Wheatsheaf Colliery (Pendlebury Colliery)This Pendlebury colliery was one of the oldest of the modern collieries if that is the correct terminology. Shaft sinking started in 1846 and the same shafts served for the whole of the colliery’s existence. The shafts were 24 yards apart, 10 feet diameter and were sunk initially to the Rams Mine at 398 yards from the surface. The first 54 yards of the shafts were lined in nine inch brickwork and below that were 104 yards of cast iron tubbing which was put in to hold back several feeders of water. The remainder of the shafts was lined in nine inch brickwork and feeders occurring in this section were collected and run to the respective pit bottoms. In 1886 the tubbing was renewed in No.2 Pit reducing the diameter over this length to nine feet. During the late 1880s No.1 Pit was deepened to 602 yards to reach the Dow (or Doe) Mine, but No.2 shaft remained at the Rams Mine horizon throughout the life of the colliery, the actual depth into the sump being 413 yards.

The first winding engine was erected in 1847 by J. Musgrave of Bolton and was in service until 1944. Situated between the shafts the engine at first drew from both shafts with a single cage in each. In 1868 the engine and No.2 shaft were modified so that the engine wound two cages in this shaft only, and a new timber headgear was erected. The engine was a single cylinder vertical 36in x 60in with Cornish valves. Slide bars guided the crosshead and the crankshaft carried two drums or reels for flat ropes. Fully wound the effective diameter was 15 feet and when bare, 11 feet.

A separate engine for No.1 Pit was built in 1868 by J. Musgrave and this engine was a twin cylinder vertical 36in x 72in with Cornish valves. The cross-heads were guided by slide bars. As built the winding drum was 17ft diameter, but a larger drum, 20ft by 4ft 1in was fitted when the shaft was deepened. As modified the engine could wind 63 tons per hour from 597 yards with a payload of 2.25 tons per wind.

The headgear erected at the same time as the engine was 50ft high, constructed of pitch pine timber. It served until the engine was replaced in 1950.

Ventilation at the colliery was originally by furnace No.2 being the upcast shaft. A large set of furnaces was built in 1875 and these were still in position in 1960 complete with date plaque and vast quantities of flue dust. The date of fan ventilation being installed has not come to light, although Walker Bros. supplied a number of fans to the Andrew Knowles collieries in the latter years of the 19th century. By 1946 the fan was a ‘Sirocco’ by Davidson of Belfast driven by a 100hp AC motor and designed to circulate 200,000cfm against four inch water gauge.

In 1947 Walker Bros. received an order for an axial flow fan for Wheatsheaf Colliery. This was of the variable pitch type to cover a wide performance range. Initial specified performance was 110,000 cubic feet per minute circulated against 8.1 inch water gauge. Final specified performance was 110,000cfm at 4.56 inch water gauge. Fan speeds ware 588 and 479rpm respectively. Drive to the fan was by V-belts from an electric motor. Walker Bros. recommended a 200 horse power motor running at 600rpm for the initial conditions and a 125hp motor for the final conditions.

A steam driven pump built by Hathorn, Davey of Leeds was installed underground in 1891 to augment a number of earlier steam driven pumps. The engine was direct acting with a steam cylinder 25in x 48in and was fitted with Davey’s differential valve gear. It was coupled to two 7in rams in tandem and delivered into an eight inch rising main. The engine ran at 15 strokes per minute and exhaust steam passed to a condenser.

Steam for this and other pumps, haulage engines and underground air compressors was supplied by a range of boilers installed near the bottom of No.2 Pit. Three boilers were Lancashire 5ft x 28ft and the fourth was a Cornish boiler also 5ft x 28ft. All were constructed of wrought iron and working pressure was 50psi. Two of the boilers received their feed water by gravity from feeders in the shaft whilst the other two were fed by an injector. The use of steam underground probably ceased in the early 1900s.

A large air compressor, built by Walker Bros., was installed at the surface in 1892. This was a twin cylinder horizontal 30in x 60in with single stage air cylinders 36in x 60in delivering at 65psi. The flywheel was 20ft diameter and the engine ran at 25rpm. In August 1934 the engine was extensively rebuilt using two-stage air cylinders from the defunct Agecroft Colliery. Thus rebuilt the engine had a capacity of 6,000cfm delivered at 80psi.

At a later date a second compressor was installed this being a cross-compound with two-stage air cylinders having a capacity of 8,000cfm. Both engines ran until the early 1950s when the use of compressed air at the colliery ceased except for shaft decking gear.

