Stanley History Online
This page covers the history of Colliery’s within & nearby to Stanley, if you have any information we could use please contact us.
Early Coal Mining In Stanley
In 1311 Nicholas Bateley was brought before the manor court for digging coal underground at Stanley on Henry de Waldas land. The digging caused his soil and fences to fall in. Nicholas Bateley was ordered to pay 12d to repair the damage. There are several mentions to early mining in surviving documents, in those days it was illegal to dig coal on the Earls land. In 1605 the Dutch of Lancaster granted a licence to Richard Bannister to dig for coal, slate and stone on lands held by Balam Colvyle in the Graveship of Stanley for 21 years at 5s rent.
Thomas Hargreaves, in the late part of the 18th century, said of the collier, 'they' are loose, idle men, not much esteemed and not to be depended upon. They are only common colliers and are employed by the day or week.' A school board report of 1876/77 in this area said, the colliers are a very rough lot; inability to read or write is by no means unusual.
One of the Fenton’s, owners of Stanley Colliery said, 'On the whole their colliers were a well behaved lot finding their pleasure in the pub, the chapel, cockfighting and gaming or other innocuous pastimes.'
Frank Hodges in his write up of 'The Men and His Union' said, 'In 1799 men, women and children earned their living in the bowels of the earth. The conditions under which they worked were little short of slavery. Tiny children, too frail and tender to stand the fatigue of walking to the place of work underground, were oft times carried on the backs of their fathers or mothers, who by this means, economised the pitiful faltering energy of the infant during the long hours of work. Accidents were numerous; explosions occurred with great force and frequently.
It was no rare thing for many to be killed in one explosion, fatalities were considered to be inevitable. Previous to 1814 there were no inquests and widows had no compensation, some of the coal owners made a generous offer of making a coffin available of good stout timber for colliers killed at work. One could enlarge very much, but this gives a little background on the collier's life in Stanley during that period.
As educational facilities improved, these workers, almost slaves, produced sons and daughters who, within a few generations, became the present residents of Stanley - engineers in mining, electrical and mechanical, surveyors, magistrates, teachers, nurses, professional men and women and skilled workmen of many trades and businesses. Many Stanley villagers of today can trace their forefathers back to this period.
The agricultural worker during this period of late 18th and early 19th centuries worked in better conditions than miners, but wages were poor. They lived in poor houses and had to work the land almost by hand. The cottages in which they lived were owned by their employers and they were obliged to work for that employer for wages which he could afford to pay. If they left this employer to take another job, he was expected to leave his cottage or, failing to do so, his family were evicted.
Pope and Pearson’s West Riding Colliery
The first sod for Pope and Pearson’s was cut in 1851 and was situated at Altofts, near to the Canal about a mile from Stanley Ferry. The thriving pit attracted men from many parts of the country who brought their families with them. The first British coal dust experiments took place here during 1908 and 1909. They were conducted by W. E. Garforth, manager of the colliery and president of the Mining Association of Great Britain. The power of the destruction arising from an explosion of coal dust in the complete absence of inflammable gas is shown in the photograph below. Pieces of boiler still weighing up to 1,500 lbs were scattered over surrounding fields and the cast iron block embedded in the middle wagon was driven in by the explosion some 270 ft away. Houses were built in 1865/66 for colliers who worked for Pope and Pearson’s, known as Silkstone Row, they were reported to have been the longest row of three-storied cottages in Europe. The Colliery closed in 1966 and Silkstone Row was demolished in the 1970’s.
Ferry Lane Pit
This Pit was only worked for the short time of 25 years between 1870 and 1895 due to flooding, it was situated opposite where dunbrick is today. If you walk across the Rugby field that occupies the site today you can still see part of the spoil heap, most of the area was leveled, but there is a part still visable. Below is an article taken from the Wakefield Herald and describes the brave rescue of a worker by one of his colegues.
Article below taken from Wakefield Herald on December 20th 1880
BRAVE ACTION AT COLLIERY - Rarely do we hear of so brave a rescue of a fellow creature as that related to us by a correspondent as recently occurring at Ferry Pit, Stanley.
A tub used to draw the water out of the pit, getting detached from the chain, fell into the sump which at the time was higher than usual, being 4 feet above it, in addition to the 18 feet below it. A byework man named Briggs, about 30 years of age, attempted to seize the tub and, in doing so, fell into the water and disappeared through the hole in the boards into the depths below. He cried out as he fell, and the cry reached the ears of John Sugden, an underviewer, nearly 20 yards away. Sugden rushed to the spot and, without a moment's hesitation, plunged in and through the hole to the rescue - a most perilous undertaking. He found Briggs with his head downward, entangled amongst some wire rope and, in trying to release him, he was gripped by Briggs and held so tightly that he gave up hope of life. With a desparate effort, however, he got free and returned to the surface. After getting breath, he plunged down once more and, this time, with success. He disentangled the unfortunate man, brought him to the surface and gave him into the hands of two other men, Thomas Roberts and William Richardson. By this time he was so exhausted that he could scarcely get out of the water. Briggs was now insensible, and was moved to the lamp room and all means were tried to restore vitality but it was at least 20 minutes before he was pronounced safe.
Mr Sugden is, we understand, the son of the William Sugden who lost his life at the Oakes explosion in 1886 after rescuing several miners and whilst returning to save others. John Sugden himself had done good service in rescuing life on several previous occasions at the Lundhill Swaithe Main and Deep Drop accidents as a letter, which we had placed in our hands from John Mitchell of Swaithes Hall, testifies. We believe Mr Sugden has received a communication from the Royal Humane Society.
