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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There's no doubt, that for any given Parish in the region, Wednesbury would come top of the league for the amount of Coal Mines. Recorded in the Parish records, are deaths in these mines from 1752, and mining had been going on for at least a 100 years before. These were simple pits,  dug to resemble the shape of a bell, with a short shaft at the top, and spreading outwards in a circle until the weight of the earth above collapsed it. The skill was not in getting the coal, but in getting out before the roof fell in. Many didn't make it, and as life was cheap, and it was expensive to recover the bodies, many may be still there. The area would have resembled a First World War Battlefield, water filled pits, almost overlapping each other, and would later become a great problem for miners. No one it seems, actually kept a record, or any maps, showing just where they were.


One of the early listed mine owners was Philip Williams, who may have not yet grasped the fact that the coal he was after gave off large quantities of gas. In 1828, Thomas Grice, a shaft sinker, was blown to bits in one of Williams mines, possibly at Wednesbury Oak, by a violent explosion of gas. Many other Collieries sprang up around the mine, which became known as Wednesbury Old, some owned by Williams, but others were already in on the act and the money.  Wednesbury Park, owned by the local firm of Lloyd and Fosters, started in the late 1850s had a tragedy before it got into full production. Two sinkers, working on the brickwork at the bottom of the shaft, were killed when a careless banksmen let a full load of bricks in a skip, plummet down the shaft. Daniel Houghton, 39, and Benjamin Nicholls, 42, never had the chance to get away. From the early 1850s, Colleries mushroomed, as can be seen from this list.


Brunswick Colliery, 1850, owned by The Patent Shaft and Axletree Company.

Parlour Piece Colliery, 1851, owned by Joseph Spittle.

Wednesbury New Field Colliery, 1851, owned by Botteley and Tyldesley.

Wednesbury Oldfield Colliery, 1852, owned by Joseph S Naylor.

Kings Hill Colliery, 1853, owned by John Newell and Son.

Waterloo Colliery, 1854, owned by James Bailey.

Broadwater Colliery, 1854, owned by Joseph Bagnall.

Moorlands Colliery, 1854, owned by Joseph Bagnall and Sons.

Old Park Colliery, 1855, owned by Lloyd and Foster. It was at this pit that Joseph Clark, aged 11, was killed while operating the winding gear known as a Gin. He fell down the shaft.

Willingsworth Colliery, 1857, owned by Joseph and Henry Haines.

Riddings Lane Colliery, 1857, owned by Horton and Company.

Albert Colliery, 1858, owned by James Cape.

Wood New Mine, 1858, owned by Horton and Whitehouse.

Wood Old Field Colliery, 1858, owned by John Naylor.

Mesty Croft Colliery, 1859, owned by Williams and Hammond. It was this mine, that produced the worst accident recorded in the Wednesbury coalfield. Four miners were killed on the spot, when an explosion of gas occured where they were hewing at the coal face.


The large majority of these pits, being family run in many case's, were operated by as few as 5 men, the others by a workforce of about 50. There were several deaths in the years following, caused by running into the old mines as I mentioned previously, the problem mainly being water. Cave in's were a regular feature of life underground but one stands out. Enoch Hill, a 14 year old loader, was leaning over, spreading out the load in his tub, when a large chunk of Ironstone fell from the roof. Wednesbury Park, ( Lloyd and Foster )  only produced this material, and it almost de-capitated poor Enoch. A great many of the Collieries closed due to economics, others simple ran out of coal, and by the turn of the century. the area was in serious decline. Coal Hall Colliery, which was owned by David Read, stood abandoned, as did the mine owned by Smith,Round, and Ramsall, the Hollow Meadow Colliery. Two others were classed as " Standing ", i.e, not currently working, Far Close and Monway Collieries. This left just a handful still working, only one of which could be clased as a major employer.


Millfield Colliery, owned by the Patent Shaft and Axletree. 114 miners, and 76 topside.

Blakeley Wood Colliery, Thomas Price and Son. 38 miners, and 26 on the surface.

Forge Pool Colliery Company, with 21 miners, and 5 above ground.

Old Park Colliery, owned by Hobbs Hole Company, 16 miners, and 5 topside.

Old Park No2, owned by James and John Hunt, 13 miners, and 4 on the surface.

Hobbs Hole Colliery, ( as Old Park ) 12 miners, and 5 above ground.

Kings Hill Colliery, Fullford and Cotterill. 6 miners and 2 surface workers.

Wednesbury Old Park, Bradshaw and Bailey, 3 miners, 2 on the surface.

Far Close No2, Hodgets and Nock, with 2 miners, and just one sorting the coal.


I believe Millfield was the last to close in the 1920s, bringing an end to large scale coal production after over 250 years. Every now and then, so I am informed, the existance of the past industry of the area shows itself, when a hole opens up, or the odd building begins to lean a little. Apart from that, it's a pleasant enough place to live today, a nice shade of green replacing the rather bleak and black of the past.



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

March 27, 2013 at 4:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Boundry changes over the years, make it difficult at times to decide which area to allocate a mine to. The Wednesbury company of Joseph Bagnall, operated Collieries in both Wednsbury, and West Bromwich, so when it comes to accidents, the pit could be listed in either place. This one, for example, Hateley Heath Colliery, should come under West Bromwich, but for an accident later than this one, 1841, it was listed as Wednesbury.


