Point of Ayr (Welsh: Y Parlwr Du) is the northernmost point of mainland Wales. It is situated immediately to the north of Talacre in Flintshire, at the mouth of the Dee estuary. It is to the southwest of the Liverpool Bay area of the Irish Sea. Point of Ayr occupies the extreme northern boundary of the North Wales Coalfield.
The tradition of coal mining in this area dates back to the 14th century, it was not until 1865 that large-scale exploration began by trial boreholes in the Talacre area. Following promising exploration results, The Prestatyn Colliery Company was formed and a lease was obtained from Sir John Hanmer. The validity of this lease was immediately challenged by another local landowner, Sir Piers Mostyn of Talacre. He claimed that the mining rights at Talacre belonged to his estate. The dispute and the resultant conflict was to drag on for several years with the inevitable result that the Prestatyn Coal Co went bankrupt.
The Mostyn Colliery Co was formed in 1874, with a working capital of £150,000 and a lease to work coal, iron ore and fireclay in an area of 4,481 acres (the Talacre Estate). A shaft of 15ft diameter was sunk to a depth of 300ft, this was split centrally using bratticing to act as a combined upcast and downcast.
In 1862 an Act was passed that required all mines to have a minimum of two means of access, separated by at least 10ft. (later increased to 15 yards by the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887) but, for unknown reasons, the colliery did not have a second shaft for another 20 years.
In 1877 after striking a fault, work ceased and as a result of the cessation of pumping, the colliery became flooded.
In 1885 the Point of Ayr Colliery Company was formed, with a new up to date pumping engine being installed, the fault area sealed off and the mine went back into production. A second shaft was then sunk by the new owners J.W.M. Batters to a depth of 633ft and the No1 shaft deepened to 651ft, both shafts were then connected.
Due to the close proximity to the river, the mine would get flooded by high tides and stormy weather, to combat this problem, the mine waste was used to secure the land between the river and the colliery.
In 1899, an explosion killed two brothers John Parry from Mostyn Squares, and Earnest Parry from the Rhewl who were working in the Three Yard Seam. Whilst driving a wedge in the coal face, the wedge flew off and struck the glass of the safety lamp, chipping out a small piece of the glass, unfortunately, there was a concentration of methane in the area which was immediately ignited by the naked flame of the lamp, both men were burnt by the ignition but were able to make their way out of the mine.
The manager Samuel Pearson, who was in the workings at the time gave orders that all men in the colliery should ascend to the surface. The manager along with Lewis Jenkins (another manager) then went down to examine the scene of the explosion and assess the damage. Shortly afterwards, another explosion was heard, and the blast was felt by a supporting group following some 100 yards behind, a rescue party was formed to save the men, and when the two managers were found they were dead, the remains being almost unrecognisable.
In 1907, a fire in the five Yard Seam resulted in a large part of the workings being permanently sealed off to starve the fire of oxygen.
In 1922 an inrush threatened the pit. The flooding came about on the eastern side of the mine, as a heading was being driven through a fault it intercepted a large feeder of water. Following an enormous effort, the flow was stemmed long enough to build secure dams to seam off that area of the mine.
In 1946 the colliery employed 380 men underground and a further 160 on the surface, at this time production was from the Durbog, Two Yard and Stone Coal Seams.
In 1952 work began on the sinking of the No 3 shaft, the shaft had a diameter of 5.5m (18ft) and 336.2m, (1103ft) in order to sink the shaft through the superficial geology it was decided that in order to overcome the issues with the soft ground, compressed air would be pumped down the shaft, this pressure would support the side walls of the shaft. Unfortunately, the compressed air seeped through the shaft walls, and at high tide, could be observed bubbling up in the dock area. To counter this loss, pressure was steadily increased. The pressure in the shaft became critical, the airlock on the top of the shaft was unable to cope with the force, eventually, the pressure within the shaft blew off the airlock from the top of the shaft. The instantaneous decompression allowed the walls of the shaft to collapse into the working area, the five men at the bottom of the shaft were buried alive, and another man died shortly after being hauled out.
In 1957 the colliery employed 540 men underground and a further 190 men on the surface, production at this time was from the Two Yard Stone and Durbog Seams.
Coal production had, up until the 1960s been by pillar and stall, longwall retreating faces were then employed up until the early 1990s, when the colliery reverted to using the latest Continuous Miners on pillar and stall working, at this time roof bolting was being introduced into the United Kingdom, which was successfully introduced at Point of Ayr, Roadways 6m wide by full seam height were driven by the continuous miners, between each roadway was left a coal pillar of approximately 26m to support the roof, as can be on the plan the workings were a considerable distance out under the depth of cover between the seabed and the workings was as little as 200m.
In 1969 the colliery employed 458 men underground and a further 121 on the surface, production was from the Two Yard and Hard Five Quarter seams.
On privatisation in 1994 the mine became the property of RJB Mining. Prior to privatisation, British Coal produced a report on the mine’s potential, it stated:
- Total proven reserves 8.5m tonnes
- The 5-year production plan proposed working bord and pillar working from the Five Yard, Three Yard, Two Yard, Durbog and Bychton Seams at 0.475 million tonnes per annum.
- Two Yard – consists of a main leaf, typically between 2m and 2.5m in thickness (including dirt bands) with up to 1m of further coals and dirt below, the seam has a mudstone roof and siltstone floor.
Other Leased seams
- Five Yard – comprises of three leaves, the upper 2 forming the section that would be worked. The seam, including dirt bands, is typically greater than 2.25m and increases to 3.7m in the northwest, where the lower leaf may be included, the seam has a sandstone roof and a mudstone floor.
- Three Yard – is affected by a major washout which has not been clearly delineated, it is in general a single leaf coal up to 3.55m thick, with a siltstone roof and a mudstone seatearth floor.
- Durbog – is between 2.95m and 4.65m thick (including dirt bands) with a very weak seatearth roof, and a mudstone seatearth floor.
- Stone Coal – consists of three leaves of coal, upper 2.3m to 2.65m, the middle 0.7m and the bottom 0.9m, the dirt band between the upper and middle coals increases from 0.1m in the south to 2.35m at Holye Bank Borehole in the north. The seam has a laminated siltstone/sandstone roof and a mudstone seatearth floor.
- Hard Five Quarters – is typically 3.2m thick, the floor of the seam is a 2.2m sequence of coal and dirt, which sits on the lower coal leaf 1.1m thick, roof and floor are silty mudstone and seatearth sandstone respectively.
- Bychton Two yard – the seam consists of two leaves. The upper leaf including dirt bands ranges from 1.25m to 1.5m. The lower leaf, including dirt bands, ranges between 0.5m and 0.6m and is separated from the main upper leaf by a dirt band 0.2 to 0.5m thick. The roof and floor are silty mudstone and seatearth sandstone respectively
Pumping – it was estimated that the annual volume of water pumped from the mine totalled 167,000 m³ which was discharged into the Gutter Fawr.
Ventilation – the mine was ventilated by a 560kW fan with a 270kW fan as standby. In addition, there was a booster fan installation located underground consisting of eight 112kW fans.
Materials handling – the colliery used a combination of diesel locomotives on a 0.61m gauge track, rope haulages and Free Steered Vehicles (FSV’s) to service the workings.
Manriding systems – this was undertaken by a combination of locomotives and conveyor belt manriding.
Coal conveying system – coal was transported from the coal face by shuttle cars to a series of belts that lead to the surface via the main drift.
The plans below have been prepared by Lee Reynolds and used here with his permission.
Composite plan of all seams
2 Yard Seam
3 Yard Seam
5 Yard Seam
Hard 5 Seam
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