Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Mining History. > Old Hill Collieries.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

This part of the Black Country, had at least one mine working prior to the arrival of the Canals. Between Wrights Lane, and Powke Lane, was situated the small colliery called The Lion. It must have been started around 1780, or even before, as coal was being supplied to local furnaces by horse and cart. When the Canal came, and with a small wharfe, the mine expanded, aquiring a second, and then a third shaft. Competition picked up as well, for in the early 1800s, an enterprising brickyard owner, Benjamin Blow Collis, opened his own mine near to the present Station Road, Old Hill. The place of course didn't have a name then, but as the spoil heap from the pit grew, the locals called it " Sleck Hillock ". ( Sleck, or slack, being a local name for coal fragments and dust ) Production of this " Black Gold " began to increase, and other mines, not all that safe I should add, began to sprout up all over the area. Up the hill in the future Blackheath, no less than 24 pits were sunk, leaving the area looking very much like a battlefield. The old Farm at Bearsmore, rapidly vanished forever under the onslaught of Bearmore Colliery, followed by a second mine in the 1860s, New Bearmore. The Lion Colliery meanwhile, had become so well known, that a road and a pub were named after it. It became so big, that it's massive spoil heap almost overflowed into the gardens of the houses in Cherry Orchard. To make matters worse, a huge marlhole threatened to engulf the same houses from the other side, and for a time, the houses on Halesowen Road. Then there came The Black Waggon, The Fly, Old Hill Colliery, ( Owned by Hingey's ) The Bell Farm, ( owned by the notorius Badger Borothers ) The Eagle, ( Owned variously by S.B. Ensell, William Mills, and George Higgs ) Waterfall Lane and The Gawn, ( William Mills and Son ) and the attention of the areas then biggest employer, The New British Iron Company. From the 1830s, until about 1897, this company had opened 27 mines, all in a small area around their works. They did of course own Bearmore, the Black Waggon, The Fly and Codsall Park collieries, and the Timbertree.


The inhabitants mostly worked in these mines, and in the 1850s, in the pleasent surrounding of Haden Hill, the Barr Family open another. The little place was now almost surround with huge pit mounds, the biggest yet to come, which the locals called " Barrs Bonk ( Bank ). Old Hill began to resemble a very hilly area, as this was matched by the mount from Riddins Colliery. The population of Old Hill increased dramatically during this period, drawing in miners from Wales and the North East. Some of them never got the chance to enjoy what they earned. In 1866, Thomas Wiltshaw, aged 12, a colliery boy at the Black Waggon, had his head shattered when a large piece of rock fell. Over at the Haden No1, in 1861, Mr A.H. Barrs had another youngster killed, Oliver Lowe, again aged 12, this one being a Horse Driver, and who died in a roof fall. As time passed, so the production of coal fell away, leaving the Barrs, and their successors, Bassano and Company, ( same family, different name by marriage )  became the major players. When they opened up their Haden No.2, they didn't dump the waste on the old mound of No.1, they built a mineral railway, and dumped it all in nearby Hayseech. This left the one place in Old Hill, largely unaffected by the mining, Beauty Bank, now enclosed by the spoil heaps of the Waterfall Lane Colliery of William Mills, Barrs Bank, and now Haden No.2. It would all end in the 1920s, as mother nature had her way, and the mines all flooded. Haden Hill No.2 , was to see the march of progress first though, the first electric coal cutting machine in the area. This came at a price though. On the 3rd May,1912, Jabez Hurst, 46, an experienced engineer, was coming to the end of his shift. He had, the day before, signed off as damaged, the power cable for this machine which carried 500 volts of three phase electricity. In a hurry, and not bothering to connect up the seperate earth cable, he was attaching the steel winding rope to the props, when it became live. He was killed on the spot. He was one of the last to die in the mines of Old Hill, and through the years, there had been many widows made from the exploitation of the areas riches. Mind you, there were some who were destined never to marry, like Enoch Smith aged 21.  In 1871, working as a pikeman at Haden Hill, he fixed his candle to a handy barrel, and, sadly for him, it was open and contained blasting powder.

--

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

March 29, 2013 at 5:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In response to several questions, as to when some of these mines stopped working, here is a short list. Noah Hingley and Company, didn't only make chains and anchors, the firm was involved in many mines. The last of these were The Blue Bell Colliery, which was abandoned in 1910 as uneconomical, Gawn No.1 and 1.5, for the same reasons in 1910, and Garratts Lane Colliery, which ceased production 1901. The original Old Hill Colliery had been closed in the 1880s. There was only one Colliery, in Old Hill itself, still working in 1918, The Granville and Gorsty Hill Colliery of FD and L Sacker, employing 111 workers.

