To the south of Walkden and verging on the Cheshire Plain was Mosley Common Colliery whose name was usually mispronounced by strangers to the area as the first syllable was locally sounded as ‘Moss’. The colliery consisted of four winding shafts and a fifth shaft used for upcast ventilation only. This was the largest colliery in the coalfield but despite having the advantage of huge reserves (in the order of 270 million tons) lying under the Permo-Trias, the colliery throughout its life never seemed capable of realising its full potential.
Mosley Common No.1 Pit, 12 feet diameter and lined in brickwork, was completed in October 1868 to 347 yards. The sinking had been lengthy and considerable water had been encountered soon after commencement. A celebration was held at the Stocks Hotel, Walkden on 31 October 1868 to mark the successful completion, entertainment being provided by the Walkden Glee Party.
Two lifts of pumps were installed in the shaft with two pumps at each lift. No details of the first pumping engine have been recorded but J. Musgrave & Sons, Bolton erected a Cornish type pumping engine at No.1 Pit in 1884 and re-cylindered the same engine in 1890. The cylinder was 54in x 7ft stroke and the beam was 26ft 7in long weighing 18 tons; design speed was six strokes a minute. This was the last mine pumping engine made by Musgraves. When this engine ceased work is not known but the engine house stood until about 1954.
The winding engine was also built by Musgraves and this survived until the shaft was abandoned in 1964. The engine was a twin cylinder horizontal 24in x 72in with Cornish valves and a 13ft x 7ft winding drum. The engine was placed with the cylinders nearest the pit shaft and the winding ropes passed over the engine with the overlap rope going through the roof of the engine house. The original headgear was replaced at a now unknown date by a lattice steel structure.
No.2 Pit was also 12 feet diameter but eventually attained a depth of 535 yards. The original winding engine was replaced in 1905 by a 36in x 66in Fraser & Chalmers twin cylinder horizontal with Corliss valves and a 17ft 6in by 8ft winding drum. It was capable of winding 190 tons per hour from the winding level at 519 yards. The engine gave good service and survived closure of the colliery in 1968. The headgear at the shaft was of steel construction.
A central power house for electrical power generation and compressed air supply was erected in 1915 on the Nos.1 and 2 Pit site. Two Metropolitan-Vickers 900kW mixed pressure turbine generators were installed together with a Robey cross-compound drop valve air compressor with a capacity of 6000Cfm. The air compressing capacity was increased in 1924 by the installation of a cross-compound Musgrave air compressor having a capacity of 10,000Cfm at 70rpm. At full output the engine developed 1950 indicated horse power. The steam cylinders were 38in.(HP), 63in.(LP) x 54in stroke and were fitted with Stegen drop valves. The air cylinders were 35.5in and 56in bore. The flywheel was 18 feet diameter and weighed 39 tons.
In 1931 further air compressing capacity was installed which this time was a Daniel Adamson 10,000cfm turbo-compressor which took steam direct from the boilers.
The power house was completely closed in the early 1950s as the large scale use of compressed air underground was ended and electrical power was entirely purchased from the public supply.
Prior to the establishment of a central power house, compressed air had been supplied by two pairs of single stage compressors with steam cylinders 26in x 48in. Again it has not been possible to trace these machines through the Walker Bros. plan books.
The boiler plant serving Nos.1 and 2 Pit was built up somewhat piecemeal although a very fine chimney 225 feet high was erected in 1916 replacing an earlier and smaller structure. A range of Galloway boilers was installed in 1904. About 1915 an experiment was made with firegrates 9ft long in an attempt to increase the steam raising capacity of the boilers. It was soon abandoned, not least because of the practical firing difficulties. It was left to Manchester Collieries Ltd to rationalise the boiler plant which they did in 1932-33. This plant comprised 12 Lancashire boilers each fitted with a superheater and Crosthwaite forced draught furnaces. Three sets of 320 tube Green’s economisers were provided. Eight boilers worked at 160psi and four at 120psi. The four Galloway boilers now redundant were transferred to Wheatsheaf Colliery.
Mosley Common No.4 Pit lay to the east of Nos.1 & 2 and was sunk in 1882 to the Trencherbone Mine at 608 yards from the surface. The shaft was a large one 18ft 6in diameter. The winding engine was built by the Haigh Foundry in 1882 and was a twin cylinder horizontal 40in x 72in with Cornish valves and a 20ft x 9ft 8in winding drum. The engine was a beautiful machine with polished wood lagging on the cylinders. It was in service until 1961 when a Koepe tower winder was commissioned to wind from the shaft which had been deepened to nearly 1000 yards.
