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Forum Home > Halesowen and Hasbury History. > Halesowen Collieries, Witley and Hawne.

Alaska.
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Witley Colliery, Halesowen.


Around the area, the the biggest difficulty faced by any Mine Owner, was the water, millions of gallons of the stuff. Almost every mine, whether Coal of Fireclay, had to pump out before the start of a shift. No one knew this better than Fishers, who had many mines supplying the ever increasing demands of the brick and glass trade. In the late 1860s, they settled on a area almost at the bottom of Drews Holloway, assured by the engineers, that they would find either Coal, Clay, or both. Now you can't just dig a shaft and start extracting minerals, it requires some thought. The projected mine at Witley, needed not two, but three shafts, the third for pumping the water that would certainly be found. The main shaft was to be 12 feet in diameter, so work began sinking it. In the end, this shaft was a little over 750 feet deep, which would have taken a least 2 years. It had to be brick lined as well, which would have taken another couple of years to complete. The same process was required for the other shafts, although these would only be a diameter of 8 feet. It's unclear at what stage the mine produced anything at all, but  there is a clue.


On the 21st July,1877, James Smith, 55, an experienced sinker and shot firer, set a charge at the bottom of the shaft. His workmate and helper, William Haywood, put a plank across the top of the " Bowk ", ( an oversize bucket with a rounded bottom ) so they could quickly be pulled to the surface. Smith put a match to the charge, and they both jumped on the plank and signalled for the ascent to begin. Unfortunately, the bowk, acting like a playground swing, swung across the shaft, and the plank, acting like a spring, swung it back again. The two clung on desperately but about 30 feet up, losing their grip, they both fell. It's not known if they were injured in the fall, but then again it was hardly going to make much difference, as the charge went off as soon as they hit the ground, blowing them both into small pieces. This must have happened in the main shaft, as the bowk would not have had the room to swing in a smaller shaft. So no mining then in 1877. Three years later, on 27th August,1880. another shaft sinker, Edward Harding, 37, was working at the bottom of a shaft, when a cotter pin, which was suppose to secure the beam to a pumping engine, worked lose and fell down the shaft. He was killed instantly when it struck him on the head. This must have been the third shaft that Fishers constructed, as it was the 8 foot pumping shaft, the other 8 footer was meant for emergencies and would have been sunk before this one. So no mining in 1880 either, which may put production of coal and clay at about 1882. There was another fatality of the non mining sort again on 26th July,1884, when young William Dew, 15, was assisting the bricklayers at the top of a shaft. Apperently, they were working so hard and fast, that not one of them noticed when he fell 250 yards down the shaft. It was only when the miners bought up his broken and torn body, that they missed him. It could be assumed, that coal was being mined at this stage, 1884/85. From a brief company report, it was said that water was having to be pumped from the mine for an hour before each shift began. By other standards, it was a  fairly safe mine to work in, the first death from mining did not occur until 1887, when David Parish, 46, a pikeman, failed to put in some extra supports when pulling down the coal. William Clews, 25, in 1891, suffered a similar end when he was taking out supports, and got a bit too near the coal face. Fred Hinton, 19, was run over by a couple of loaded tubs while attempting to repair the trackway in 1892. The man who pushed them was sacked. In 1894, John Hill, 29, was helping a mate carry his tools after the shift finished, when he slipped on the track rails, and the point of a pike penetrated his heart. By 1896, the mine had possibly reached the peak of production, with 190 men employed underground, and 71 on the surface. ( some of these would have been employed at the Brickyard, which was on the same site ) Water again began to be a problem, not helped when following a strike in 1913, and again in 1915, pumping was stopped at the drainage mines as the other Mine Owners wouldn't foot the bill. in 1920, foreseeing further problems, Fisher's sold the mine to Timmis Brothers, who struggled on until the next strike in 1921. With no one to operate the pumps, and no money to pay other mines to pump, Timmis called it quits, and the place shut down in early 1923. In the 1950s, before they built all the houses and leveled the ground, there was, on the top of the bank, a big iron grating. This covered one of the 8 foot shafts, and in company with my uncle, who lived in Witley, we used to drop stones down it, and then count how long it took to hit the water. It was an awful long way down.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 4, 2012 at 4:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Halesowen, Coombes Wood, New Hawne, Manor Lane,


