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Forum Home > Mining History. > Mining Terms.

Site Owner
Posts: 1413

There are more details listed in the pages at the top. Just click on Coalmasters and a great many names have been included, which, over time, will be expanded. More information is available on the Mines and Owners page. The records, as I have said before, are a bit scant, but if you can't find what you are looking for, click the contact button, and I will see what I can do.


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

March 5, 2012 at 10:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 1413

A few old Mining Terms, that may help with reading Census documents, has been requested. So here are a few you may come across.

Deputy. The man responsible for setting in place Timber props, building and maintaining the wooden tracks on which the waggons ran, maintaining the ventilation gates, and the general safety of the miners and the mine itself.

Doggy. The man who actually erected and put in place the timber props, and also the one who removed them, which was of course, rather dangerous.

Hewer. The name for the men who actually dug out all the coal. In a good mine, about 6 tons per shift, for which he was paid between 6 and 8 shillings a day. The highest paid men in the Pit.

Pikeman. The job involved bringing down the coal the Hewer had undermined, with the aid of a metal spike on a long pole.

Dirt Carrier or Shifter. Responsible for carting away the slack and other debris from the coal face, and loading it into tubs, where it was sent to the surface.

Banksman, or Bankswoman. Fetching the loaded tubs of coal from the pit shaft to the sorting shed. Emptying the waste on the pits bank, and taking back the empty tubs. Blackcountry mines only employed women above ground. ( Only after 1832 )

Hooker or Onsetter. This job involved hooking the tubs on and off the chain or rope, at the bottom of the mines shaft. Many youngsters were thus employed at a rate of about 1 shilling and 6 pence a day.

Putter. The term used for young boys, and sometimes girls, who pushed or pulled the loaded tubs along the tracks in places where Horses were far to big to go.

Gate-Boy. or Trapper. Opening and closing the gates to maintain a correct flow of air to circulate in order to ventilate deadly gases.

Lamp-keeper. Employed to trim and fill the common oil lamps, and also to be in charge of the mines Davy Safety Lamps. He also counted out the ration of Candles, to each man, at the start of each shift.

Pick Carrier. Usually a small boy, who gathered up the worn Picks and took them to be sharpened or repaired. The Hewers paid a penny per week for this service, the boy getting about 1 shillig and 3 pence a week.

Overman. A position just below the mines engineer, who had charge of everything underground including the mining records, and testing for gas at the start of each shift. A large pit would have two Overmen per shift.

Gin. A device powered by a horse going round in circles to wind up and down the coal tubs and the men. Only found later in the small mines.

Keeker. A term found in very early records and refers to a man whose job was to oversee the Hewers to make sure no coal was wasted or left behind.

Sump. A discription of a space below the cage level in the shaft and in which drainage water collected. It was taken to the surface in special tanks.

Staple. A shaft sunk in the mine to allow water to drain away, and was also used for bodily functions by the miners.( 12 hour shifts remember )

Gob-Fire. The spontaneous combustion of hot air in an empty space, usually where all the usable coal had been abstracted. Fires of this nature were fairly common in the South Staffordshire Mines,

Sinker. The men who actually sank the shafts down to the coal levels, and any other shafts reqiured in the mine itself. A very skilled job.

Engine Driver. The man who operated the winding engine, and who took his directions from the head Banksman.

Driver. Usually a reference to a Horsedriver, who would be anywhere between 12 and 21 years old, male or female.

Bondsman. A miner who had agreed to a term of employment, at a fixed rate, for a period of one year or more.

Furnaceman. A man who tended to the fire kept burning at the bottom of a mine shaft. The hot air, which rose up the upshaft, created a current of air through the mine, via a second shaft, called the downcast.

Engine Man. Not to be confused with the Driver. This job entailed the mines other stationary engines used for hauling tubs up to the pit bank using an endless rope, or the pumping out of water.

Shot Firer. The man who drilled the holes and packed in the explosive charge, and then, when all was cleared, set off the charge.

Fireman. His job was to ensure that no spontanious fires were burning, and to check that no gas was present before, during, and at the end of each shift.

Loader. He stood behind the Hewers, and loaded the tubs as the coal was taken from the stalls. ( coal face )

Bowk,Skip, or Bucket.  A large container, or bucket like device, used to bring caol to the surface, and take men down the shaft before safety cages became compulsory.

Upcast Shaft. So called because this was the shaft where coal was sent up, and the place where men and horses were lowered. It formed the first part of the ventilation system.

Downcast Shaft. The second part of the ventilation system, and where equipment and materials were sent down. It was normally the shaft that also pumped water from the workings.

Inbye. The name given to the roadway that led in towards the coal face or workings.

Outbye. Opposite of the above.

Butty. A miner with a lot of experience, who recruited other miners into a work gang, recieved the money from the mine owner for work done, and distrubuted it among the crew. In smaller Mines, he would have supplied all the workforce.

Greaser. Employed above ground to lubricate the wheels of the tubs as they went to and from the pit shaft. Usually a young boy or an older woman.

Record or Time Keeper. Employed underground in a small hut or dugout in the roadway, His job was to record the men actually working in the mine, count the loaded tubs, and record how many candles each man requested from the Candle box.


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

April 20, 2012 at 4:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 1413

 The word Dam, usually brings to mind, a structure designed to hold back a flow of water. When used in mining, it refers to a wall designed to seal off a section of old mine workings, no longer required. The building of a Dam prevented the inflow of any water into the mine, or stopped the flow of air, which prevented any lethal gas getting into the new coal face. All fine and well in most mining operations, but in the midland coal fields, there was a tendency to skip a bit on cost, and instead of a solid brick wall, they simply used a pile of sand, propped up with a few boards. This system was better than nothing, but it had the same effect at stopping any gas, as a colander will have when bailing out a large sinking boat. Sand, has a naturally habit of settling down, absorbing water and air, and, as you would expect, collapsing when dry. This led to many explosions, suffocations, and loss of life in the Black Country, before the practise was banned in the late 1880s, and any would be mine Manager had to have a certificate of competence. Not before time either.


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

August 23, 2013 at 3:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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