This colliery lay approximately three quarters of a mile south of Brackley and appears to have commenced sinking about 1873 by the Wharton Hall Colliery Company who had acquired the mineral lease from the Wharton Hall estate. It was taken over by the Bridgewater Trustees in 1879 or 1880 as a result of the purchase of the Estate by the Trustees. There were three shafts of 14 feet, 14ft 3in and 11 feet diameter, Nos.1, 2 and 3, respectively. No.1 Pit and No.3 Pit attained depths of 312 yards and 461 yards but No.2 Pit was deepened to the Arley Mine in 1903 and reached a depth of 551 yards. The fine lattice girder headgear at No.2 Pit, which remained until complete abandonment in 1964, probably dated from this time.
The winding engines were all of the twin cylinder horizontal type. No.1 Pit had a 26in x 60in, engine and the small diameter No.3 Pit had a 20in x 42in engine with a 9ft diameter by 6ft 6in wide rope drum. The No.2 Pit engine had 30in x 60in cylinders and was possibly installed at the time of deepening the shaft. The disposition of the headgear and engine house indicated that the engine house had been built behind an already existing one.
Following the purchase, the Trustees appear to have put considerable effort into improving the colliery. During 1888/89, Walker Bros., Wigan, built a new staging complete with galvanised iron roof for a whole series of vibrating screens, sorting belts, movable chutes and tub tipplers. A 7in x 12in twin horizontal engine was supplied to drive this machinery.
Walker Bros. supplied several air compressors to the Bridgewater Trustees during the 1880s and 1890s. The surviving plan books rarely give a precise destination for the machines and none were specifically designated for Wharton Hall. It is very likely that a machine was actually supplied at this time. In 1912, however, Walker Bros. did supply an up-to-date air compressor to Wharton Hall. This was a horizontal cross-compound engine coupled to two-stage air cylinders delivering at 80psi. The air cylinders were 19in and 31in diameter, and the steam cylinders 20in and 34in diameter, all having a common stroke of 39 inches. Steam pressure was 100psi, and the cylinders were fitted with Corliss valves and Dobson’s trip gear. The flywheel was 8 tons in weight. Capacity was 2,500 cubic feet per minute.
Ventilation was provided by a Schiele fan, 12ft 6in diameter by four feet wide, driven by a duplicate 20in x 36in horizontal engine.
Steam for the surface plant was supplied by five Lancashire boilers.
Coal winding ceased in December 1927 and the reserves were taken over by Brackley Colliery. The colliery became a pumping station but No.1 Pit was abandoned altogether the shaft being bricked round at the top. Three boilers were retained to provide steam for the two remaining winding engines and the Walker 2500cfm compressor. In 1933-34 the whole pumping operation and the main winding engine, which was No.2, were electrified. The winding engine was converted by removing the left-hand crank and fitting a gear wheel in its place. A fabricated bed was made for an 80hp motor whose shaft carried a small pinion, which meshed with the gear wheel on the erstwhile crankshaft. With the provision of a motor controller and suitable brake gear the conversion was complete and the rest of the engine was scrapped except for the right hand crank which remained in position throughout the engine’s subsequent life.
The air compressor was taken out and transferred to Howe Bridge Colliery. The boiler plant was demolished and one of the boilers was re-installed at Gin Pit. This boiler was nine feet diameter by 32 feet long. No.3 Pit was not required for winding and access was gained for periodic inspection by hoppit and tackle. The twin cylinder horizontal winding engine was retained and to provide steam for its occasional use a vertical Cochran boiler was installed. Even this plant was later scrapped and any access was made using the portable winding engine from the Mines Rescue Station at Boothstown.
Walkden town centre was the location of Ellesmere Colliery which consisted of four shafts. The three coal winding shafts were adjacent to the Manchester-Chorley road whilst the upcast shaft was situated about a quarter of a mile to the north. No.1 Pit was sunk to the Five Quarters Mine at 267 yards and Nos.2 and 3 Pits were sunk to 273 and 412 yards respectively. The engine for Nos.2 & 3 Pits was a twin cylinder vertical built by Nasmyth Wilson and was located between the shafts winding one cage in each. To cater for the different depths the winding drum was stepped 14ft and 10ft diameter.
During the latter part of the 19th century, a twin cylinder 20in x 48in haulage engine was installed at the surface. This drove an endless wire rope which passed down one of the shafts to drive a countershaft near to the pit bottom. The underground haulage was driven through a clutch from this countershaft. An air compressing plant was also installed but it has not been possible to trace this from surviving Walker Brothers, records.
The colliery closed for coal winding in 1921 but was retained for pumping and ventilation as the fan also ventilated the main tunnel of the underground canal. Metropolitan-Vickers converted the engine to electric drive in 1936 in a similar manner to the horizontal winding engine at Wharton Hall, but at Ellesmere much of the steam engine remained in situ. The old timber headgear over one of the shafts remained until 1955 when it was replaced by a much smaller steel RSJ structure. The other headgear had been replaced by a lattice girder structure at a much earlier date.
The boiler plant at this site during the latter working days consisted of about six Lancashire boilers served by a square section chimney.
Details of the original ventilating fan at Ellesmere have not survived but the long and narrow engine house suggested a ‘duplicate’ engine where one end of the engine drove the crankshaft whilst the other rested with the connecting rod tied up clear of the crankshaft. Latterly the fan was a Davidson ‘Sirocco’ 11ft diameter which could circulate 200,000cfm against four inch water gauge. The drive was by a system of flat leather belts and ropes from either of two 60hp electric motors.
Pumping at the colliery continued until 1968 by which time it had become the last remaining example with back to back headgear and engine house between the shafts, in the coalfield. There was a move to have these preserved as an industrial monument. The modifications carried out over the years had however robbed them of much historical significance and the whole of the two sites were demolished and the shafts filled up. Sometime afterwards a violent explosion occurred in a house in Walkden. The cause of this was eventually found to be firedamp which accumulating underground had eventually found its way to the surface. To prevent a recurrence a borehole and pipe was put down No.1 Pit and a methane extraction plant provided at the shaft top.Return to previous page