New chapter in the history of Old King Coal

Authors have mined a rich seam of history to piece together the story of a major industry which employed thousands of workers.

Colliery winding wheels may have ground to a halt but the stories and photos of the communities highlighted in a new book are a real page-turner.

June 1971 Turk, Prince and Mettle the last three pit ponies in the Derbyshire Area retire from Shirebrook Colliery in June 1971, Turk and Mettle had spent 17 of their 22 years working down the mine while 10 year old Prince worked underground for four years.
At one time Derbyshire's Collieries used over 1,000 ponies for haulage work  with the average pony working about 1,500 miles a year. Photo by Mansfield Chad.

June 1971 Turk, Prince and Mettle the last three pit ponies in the Derbyshire Area retire from Shirebrook Colliery in June 1971, Turk and Mettle had spent 17 of their 22 years working down the mine while 10 year old Prince worked underground for four years. At one time Derbyshire's Collieries used over 1,000 ponies for haulage work with the average pony working about 1,500 miles a year. Photo by Mansfield Chad.

David Amos and Natalie Braber have researched the history of 20 pits for the publication Bradwell’s images of Coal Mining in the East Midlands.

They looked at the last collieries to close in four NCB areas: North Derbyshire, North Nottinghamshire, South Nottinghamshire and South Derbyshire/Leicestershire.

These included Markham, Bolsover, Pleasley, Shirebrook, Thoresby, Welbeck, Clipstone, Bilsthorpe, Harworth, Annesley and Bentinck.

Former miner David, of Lawrence Avenue, Eastwood, said: “The motivation for the book was the ending of coal mining in both the East Midlands and Britain in 2015 and a need to record aspects of the industry’s history and heritage before they disappear from living memory.

“The book will feature a significant part of the region’s main industries which has now finished. It includes portraits of miners at work, hopefully some of them will identify themselves.

“If the book does okay, we may be able to do a second volume featuring twenty more East Midland collieries.”

David was a miner at Annesley Colliery, which later become Annesley-Bentinck. for 24 years and began working there when he was 17. He said: “I enjoyed having the crack - the quick witted humour which lasted 24-7, Working with older men who told you about the unwritten rules of life e.g. the difference between wanting and needing, not to get into debt unnecessarily etc.

“Working at a place where people knew the significance of your family’s contribution to the pit.

“Tales of some my late dad’s exploits at Bentinck, he was a senior colliery overman, still get mentioned nowadays. They become mining folklore.

“Coal mining goes back several generations on my dad’s side of the family, in fact over 230 years back to Heanor in the late 18th century.”

David grew up in the coal mining village of Nuncargate, near Kirkby in Ashfield. He said: “Early memories are watching the seemingly endless coal trains passing through on the nearby Great Central line at Kirkby South Junction.

“Also coming home from Kirkby Woodhouse School in October 1966 and my mam was sobbing. The Aberfan disaster (in which 116 children and 28 adults died when a colliery spoil tip collapsed in Wales) had happened. that day.”

Now 60 years old, he is working as a part-time research assistant in coal and dialect at Nottingham Trent University. David said: “From 2008 to 2016 I was a heritage project officer on several projects in the former coalfield regions of Nottinghamshire.

“I worked with Natalie on the pilot project Pit Talk of the East Midlands 2014-2016) and we arranged several coal mining literary and heritage events during that time.

“Current plans are to try and get funding for a project which will produce an East Midlands or Nottinghamshire Coal mining Anthology, a celebration of the coal industry through the written word, i.e. short stories, poems, songs and local coal mining folklore.”

Natalie and David will launch Bradwell’s images of Coal Mining at Waterstones, Nottingham, on Friday, June 9, at 6,30pm.

“The launch is free to attend but you must register in advance by calling 0115 947 0069, or via the website, www.waterstones.com/events

The publication is priced at £9.99 and is available from bookshops, supermarkets 
and tourist information centres.

Alternatively, order online at www.bradwellbooks.co.uk