Situated to the north-west of Ashton’s Field, Brackley Colliery was sunk in an area which had been worked for coal for many years and was connected to one of the western branches of the underground canal system. The colliery had two shafts and a drift or day-eye. This last provided a useful access to the Plodder Mine for materials and officials. Both shafts went down to the Arley Mine at 294 yards but No.1 pit was sunk below this level to 390 yards in a vain attempt to prove the Mountain Mine of the Lower Coal Measures. No.1 pit was the downcast and was 14ft 6in diameter as far as the Arley and 15ft diameter below that. No.2 pit, the upcast ventilation shaft was 18ft 6in diameter.

The winding engines at both shafts gave long service. The No.1 pit engine was installed in 1879 by J. Musgrave & Sons of Bolton and was a twin cylinder horizontal 26in x 60in with Cornish valves set corner-wise on each cylinder. Allen straight link valve gear was fitted and there was no trip gear. The winding drum was 12ft diameter by 7ft wide. Winding capacity was 153 tons an hour from 294 yards.

No.2 pit engine was of unknown make and vintage but was undoubtedly quite old and was possibly a Greenhalgh of Atherton although this is pure conjecture. It was a twin cylinder horizontal 20in x 48in with slide valves and Allan straight link valve gear. The winding drum was 10ft diameter by 5ft wide. From 1938 until 1964 the engine’s task was to wind the output of the Plodder Mine from a depth of 134 yards. Capacity was 133 tons per hour from this level.

The headgear at No.1 pit was of lattice girder construction, built in 1879 by the Haigh Foundry, Wigan. No.2 pit headgear was built from steel RSJs, replacing an earlier structure of wood.

Compressed air power supply was modernised in 1912/13 by the installation of two cross-compound two-stage air compressors by Yates & Thom and Walker Bros. respectively. The Yates & Thom compressor had a capacity of 4000cfm whilst the Walker set was somewhat larger at 6000cfm. Both compressors were taken out of use in the 1950s but the Yates & Thom was still surviving in 1960. The engines exhausted to ejector condensers.

Direct current electrical power was generated at the colliery by a 300kW Belliss & Morcom engine set but on conversion of the colliery plant to alternating current, power was obtained from Mosley Common Colliery.

Details of the ventilating plant are a little obscure. In 1923 the fan was a double inlet Schiele rated at 100,000cfm against 1in water gauge which could be driven by either of two 100hp DC motors. By 1934 the fan was a 18ft x 6ft 6in. Walker ‘Indestructible’ designed for 250,000cfm at 1.5in water gauge although in 1946 it was circulating 206,000cfm at 2.75in water gauge. There was a choice of electric drive – synchronous AC motor and two DC motors for which current was rectified from AC at the colliery.

Steam was supplied to the colliery by a range of eight Lancashire boilers working at 105psi four of which were fitted with superheaters. Two sets of 288 tube Green’s economisers were provided. The chimney was 150ft high.

Underground the colliery was fortunate in having relatively few geological problems. The dip varied from 1 in 5.5 to 1 in 20 and averaged 1 in 14, markedly less than other collieries in the coalfield. In the early 1930s the colliery was producing 142,000 tons per annum from the Smith and Arley seams, both good coking coals although the Smith was only 22 inches thick. Under the ownership of Manchester Collieries Ltd a determined attempt was made to realise the full potential of the colliery. The Plodder Mine was reopened in 1938 on modern lines using conveyers and high capacity tubs for transport, and total output had risen to 394,000 tons by 1942. Output per man-shift overall was 32.4 cwt as compared to 19cwt in 1934. After Nationalisation a Meco-Moore cutter loader machine was introduced into the Plodder Mine. Unlike elsewhere in Lancashire where conditions were unfavourable for it was a cumbersome machine, at Brackley it was an unqualified success.

The colliery was hemmed in by old workings but from the late 1920s, the remainder of the takes of Ashton’s Field and Wharton Hall collieries were allocated to Brackley by which means its life was extended to 1964.

Coal preparation was by screening there being two sets, one set for each pit, both sets being erected by Plowright Bros. In conjunction with the re-development of the Plodder Mine in 1938 a Baum Jig coal washer was erected by Simon-Carves having a capacity of 125 tons per hour.

Because of the extensive working of coking coals at Brackley coke ovens were an adjunct to the working of the colliery for many years. In the early 1900s a modern plant comprising Semet-Solvay coke ovens was erected and this remained in production until about 1929. Following closure the plant was quickly demolished. Some of the steelwork from the closed plant was used at Bedford Colliery to build a roof over the boilers. Whilst the Semet-Solvay coke ovens were in production the gas produced was supplied into the town mains and a gas holder was erected adjacent to the colliery. This holder remained in use for many years after the plant had closed.

Demolition of the colliery after closure was very rapid and only the diligent observer can realise now that here stood a once thriving colliery.


Ft Ins
Cannel Mine 254 11½
Plodder Mine 389 11
Yard Mine 503 6
Half Yard Mine 631 6
Three Quarters Mine (Smith Mine) 674 11
Arley Mine 874 6
Shaft Bottom (approx) 1200 0
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