Moving The winding gear at Ferry Lane pit of the Victoria Coal & Coke Company
Houses in foreground are on Ferry Lane, houses in the background are those of Ward Lane
This pit had a short life of only 25 years from around 1870
Site of the Ferry Lane Pit Today
When this Pit closed in 1983 it was one of the oldest working pits in the UK. It was sunk in the 1837 by the coal kings of the time the Fentons, it was later owned by the Charlesworths.
A pump that was used at Newmarket for many years was taken from Bottomboat Colliery and was 100 years old when decommissioned in 1917. Newmarket workings ran as far as Lane Ends under Stanley and are said to be the cause of subsidence at Stanley Church. At one time 99 per cent of men who lived at Bottomboat worked at this colliery.
Seams of coal worked and methods of work at Newmarket Colliery
Top Haigh at a depth of 127 yards and 3ft 6in to 4ft thick was good low ash seam of coal. Worked Longwall by hand pick, shovel and wedge, filled into small corves. Mr Norton, the Newmarket manager, later Inspector of Mines, reported in 1842 that he had made an inspection at the Silkstone shaft in some workings, and boys and girls hurried the corves together. The next seam of coal to be worked was the Silkstone seam or Middleton Main Coal at a depth of 303 yds 4ft 6in thick, good quality low in ash and sulphur. The seam was under cut by hand pick and filled by shovel in 8cwl tubs.
In 1925 the Mavour and Coulson compressed air driven coal cutter was put to work in this seam. A workman called William Sheppard was the first collier to operate this machine. The Silkstone seam was worked until 1940. During the working of the seam the Eleven Yards had been developed, 11 yds beneath the Silkstone. The method of working this seam was, in its early days, hand cut by picks and filled by shovel on to the British Jeffry Diamond BJD Jigger compressed air driven steel conveyor. This was in 1929.
In the early 1930s the coal cutter was installed, so we had machine cut hand filled coal on to conveyors. The next stage was 1936. The coal was drilled every 6ft and broken down by explosives and hand filled on to the BJD Jigger conveyor.
In the early 1940s the belt conveyor, supplied by Sutcliffe’s Engineering, replaced the Jigger conveyor. During the same period the Beeston Seam, at a depth of 393yds, had been developed using the same methods of work. This was followed by Warren House Seam at 40 yds depth in the early part of the 1950s using the same method of work. Late in the 1950s the Flockton Thick Seam was developed and after almost 120 years of using pick and shovel for mining coal, power loading was introduced. The arduous task of getting coal by pick and shovel came to an end.
Mr Fox, Newmarket Colliery Manager
Born 28th May 1897, Herbart Howard Fox was Newmarket Colliery’s longest serving Manager taking up the position on 1st April 1926. He came from the Forest Dean coalfield firstly to Altofts to take up an appointment as Under Manager at Pope & Pearson Colliery before then moving onto Newmarket. On April 30th 1926 the miners went on strike, a strike that continued until 12th November 1926. They were eventually driven back to work by hunger after a bitter campaign, upon returning to work they would have to work longer hours for less money than before.
There was bitterness against the Government, the Colliery Owners, Management and Union officials. All this creating an extremely difficult situation for a young, newly appointed Manager who had only worked at the colliery for a month before the strike! Within a short time the workforce developed a great deal of respect for Herbert, he was keen on discipline but fair. As years went by he had a workforce of men and officials of the highest order. Newmarket, a family pit, with men who were skilled miners, had in Herbert the management skills and personality to ensure strong leadership. The foundation he set down would continue at Newmarket until its closure in September 1983.
Many future mining engineers were given encouragement and help in their training and studies by Mr Fox, and during the war years he made available accommodation at Newmarket for the home Guard, Air Raid Wardens, First Aiders and Fire Fighters as well as Air Raid Shelters.
Newmarket was also one of the first colliery’s in Yorkshire to have bathing facilities under Mr Fox.
His management t Newmarket ended on 15 March 1953, sadly he died at the age of 55, having been the Manger for 27 years. He was buried in Stanley Saint Peters Cemetery.
Closure of Newmarket Colliery
Newmarket closed in 1983 after being phased out over an 18 month period after being deemed worked out and no longer economical. The decision to close the colliery was not marked by the arguments that surrounded other local pit closures; Unions agreed after a comprehensive investigation that the best course of action was to relocate the workers. Most of the 600 men at the pit were offered work in the Selby coal fields, the majority choosing to go to Stillingfleet, these men received subsidised transport arrangements to help keep them in work. By comparison to the output at Newmarket, Stillingfleet could produce ten times as much coal per year as Newmarket with the same number of men. The colliery was sunk in 1835 and at the time of closure was the second oldest pit in the area. Towards the end of the pit life it was producing 4,000 tonnes of coal a week from the Flockton Thin and Middleton seams. The Newmarket shaft was around 300 metres deep.
Newmarket Colliery Brass Band
This village band started with its headquarters in a room above a stable at the rear of an ale house known as the Miners Arms. It was situated on the corner of Lee Moor Road. The band started as a string and bass in the year 1889. For 100 years the band has had some members in it from the Holgate family. At one time there were 14 members of the family playing various instruments in the band. Special mention must be made of Fred, a son of one of the founders. Fred started playing in the band when he was 12 years of age and was still playing after he had celebrated, with his fellow members, the band's centenary. The band played at Crystal Palace at the 30th anniversary of the Great National Band Festival on 26th September 1936.
