Shropshire History

Shrewsbury

Coalfield

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Shrewsbury

Coalfield

S Shropshire

Orefield

 

 

The Shrewsbury Coalfield is situated to the south and south west of Shrewsbury itself and is small by national standards. Being conveniently situated to serve the domestic market of Shrewsbury, it is likely that mining has been carried out here for many centuries. It was also important in the 18th and 19th centuries to the adjacent lead mining area to the south, to which it supplied fuel for smelting. In the 19th century, there were nine reasonably sized collieries and many smaller ones. By 1921, these had all closed except for Hanwood Colliery which continued for a few years more until its closure in 1941.

 

One of the earliest references to coal mining in the Shrewsbury area was in 1727 in the will of Ann Gibbons of St Martins, who left all her Asterley coal pits, lands, gins, engines, tools and implements to her two sons Charles and Francis. Asterley appears to have been worked for coal for a considerable time and there are various pits in the area, mostly lying on the eastern side of Asterley village. Present day remains, however, only consist of spoil tips since all shafts have been infilled over the years. The depths of the workings must vary, some are very shallow and there are reports of local farmers breaking into workings whilst digging land drains. About one mile north of Asterley there are more coal workings in Westbury Wood. Again, these appear to be very old with no remains apart from small tips and numerous depressions that may be subsidence caused by poorly-filled shafts or collapsed underground tunnels. 

 

One mile south east of Asterley is Malehurst Colliery which may be the site where, in 1775, there is mention of a "fire engine" being erected. If so, this seems to be the first recorded steam pumping engine in this area. In 1778, Scott & Jeffries took out a 50 year lease on land belonging to the Boycott Estate north of Pontesbury and this included the Malehurst Colliery and other mines. They purchased a 27" pumping engine from Boulton & Watt although the exact location of this engine is not known. Local place names give some clues to possible sites, eg names such as Old Engine and Big Engine appear on large scale OS maps. An engine is also shown here on Baugh's map of 1808. Coal from Malehurst Colliery was sent to Pontesbury to be used in John Lawrence's smelt house and, when the colliery closed in 1795, Lawrence ensured continuing supplies by opening his own collieries nearby. 

 

The nearby Pontesford Colliery was acquired by Probert, Lloyd, Jones & Co and in 1793 they installed a 33" engine for pumping. The engine house appears to have been built of wood and, although this would have been cheaper than stone, it would have increased the fire risk considerably. The engine is recorded as having consumed 2,715 tons of coal in the period July 1808 to July 1811. This is an average of 21/2 tons per day but at least the colliery could produce the coal on site at no additional cost. From details of the pumps, it appears that the shaft was 225ft deep at that time. In 1831, John Lawrence ordered a new engine for the colliery and this was carried from Shrewsbury by a team of horses belonging to the Snailbeach Lead Mine Company. In the same year Messrs How, agents for Lord Tankerville, refused to allow the mine manager to break his contract and leave until the new engine had been installed. Another stone engine house (see Figure 11) was built about 1847, supervised by the engineer from Snailbeach Lead Mine. It is not known, however, whether this was to contain the original 33" engine or another purchased at a later date. 

 

By the mid-19th century, the rich Snailbeach Lead Mine Company had taken a major interest in the colliery, presumably to ensure coal supplies for their engine houses and smelting activities. A second-hand engine with a 20" diameter cylinder was purchased in 1859 for pumping and winding and the shaft at this time was 360ft deep. In 1862, the Snailbeach Mine daywork book records that the mine mechanic, Vincent Hughes, went to the colliery to take down the engine. This job took 12 days and it was taken to Snailbeach Mine where it was re-conditioned. This probably signified that the colliery had closed since the workings would flood rapidly without the engine. It is believed that, after Pontesford Colliery had closed, Snailbeach Lead Mine acquired its coal from the neighbouring Nags Head Colliery. 