--

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

April 13, 2013 at 3:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

And a bit more up to date information on the Old Lion Colliery, at Totnall Bridge. The site must have been producing Coal before the canal arrived in 1795, for there were a couple of furnaces in the area requiring fuel. The expensive work needed to sink two shafts, had to have come from the Attwood Family, to feed the ever growing demand for both Coal and Ironstone for their works at Corngreaves. In the 1820s, they sold all their assests on this site to the newly formed welsh company, British Iron Company.  The Lion Colliery was certainly in their hands in 1830, and would remain so, dispite going bust, and having to reform, in 1844, as the New British Iron Company, until 1897, when the mine was taken on by the Mines Drainage Commission. Almost next door came another Ironworks, The Lion Tube Works, and to slake the thirst of the many workers, a beer house opened up in a row of nearby cottages, The Lion Inn. The pit had an uneasy start, for in 1796, before the Canal was completed in 1802, James Hill, a coal hewer, was killed in a heavy fall of coal and rock. There aren't many recorded deaths in the old Lion, either they were lucky, or the British Iron Company were excellent and safe managers. On the same site, two more shafts were later sunk, and named appropiately the New Lion. In 1854, the Mine had what became it's worst year for deaths. On the 4th May, Jonah Smith, age unknown, was suffocated and crushed under a fall of coal. Twenty three days later, and George Cole, believed to be from Sedgley, was killed in a similar accident. Thomas Danks, aged 20, whose father kept a Public House in Knowle, Rowley, met his doom on 10th August,1854, in identical circumstances to the other two. It would be another 16 years before there was another reported fatal accident, which should have been avoidable. Robert Phipps, aged 12, and looking after one of the ventilation doors, was suffocated by Carbolic Acid Gas, despite the presense in the pit of safety lamps, which should have warned the pit fireman of the danger. Upsettingly was the date, 1st January,1870, no new year celebrations then for the Phipps family. The mine became unmanagable, even for pumping water, and was finally closed, and then abandoned in 1900. One of the first in the area then, and almost certainly in Coal and Ironstone prodution, the longest lived.

--

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

August 1, 2013 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It's a very pleasant walk, along the Canal from the bottom of Powke Lane, to the old ruins of the pumping station at Warrens Hall Nature Reserve. You can hear the birds sing, and watch the butterflys at play during the summer, but it wasn't always this peaceful. There was a coal mine on this site, in fact two over time, sitting right at the bottom of Cawny Bank, Rowley Regis. It had many problems did Warrens Hall Colliery, it suffered greatly from the ingress of water from the surrounding hills, and the coal seam that was worked, was a bit unpredictable. In March,1903, John Northall, a 46 year old married man, and a loader at the coal face, was concentrating on his work when there came a sharp crack. His mates ran for shelter as part of the roof came down, fortunately only trapping Northall by his lower limbs. His mates came back to free him, but were forced to go back when another loud crack was heard. John Northall must have known what his fate was going be, as he gazed upward, and then over 10 tons of coal and rock descended on his trapped body. It wasn't often, that  a miner looked death in the face, and escaped. Three years later, in June 1906, James Rowe, 31, and Henry Parkes, 29,were hewing coal, George Browning, and William Bate, 55, were doing the loading, when the unstable conditions in the pit struck again. Henry Parkes, who lived at 117, Waterfall Lane, was thrown clear by the force of the fall, but very badly injured. He died in Hospital two days later, and was buried on the same day as the other three. There was of course, another reason why this Colliery was dangerous, although thus far, the only verdicts returned were all accidently deaths. It was the number 2 pit on the site, and for over 5 years, it had been on fire. You may ask yourselves, how can a pit be on fire and still be worked. The answer is that the fire raging in the old workings, had been sealed off by building a dam, consisting of sand, and a brickwall. Despite the pumping in of much water, it continued to burn, weakening the structure of the surrounding coal and rock. It was this effect, which caused the deaths of three more men in June,1907. Once again, there was a massive collapse of coal and rock, and this time no one escaped. Heber Parkes, 41, Edward Roberts, 43, both local men, and Samuel Timmins, 60, a hewer of great experience, from Number I, The Barracks, Stafford Street Dudley, were eventually dug out, two days later. Next time you walk across what is left of the mine's spoil heap, at the bottom of Cawny Bank, spare a thought, for those who died just trying to earn a wage, and put a few crusts on the table.


Not far away, on the slopes of the same hill, was the Yew Tree Colliery. It was owned and operated by Messers Cochrane and Company, and suffered from the same defects as Warrens Hall. After a jolly Christmas in 1901, the men went back to work, and a few days into the new year, disaster struck. Joseph Stinger, 33, from Elbow Street, Old Hill, and newly married Clifford Priest, 23, from Darby Street, Blackheath, were working beneath a huge overhang, with the aim of dropping the coal above. Josephs brother, William, who was the loader, was asked to fetch another pick, and duly set off back down the roadway. He hadn't gone more than three paces when the coal, over 12 tons of it, came crashing down, crushing to death the two men under it. William had had a very lucky escape, a fact eluded to at the memorial service, held at the Methodist New Connexion Chapel, where young Clifford Priest had been married a few months before. The early years of the new century had started off quite badly for the miners of Rowley Regis, and it could have been so much worse.


At the Lye Cross Colliery, on Turners hill, just before Christmas,1902, a fire broke out, and raged like a tornado through the mine. The Pit employed 130 men, and as luck would have it, there were only a few men underground when it broke out. They soon escaped, but there was nothing they could do, to rescue the 11 horses in the underground stables. The damaged caused, led to the Pit being closed for 8 weeks, putting all the 130 out of work, and their families to come close to starving. Thanks to the Vicar of Rowley, and the Villagers, further tragedy was averted, as a collection saved the day. It was a tough old job down the mines of this Country, it still is, thank god those days around our region have long gone.

--

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

February 24, 2014 at 3:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.