Originally owned by the Hudson family the colliery was worked from 1878 up to 1983. In 1919 a fire destroyed most of the surface buildings, trapping men down the pit. The ventalation fan was stopped to stop fumes being carried into the workings while a rescue team was assembled. Many men were put out of work by the fire, not returning to work until the damage was repaired. Below is a report from the Wakefield Express, The John Parfitt in the story is my Great Grand Father.
Stanley Youths Death, Alleged Perjury
(Extract from Wakefield Express March 4th 1911)
Mr P. P. Maitland (coroner) was engaged for nearly three hours on Monday inquiring into the deaths of three persons, two of whom had died in hospital. The first inquiry was relative to the death of William Parfitt (18) Stanley Ferry who had died from appendicitis. Deceased had been employed at the Stanley main seam at Park Hill Colliery, and in the course of his evidence, the father had alleged that deceased had happened an accident in the pit. There was also present Mr. L. Dobson (Manager) and Dr. F. H. Wood J. P. representing the coal owners Indemnity Association. John Parfitt (father) said deceased was a filler for him at the Stanley main seam. He was a healthy and strong boy. He had worked for about four years in that pit and had worked regularly.
Deceased had filled for witness for about twelve weeks. About seven weeks ago deceased said he had lamed himself: Witness believed it was on a Friday when deceased came out of the pit. Deceased had done the middle of a shift : deceased was filling a corve at the time and had slipped. Witness was near him : deceased was emptying a shovel into a tub. The floor was on a slope : deceased fell onto his side and the shovel dropped out of his hand. Deceased remained still for quite a few minutes, and after deceased got up witness went to him. Witness asked deceased what he had done and he said he had hurt himself, complaining of a pain at the bottom of his body. Deceased stayed about half an hour in the pit, and witness advised him to go out. And deceased went out about 11am.
Witness left about 1.30 pm and before he left the pit he told the deputy (Robert Ashley Shute) of deseased's mis hap -in reply to the coroner witness said he told the deputy his son had slipped . The next day witness accompanied deceased to Clayton Hospital. Deceased was examined by a doctor and subsiquentley told witness that doctor told him he had wrenched himself. Deceased walked home and witness examined deseased's body, but did not notice any swelling. While deceased was off work he saw Dr . Evans, who gave him a plaster to put on the bottom of his body. Deceased had been at home about a fortnight when he returned to work. And for three or four weeks he worked two days a week. As deceased was getting worse Dr Slatter was sent for and he advise his removal to clayton hospital.
Robert Ashley Shute (deputy) said that on January 4th deceased left the pit about 9am. witness visited deseased's father in the ordinary course of his work about 10.30 am. Deseased's father told witness that deceased had gone out poorly with a pain on his inside.
The coroner - he had not told you the deceased had slipped when filling a tub? - witness : no - the coroner - are you quite sure? - witness: quite sure - witness went on to say he had met the under manager (Mr Barker) about 11am. Barker said "Billy Parfitt has gone out lame, do you know anything about it?" witness replied he was not lame but deseased's father had told him (witness) that deceased had gone out poorly. Witness and under manager then returned to the father and Mr Barker asked him if he knew what his lad had gone out for, and deseased's father told him the same tale he had told witness : that deceased had gone out poorly, with a pain on his inside. Mr Barker said "well there has been no accident" and Parfitt replied "not that i know of". Witness did say the deceased had reported to the office boy and the under manager that he had had an accident.
Arthur Barker (under manager Stanley main seam) said that on January 4th deceased asked him for a doctors note stating that he had hurt himself by hitting a tub. Witness said the deseased's father had told him the deceased had gone out of the pit poorly.Withness replied that the deceased had reported an accident but the father had said he had gone out poorly. Dr Norbert Resder (house surgeon) said deceased was admitted into hospital on Wednesday (February 22nd) He was operated upon the same week. Deceased was suffering from apendicitus and peritonitis. When deceased was admitted he was very bad and his case was hopeless. Deceased rallied a bit and the got worse and died on Friday (February 24th). A post mortom examination revealed signs of old peritonitis. It was quite clear the peritonitis was due to the appendicitis. Witness did not think that deseased's death was connected with injury he thought it was a natural death.
Parfitt was recalled and the Coroner after expressing his sorrow for him having lost his lad said : Are you quite sure you have been speaking the truth? - Parfitt : yes sir - if you have been speaking the truth then some one else has not - i have spoken the truth - are you sure the deputy did not come to you and tell you your son had slipped when filling a tub? - yes sir - at any rate, you are quite sure you said he had hurt himself. Yes i told him he had hurt himself - did the deputy and under manager come to you again? i don't think they did that day: it might have been the next day - what did you tell Mr Barker? - i told him (deceased) had hurt himself - Did you not say to Mr Barker your lad had gone out, and did not say one word about the injury? - no sir - and the same to the deputy? - no sir.