Now I've read somewhere recently, that in Halesowen, in 1919, there were 130 coal mines in operation. I don't know where that figure came from, but I would suggest it may be a bit of an exageration. I doubt, from the records, that there were that many still operating in whole of the Blackcountry. It's beyond dispute, that mining had been going on, in and around Halesowen, since at least 1281, and a mining lease was granted in 1307, for the area then known as La Combes. It's on record, that in 1607, Thomas and John Lowe, were summoned by one Muriel Lyttleton, for digging holes in her fields near Coombes Wood, searching for coal. In his extensive history of Worcestershire, in 1781, Nash records there were several collieries in this area of the town, but goes on to say that they didn't make any money. The coal here was fairly close to the surface, but elsewhere around Halesowen, it lay under over 700 feet of rock and shale. Old Hawne Colliery, was, at this depth, just about profitable when it opened in 1837, and surprisingly, lasted until 1897, at which point, it was turned into a drainage pit, in an effort to keep water levels down at those still in operation. The New Hawne Colliery opened in 1862, and was one of the last to close this side of Halesowen, in 1921. Test boring to the south of the Town, at what became the Manor Colliery, revealed a 3 foot seam at 900 feet, but another effort at Wassel Grove, down to 1,200 feet, found nothing but rock. The Manor opened in 1866, having the advantage of the Canal close by, but pickings must have been thin, as it closed in 1898. The site is opposite the " Black Horse " on Manor Lane. Coombes Wood Colliery, alias the Golden Orchard, opened in 1909, and closed for good in 1954, not from flooding this time, it had simply become uneconomical. At it's peak, in 1917, there were over 200 men employed at the Colliery. There was another mine in operation in 1915, quite close to the Golden Orchard, and called Coombes Works, but alas, this failed as well, and was closed in 1918. It's hard to imagine today, that within 30 minutes walk of Halesowen Town centre, there were 4 working Collieries.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 29, 2013 at 3:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Halesowen Collieries. Mining History.


I have been asked to include some of the history of other Halesowen Collieries, so here is a brief outline. Old Hawne Colliery, on the boundry between Halesowen and Old Hill, was sink by Matthews and Company, prior to 1836, on behalf of the land owner, Matthias Attwood. It may have been as early as 1800, for there are several mentions of a working mine, when joining land was offered up for sale in the mid 1820s. The Attwoods founded The Corngreaves Iron Works, and already had a colliery on the site, supplying it with coal. As it grew, they needed more fuel, hence the second mine close by. After Matthias died,  the Iron Works and Colliery were sold by the family for £600,000, to the New British Iron Company, but the Hawne Colliery remained in the family. There were several deaths reported over the years, the first recorded one being the death of two men and a 10 year old boy following an explosion and fire in 1841.  Joseph Benson, a 15 year old dirt carrier, who was crushed and suffocated, in a fall of coal, on 1st June,1858. By the 1860s, Matthews, Mathias Attwoods son-in law,  had aquired a partner, and the mine became a joint venture between Matthews and Bagnall. At some stage,( date not recorded ) the pit was aquired by Shelah Garratt, a mine owner and coal master from nearby Old Hill.  A famous local name was the next death at the pit, Edward Mobberley, a 26 year old Pikeman, who again, was buried under a fall of coal. In 1862, the pit Deputy, Benjamin Glaze, while inspecting the coal face for faults, he missed one, although it didn't miss him, and he was crushed under the resulting fall of coal. Local youngster George Bayliss, believed to be 17, a Horse Driver, was crushed beneath the loaded tubs when he slipped and fell. It was proving to be far too difficult to mine economicaly, and production was shut down in 1862, except for pumping out the water.  The Pit was then sold, for £150,000, to the Hawn Colliery Company, through an agent, who hyped up the prospects of the mine, and landed the new owners with a few problems.It was then purchased by the New British Iron Company, who pumped out all the water and pumped in several thousand pounds. It was a wise move at the time. Garratt meanwhile, with a little risk, took a chance, and purchased about 40 acres of land, just west of the Old Hawne, near to Hawne Farm. The mine, named New Hawne Colliery, was sunk in 1862, and was in operation around 1863, as the death, on 3rd April,1867, of 61 year old Enoch Beckett, sadly proves. Interestingly, his death was criticised by the Coroner, as he was declared to be to old for the job he was doing at the time.



