Commenced in 1874 by John Speakman, this colliery had two shafts sunk to the Crombouke Mine at 297 yards. Winding engines by Greenhalgh & Co. were installed at both shafts. No.1 Pit which was 15 feet diameter was the up cast whilst No.2 pit which was 14ft diameter acted as downcast. In 1883 No.2 pit was deepened to the Seven Feet (or Black & White) Mine at 420 yards, and subsequently to 627 yards to reach the Trencherbone Mine. Deepening of No.1 pit was completed in 1886 to the Seven Feet Mine at 435 yards from the surface.
The Crombouke Mine was being worked at this time by longwall faces but the Seven Feet was worked pillar and stall in retreat. Drivages or headings were made in the Seven Feet out to the boundary of the ‘take’ and the panels worked back to main brow.
During the initial sinking of the shafts, feeders of water were encountered at 80 yards and 150 yards from the surface. A lodge and pumping chamber were made at the side of No.1 pit at this latter depth for three twin cylinder 16in x 8in x 7in ram Cameron pumps operated by steam from the surface boiler plant. One similar but smaller pump was installed at the 80 yard horizon. Subsequently the flow lessened and two pumps at the 150 yard level then sufficed, the others being removed. Water making below the 150 yard level was led to the shaft bottom and wound in 500 gallon tanks under the cages, at weekends.
The winding engine at No.1 pit was a twin cylinder horizontal 28in x 60in, having a parallel drum 15ft diameter by 6ft 6in wide. The cages were double deck, each deck carrying two 10 cwt capacity tubs. When winding from the Black & White Mine (Seven Feet), the winding capacity was 65 tons per hour.
At No.2 pit, the winding engine was much smaller, being a twin cylinder horizontal with 20in x 48in cylinders and an 8ft diameter by 6ft wide rope drum.
In the mid-1890s, steam was supplied by five 7ft x 30ft Lancashire boilers, four made by J. Musgrave & Sons, Bolton and one by Messrs Heaton of Holt Town, Manchester. Three boilers were of iron and two of steel, these latter being made for 100psi whereas the iron boilers worked at 60psi.
In addition to the winding engines and the underground pumps, steam was also supplied to three endless rope haulage engines located on the surface with the haulage ropes passing down the shaft. One engine comprised the cylinders and motion of a former railway locomotive.
Furnace ventilation was superseded in 1894 when an engine and fan were erected by Walker Bros. of Wigan. The engine was a horizontal cross-compound 22in + 40in x 60in stroke, both cylinders being fitted with Meyer expansion slide valves. The flywheel was 20 feet diameter carrying 15 1.75 inch diameter cotton ropes which drove on to the 10 feet diameter fan pulley. Rated at 330,000 cubic feet of air per minute at 5 inch water gauge when running at 100rpm, the fan was of the maker’s ‘Indestructible’ type, 27 feet diameter by 8 feet wide. Engine and fan served throughout the subsequent Manchester Collieries era and were still in service in 1947 although the total air being circulated was a modest 100,000cfm at 4 inch water gauge.
A third shaft 20 feet diameter and 891 yards deep was completed in 1909 to the Arley Mine and was provided with a Robey twin cylinder horizontal winding engine, 42in x 72in with drop valves and a bi-cylindro-conical drum 14ft to 22ft diameter by 13 feet wide. This large shaft became the main downcast ventilation shaft and under Manchester Collieries auspices communication was made with the Arley and Yard Mines at Chanters Colliery for which the Bedford No.3 pit then also provided ventilation. With the exhaustion of the deeper seams the bottom winding level was brought up to 643 yards, the winding capacity from this depth being 216 tons per hour. As nine tubs of 10cwt capacity were carried in each cage, three on each deck, this winding capacity represents an average of 48 winds an hour. During the 1950s, winding capacity was further increased by the introduction of skip winding.
The colliery had become in poor shape during the 1920s and it is doubtful if it would have survived had it not been absorbed by Manchester Collieries Limited in 1929. This new company could foresee potential and carried out a large amount of development work underground during the 1930s notwithstanding the inevitable losses made by the colliery during this period.
Extensive introduction of electrically powered underground machinery was carried out. Improvements were also made at the surface with the erection of new screening plant and a 1000kW Daniel Adamson mixed-pressure turbo-alternator set was installed in 1939 to cater for the increased electrical load. A 250kW Browett Lindley engine driven set was maintained for periods of light electrical load. The generating station was linked to the generating station at Nook Colliery which in turn was linked by duplicate lines to the power house at Astley Green Colliery. In addition a power supply cable was taken from Bedford through the Arley Mine to Chanters Colliery.
Underground, as well as the coal-face machinery and conveyors, the whole of the pumping plant, consisting of four pumps ranging in horsepower from 39 to 160 plus two small MONO pumps, was electrically driven. Thirteen haul ages up to 100 horsepower were also electrically powered, 18 subsidiary haulages retaining compressed air drive. The compressed air load was such that a single Belliss & Morcom steam driven compressor of 2000cfm capacity was adequate.
The boiler plant was roofed over in 1932 using steelwork from the closed coke works at Brackley Colliery. A further improvement, completed in 1946, was the provision of an economiser. The boiler plant comprised eight Lancashire boilers, four working at 105psi and four at 120psi. Three boilers were fitted with Bolton superheaters. Surface and pit water was used as boiler feed, treatment being by Kennicott water softening plant. Two Weir pumps fed the boilers and there was also a duplex Mather & Platt fire pump. Throughout company ownership the boilers were hand fired and rocker bar firegrates were fitted. Natural draught was provided by an octagonal sectional chimney, 148 feet high.
During the 1930s, the upper part of No.2 shaft had seriously deteriorated. As this shaft was now largely redundant, it was decided to plug the shaft below the defective section and fill it in. A plug was constructed by the Francois Cementation Company who also carried out cementation of the surrounding strata, the work being completed in 1941.
In the last year of company operation, output was 219,889 tons, the seams being worked were the Black & White (Seven Feet), Five Quarters and Victoria. The major portion of the reserves was in the latter two seams. Projected life for the colliery was to 1962 but this proved pessimistic and production continued until November 1967.
Demolition of the surface plant and buildings was carried out in 1969. The chimney was felled by explosives, watched from a safe distance by a considerable party of school children.
BEDFORD COLLIERY – No.3 Pit
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