The Coroner in reviewing the evidence said apart from the contradictory evidence that had been given, there was a certain weight of evidence against the fathers statement as given by the deputy and under manager . It was a wrong thing for anyone to come to that court, or any other court and take the solom oath and then commit perjury. He (the coroner) did not say which persons had committed perjury but certainly there had been most gross corrupt perjury . The weight of evidence was against the father because it was two to one. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and the foreman said the jury was unanimous that the fathers evidence could not be accepted under any circumstances. On Parfitt being recalled the Coroner said : the jury have very carefully considered the evidence given in this case and they are unanimous in saying that you have committed perjury in your evidence. They don't believe you. Now that will do! Mr Maitland then told Barker and Shute that the jury were quite satisfied that they had spoken the truth.
Parkhill Pit around time of closure
Parkhill Pit sidings 1912
Locomotive passing Park Hill Pit
The sinking of Parkhill Colliery
1863 contract between Victoria Coke & Coal Company and Contractor
The shaft will be 14ft diameter within the walling; the depth of the shaft will be 320 yards or thereabouts. The Colliery Company will find all fuel for the engine and pit bank, and materials of every description excepting such as hereinafter provided for, and deliver them to the most convenient places on or near the pit bank. The Company will provide all requisite machinery, such as engines, ropes, chains, and sinking trunks, and will sharpen and keep in repair, the whole of the sinking tools, except the hack maul and shovel shafts having been put in his hands in good order. A schedule of all tools, etc put into the Contractors hands will be made, and he must be accountable for the same, which will be returned or paid for at the end of the Contract.
The Contractors must provide all powder, candles, oakum, blasting fuse, and pit flannels. The Company will find all requisite enginemen and stokers, but the Contractors must find all other labour on the surface connected with the sinking, such as banks men and men to tip the sinking dirt and level it in such situation as may be required by the Company’s Engineer. The Contractors must find all the requisite labour in the Pit and work with at least 9 men in the bottom of the shaft, when required to do so. The Contractors must provide all labour for walling the shaft with brick, well laid in mortar or cement when necessary, inclusive of the necessary banks man during the time of walling, also labourers to mix the mortar or cement, and bring all the materials to the Pit bank. The Contractors will also find labour for putting in and removing the requisite air pipes or brattice for ventilating, also to fix in two lines of water pipes, about six inches diameter, behind the brickwork where required. Foundations and walling cribs to be put in at set measures as may be required by the Company’s Engineer. The Contractors when walling shall employ one bricklayer on each shaft, the walling to be filled behind with material “stone or ashes” as directed.
Water drawing - In case water is met with, the Contractors shall draw 100 gallons per hour at their own cost, should this quantity be exceeded then Contractors must state in their tender, price per 1000 gallons. The Contractors and their workmen will be subject in every way to the general and special rules which may be established. They will also be under the control of the Company’s Engineer and resident Agent, who will have the power at anytime to discharge the said workmen as shall not properly obey orders or who shall be working in an improper or unsafe manner. Ever endeavour will be made by the Company, their Engineer and Agents, to prevent loss of time to the Contractors during the sinking, and all materials, and will be supplied as quickly as possible when needed, but the Company do not bind themselves to compensate the Contractors for any loss arising from inevitable delay, nor to provide any work for the Contractors or their workmen during any suspension of the sinking, although the preference will be given to them in case of any suitable work requiring to be executed at the time of such suspension, all the work must be carried on night and day, between 12 o’clock on Sunday night, and 12 o’clock on Saturday night in each and every week, and completed in a diligent and workman-like manner, and in every respect to the satisfaction of the Company’s Engineer, whose decision shall be final and binding in all matters of dispute that may arise between the Company and Contractors, as to the meaning of this Specification, or from any other cause.
Ten per cent upon the value of all work executed, except day work must be left in the hands of the Company, until completion of the whole of the Contract, to the satisfaction of the Engineer. The value of the work executed to be estimated monthly, and the said amount of ten per cent upon such value to be deducted, and the balance paid once a month, upon the Engineers certificate, all such deductions to be paid to the Contractors in full upon the certificate of the Engineer, after the due and satisfactory completion of the Contract, in accordance with the foregoing stipulations. Should the work not go on to the entire satisfaction of the Owners or their Engineer, the said Owners shall have power to take the said work from the Contractors, without giving any notice, and retain the ten per cent which has been deducted from the Contract price, for the non fulfilment of Contract. The Company do not bind themselves to accept the lowest of any tender.
The Contractors whose tender is accepted will be required to enter into a proper agreement in accordance with the preceding stipulations; each Tender must contain a schedule of prices for each description of work, and to be sent in the following form to the Company’s Office, Stanley, near Wakefield, not later than the 24 February.
For sinking a shaft 14 feet diameter within the walling, sufficiently large for 6 inch brickwork, and to put in any air pipes, or wood or cloth brattice, that may be required for ventilation during the time of sinking, also inclusive of putting in all water pipes when required at per lineal yard £7, 3, 6 For sinking the above shaft 14 feet diameter and sufficiently large for 9 inch brickwork and in other respects as above at per lineal yard £7, 8.0. For well walling 6 inch brickwork, well laid on mortar or cement a shaft of 14 feet diameter within such walling inclusive of putting in all requisite water cribs, foundations and walling cribs at per lineal yard ten shillings, for well walling 9 inch brickwork at per lineal yard 12 shillings. For any day work in the pit required, per day of 8 hours 4/9. For any day work for sinkers on pit bank per day of 8 hours 4/9. For any day work for labourers on the pit bank per day of 12 hours 4/6.
