company who operated several mines in the area. J, Timmis, who, during the period between 1845 and 1870, owned various Pits, including Standhills Colliery, Corbyns Hall Colliery, and Tiled House Colliery. There were a great many accidents in their pits, but one stands out that was truely tragic. Robert Gwilt, who had arrived in the area from Dawley, Shropshire, worked for the company at their Tiled House Colliery, just up the road from his house in Bromley Lane. He had been married twice, and fathered 18 children, although some had died very young. In 1861, he was listed as a Furnaceman, and both his daughters, Hannah and Isabella, and his son Thomas worked with him in the mine. Now it wasn't unusual for men to do several jobs in a mine, and Robert, through long experience, was no exception. On the 27 May, he was setting props, helped by his 12 year old son Thomas, when the roof came down. The problem with some of these mines was that the coal seams were quite thin, and although the coal wasn't the main item sought after, that being clay, and this meant that the roof on the roadways was composed of rock and shale. This required more timber supports than a normal mine, and hence lead to the owners taking a few short cuts. Thomas was buried, before his fathers horrifed eyes, under several tons of rubble, and was dead before they could get him out. The mine accident report, puts his age at 14, but that was just a cover up, for he had been born on 25 September, 1848, which puts him at his death, just 12 years and 8 months old. His father, Robert, isn't entirely blameless either, for he well knew the dangers, and in 1850, had no qualms about using as his helper, his then 9 year old son, John. Five years later, on 15 February,1866, at the same mine, Samual Geary, 24, and William Lunn, aged 13, were killed in a similar accident. The cause, at the inquest, was quoted as not using enough supports for the roof. It would seem, that lessons had not been learnt by the owners, and a few months later, a shaft sinker, Thomas Turner, aged 64, was killed when he fell down the shaft after the rope came off the horse driven Gin. Safety was not, apparently, very high on Timmins list.

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February 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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In reponse to a recent question, no, there don't appear to be any records of who worked in the Collieries. There is a chance, that hidden away in some long forgotten papers of a big company, like Mobberly and Perry, there is a payroll list which names those involved in mining. It won't be a very long list, for by 1899 there were only four collieries still working around Lye and Amblecote. Mobberly and Perry were working both the Upper and lower Collieries at Hayes. The entire workforce consisted of just 20 men, of which only 14 worked underground. By this time, both pits were only producing Fireclay, the thin seam of coal having been worked out. In Lye itself, only Hickman and Company were still producing coal from the clayfields at the Lye Colliery, and compared with previous years, had a reduced workforce of just 28 miners. They also employed another 15, men, women, and boys from the town, to sort and seperate the two minerals. The largest Colliery in the area, in the oddly named Clatterbatch, at Hungary Hill, also produced clay and coal. Owned by Messers Ruffords, it employed 79 miners, with 23 on the surface. Most of  the coal went to firing the Kilns of their brickyards, although as mentioned elsewhere, it was of very low quality, and more suited for domestic use. The last one is in Amblecote, the old Hill Field Colliery of Timmis Brothers. It had been working clay and coal from at least the 1850s, and was fairly typical of most of the area's mines in that the workforce rarely exceeded 20 miners, with about half that number working in the yard, sorting and transporting the material. The area looked vastly different back in the 1950s and 60s. Old and disused building dotted the landscape, there were large area's of waste land and abandoned factory sites, especially around the Hayes, and between Lye and Stourbridge. You could see then, that the place had been heavily industrialised, and in some places it still was. My Brother-in-Law bought a new house in the 1960s, just off Pedmore Road, on the land that once belonged to Wollescote Hall. I couldn't help but comment, that you wouldn't have thought so much could have been dug up, and nearly all traces of the activity, vanish so quickly.

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April 4, 2013 at 11:26 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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My thanks to member Alan Price for the information that the Cricket Field Colliery was on the same site as the Brickworks of the same name in Brockmoor. Situated between High Street and Moor Lane, with the Railway Line on one side, and the Canal on the other, the pits winding gear, reported by Alan, was still in place in 1972, and he suggests, quite correctly, that what remained, was dismantled, and can now be seen at the Black Country Living Museum. The mine itself was closed and abandoned about 1877, as it wasn't recorded in an 1880 list. Thanks Alan, the information is much appreciated.

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April 22, 2013 at 3:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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During some research on the subject, the name of a Colliery I hadn't come across before cropped up. Thorns Road, connects the Township of Lye, with Quarry Bank and Merry Hill, and runs through an area rich in Clay deposits. Near to where today is Stevens Park, stood at least two brickworks, and a pit, Tintam Abbey Colliery.