This involved looking after the rope that operated the lifting gear, by keeping it well lubricated with clay, to keep out the water. It needed someone more nimble than a 61 year old. By 1890s, The New British Iron Company were in severe financial difficulties and the ownership passed to Shelah Garrott and Company. At this stage, the mine was employing 158 underground staff, 71 surface workers, and producing almost 700 tons of coal a week. On closure, in 1897, the Old Hawne was purchased by the Witley Colliery Company, and continued to pump water, which allowed both mines to carry on working. New Hawne, which stayed in the family when Shelah died, had a number of other deaths between 1911 and 1914. As I have said before, it only takes one careless moment in mining, and it will almost certainly prove to be the last. William Price, aged 57, was an experienced miner, his job being a Pikeman. During his shift on 23rd May,1911, he and a fellow miner encountered an overhang, while enlarging the airway leading to the coal face. The seam being worked, was between three inches and a foot thick, and the overhang was not attached, so it seemed, to the main seam. While inspecting it to see what supports were required, the whole lot, weighing about 5 tons, came dowm, burying William Price, and slightly injuring his mate. They should have pulled it down of course, but as that would have required them to also shift the debris, they choose the more dangerous option. William Price was quite dead when he was extricated. The deaths also included one of the oldest I have come across, 72 year old Benjamin Taylor, on 8th June,1911. To be fair though, his job was as a " Trammer ", working on the surface, pushing loaded and empty tubs between the shaft and the sorting sheds. Still working at the coal face though, was 68 year old James Tomlinson, and he died on 19th September 1912, when the roof came down as he was extracting coal. The strike, in 1921, put paid to the mining, both here, and at Witley, as the owners refused to pay for the pumping operation that would have kept the water level down. I have a list of at least 14 others who died, so if you had a relative who died at the New Hawne, do let me know, and I will see if there are any more details listed. There is a seperate topic for Coombes Wood, which can be found in the " Coal Mining, a Dangerous Job " section.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 20, 2013 at 2:59 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

The picture below, c1905, illustrates just how much spoil was removed from below ground to extract the Coal. Treated by the locals of Halesowen and Hawne as a  " a Mountain ", it was the waste heap of The New Hawne Colliery. You can see, even from a short distance away, the resemblance to a lofty Welsh peak. The lady in the photograph, is very smartly dressed, in the attire you would associate with an elderly nanny. Closer inspection reveals, that leaning against the expensive pram, are two  " hoops " , with which the two two young girls have been playing. Presumably, there is a third child in the pram. The picture must have been taken at a holiday time, for there is no smoke from the chimney of the Bellevale Tube Works, which is partly obscured by it being lower down the slope. The bridge is the one built by the Attwoods, over the River Stour, which made access to their home at Corngreaves Hall much easier from Halesowen. The road branching to the left hand side of the grass triangle, leads to the Hall, the group standing in Corngreaves Road. The slight gap in the vegetation on the right, marks the old ford that used to be the only crossing.



Concidering that the scene was set in the middle of an industrial site, ( Bellevale spade and shovel works out of shot to the right ) it's looks to be quite a rural setting, even having the obligatory horse manure in the road. It's amazing what you can find in an old photo.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 25, 2013 at 10:47 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now some time ago, I was asked if I had a photograph of the New Hawne Colliery, and I couldn't find it. Not surprising really, as I had listed the mine in Cradley Heath. My apologises to the gentleman concerned, and although it is in my Mining Album, I will post it here, together with a bit more information.



                                                                                                                                                                       

The man in the straw boater, standing on the left of the picture, is the mines owner, Job Garratt. He was the son of Shelah and Harriet Garratt, all of whom had been born in Dudley. His father had owned at least three mines previously, and at the date of the photograph, 1900, was enjoying his retirement. Standing on his right, next to the horse, wearing a flat cap and watchchain, is another man born in Dudley, John Chapman, the mines manager. John was born in 1858, his father being a miner, and he had studied,and worked hard, to gain the certificates required for such a responsible post. He, and his wife Agnes, had lived in Wrights Lane, Old Hill, prior to the picture, having 5 children alive at the time, 3 having died very young. In the background, you can make out a mine building, and beyond that, a row of cottages that were known as Hawne Dale, at the junction with Hawne Lane and Hayseech Road. ( Hawne Farm is just out of sight beyond the buildings ) Thats where John lived, until a few years later, when they moved to a more up-market house in Haden Hill. There are 33 men and boys in the picture, ( yes, I have counted the one perched on the winding gear ) and if anyone can put forward a few names of those known to be working at the pit in 1901, I would be grateful. Someone may be lucky enough to have also found a photograph of a long dead relative.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Any Colliers Strike, deeply affected the families of the miners, some of whom were on starvation rations, even before the strike began. The Strike of 1912. was perticulary severe, for there were many who refused to take part, producing a small army of " Black Legs ", and instead of settling quickly, the owners were given the chance to simply carry on. Across the region, just a few days into the strike, people began to lose their lives from digging coal, not from underground working, but on the surface. Miners, out of work, opened holes all over the district, and finding surface coal, began to sell or use it to keep warm. Unable of course to afford any safety equipment, and constantly under threat of arrest, corners were cut. Two men were killed just outside Wednesbury, another two in Bilston, and several women and children were killed by landslides. The last mentioned here, were all buried alive on some of the spoil heaps of the local Colliery, otherwise known as " Pit Banks ". The method was simple, dig into the bank sieving the slack as they went, and hoping the roof of the hole wouldn't collapse. Frequently it did. Some of the children who died, helping their parents and possibly thinking it was game, were as young as 6.