The 1974 Parkhill Colliery roof fall
In 1974 nine miners became trapped by a 200 ton roof fall more than 600ft down. A rescue operation was mounted after 12 yards of roof caved in about 250 yards behind the men. After clawing their way through boulders and rubble the trapped men managed to get through an 18 inch gap, where they met members of the three rescue teams that had been sent in to dig them out.
Coal Board officials were quick to say the men were at no time in danger, and that when the men emerged from the pit cage they were all in high spirits. The drama began with a sudden rush of air. There was no noise, just a sudden rush of air then the workers ears started to pop. Mr Scott, who was at the time captain of the Parkhill rescue team (who also took part in the Lofthouse rescue team the year before) walked back along the new road to see what, was happening. By the light of his safety lamp he saw a massive pile of rocks and rubble completely blocking the route to the pit bottom. “At first I was frightened that someone was underneath all that rock” he said “but the deputy and I managed to couple up the telephone lines and once we had communication with the outside we knew we were the only ones involved and that help was on its way.” Within minutes three rescue teams, one from the Wakefield mines rescue Station and two from Parkhill itself, set to work on the other side of the fall.
Estimates of the time it would take to reach the trapped men who were known to be unhurt ranged from two to six hours. One of the rescue workers commented: “It was just like coming across a huge deck of cards which had collapsed. There were dozens of massive stones all interlocked with one another.” Mr Scott added “There was no panic at all. Everyone remained calm, and as soon as we got the telephone reconnected we knew that help was on its way. It was just a matter of setting more supports to prevent further falls and then getting down to clear the fall.” Working in the light of their safety lamps, the nine trapped men tackled the blockage in teams of three. “There was some very big stones facing us but I wouldn’t like to guess how much they weighed” said Mr Scott “I just thought we might be stuck there for a while.”
Praising the men at his side and rescue teams toiling to reach them, Mr Scott added “The lads were fantastic. Everyone that worked down there was just great.” Another of the trapped men, deputy Mr John Sykes, described over a celebration pint at his local, the Woolpack Inn, Dewsbury Moor, how popping noises in the ears told miners something was wrong. “We did not hear or see the fall,” said John “but we knew from the popping – it is caused by a difference in air pressure. Two of us went back about 200 yards where we saw a solid wall in front of us. But there was no panic or fear for we could soon hear voices. We put some extra supports in then two or three of us at a time, as many as were able to get into the available room started moving the mass of boulders and earth.” He added: “We had to drive the hole almost straight upwards, and when we got out it was like going through a chimney. I have been 22 years in the pits and never been trapped before. But we had communications and ventilation, and to be frank got out earlier than we expected. Nevertheless, the beer right now tastes twice as good as normal!”
Two of the other men trapped were father and son, Ernest and Richard Fisher; they worked side by side when clawing at the rubble. Ernest said “It was a big fright at first. We were about 25 yards from the scene of the fall and I knew we were fastened in.” Richard added “Nobody panicked, we began laughing and joking and just talking to take our mind off what was happening.” For Mr Fisher Snr. It was the second time he had been trapped by a roof fall, the first time was 20 years earlier, when he was trapped for more than four hours.
Inevitably thoughts at the pit head turned to the previous year’s disaster at Lofthouse, where seven men died. Crowds of anxious relatives gathered in the pit yard but were kept away from the cage entrance by police, colliery and union officials. Waiting at the pit top were Mr Arthur Scargill, the Yorkshire Area President of the NUM, and Mr Jack Smart, the unions North Yorkshire Area agent.
Relatives at the pit head waiting for news of the trapped workers
Deep Drop Pit
Deep Drop Pit Explosion
Stanley Victoria Colliery or as it was known locally, the deep drop occupied the site that is now Stanley nature reserve, getting its nickname from being the deepest pit in the area (475 feet). It was sunk in the 1838 and had two shafts that were 11ft in diameter. The Colliery closed after the explosion on 4th March 1879 which killed 21 local people, five of which were boys. Around 50 men went down for the night shift at 9pm, and around 10pm an explosion occured caused by gas igniting.
The 19 men and boys working on the west board where the explosion happened never stood a chance. A local policeman, Mr Cooper was on Aberford Road at the time of the explosion. He is said to have heard a sound like that of a large gun being fired, he then saw a massive shower of coal and debris shoot up into the air from the shaft followed by smoke. A rescue operation took place but from the 21 missing men only one was brought out alive, he died shortly afterwards. By 1am a large crowd of wives and familys had gathered at the pit head waiting for news on their loved ones, as the bodies were identified cries of despair filled the air.
The Inquiry gave a verdit of accidental explosion caused by a naked light in the west board, and noted that there was some degree of laxity in carrying out rules in the mine. Evidence of the pit can still be seen around the nature reserve today if you spend time to look. Spa fold the now private houses at the entrance to the nature reserve were once the pit stables, after the pit closed these were converted into houses. Stanley Victoria Club, later the Grove park was used as offices for the areas several Victoria Collierys .The ponds in the nature reserve have developed from subsidence caused by mine workings. The hill alongside the wooden jetty in the nature reserve is the spoil heap from the pit, and nearby are the remains of buildings the foundations can just be seen in the undergrowth. Up to the 1980s an air shaft stood on Deep Drop farm, this was taken down and made safe. Walking around the area today it is hard to imagine the industrial activity all those years ago.
