The Astley & Tyldesley group of collieries worked a royalty or ‘take’ of about 1000 acres leased from various owners, the mining entrepreneur being Samuel Jackson. The area verged onto the Permo-Triassic which overlies the coalfield immediately to the south. The modern collieries were commenced about 1866 with sinkings at Tyldesley, Gin Pit, and Kermishaw Nook. The colliery at Kermishaw Nook (Nook Colliery) eventually became the second largest in the Manchester coalfields. Gin Pit was a small colliery comprising a single shaft only, being linked for upcast ventilation to St George’s Colliery (Tyldesley) about half a mile to the north.

Gin Pit Colliery was completed in about 1872, the shaft having been sunk to the Six Foot or Rams Mine at 375 yards from the surface. The shaft was 14 feet diameter. The Crombouke Mine, a good quality coal, was intersected at 325 yards. During sinking a bed of sandstone was encountered at a depth of 120 yards which was a prolific source of water. The water was collected into a lodgement at the 170 yard level and an inverted beam pumping engine was erected at the surface. The pumping engine was built by the Haigh Foundry Company, Wigan with cylinder 50in x 9ft stroke. The pump stroke was also 9ft and the beam was built up from two wrought iron plates 40 feet overall length. An 18in bucket pump was provided at the 170 yard level which lifted 70 yards to an 18in ram pump which forced the water the remaining 100 yards to the surface. The date when this engine was replaced seems to have escaped notice.

The winding engine was built by Messrs Garforth of Dukinfield, Cheshire, and was a 24in x 54in twin cylinder horizontal, with Teague’s cut-off gear fitted on the inlet valves. As built the engine had flat rope drums or reels but a new drum, 12ft diameter for round ropes was fitted about 1898. Winding capacity was 80 tons per hour from 371 yards at two tons per wind. The engine served well and lasted until closure of the colliery in 1958.

The original headgear was of heavy pitch pine construction and in addition to the winding pulleys carried sheaves for no less than four endless rope underground haulage systems powered by a twin cylinder engine on the surface. This had 10in x 18in horizontal cylinders and was geared in the ratio 4 to 1 to a shaft carrying four 6ft diameter ‘Clifton’ wheels around which each haulage rope was taken three and a half turns. This haulage engine was eventually replaced by underground systems and the timber headgear was subsequently replaced by a steel structure built from RSJs and with a ‘cat-head’ frame over the winding pulleys.

Immediately before the turn of the century the boiler plant consisted of three 7ft x 30ft Lancashire boilers working at 75psi. These boilers appear to have been replaced soon afterwards by 8ft x 30ft Lancashire boilers working at 100psi. In 1934 a second-hand boiler from the former Bridgewater Collieries’ Wharton Hall Colliery was installed, this being larger than the others 9ft x 32ft. The boiler plant was very plain with neither economisers nor superheaters. The furnaces were hand fired, the grates having rocker firebars. Boiler feedwater was supplied ready treated from Nook Colliery and an injector and two Weir ‘Simplex’ pumps were provided for supplying the boilers. The chimney was square section 83 feet high and provided natural draught. The boiler plant survived closure of the colliery as steam was supplied to the adjacent workshops, the chimney however was considerably reduced in height.

There was very little other surface plant at Gin Pit. Electrical power when it came into general use was supplied from the power house at Nook Colliery. Compressed air was supplied from the Astley & Tyldesley Collieries ‘grid’, a system of pipework linking the compressors at Nook and St George’s collieries with each other and with Gin Pit and Gin Pit workshops.

The Rams and Crombouke mines were extensively worked and in the late 19th century the Crombouke was being worked on the longwall face system whilst the Rams was worked longwall or pillar and stall according to conditions. As these coals had become virtually exhausted during the 1930s the then owners Manchester Collieries Ltd developed the Brassey Mine which was below the shaft. This working was not very successful and the Company had to embark upon an extensive underground development programme to ensure success. Practically the whole of the underground roadways were re-made using steel arch supports and new roadways were driven to open up an area of the Brassey Mine which had previously been allocated to Bedford Colliery. The winding capacity of the shaft was around 650 tons per day concentrated on the day shift. In 1946 the colliery produced 101,682 tons entirely from the Brassey Mine.

Coalface machinery was fully electrified under the new development and there were three main electric haulages up to 100 horse-power. Twenty compressed air haulages were used on subsidiary duties. Pumping was entirely handled by four compressed air driven pumps.