The Photograph included, illustrates the rather haphazard way small lumps of coal were extracted, and the many and varied people who dug for it. It was thought, that this picture was of New Hawne Colliery, but an inspection reveals that the pit bank here was much higher than the one shown. There are, according to a reliable source, at least 4 people in the picture, who resided at Coombes Wood Cottages, a short distance from the northern side of the spoil heap, which, even in the early 1950s, looks the same as in the picture. One thing not in doubt, is the fact that it was taken in Halesowen, in 1912.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 24, 2014 at 3:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

It's possibly true to say, that most folk assume, that all this coal mining was done to supply the population with fuel for their fires. Not so, for there were, and still are, many different types of coal. That mined in the area of the two pits in this topic, was unsuitable for open fire burning, and indeed, the mines were never intended to supply the public. The New Hawne Colliery, which had a double track narrow guage mineral railway, or tramway as it was called, fed it's extracted coal to the The New British Iron Works, in nearby Cradley Heath.  ( The Old Hawne had done the same, but due to the type of ground between the two, had constructed a line that ran the other way. Heading towards Halesowen through Furnace Coppice, it then crossed the now Dudley Road, went under the GWR railway, and ended at the Canal wharfe of Hawne Basin, near to the Brickworks.) The New Hawne line crossed the River Stour just to the east of Bellevale Tube works, crossed over Corngreaves Road, and ended up in a series of sidings together with the line from Timbertree Colliery.  All the earlier lines had been constructed as inclined planes, the empty wagons being returned by horse power. With little Steam engines availiable, in the later years, this practice ceased, which enabled longer lines to other collieries to be built, the Engines belonging,  to what was later to become The Corngeaves Iron Works. The longest stretch of line belonged to the Witley Colliery Company, which produced both coal, as well as it's main function, the mining of Fire Clay, and this line was single track. It was constucted in the mid 1890s, following the downfall of The New British Iron Works.  It went under the Stourbridge Road, over Bellevale on a bridge, and crossed the bottom of Colman Hill at Shelton, then following the sweeping curves of the Stour and over New Road, ( now Overend Road ) it finished in the sidings of the Iron Works. It should be noted, that both the mineral railways at New Hawne and Timbertree, when first opened, had an endless rope and chain system. The old bridge foundations of the Witley line can still be seen at Bellevale, and the line of the other tracks can still be observed, if you look closely enough.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 13, 2014 at 3:56 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now some time ago, I was asked for any information I had about someones realative. I don't do individual searches, it's not that type of website, but recently I did stumble across the name I was given. The man was a Coal Miner, he worked underground at the New Hawne Colliery, and as you will see, he had other interests in his life.


Charles Coley, was born in Hasbury, Halesowen, in 1856, and this story covers the period he was living at 59, Springhill, Hasbury. Early in 1915, down the mine owned by Messers Garratt 's Ltd, he misjudged an action that he had been doing for years, and fell several feet into the water filled sump at the bottom of the up-shaft. His job was to load, and unload, the tubs off or onto the cage. If it hadn't been  for the prompt actions of George Tomlinson, the story would have ended here, for Charles Coley couldn't swim, and the sump was very deep. Later on, Coal miners, with the War in full swing, decided to strike for more pay, and better conditions. Coley did not join in, but his name was submitted as not turning up for work. The summons was later withdrawn. Shortly after, in June, he was busy loading full tubs, when it would appear his clothing was caught in the cage gear, and he was dragged a distance up the shaft. As before, he fell into the still deep and water filled sump, only this time, he was followed by a fully loaded tub. James Guest, another miner, saw him fall, and rushed to his aid, but couldn't move the loaded tub. Joined by two others, Greenwood and Parkes, they managed to extract Coley, who at this stage, was still alive. By the time he arrived on the surface, all signs of life had ceased, the heroic efforts of three men having been all in vain. And now his other interests. Charles Coley was a Councillor on the Hasbury Parish Council. He had political interests as well, being a member of Halesowen Liberal Club, and was a regular attender at his local Church, being also a member of the Free Church Council. Not then, your normal everyday Coal miner. He would have been sadly missed by all those who knew him, and a big loss to his family.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 28, 2014 at 4:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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