 

A few miles north west was Westbury Colliery and this appears to have been a reasonably sized undertaking for this area. In 1859, a lease was obtained by Thomas Davis and John Thomas from Edward Smythe-Owen of Condover Hall. This was for all pieces of land, engine houses, buildings and erections totalling 131/2 acres. In addition, some other cottages, coal mines and 598 acres of land. The lease was to run for 14 years at an annual rent of £50 for the land and cottages, plus royalties on the coal. The fact that there were existing engine houses on the site indicates that the colliery had been in existence for some time before.  The partnership hit problems and John Thomas went bankrupt in September 1862. Following a visit by HM Inspector of Mines in October 1862, three summons were issued to Thomas Davis. The first was for failing to produce a plan of the workings, the second for not having an adequate brake attached to the steam engine used for winding men in the shaft and the third for not having a proper depth indicator on the steam winding engine. Smythe-Owen seems to have been concerned at the efficiency of the mine (since this would affect his royalty!) and in November 1862 he instructed his attorney to try and get his lands back. With all these problems, the partnership decided to cease business and arranged for a valuation of equipment in February of 1863 which came to £366.14.6d. Included in the list were the following :- 

 

£115. 0.0 - Steam engine with 301/2" diameter cylinders, air pumps and condenser, iron beam with 6ft stroke, 2 air pump buckets with turned rods, 12ft balloon boiler, 16ft flywheel with spear rod, winding apparatus with large

double crank, strong frame and holding down pins

£50. 0.0 - 12HP beam steam engine with winding apparatus gearing and boiler  £5. 5.0 166 yards of best two link chain  £2.10.0 60 yards of red deal pumping rods  £19. 0.0 30 yards of 14" pumps with clack door piece and working barrel  £3.10.0 Gin and strong frame  £2. 0.0 Pit frame with two large pulleys and roller posts 

 

To the north of Westbury, old workings occur in the area around Coedway and Crewgreen. Remains here can be seen in many different locations but there are only spoil mounds and collapsed shafts. No remains of masonry structures can be seen and it is likely that these were small concerns with only wooden surface buildings. A few years ago a brick lined shaft of one of these opened up in a farmer's field near Halfway House, close to the A458. This was filled and made safe by British Coal. 

 

Further east, Arscott Colliery was operated by a Mr Smallshaw and appears to have closed around 1920 when the lease expired, the men transferring to Hanwood Colliery. The closure caused a great deal of concern to the neighbouring Cruckmeole Colliery which experienced increased water inflow after pumping stopped at Arscott.  Hanwood Colliery was started in the 1870s and, although originally a small independant venture, it eventually became the biggest in the coalfield. In 1921, the Hanwood & Moat Hall Collieries (Salop) Ltd was formed and this was managed by Nicholas Fielden. The company acquired the old Hanwood, Moat Hall, Cruckmeole and Arscott Collieries and combined them together to work under the name of Hanwood Colliery. At its peak, the colliery employed about 300 men drawn from Hanwood, Westbury, Pontesbury, Hookagate and Annscroft. It was a major employer and its closure in 1941 was a serious blow to the communities.  During the 19th century, eight shafts had been sunk on the Moat Hall and Hanwood sections and these varied in depth from 75-450ft. The deepest workings were in the "Half-Yard Seam" which provided a quick lighting and free burning coal. This was much in demand locally and in Central Wales as far out as the coast. Hanwood coal was very widely known in this area and it was even sent down to South Wales at one point. One advantage of Hanwood was that the coal was free from gas and this allowed the use of naked flames underground.  One of the first innovations of the new company was to erect an electricity generating station on the surface at Cruckmeole. This allowed the introduction of electric pumps, fans, lighting and underground haulage, the latter being very important in view of the steep slope of the workings. Even so, three pit ponies were retained underground for haulage duties and they were perhaps unique in that they were brought back up in the cage each night instead of being stabled at the pit bottom. Electricity was also used to operate the screens which were at Cruckmeole. These sorted the coal into four grades which were large coal, nuts, steam peas and dust. The latter was not commercially viable but it was used as a cheap fuel for the company's own boilers, also sited at Cruckmeole. 

 

Annscroft Pit, Arscott (SJ44930716)

Coal

The shaft is collapsed.

 

Arscott Colliery, Arscott (SJ444081)

Coal

Arscott Colliery was operated by a Mr Smallshaw and appears to have closed around 1920 when the lease expired, the men transferring to Hanwood Colliery.  In 1921, the Hanwood & Moat Hall Collieries (Salop) Ltd was formed and this was managed by Nicholas Fielden.  The company acquired the old Hanwood, Moat Hall, Cruckmeole and Arscott Collieries and combined them together to work under the name of Hanwood Colliery. The closure caused a great deal of concern to the neighbouring Cruckmeole Colliery which experienced increased water inflow after pumping stopped at Arscott. 