The headgear at No.4 Pit until the tower winder was brought into service was of steel lattice girder construction.
The boiler plant at No.4 Pit consisted of seven Lancashire boilers working at 105psi, three of which were fitted with superheaters. A 480 tube set of Green’s economisers was provided and the boilers were served by an octagonal section chimney 150 feet high. Under the aegis of Manchester Collieries the boilers were fitted with Crosthwaite slurry burning furnaces. The boilers were scrapped in the early 1950s when the elimination of the power house meant that the Nos.1 and 2 Pit boilers had spare capacity.
A little to the north of Nos.1, 2 and 4 Pit was the upcast ventilation shaft, No.3 Pit. This shaft was 12 feet diameter and was sunk to 585 yards. A twin cylinder horizontal winding engine was installed but coal was not wound here. The headgear was lattice girder construction. Manchester Collieries Ltd developed the shaft for man riding with three deck cages and gantries with stairways at pit top and bottom so that each deck could be loaded and unloaded simultaneously.
The first fan appears to have been installed in 1886 when Walker Bros. installed a 24in x 48in horizontal ‘duplicate’ engine and a 15ft diameter ‘Improved’ fan. This engine appears to have been rebuilt as a 14in + 24in x 48in tandem compound in 1910 by Walker Bros. In 1908 Walker Bros. also supplied a 24ft x 8ft wide fan driven by a 22in + 40in x 54in cross-compound engine which with a capacity of 420,000cfm at 5.6 inch water gauge became the main fan. One of the engines during its career burst its flywheel which tore through the roof of the engine house and buried itself in the nearby embankment of the Manchester-Wigan railway line.
As steam demands were relatively light at No.3 Pit three Lancashire boilers sufficed although these were 9ft diameter. Working pressure was 120psi and a 192 tube set of Green’s economisers was provided. The chimney, a smaller ancestor of the one at Nos.1 and 2 Pits, was 165 feet high.
A short distance to the north of No.3 pit was No.5 pit, also an upcast shaft. It was 12 feet diameter and 253 yards deep. Winding was by a small capstan engine. The fan drifts from Nos.3 and 5 pits joined to form a common drift to the fans.
As part of a large redevelopment scheme No.3 Pit was deepened to nearly 1000 yards and widened to 22ft diameter, this work being completed about 1951. The steam plant was completely replaced. Two electrically driven axial flow fans were installed and the shaft was fitted out for winding 10-ton capacity skips. A 4500 horse power electric winding engine was installed by Metropolitan-Vickers in a new and very large concrete engine house. A reinforced concrete enclosed headgear was built at the same time. The new structures were built around the existing ones, which were subsequently dismantled from within, the boilers and chimney being demolished at the same time.
Although the colliery was a large producer of coal the results obtained never seemed to justify the investment both in cash and effort. Manchester Collieries found in 1929 that the colliery had been worked in an unscientific manner, keeping up production having been given priority over proper forward planning. Ventilation was abysmal, only 15-20% of air in circulation reaching the coal faces. Manchester Collieries put in a large investment in improving matters by remaking roadways, introducing electric safety lamps in 1931, and improving ventilation so that by 1944 40.7% of circulated air reached the coal faces and the actual quantity of air circulated had gone up from 271,000 to 363,800 cubic feet per minute. Pit head baths and a canteen were completed in 1933.
Manchester Collieries had plans to make Mosley Common the focal point in a combined mine scheme on the Continental principle, winding coal from Sandhole and Newtown collieries in addition to its own output, which was to be greatly increased. This plan was continued under Nationalisation and Nos.3 and 4 Pit were deepened; a dense medium coal preparation plant capable of a high output was also erected adjacent to Nos.1 and 2 Pit, linked by conveyor to No.3 Pit. The impetus for improvement never seemed to be there however and the concept of a combined mine never came to fruition. The colliery itself did not produce enough coal to justify the investment and production expediency once again took precedence. Making huge losses the colliery mopped up the modest profits made by the surrounding collieries and a good deal more besides. The end was inevitable but long delayed and finally came in February 1968. The large electric winder was dismantled in 1970 and re-erected at Coventry Colliery, Warwickshire. The site was finally cleared in 1972 the fine 225ft chimney being felled in May of that year.
MOSLEY COMMON COLLIERY – No.4 Pit
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