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The Lost Coal Mines of Bassetlaw

Published: 03/12/2020 By Richard Bennett

Our area has a rich history of local coal mines that once employed thousands of people. All now long gone, we take a look at the history of our local mines and their demise. Some of our mines were world firsts and also some of the deepest in Nottinghamshire. Some have even become local landmarks and Grade II Listed buildings.

Bevercotes Colliery 
Classed as Retford’s colliery, Bevercotes was the world’s first fully automated mine and was sunk in 1954-1958 by the National Coal Board. The colliery was situated away from the main road to the north of Walesby some 7km south of Retford. The pit was shielded by trees but the 2 tower headgears could be seen from the surrounding countryside. It went into production in July 1965 though the mine was closed for approximately 2 years 1964-1966 whilst shaft repairs were carried out as water was issuing through the concrete walls in huge amounts. The colliery was, alongside Cotgrave Colliery, one of two new collieries opened in the county of Nottinghamshire in the 1960s. A coal preparation plant was commissioned in 1965 that could prepare of 600 tonnes of coal per hour. The total output was supplied to High Marnham power station. Overall, the tonnage was a disappointment, for hailed as the first ‘push button pit’ in the world, it took 15 years to accomplish a yearly tonnage exceeding 1 million tons. The colliery was closed on 7th May 1993 after 36 years of production and turned into a nature reserve.

Harworth Colliery
The construction of Harworth Colliery began in 1913, when the Northern Union Mining Company was set up but the first real sinking started in 1921. Water problems were encountered but this was overcome with the solidification of the ground with liquid cement grout. On 29th October 1923, the shaft sinkers eventually reached the Barnsley seam at 848 metres (2,782 ft) making it one of the deepest mines in Nottinghamshire and the second shaft also reached the Barnsley seam on 15 November 1923. Modernisation of the pit started in the 1950s with concrete headgears being built in the late 1950s. These structures were replaced in 1989. Harworth reached the 1 million tonnes a year figure in 1993. It was abandoned in 2006 due to troubles at the seam and the mothballing of the pit in 2006 brought an end to 86 years of mining in Bassetlaw. In April 2016 the colliery was demolished to make way for housing and the pit tower, a beacon and landmark of Nottinghamshire's mining past was demolished. Dozens of people turned out to watch the demolition of the old colliery tower but it was tougher and more stubborn than even the explosives experts thought and it didn’t quite come down until a few days later.

Ollerton Colliery
Test boreholes were sunk around the area between 1918 and 1919. From the results of these, it was decided to sink a mine to the east of Ollerton Village on a greenfield site and in 1926, coal was first produced. The shafts were 512 metres deep and during the 1930s, belt conveyors were fitted which greatly increased productivity. Ollerton was nationalised on 1 January 1947, forming part of the National Coal Board (NCB). The NCB set production targets for each colliery and in Ollerton's case, approximately 857,500 tons per year was needed. When the target was met, the NCB flag was raised on No1 headstock. During the early 1950s, modernisation was needed to handle the ever-increasing production and by the afternoon of 7th December 1968, a major milestone for the colliery had been reached - a million tons had been raised in one year. The colliery was subject to heavy picketing during the miners’ strike and the last skip of coal was wound in 1993 and during its life, it had produced over 37 million tons of coal.

Manton Colliery
Manton Colliery was in Worksop. Also known as Manton Wood Colliery, the mine was fully operational in 1907, with three shafts. The land that the colliery was built on was owned by Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle. Manton, the village, was a new model village built to house the miners. After nationalisation on 1st January 1947, the pit was put in the South Yorkshire Region, not the Nottinghamshire region. By the early 1980s, over a million tonnes of coal was extracted with most of the coal being sent to Cottam Power Station. In the 1984 miners' strike, the pit was the scene of some horrific episodes and the pit closed on 11th February 1994 with the loss of 1,500 jobs. It was the eighth pit in Bassetlaw to close after the 1984 miner's strike.

Firbeck Colliery
In May 1923 the sinking of the No. 1 Shaft began at the new Firbeck Colliery, with construction of the No. 2 Shaft following on 15 August. In mid 1925, the shafts reached the Barnsley coal seam, at a depth of 828 yards (757 m). Even through the colliery was called Firbeck Colliery, the village of the same name is located more than 2 miles away. There were about 200 ponies employed in the mine, with about half below ground at any time, while the other half occupied the fields around Langold. Shortly after opening, it was affected by the miners’ strike of 1926 but production resumed afterwards. By 1938 the colliery was employing 1,457 underground workers and 357 surface workers. After nationalisation in 1947, it became part of the National Coal Board. Transport of the coal to the surface was slow, as the shafts were unsuitable for the installation of modern mechanical winding and by 1968, the mine was deemed to be uneconomical. It closed on 31 December 1968 and many of the miners moved to other local pits at Maltby, Manton and Shireoaks.

Shireoaks Colliery
Shireoaks Colliery was close to the Yorkshire border near Worksop and construction was begun in March 1854 and by February 1859, the coal was reached. Although the colliery was situated adjacent to the main line of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, an agreement was reached, as the railway company were also owners of the Chesterfield Canal, to ship the coal to the River Trent at West Stockwith. Shireoaks Basin opened soon afterwards, and coal was shipped to West Stockwith until 1949. By 1923, the pit was producing some 1 million tons of coal per year. The National Coal Board (NCB) took over operations in 1947, and at that point, there were 589 underground workers and 160 surface workers and even though the colliery was in Nottinghamshire, it was transferred to the South Yorkshire Area in March 1967. Reorganisation resulted in it becoming part of the South Yorkshire Group in April 1990 but was short-lived and the colliery closed in May that year. In 1997, British Coal sold the colliery site to Nottinghamshire County Council. The colliery tip became woodland and grassland and a network of public paths were created.

Clipstone Colliery
Opened in 1922, Clipstone Colliery was owned by the Bolsover Colliery Company and was taken over the National Coal Board in 1947 and was producing 4,000 tons of coal per day. Two new headstocks and winding engines were constructed in 1953 and were the tallest in Europe at the time. At its peak, Clipstone colliery employed 1,300 people and the coal was sent to High Marnham power station. High Marnham power station was the largest generating station in Europe when it was commissioned in October 1962, and burned around 10,000 tonnes of coal per day, consuming coal from 17 collieries. In 1986 Clipstone Colliery produced a million tons of coal but the colliery was closed by British Coal in 1993. It was reopened by RJB Mining in April 1994 but was finally closed in April 2003. In April 2000, the headstocks and powerhouse were Listed as Grade II listed buildings.

Thoresby Colliery
Work begin in 1925 when two shafts were sunk to a depth of 690m. In the early 1950's, the shafts were deepened a further 109 metres to the pit bottom. After privatisation of the National Coal Board in the 1990s, the mine was taken over by RJB Mining. Always considered to be good quality coal, this didn’t stop an announcement in April 2014 that the pit would close in July 2015. The colliery's 600 employees had been reduced to 360 by the time of the closure. Thoresby Colliery had the added distinction of being the last coal mine in Nottinghamshire. Over the next eight years, 800 new homes would be accompanied by a retirement village, primary school, leisure facilities and 350-acre country park on the site.