A large range of boilers supplied steam to the surface plant and in 1891 six new boilers were installed by Daniel Adamson of Dukinfield. Two more boilers were added in 1892 and a further one in 1894. Manchester Collieries carried out further boiler renewals in 1933 and Galloway boilers from Mosley Common Colliery were installed. The final complement of boilers was 11 with a working pressure of 100psi. Six boilers had superheaters and a 352 tube Green’s economiser was provided. The chimney was 174 feet high and was a considerable landmark.

When the colliery came into the ownership of Manchester Collieries Ltd, in 1929 it had already been extensively worked, indeed all the coal to the rise of the shafts had been worked before 1890. The colliery had become very old fashioned and was particularly archaic in the method of coal handling at the surface. It seemed ripe for closure but instead a limited development programme was instituted, which succeeded in prolonging the life of the colliery until 1961. The pit bottom layouts were improved so that coal winding could be concentrated at No.1 Pit and much tunnel work was carried out to improve ventilation and transport. The improvement in ventilation enabled coal face machinery to be fully electrified.

A second-hand winding engine was installed in a new house at No.2 Pit in 1944 and a new steel headgear erected. The winding engine was a 24in x 48in twin cylinder horizontal built by the Worsley Mesnes Ironworks and was fitted with piston valves, Allan straight-link valve gear and an 11ft by 7ft 4in winding drum. The engine had originally been installed at Highley Colliery, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Improvements at No.1 Pit commenced in 1950 with the erection of a new steel headgear and the installation of a ‘new’ winding engine in a new engine house. This engine was a large twin cylinder horizontal built by Markham & Co., Chesterfield in 1911. It was one of their standard designs with drop inlet valves, Corliss exhaust valves, automatic cut-off and Gooch valve gear. It could wind 1,000 tons in a single shift and when the connection was made from Newtown Colliery, the engine wound on two shifts. Further improvements were carried out with the installation of five ton capacity skips to replace tub winding and the provision of a conveyor belt to deliver coal from the pit top to the screens.

Underground, the colliery was fully electrified for all power purposes, eliminating the use of compressed air. The two large surface compressors were taken out of service and this meant that the number of boilers could be reduced to eight. Seven boilers were subsequently fitted with Danks’ chain grate stokers. The stoker-fired boilers were fully up to providing sufficient steam for the intensive winding but there was little leeway in terms of steam pressure. An interruption in winding quickly caused the boilers to blow-off furiously. As a result of complaints from the local residents, all the safety valves were fitted with silencers.

During the latter years of the colliery’s life the Crombouke and Windmill mines were being worked. In 1957, the labour force totalled 910. Closure came in June 1961 and the surface buildings were quickly razed and the shafts filled in. Factories for light industry were built upon the site.

Before leaving Wheatsheaf Colliery it is necessary to mention the very complicated method of coal handling at the surface. As with many or most of Andrew Knowles’ collieries, Wheatsheaf was very much a landsale pit with the output largely being despatched in carts. Initially the screens were close to the pit head and were of quite a rudimentary pattern. Any coal not destined for landsale was sent down a tub incline to Clifton Hall Colliery where it could be loaded into railway wagons. The incline was of the single direct rope system and the motive power was an 18in x 30in table engine. Later, a Robinson coal washer was erected at Clifton Hall and small coal for washing was also dealt with there. It would appear that any washed coal destined for Wheatsheaf landsale was hauled back up the tub incline. Customers were very pernickety in those days and would demand coal by colliery, seam and grade.

New screens were erected during the 1890s but these were some distance from the colliery and were served by another tub incline. Coal for despatch by rail could now be loaded into railway wagons at these screens but coal for landsale and washing had to be returned to the colliery in tubs. Coal for washing then had to be transferred to the other incline for sending to Clifton Hall washer. Both inclines were subsequently converted to endless rope haulage with double track which gave an increase in capacity but the system was highly inefficient. Improvements were made in 1948 following the appointment of a new surface foreman. Coal for washing was now loaded into railway wagons at Wheatsheaf screens and taken the short distance to Clifton Hall by shunting locomotive. At Clifton Hall the coal was discharged into a between-rails bunker and transferred to the washer by conveyor. These changes resulted in the saving of 50 haulage hands at a time of acute labour shortage. A conveyor subsequently replaced tub haulage from the pit bank to the screens.

Clifton Hall washer closed in 1956 and coal for washing was loaded into railway wagons and despatched to both Mosley Common and Sandhole collieries for treatment. Both destinations involved complex journeys over the national railway system and coal handling costs still remained high.


Ft Ins
Coal 708 6
Coal 723 10
Bin Mine 913 4
Shuttle Mine 1020 11
Crumbouke Mine 1026 11
Rams Mine 1194 4
White Mine 1505 9
Black Mine 1577 2
Dow Mine (Doe Mine) 1773 5
Shaft Bottom 1775 3
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