The early coal preparation plant was quite basic comprising fixed bar screens for the Rams and Crombouke coals. A single set of two screens dealt with the Rams coal so that only two grades of coal were produced ‘large’ and ‘slack’. A double screen was used to process the Crombouke coal making three grades, large, cobbles and slack. In conjunction with the Crombouke screens two picking belts were used to clean the large and cobbles respectively. Later the Astley & Tyldesley Coal Company built a new set of screens of 100 tons per hour capacity. The plant had a reciprocating screen and the plant was complete with tub tippler, two woven wire picking belts and a crusher.

Manpower at the colliery in 1939 comprised 195 face workers, 99 other workers underground and 74 workers on the surface. Production ceased at the colliery in 1958 and all the surface buildings with the exception of the ‘firehole’ and chimney were quickly demolished.

Nook Colliery was a complex eventually of five shafts and No.4 pit sunk in 1913 intersected every workable coal seam of the Middle Coal Measures in the West Manchester coalfield. The smallest shaft – the Jubilee Pit – 10ft diameter was sunk 120 yards to the Worsley Four Foot Mine. This pit was downgraded to pumping only in 1887 when a steam driven cross-compound pumping engine by Messrs Slee of Earlstown was installed at the pit bottom. The first of the deep shafts was No.1 pit sunk in 1866. This shaft was 14ft diameter and went down to the Six-Foot or Rams Mine at 455 yards. The winding engine was a 30in x 66in twin cylinder horizontal with ‘Cornish’ valves built by the Haigh Foundry, Wigan. Also at this shaft was an inverted ‘grasshopper’ pumping engine built by the Haigh Foundry. The steam cylinder was 70in diameter by 13ft stroke and the pump stroke in the shaft was 10ft. The engine was condensing working on the Cornish cycle. This engine known as ‘th’owd George’ was in service until about 1935.

The No.2 pit sunk in 1873 was 16ft diameter and initially went down to 450 yards. Later the shaft was deepened to 935 yards to the Arley Mine. This shaft was the up cast for the colliery. The winding engine was a twin cylinder horizontal built by the Pendleton Ironworks and had 36in x 72in cylinders, Cornish valves, and Musgrave’s patent cut-off gear. In later years the winding level was at 511.5 yards and the engine was capable of winding 108 tons per hour from this level. The engine itself was replaced by an electric winder about 1955. Ventilation was originally by furnace, this being replaced by a fan in 1895.

In 1899 the No.3 pit was completed having been sunk to a depth of 707 yards to reach the Trencherbone Mine, which was intersected at 696 yards from the surface. Sinking operations had taken 41 months and the shaft passed through 19 yards of New Red Sandstones. The ‘brown rock’ of the Middle Coal Measures was met at 220 yards and was 150 feet thick. It was water bearing and a tunnel was driven to No.1 pit to carry away the water. The first 600 yards of the shaft were sunk using a 16in twin cylinder geared engine and kibble. The permanent winding engine was built by the Worsley Mesnes Ironworks, Wigan and was a twin cylinder horizontal 36in x 72in. A ‘Diabolo’ winding drum was fitted initially but this was later replaced by a parallel drum 10ft diameter by 10ft wide. Winding capacity was 160 tons per hour at 4 tons per wind from the winding level of 704 yards. The engine was still in use in the mid-1950s and appears to have served until closure of the colliery.

The final major development of the colliery took place in 1913 with the sinking of No.4 pit. This shaft was 21 feet diameter and was sunk to 944 yards intersecting all seams from the Worsley Four Foot to the Arley Mine. The winding engine was a very large twin cylinder horizontal, 40in x 78in, built by J. Musgrave & Sons, Bolton. The cylinders had inlet drop valves and Corliss exhaust valves all operated from a wrist plate actuated by Gooch link motion. Winding level was 927 yards and the engine could wind 135 tons per hour. Following the closure of Nook Colliery, the No.4 pit was retained for pumping to protect the former Wigan Coal Corporation’s Parsonage Colliery at West Leigh. A small electric winder replaced the Musgrave engine in the same house and this building and the headgear were the only structures remaining on the site. With the subsequent closure of Parsonage Colliery, these also were demolished.

The Arley Mine was worked until 1959 and was notoriously hot. Air temperatures in the return airway could be in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The power requirements of the colliery were supplied from a central power house which was also linked to Gin Pit and St George’s Colliery. Two mixed pressure turbines by Belliss & Morcom and two engine sets by Browett, Lindley and Belliss & Morcom respectively provided electrical power. Compressed air was supplied by a 10,000cfm Daniel Adamson mixed pressure turbo-compressor, a 4000cfm Belliss & Morcom engine set and a Walker 1500dm set, the engine sets being of the high speed enclosed type. In 1930 the colliery power house was linked to Astley Green Colliery and Bedford Colliery by electrical power lines installed by Manchester Collieries Ltd. A second power line was put in between Nook and Astley Green in 1933, and later there was an indirect link via Bedford Colliery to Chanters Colliery. The power supply could also be reinforced by supplies taken from the Lancashire Electric Power Company.