A view of the Deep Drop Pit
This is a pencil drawing from the 1840s showing the view from Hatfeild Hall
Left of centre is the engine house at deep drop and lime kilns at lime pit lane
To the right is what appears to be a coal wagons passing along the tram road
Remains of Deep Drop Pit in Stanley Marsh today
The Shires Pit Intake Lane
Worked at a depth of 90 metres the coal seam here was 114cm thick. It was mining disturbance from this pit along with Newmarket Colliery that is belived to have caused the structual damage to Stanley Church. Shires Grove was named after this pit. At its peak this pit employed between 400 and 500 men, at around the same time the Garden Gate Inn was in use.
In 1865 the output of this colliery was 16, 800 tons, most of the coal was transported from the River Calder at Bottomboat until the rail link was added in 1865. The pumping engine "Old Sarah" from the colliery was later installed at Newmarket and was in use there until 1917 when the engine was dismantled and sent to the science museum in London. Detailed diagrams of the engine were done, and are still held there today.
Bottomboat Collery Explosion
On the 24 May 1851 an explosion happened at the Colliery killing four people. They were Henry Hartley aged 12, Thomas Bulmer aged 14, John Duthoit aged 13 and Robert Land. The explosion took place around midday when there were 30 men and 15 boys in the workings. It was caused by an accumulation of sulphar exploding, ignited by the candles that were used to light the areas being worked. The inquest was held on the 30th of May by Mr Taylor Deputy Coroner. Accidentally burnt was the verdict given at the inquest. The jury also made the following recommendations; Safety lamps should be used, air currents should be divided into two instead of one and single doors be replaced by double doors. These recommendations were accepted and later became law through an Act of Parliament. The lives lost in the explosion saved many more by forcing a vast improvement in conditions in coal mines across the Country.
Situated at the top of Bottomboat hill this pit had two shafts, at some point in its history there was an explosion at these workings. The tunnels went as far as lower Bottomboat from this pit which closed due to flooding. The spoil heaps are still visible today.
Little is known about these workings, which are documented as being a single shaft colliery. There are reports of explosions in the 1850s, stories of these workings have been passed down the generations and the following will have no doubt have been exaggerated a little! The seam of coal worked at the colliery was the Warren House at 40 yds and in places would have been less. The story goes that there was a roof fall under a field of turnips and of the turnips falling in and filling the tubs, other stories go on to claim how the workers here could hear the plough above them in the fields and the horses farting!. What is known to be fact however is that young children as young as six worked down this mine alongside their parents. The coal would have been wound up the shaft by the horse and gin, later replaced by a steam driven engine.
Local Bell Pits
A easier way of getting to coal before larger pits developed in the area was to dig small bell pits, before this coal was dug from the surface. Usually worked by small groups of miners there are several clusters of these pits in Stanley. Also known as beehives these pits were situated at Lee Moor and on the Hatfield Estate going as far as Outwood. It was dangerous work in these pits, accidents were common and working conditions were poor.
Sketch showing a section through a bell pit and how they were worked
Village mineral lines
If we look around the village today most of the old mineral lines are now used as foot paths, with the exception of a few that have been built over in the last 100 years. Listed below are some of those lines that came after the Lake Lock Railroad.
The Fenton’s line
This ran from the pits at Outwood down to the River Calder at Bottomboat and was built in 1823. The Fenton’s had been trying to get the road passed since 1820 but due to the Lake Lock Company’s opposition to the line were unable to get permission. The Lake Lock company also owned the whole River frontage from Lake Lock down to Bottom boat making it difficult for the line to be built. It was however built by George Leather who commenced work in October 1823. The footpath known as the “bully” or bull wagon road that runs behind the now church centre follows part of this line. This line was also later used by the Victoria Colliery at Lofthouse Gate before the main railway line through Stanley was built in the 1860s, which was built over part of the mineral line after it closed.
The Victoria Colliery’s Line
The mid 1830s saw many new Collieries’ being sunk in the area to serve the rapid growth in demand from industry and the domestic use of coal. With the Aqueduct under construction, plans were drawn up to build a mineral line from Newton lane Colliery down to the basin at Stanley Ferry, with a link up to the Calder at Bottomboat which was still being used to transport coal at the time. By the time the Deep Drop Colliery was sunk in 1838 the Colliery on the Hatfeild estate coal workings were exhausted, so the pumping engine was transferred to the Deep Drop. The mineral line was completed in 1840 from Newton Lane Colliery down across Ouchthorpe over the Hatfeild Estate crossing Lime Pit Lane down to the basin at Stanley Ferry. In the early 1840s the link to Bottomboat was closed. Over the next 60 years sections were added to the tram roads as smaller pits were sunk and closed, the Ouchthorpe line was closed in 1896 after the Newton Lane Colliery closed. The footpath from the top of Ouchthorpe follows the same route as this mineral line across the Hatfeild Estate through the nature reserve towards Lime Pit Lane.
The Nagger Lines
The line that most people know of today is the section that ran from Lofthouse Colliery down to the basin at Stanley Ferry, named the Navigation Lines (hence Nagger Lines). Built in the 1840s this was in use up to the mid 1920s. A section of this can still be seen crossing Lime Pit Lane near to the entrance to the nagger lines. Today the old lines are used as footpaths, a reminder of a bygone era from the village.
The Lofthouse Colliery Disaster
In 1973 800 men worked around the clock at Lofthouse Colliery in Wakefield it was hard, and dangerous work. On the day of the disaster, March 21st, 30 men were working 300 feet down near old mine workings. Little did they realise that these had become a reservoir containing 3 and-a-half-million gallons of water.
