Coal mining has taken place in Coleorton since medieval times and provided economic wealth for the landowners and paid occupation for the working population.
In early times coal was obtained from holes dug straight down to reach the seam and then excavated in a "bell" shape below until it became unsafe. Then another shaft was dug nearby and the spoil from that used to fill in the first hole. This resulted in circular patterns in the ground which can still be seen around Coleorton and nearby Swannington. Typically the coal was hewn down in the pit by women and youngsters with the men staying at the top to winch up baskets full of coal and the tired family members at the end of the day.
Later this was replaced with Ginns turned by horses. The Ginn Stables were where the horses were lodged during shifts.
Mining took place in the area from at least 1204 until the 1990s, and this is reflected in the density and complexity of the remains. From at least the 13th century, coal was picked up, or mined in shallow opencuts. Medieval/post-medieval coal mining remains, Rough Park and Birch Coppice, Church Town >>
It's estimated that the annual output of coal from Coleorton in 1579 was 10,000 tons.
The naming of local mines is an interesting topic. A colliery may have had more than one name; often, although a mine had an official name, it was commonly known by a local name within mining families and communities. The names were acquired for historic or local reasons. It was the custom of the time to name pits after contemporary events.
Coleorton's Number 1 mine was known as California Pit because it opened at the time of the Californian gold rush.
Coleorton's Number 2 mine was known by three names .. Windmill probably because of its situation near one of the local mills that existed in the area at the time, near to where Hough Mill stands today, Alabama because in 1864 the US Navy sank the CSS Alabama off the coast of France.
Coleorton's Number 3 mine was also known by three names. One of these, the Bug & Wink, might have originated as a result of the colliery management being cunning in their skill of humbug and hoodwinking when negotiating wages with the miners! Rev. Eager, in his book about Coleorton, wrote that in the old days the pit was known as "The Bread & Herring" so badly were the miners paid. Tom Brooks worked as a collier, as did his father and he recalled that it was also called Checklands Colliery as all the wagons had this name on them. G. Checkland & Co. already operated a mine in Donisthorpe and developed the one in Coleorton in 1875.
Colliery Owners - Benjamin Walker and William Worswick. Located by the Zion Hill recreation ground owned by NW Leicestershire District Council, opposite the New Inn. There was also a brickworks at the site.
This pit operated from 1875 to 1933 by Checkland & Co Ltd. In 1933 the Bug And Wink colliery was purchased by the Leicestershire Colliery & Pipe Co.Ltd, who also owned New Lount Colliery. They continued to work the seams at Coleorton with the coal being taken out at New Lount. It was a moved that enabled the LC&P Co. Ltd to continue to operate New Lount utilising one of the specific seams at Coleorton.
New Lount Colliery in Newbold, was initially a series of shallow workings. In 1924 the first deep shaft was sunk. Lady Beaumont turned the first turf for New Lount Colliery in 1924 >>
New Lount Colliery closed in 1968 but was kept open till the 1970s for pumping out water from the shafts.
The site has been turned into a Nature Reserve managed by NWLDC rangers and Coleorton & New Lount Volunteer Group.
Newbold Heritage Group have created a Mining Trail with information boards. More about the New Lount Colliery Heritage Trail >>
You can see from the Census figures how many people worked in the mines during the 19th century. The last deep mine at New Lount closed in 1968. Opencast mining continued at the Lounge site near J13 of the A42 at Ashby until 1990.
Mining was a most dangerous occupation and fatalities and death no respecter of age or status. The devastation to their families left behind was awful see Gwen Milnes story of the Richards family. List of fatalities in Coleorton mines available from Samuel T. Stewart's book, pdf available for download at his history books website >>
Accidents were frequent and devastating to the miner and their families who relied on their income. Read Elaine oldham's article - Memories of mining accidents.
William Birch was awarded the Edward Medal for bravery for his attempts to save a fellow miner trapped in a rock fall at the Coleorton No.3. Colliery (Bug & Wink) on Dec 11th 1910. The medal was presented by King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace on March 9th 1911. See the report of the occasion and celebrations on his return to Coleorton >>
Back in the bell pit days mining was often a family affair. The man of the house would lower his wife and children into the pit where they would excavate coal as far as it was safe and fill baskets with coal for the men to pull up. Without any machines or engines the men were the ones strong enough to haul up the coal - and their families - at the end of the shift. Not particularly nice, but not as horrific as the conditions in the commercial underground mines that were common in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Children, girls and boys worked alongside their parents in dark, dirty, dangerous and hot conditions. Women also worked, pulling trucks full of coal in low-ceilinged tunnels uphill to the exit. They were frequently unclothed.
In 1842 a commission headed by Lord Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury did a thorough review of working conditions of children in mines. When published its findings horrified the Victorian public and the Mines & Collieries Act 1842 was passed. This set out strict rules for employment of women and children by collieries:
David Gardner was killed at the Bug & Wink on 29 December 1910 and is buried at St George's Church, Peggs Green
The Beaumont Social Centre, originally The Miners Welfare Institute, was built in 1929 on the site of Peggs Green mine. More about the Beaumont Centre >>