In July, 1841, the new shaft of this Colliery was nearing completion. The three experienced sinkers, Thomas Gibbons, 65, Thomas Ward, 46, and Richard Knight, also 46, were busy at the bottom, laying bricks to finish lining the shaft.  They were working on a scaffold platform, about 10 feet from the base of the shaft, and about 100 feet from the surface. One of the pits Banksmen, James Lewis, 40, had been detailed to supply the men with bricks, which he loaded into an big iron bucket called a " Bowke ". The Engine driver would then lower them down the shaft. The track on which the Bowke was pushed to the shaft was about 28 feet long, and as was the case with some small mines, no thought had been given to attaching a safety device in case the truck overan the shaft. Maybe James Lewis was tired, or he had overload the bowke, for he managed to push the loaded bricks straight down the shaft, bowke and all. He of course, followed the load over the edge. This was seen by another miner, John Holden, who rushed to the shaft, anf found Lewis had luckily caught his foot in the timber work around the shaft. With great presense of mind, he grabbed Lewis by his leather belt, and hauled him back out of the shaft. Realising that the men below would require assistance, he raised the alarm and went down with the rescue party. There was nothing they could do, for it doesn't take long for a ton of bricks to fall a hundred feet. With no warning, and indeed, nowhere to escape to, the three men had suffered some horrendous injuries, and were all dead in the crumpled remains of the platform. At the Inquest, the medical opinion was that between the three dead miners, there was scarcely a bone that hadn't been broken. The verdict of accidently death was inevitable, for it was rare indeed for an owner or manager to be blamed for any wrong doing. James Lewis, back in his Black Lake home, was a very lucky man, twice over it seems, and from the records, never went back to work at a pit again. You could say the same about the three dead men, all of whom left families behind, to fend for themselves as best they could.

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

March 31, 2014 at 11:38 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It was mentioned in a previous post, that flooding was a problem for new mines in Wednesbury, due to the unmapped old ones. This wasn't the only problem. Due to the composition of the surface coal in the area, which stretched as far as Bilston, it wasn't unusual for spontanious fires to break out. Hence the area known as Firey Holes. Now you may think that pouring a load of water on these underground fires would solve the problem: it won't, it merely makes the problem worse, for the water raises the temperature of the coal, and it all starts again. Many have lost their lives through falling down these holes as they opened up, or been burnt to death when fire broke through mine workings. To cut off the supply of fuel, it was ordered that a ditch was dug, across the coal seam, and then filled with sand. This became the standard way of dealing with the fires in both towns, for the seams were very close to the surface. Thankfully, apart from a few spasmodic outbreaks, it's no longer a problem in the United Kingdom. ( This may also be down to having very few Coal mines still operating ) Around the World, things are a bit different. The Powder River Basin, ( Wyoming/Montana, USA ) was formed from burning coal over a period of 3 million years. In Australia, they have a Burning Mountain, a coal fire which started 6,000 years ago. Germany also has it's own burning Mountain, which began in 1668 and is still going strong. Centrilia Mine, Pennsylvania, USA, had a fire start in 1962, and which again, is still burning. ( I believe they made a film about it ) China has many underground fires, mostly unreported, of which Baijigou is believed to be the oldest, and started in 1812. Temperatures in an underground Coal fire, can at times, exceed over 1,000 Degrees. You would need a awfully long fork to toast a piece of bread on that one.

--

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

October 2, 2014 at 3:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Pedro
Member
Posts: 25

Alaska. at October 2, 2014 at 3:57 PM

It was mentioned in a previous post, that flooding was a problem for new mines in Wednesbury, due to the unmapped old ones. This wasn't the only problem. Due to the composition of the surface coal in the area, which stretched as far as Bilston, it wasn't unusual for spontanious fires to break out. Hence the area known as Firey Holes. Now you may think that pouring a load of water on these underground fires would solve the problem: it won't, it merely makes the problem worse, for the water raises the temperature of the coal, and it all starts again. Many have lost their lives through falling down these holes as they opened up, or been burnt to death when fire broke through mine workings. To cut off the supply of fuel, it was ordered that a ditch was dug, across the coal seam, and then filled with sand. This became the standard way of dealing with the fires in both towns, for the seams were very close to the surface. Thankfully, apart from a few spasmodic outbreaks, it's no longer a problem in the United Kingdom. ( This may also be down to having very few Coal mines still operating ) Around the World, things are a bit different. The Powder River Basin, ( Wyoming/Montana, USA ) was formed from burning coal over a period of 3 million years. In Australia, they have a Burning Mountain, a coal fire which started 6,000 years ago. Germany also has it's own burning Mountain, which began in 1668 and is still going strong. Centrilia Mine, Pennsylvania, USA, had a fire start in 1962, and which again, is still burning. ( I believe they made a film about it ) China has many underground fires, mostly unreported, of which Baijigou is believed to be the oldest, and started in 1812. Temperatures in an underground Coal fire, can at times, exceed over 1,000 Degrees. You would need a awfully long fork to toast a piece of bread on that one.

There is an article concerning the Fiery Holes on the "Up the Oss Road Blog" that can be seen here with a few pictures. In the comments I have queried a point about the Staffs thick coal.

 

All the best Pedro

 

https://uptheossroad.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/the-fiery-holes/

 

 

November 12, 2015 at 5:42 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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