Steam was supplied to the colliery by two banks of Lancashire boilers arranged in line but separated by the feed pump house. Two second hand boilers installed in 1933 brought the complement to 17 arranged in banks of seven and 10. The ten boiler bank worked at 120psi and five boilers had superheaters whilst the seven boiler bank worked at 100 psi. Three of these boilers were fitted with superheaters. There were two chimneys of octagonal section, the smaller chimney 116ft high served the range of 10 boilers and an induced draught fan was provided. The larger chimney was 151ft high and provided natural draught for the seven boiler bank. Each bank of boilers was provided with a 400 tube Green’s economiser.

The coal reserves at the colliery were extensive, extending as they did under the Permo-Triassic formation, and the colliery was intensively worked. In earlier years the Worsley Four Foot, Bin, Crombouke and Rams mines were worked followed by the Trencherbone which was best quality house coal and the Arley which was a high quality coking coal. In 1946 the colliery produced 431,268 tons and the White, Victoria and Arley Mines were then being worked. The Victoria and Arley had been worked for a considerable number of years but the White Mine was newly developed in 1940. It was intended also to develop the Five Quarters Mine but this was not carried out until after Nationalisation. The Brassey Mine was also subsequently developed.

Whilst the White Mine was a new development with road ways made to modern standards, the Company (Manchester Collieries) also completely renovated the main haulage and ventilation roadways in the Victoria Mine. New pit bottoms were constructed. The Arley Mine also came in for particular attention. To improve coal transport a new straight tunnel 2000 yards long was driven and fitted out for endless rope haulage, electrically powered. At the same time an old tunnel disused for coal haulage was completely reconstructed for man-riding using diesel loco- motives. This work was virtually finished by the end of 1946. A large belt conveyor of 150hp was also installed.

As reconstructed, the man-riding tunnel was 1732 yards in length with a single running track except for a mid-way passing place. On the single track sections the tunnel was 10 feet wide by eight feet high, with steel arch supports and timber cladding. At the passing place, the width was increased to 15 feet. Going inbye, the maximum gradient was 1 in 20 for 117 yards and in the outbye direction, 1 in 34.2 for 175 yards. Rails were flat bottomed, 60 pounds per yard in 30 feet lengths and laid to a gauge of two feet. Sleepers were four feet long and laid in a six inch deep bed of ballast consisting of one inch granite chips. The track was laid American railroad style with staggered rail joints. There were three curves in the tunnel, one of 100 feet radius and two of 200 feet radius. On these curved sections check rails were provided together with super-elevation of the outer rail.

The two locomotives and the man-riding cars were made by the Hunslet Engine Company Ltd, Leeds, the locomotives being of the maker’s standard 50 horse-power type, weighing 6.75 tons. This type of locomotive had been developed specifically for use on man-riding duties. Power was provided by a type 4L2 diesel engine made by L. Gardner & Sons, Barton Hall Works, Patricroft, near Manchester. Drive was transmitted through a four-speed gearbox to a forward jackshaft, thence by outside coupling rods to the four driving wheels. Maximum speed was 12.25 mph in top gear.

The man-riding cars seated 24 and were fitted with Westinghouse continuous air brakes, together with emergency and hand brakes. Five cars normally made up a train.

Electrical power was applied extensively underground during Manchester Collieries ownership and by 1946 all the main haul ages were electrically driven. Pumping plant was also renewed and there were nine main pumps ranging in horse-power from 30 to 200.

Coal preparation was by screening and after 1925 by washing as well. When the colliery was absorbed into Manchester Collieries Ltd in 1929 the screening plant was already quite old but had been well maintained. There were three separate plants capable of dealing with 96, 120 and 173 tons per hour. The plant had been renovated in 1923 and Manchester Collieries extended the plants dealing with the Arley and Trencherbone coals in 1932. A Baum jig washer was erected by Simon-Carves in 1925 to deal with 125 tons per hour and processed coal from all three of the Astley & Tyldesley collieries. From 1930 it also handled coal from Bedford Colliery.

Production ceased at the colliery in 1965 although the washing plant was subsequently reused for a short time to deal with coal from Bedford Colliery.

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