 

SJ43500810

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43530400

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43620821

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43630856

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43710809

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43780806

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43890800

Shaft (collapsed)

                                                             

Asterley Pit, Asterley (SJ376071)

Coal

One of the earliest references to coal mining in the Shrewsbury area was in 1727 in the will of Ann Gibbons of St Martins, who left all her Asterley coal pits, lands, gins, engines, tools and implements to her two sons Charles and Francis.  Asterley appears to have been worked for coal for a considerable time and there are various pits in the area, mostly lying on the eastern side of Asterley village.  It had closed by 1896. Present day remains, however, only consist of spoil tips since all shafts have been infilled over the years.  The depths of the workings must vary, some are very shallow and there are reports of local farmers breaking into workings whilst digging land drains. 

 

SJ37480741

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ37530746

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ37550750

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ37600725

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ37900715

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Bacon Pit, Asterley (SJ3707)

Coal

 

Bayston Hill Pit, Bayston Hill (SJ4709)

Coal

 

Belle Vue Pit, Shrewsbury (SJ48701177)

Coal

The shaft is collapsed.

 

Bentley Ford Pit, Frodesley (SO508994)

Coal

 

Black Lion Pit, Wrentnall (SJ433038)

Coal

 

Boycott Pit, Farley (SJ382076)

See Farley Colliery

 

Braggington Pit, Braggington (SJ33001395)

Coal

The shaft is collapsed.

 

Bretchell Pit, Halfway House (SJ342119)

Coal

The shaft is filled.

 

Brick Kiln Pit, Asterley (SJ3707)

Coal

 

Bye Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

                                                             

Castle Place Pit, Longden Common (SJ44330435)

Coal

In 1946, the mine was owned by the Castle Place Co Ltd with 60 employees.

 

SJ44330435

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ44400432

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ44490429

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ44780419

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Churton Pit, Church Pulverbatch (SJ4303)

Coal

 

Coedway Pits, Coedway (SJ339151)

Coal

Old workings occur in the area around Coedway, leaving spoil mounds and collapsed shafts.  No remains of masonry structures can be seen and it is likely that these were small concerns with only wooden surface buildings.  A few years ago a brick lined shaft of one of these opened up in a farmer's field near Halfway House, close to the A458.  This was filled and made safe by British Coal.

 

Corner Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

 

Crew Green Pits, Crew Green (SJ3215)

Coal

Old workings occur in the area around Crew Green, leaving spoil mounds and collapsed shafts.  No remains of masonry structures can be seen and it is likely that these were small concerns with only wooden surface buildings. 

 

Cross Meadow Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

                                                             

Cruckmeole Colliery, Hanwood (SJ42840859)

Coal

When Arscott Colliery closed around 1920, Cruckmeole Colliery experienced increased water inflow after pumping stopped there and this caused it to close as well.  In 1921, the Hanwood & Moat Hall Collieries (Salop) Ltd was formed and this was managed by Nicholas Fielden.  The company acquired the old Hanwood, Moat Hall, Cruckmeole and Arscott Collieries and combined them together to work under the name of Hanwood Colliery. An electricity generating station was built on the surface to serve Hanwood Colliery. Electricity was used to operate Hanwood’s screens, which were also erected on site.  These sorted the coal into four grades which were large coal, nuts, steam peas and dust.  The latter was not commercially viable but it was used as a cheap fuel for the company's own boilers, also sited at Cruckmeole.

 

SJ42840859

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ42950922

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Cwm Pit, Bicton (SJ4414)

Coal

                                                             

Farley Pit, Farley (SJ38240768)

Coal  (aka Boycott)

The shaft is collapsed.

 

Frodesley Pit, Frodesley (SJ50610192)

Coal

 

SJ50610192

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ50680196

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ50730202

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Gibbet Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

 

Glebe Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

                                                             

Hanwood Colliery, Hanwood (SJ43570933)

Coal

 

Heighway’s Pit, Pontesford (SJ4005)

Coal

 

Holly Grove Pit, Church Pulverbatch (SJ4403)

Coal

 

Hook-a-Gate Pit, Hook-a-Gate (SJ468089)

Coal

The shaft is collapsed.