Checks had been made before work had begun in this area but a crucial Victorian geological notebook which could have revealed how deep these workings were was never seen. Some miners remember that two to three weeks before the disaster water was trickling down the coal face but this was attributed to a test bore-hole.
The shift on March 21st started like any other. Miner Keith Stone remembers: "The ventilation just stopped. We got this eerie feeling that the ventilation had turned round. We got this awful smell and then within seconds a great wall of water came straight over the top of the ripping."
Survivor Malcolm Firth says the water "brought everything with it, boxes that weighed a ton and it was swilling them down the gate. It was swilling them all over the place."
Miner Tony Banks says: "It just felt as though somebody had pulled a big plug out. It went with such a force it just knocked us over." Peter Wood was the Lofthouse Colliery surveyor in 1973: "It was not just water. It was slurry. It was like a thick sludge and that came in at something like 750 feet head of pressure."
The miners took to their heels with the wall of water chasing them. When the roll call was taken seven men were missing. For the families above the ground the nightmare was just beginning. A week long rescue attempt started to rescue the men, trapped in an air pocket. The disaster grabbed the nation’s attention. The rescue effort brought help from far and wide and political enemies were amongst those who waited together. Arthur Scargill, President of the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) reflects: "We were up against odds that I’d never encountered in my life. For example, we brought in specialist underwater teams of divers with very large aqualights in an attempt to try and go through the slime and the mud to try and see if any of the men were alive and, if so, get them back."
But the inrush of water had blocked the main gate and made the tail gate impassable. Two large holes appeared in a farmer’s field directly above the point where the accident happened as the water flooded into the colliery workings. Efforts were made to plug the hole - if the men were alive the flood of water had to be stopped. The underwater rescue team enters the pit. Keith Stone, who had fled from the oncoming water, was one of the first to make his way back into the pit: "The supplies that came into the pit itself was unbelievable. There was safety equipment, towels, overalls. No expense was spared regarding getting the men out." A rescue attempt plan had been drawn up. A piggyback tunnel was drilled through solid rock and a drilling rig was brought in to force an air link to high ground where it was hoped the men could have taken refuge. The air below ground was increasingly toxic.
A drilling rig was brought in to break through to an area where the trapped miners may have taken refuge.
Only when the rescuers got through was it realised that it was impossible. One body was recovered but it was felt to be too dangerous to reach the other six. Arthur Scargill says: "I was one of those who wanted the operation to continue. First of all, I wanted to get to the men because their loved ones needed to recover their bodies if they were dead and there was a possibility that they could be alive. It was important in my view, if we were to discover what exactly had taken place, to go into the area where the accident had occurred."
Mr Scargill believes this was an accident that should never have happened: "If the National Coal Board had simply set on geologists in order to establish whether or not the geological area was safe, then they would have discovered it was not and they would never have gone ahead with that coal face and, as a result, the men who died would have been alive."
The memorial to the miners who died in the 1973 Lofthouse Colliery disaster
Lofthouse Colliery closed 24/7/81.
Lofthouse Colliery closed 24/7/81.
1926 Miners Strike
There were several factors that led to the strike of 1926, they were as follows; The First World War The heavy domestic use of coal in the war meant that rich seams were depleted. Britain exported less coal in the war than it would have done in peacetime, allowing other countries to fill the gap. The United States, Poland and Germany and their strong coal industries benefited in particular. Productivity, which was at its lowest ebb. Output per man had fallen to just 199 tonnes in 1920–4, from 247 tonnes in the four years before the war, and a peak of 310 tons in the early 1880s. Total coal output had been falling since 1914. The fall in prices resulting from the 1925 Dawes plan that, among other things, allowed Germany to re-enter the international coal market by exporting "free coal" to France and Italy as part of their reparations for the First World War.
The reintroduction of the Gold Standard in 1925 by Winston Churchill this made the British pound too strong for effective exporting to take place from Britain, and also (because of the economic processes involved in maintaining a strong currency) raised interest rates hurting all businesses. Mine owners wanted to normalise profits even during times of economic instability — which often took the form of wage reductions for miners in their employ. Coupled with the prospect of longer working hours the industry was thrown into disarray. During this period over half the working population of Stanley worked in the mines, the strike had a devastating effect on these people.
The strike began on 30 April and lasted until 12 November in Stanley, others areas of the country went back to work well before, some after only a few weeks. It was called by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an unsuccessful attempt to force the government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for miners. The miners had no source of income during this time, the Union fund payments they were receiving to help them at the beginning of the strike soon ran out.
Children of school age would get breakfast at school, the rest of the family relied solely on handouts. The local butchers made soup that they distributed amongst the families once a week but this was not enough to support the many families in desperate need. A fund called the “Johnny Horner Fund” was set up by the local authorities giving the miners a small amount of money to live on. After the strike the money had to be paid back in instalments. The families had no choice but to go look for coal on the local spoil heaps to heat their homes and use for cooking.
For several months the miners continued to maintain resistance, but by October 1926 hardship forced many men back, especially those with young families. By the end of November most miners were back at work. However, many remained unemployed for many years. Those that were employed were forced to accept longer hours, lower wages, and wage agreements. The strikers felt as though they had achieved nothing. However some miners could not bear the hardship during the strike and went back to work before it ended, this caused once close families and communities to split and turn on each other. The returning workers were called blacklegs and received many years of abuse for going back to work before the end of the strike.