It's a strange name to find in the area, for there is no mention of an Abbey of that name in the locality. Ernest Stevens, who donated the land for the Park, lived in a house on the site for many years, it being called "Tintern House ", presumably after the famous Abbey of that name. The mine and brickyards owners, E.J., and J. Pearson, always said the mine and works got the name locally, but I suspect it may have been made up to sound impressive, but not to be confused with Mr Stevens home. Tintern House was incorporated into the Park at a later date. Now if anyone can throw a bit more light on the subject, I would be grateful, for I can't find out much of the history of either the Brickworks, or the Colliery.






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April 19, 2014 at 1:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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In response to a question from a website reader with an interest in the mining history of Lye, heres what came up from some rather scant records.


I have mentioned the area called Clatterbach before, and Coal and Clay have been mined on both sides of the Stourbridge Road since at least 1800. Hungary Hill seems to have been the main area, the only early named mine being Moor Collery, ( roughly where Bank Close is today )  which is listed as early as 1828. There was another Colliery just the other side of Grange Lane, ( where today is Stevens Park ) although this not named. Where Saint Marks Road is today, in the 1840s, there was a large Clay pit, which supplied the material for Ruffords Refractories. The coal of course fuelled the brick kilns. The unamed pit I mentioned, maybe the Round Hill Colliery, which was certainly in production in the 1850s. There is a death recorded for this mine, one George Merchant, who had the mis-fortune to stumble, and then fall down the deep mine shaft in February,1854. This was a fairly common occurence at the time, safety being a rather low priority. This is demonstrated well, by a death at Hungary Hill on 29th April,1869. John Brooks, the mines Chartermaster, ( he worked the mine and supplied the labour, under a licence from Ruffords ) for some reason, accidently managed to walk directly into the shaft opening. You would have thought, given that it was his workplace, he would have known exactly where it was. Both Round Hill and the Moor seem to have disappeared around the 1860s, for the only one listed beyound that date is Hungary Hill. The workforce rarely topped 60 men, and there were several deaths in the years it operated. William Cresswell, 57, was badly injured in a roof fall in June 1888, dying three days later, Samuel Gibbons, 27, died in similar circumstances in September,1894, and William Lycett, 45, was killed instantly under a heavy fall of rock, in August,1897. Exposions of gas were quite rare this side of Lye, the coal seam was a thin one, and the mines were not so extensive as others. They were also quite wet. The biggest danger at Hungary Hill, was from some of the older, and abandoned workings. In 1910, George Hart, aged 24, was expanding a roadway, putting in extra props as he went, when he broke through into a void left from previous workings. The sudden loss of support, bought the entire roof down, crushing the poor soul to death. It took all day to dig his mangled body out. Now I;m not certain as to the date that the complex at Hungary Hill closed down, but as it isn't listed beyond the 1920s, I assume this would be fairly close. The clay pit though, seems to have lasted a bit longer, before being filled in, leveled, and housing built on the site. You wouldn't know today, that there were any Collieries in the area, would you.

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April 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Corbyns Hall Colliery, which I have mentioned before, wasn't just a single pit, for it comprised several. Matthew and Bond, in 1856, operated one of them, The Daisy Hill Pit, on the same site. Many of the miners working in this Pit, came from other places, like Isaiah Humpries,59, who had arrived from Broseley, Shropshire, and Benjamin Martin, 30, who also came from Shropshire. Another miner, 16 year old Zachariah Bromley, had been born in Llangenny, Monmouthshire, but would end his life, buried in Brierley Hill Church Yard, on the 10th February,1856. He had been killed by a fall of coal in the mine on the 4th, a fall which had almost put paid to Ben Martin as well. By a strange twist of fate, all three of them lived in Moor Lane, Brierley Hill, in adjoining cottages.


Continuing the theme of our travelling miners, just down the road a pace, at the quirkily named Hob and Nob Colliery, owned by Perrins and Harrison, another accident ocurred. Not a roof fall, or an explosion this time, but the parting of a wire rope. William Abley, 35, was on the way to the surface in a skip when it parted, and never got to see Kingston, Herefordshire, again.He died on the 23rd April, 1856, another mangled corpse to add to the list. ( no exact location given, does anyone else know )  Five months later, and the district suffered another loss. John Breakwell, aged 41, born it's believed in Shropshire, was the Chartermaster, ( Butty ) of the Rectory Colliery, belonging to Hall Pearson and Company. He, along with one of his hired miners, was clearing the gateroad of a small fall of coal, when they were hit with a much bigger fall. Neither man survived this accident on the 18th September, 1856, although I haven't as yet found the name of the second man. It's not always the local men, who gave their lives working in such dangerous conditions. Mining was not the steady employment that many think it was, and some travelled great distances to find work to feed their families. It didn't always work out as they had planned it.

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August 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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