 

Jack’s Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

 

Keeper’s Cottage Pit, Westbury (SJ3608)

Coal

                                                             

Leebotwood Colliery, Leebotwood (SO48109995)

Coal

 

SO48109995

Shaft (filled)

SO48139724

Shaft (filled)

 

Little Halston Pit, Pontesford (SJ4107)

Coal

 

Longnor Colliery, Longnor (SJ4800)

Coal

 

Lythwood Pit, Lythbank (SJ46420799)

Coal

 

SJ463083

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ46420799

Shaft (collapsed)

                                                             

Malehurst Colliery, Malehurst (SJ38300622)

Coal

Malehurst Colliery was one of several mines working in the mid-18th century on part of what was later called the Shrewsbury Coalfield.  This coalfield later supplied the neighbouring metalliferous mines with cheap fuel for the pumping engines and smelting, thus avoiding the big fuel and transport costs faced by mines elsewhere in the country.  In 1775, there is mention of a "fire engine" in the area which could have been an improved Newcomen engine of the Heslop type.  This seems to be the first recorded steam pumping engine on a Shropshire mine and it is possible that it was erected at this colliery. In 1778, Scott & Jeffries took out a 50 year lease on land belonging to the Boycott Estate north of Pontesbury and this included the Malehurst Colliery and other mines.  In the latter half of that year, they purchased a 27" engine from Boulton & Watt which was a larger copy of an earlier 22" engine built for Hull Waterworks.  It was used for pumping and was installed in the engine house shown at Figure 21.  Although the exact location of this engine is not known, local place names give some clues to possible sites, eg names such as Old Engine and Big Engine appear on large scale OS maps.  An engine is also shown here on Baugh's map of 1808.  Coal from Malehurst Colliery was sent to Pontesbury to be used in John Lawrence's smelt house and, when the colliery closed in 1795, Lawrence ensured continuing supplies by opening his own collieries nearby.

 

SJ38300622

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ38400626

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ38700655

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Marsh Hill Pit, Asterley (SJ37180797)

Coal

 

SJ37180797

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ37200800

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ37220800

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Moat Hall Colliery, Hanwood (SJ45080885)

Coal

During the 19th Century, 7 shafts were sunk varying in depth from 75ft to 450ft. The Monthly Illustrated of June 1875 recorded “At Moat Hall we are glad to find that Mr Shorthouse, with characteristic energy, is pushing mining enterprise beyond the old limits in the direction of Elmwood, near Shrewsbury. He is now sinking a new shaft at some distance from the old one, at which he is getting some excellent coal. Mr Shorthouse appears to be using the best appliances for the purpose and has already got down 118 yards, he expects to find coal at 152 yards. We wish him every success and trust that his efforts will only be the prelude to further operations, for there can be no doubt but that an extensive Coal Field, as yet untouched, lies hidden beneath the Red Sand-stone, which crops out, displaying a most interesting section, just above the old Coal Field, at Red Hill”. The 1902 OS map shows a short railway line linking the colliery to a coal wharf (called a landsale) in Annscroft. A horse called ‘Curley’ pulled several full tubs of coal at a time from the pit to the wharf and then returned with the empties. At about this time it was possible to collect a hundred-weight of coal for 11d which was hand-picked beautiful stuff. It would burn with immense heat and leave very little ash. There was an engine house, with a steam winding engine for raising and lowering the cage, and also a second smaller engine powered from the same boiler. This second engine was used to haul the tubs from the coalface to the pit bottom by means of a wire-hawser attached to a drum and running on jockey wheels down the shaft and along the pit roadway. The tubs collected the coal from the coalface, where the seam was said to be 3-4ft high. The coal was hacked out by pick and loaded by shovel onto dans (sledges with boards around to hold the coal in). Youths would then haul the dans by means of a harness or chain around their waist and a rope through between their legs, along the face. At the end of the face the coal would be transferred to the tubs in a widened length of roadway. It was the practice for one youth to do the above work for five miners, who were responsible for paying him. The weekly wage for the miner himself was 35 shillings, plus 5 cwt of coal for every 14 days worked. It would cost two shillings and sixpence to have the coal delivered to the miners. In the 1920s the miners wage was between 30 shillings and 2 pounds per week with 5cwt of free coal after every 12 consecutive shifts.