Miners Strike of 1984
"The legacy of pit closures, in terms of the policy's catastrophic effects on former pit communities, will be felt for decades to come, and Scargill says Margaret Thatcher's treatment of the miners has created unemployment, deprivation and crime where they barely existed before"
IT WAS 25 years ago that miners across Wakefield district downed tools and started a national strike against government plans to close 20 UK pits. In the year that followed communities like Stanley rallied together, helping to keep the fight going while bearing the brunt of the crippling poverty forced upon striking miners and their families. There were bloody riots, tragic deaths and families were torn apart. Below are accounts of people who lived and worked through this difficult time.
Story of a Miner
I left school in 1963 and went to work at Parkhill Colliery, Eastmoor, as an apprentice electrician. From 1976 I was elected onto the NUM branch committee and ultimately became treasurer. In 1981 the government announced it would close mines in Wales and so the miners came here to ask for our support to save their jobs and communities. Parkhill was the first to come out on strike in support and a handful of us then went to other pits in Yorkshire and brought them out on strike. We knew if we allowed them to close small pits in Wales, we would be next. When Parkhill closed in 1983 I went to Riccall in Selby to help sink the new shafts. We established a branch of the NUM and I was elected delegate. In 1984 I was mandated by the branch to vote, according to Yorkshire rules, for industrial action on pit closures on grounds other than seam exhaustion. Of the 206 miners at Riccall only 42 of us stayed out for the whole 12 months. There were a number of reasons for that. The NUM branch was newly formed and hadn't yet had time to develop unity among members and there was no real community at Riccall – most of the men travelled from all over the district.
I took part in a lot of picketing, we went to Riccall each morning and a number of other pits as well and I did six shifts at Orgreave, which was a very frightening experience. I managed to survive the duration of the strike by using all my savings, selling the car and with a lot of help from family and friends. When the 42 Riccall strikers marched back to work on the day the dispute ended we insisted we should be allowed to take part in self-rescue training as we hadn't been underground for 12 months. The manager refused so we came out again for an extra day. On the first day back I was prepared for anything and I fully expected to be sacked. That didn't happen and we set about reforming the branch and restoring unity among the men.
Story told by the son of a local Miner
I was still at school when the miners went out on strike, I had only a month to go and then it was out into the big wide world for me.My older sister and brother were both in relationships and needed every penny they could earn for there new homes, I was signing on for 6 weeks until i found a job at Kirkhamgate checking ex army uniforms. Every Friday I got my 45 quid wage and brought it back home to put on the kitchen table for my mam to take what she needed. She would only take her board which was a tenner at the time but through the week she would usualy borrow more to get her bye. I remember dad was going into some sort of depression because he had nothing to do and because he was not bringing the wage home as he had done before.
When the weekend came we spent most of our time chopping logs and picking coal down the acres or at the old Park Hill pit site. Me, my mam an dad would go down to the grounds of Hatfeild Hall because there was a tree struck by lighting the year before, that kept us going for a month or so. But when the tree had gone me and dad had to go down to Park Hill digging the old spoil heaps for coal. There was quite a few of us down there all doing the same thing, crawling down tunnels while some one sat on your ankles just in case the tunnel gave way .It happened to me once and it was pitch black, but i could feel my dad and a few other blokes pulling at my ankles so i knew id be safe. I got pulled out ,brushed myself down and crawled back in. We would bring back two bags each which would see us over a week and then it was back down to do it all again.
At home it was hard going for mam trying to put food on the table with no money coming in but she did it and she did it well, all the friut trees were ready so my mam made apple pies and jam pasties infact we have always said we ate better in 84 than we did any other year.She always managed to scramble some thing up to eat, while i was at work mam an dad would go down the acres picking wood and coal and any other stuff they could lay there hands on. One day they noticed that a crop full of peas were ready in this field so both of them filled there pockets and came home with what they thought was a great find. Mam boiled the peas and served them up with some mash, yorkshire puddings and gravy but as soon as you put your fork in to the peas they shot off the plate!. They had been boiled an boiled but they just wouldnot go soft. It was like playing krpton factor trying to get these peas on the end of your fork,we used to laugh our heads off! Mam an dad went back for some more peas and the farmer had put a sign up in the field, the sign read NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION-FOR CATTLE FEED ONLY well we laughed all the way home!,No wonder the fork wont go through them, afterwards mam an dad were more careful what they picked.
Mid December and winter set in with a vengeance, with snow on the ground it made our lives harder and dad was talking about going back to work. Some of his mates were not happy calling him a scab but dad was thick skinned and just shrugged it off.He was not bothered about them most of them had found other souces of work to keep them going but dad never found any so he went back. He worked at Selby so it was 24 miles there and 24 miles back every day under heavy police escort. He had to get on a coach, protected by thick netting so the pickets could not throw stones through the windows. While he was on the coach one morning the police had to escort the coach to Dalby Forest because there was a fleet of picketers searching the area for scabs. I never saw my dad as a scab, I saw a brave bloke putting his life at risk for his wife an kids. More and more blokes followed after that until march 1985. Then the miners lost there battle to keep the mines open. After 85 the mines started to shut one by one until there were very few left, today theres only a handful of opencast mines owned by Mr Budge, the coal mines of the 80,s and before have long since gone...