 

The Shorthouse family (owners of Moat Hall Colliery until 1919)

Standing Miss Smart (Mrs Shorthouse’s sister)  Mr Shorthouse

Seated  Miss Evelyn Shorthouse (daughter)  Mrs Shorthouse

 

The working were only on a small scale and Shorthouse bought out the lease in 1919 for £5000.  In 1921, the Hanwood & Moat Hall Collieries (Salop) Ltd was formed and this was managed by Nicholas Fielden. The company acquired the old Hanwood, Moat Hall, Cruckmeole and Arscott Collieries and combined them together to work under the name of Hanwood Colliery. To reduce haulage costs, a tramming level was driven underground to connect Moat Hall No 7 Pit and Hanwood and, until 1933, they worked as one unit with coal mined from Moat Hall being brought up the Hanwood shaft and trammed with most of Hanwood's coal to the screening sheds and sidings at Cruckmeole. The miners at Hanwood and Moat Hall used to get soaking wet daily from lying in water whilst working. They always wore knees out of their trousers and these were patched and patched until they were heavy and sticking out. They had to walk home like this to Pontesbury, Asterley, Minsterley and Pulverbatch and in severe cold weather they would not have walked far before their trousers froze solid. They could hardly run even if a wagon stopped to give them a lift. Local kids used to laugh at them and “they’d take a swipe at us - poor old devils”. The pit was “hard work and a poor old place”. Not all was bad however, for even the mine owner, Nick Fielden, would stop to give them a lift in his car ‘wet and dusty clothes and all’ if he passed them on their way. The wharf at Annscroft was closed in 1934 and the colliery itself in 1941.

 

Nag's Head Colliery, Pontesbury (SJ408063)

Coal

 

New Pit, Pontesford (SJ4005)

Coal

 

New Arscott Pit, Arscott (SJ436085)

Coal

                                                             

New Asterley Pit, Asterley (SJ377071)

Coal

 

New Engine Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

                                                             

New House Pit, Longden Common (SJ441040)

Coal

 

SJ43740390

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43850382

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ44150400

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Nobold Pit, Nobold (SJ47601035)

Coal

Map of 1887

 

SJ476098

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ47601035

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Old Shorthill Colliery, Hanwood (SJ428089)

See Shorthill Colliery

 

Padmore Pit, Leebotwood (SJ4700)

Coal

 

Pitchford Pit, Pitchford (SJ53230578)

Coal

The shaft is collapsed.

 

Plealey Pit, Plealey (SJ4307)

Coal

 

Pontesbury Colliery, Pontesbury (SJ39510564)

Coal

 

SJ39510564

Shaft (filled)

SJ39550580

Shaft (filled)

SJ39550597

Shaft (filled)

SJ39640589

Shaft (filled)

SJ401054

Pumping engine house (C19)

                                                             

Pontesford Colliery, Pontesbury (SJ408065)

Coal

 

Poplar Pit, Pontesford (SJ4005)

Coal

 

Rowe Farm Pit, Frodesley (SJ506019)

Coal

 

Shorthill Colliery, Hanwood (SJ42600889)

Coal  (aka Old Shorthill)

 

SJ41950758

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ42600889

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ42750838

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ42840859

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ43100838

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Stable Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

 

Stapleton Pit, Church Pulverbatch (SJ45190279)

Coal

 

SJ45190279

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ45200270

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ45210263

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ45260326

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ45320269

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Sutton Pit, Shrewsbury (SJ49231030)

Coal

Map of 1887

 

SJ49231030

Shaft (filled)

SJ49641031

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Teg Pit, Pontesford (SJ4006)

Coal

 

Uffington Pit, Uffington (SJ53231262)

Coal

 

SJ53231262

Shaft (collapsed)

SJ53301263

Shaft (collapsed)

 

Westbury Colliery, Westbury (SJ3609)

Coal

 

Whitton Pit, Westbury (SJ3509)

Coal

 

Windmill Pit, Asterley (SJ37200755)

Coal

The shaft is open.

 

Wollaston Pit, Wollaston (SJ3312)

Coal

 

Woodhall Pit, Arscott (SJ4408)

Coal

 

Further Reading

Shrewsbury Coalfield Walks