Sutton Manor Colliery 1990 Copyright © Frazerweb and used with permission

Sutton Manor Colliery 1990
Copyright © Frazerweb and used with permission

Sutton Manor Collieries Ltd was floated in 1904 to bore for and work coal on the Sutton Manor estate. The site chosen for the new mine was at Forest Farm, on Finger House Lane, and work began by building a short branch line from the L&NWR St Helens Line to the east. Work on sinking the shafts began in the spring of 1906. A second short branch ran north-west from the colliery to the L&NWR Liverpool & Manchester Line.

No.1 Shaft, which was of 5.5 metres in diameter, was started in May 1906 and completed to a depth of 556 metres in December 1909. No.2 Shaft, which was of 6.7 metres in diameter, was started in July 1906 and completed to a depth of 714 metres in 1912. In 1907-8 some £8375 was spent as follows: £1200 was spent on a boiler, £2,175 on winding engines, £1000 on railway and siding and £4000 was expended on wages.

The colliery was re-organised between 1952 and 1957, with No.1 Shaft being deepened to 764 metres. No.2 Shaft winder was fitted with a new winding drum and the shaft deepened to 770 metres. New pit bottoms were built, and locomotive haulage was introduced. New screens were added on the surface.

In the late 1960s the colliery was struggling to achieve its targets and the workforce was reduced by around one-third. A programme of boring discovered a virgin area of coal at Barrows Green to the south of Sutton Manor in 1974. To access it, two one-kilometre long cross-measure drifts were driven across a large fault. There was optimism that this would give the colliery up to thirty years of reserves. There were also two faces in the Higher Florida and Wigan Four Feet seams.

Sutton Manor was linked to the ICI Pilkington Sullivan works at Widnes by a 8 km-long pipeline in 1982 in a scheme costing £3 million. From July 1983 the colliery sold significant volumes of methane gas to the works.

At the same time Sutton Manor Colliery began trials with a roadheader machine. This was the Anderson Strathclyde RH22 High Pressure Water Assisted Roadheader, which had boom-mounted cutting heads. The water reduced dust emissions and prevented frictional sparks. The trial began in August 1983. The RH22 HPWAR weighed 35 tons and was 8.5 metres long, its 455 litre water tank fed a 700 bar high pressure pump. The machine was used in the Main Florida Intake which was developing an expected twenty years’ worth of the Higher and Lower Florida seams. It cut through the shale, mudstone, silt and sandstone beneath the Trencherbone Mine.

The trial ended in March 1984 and showed that, when used at the highest water pressure, there was a 50% increase in cutting rate. Frictional sparking was stopped, energy consumption was reduced, machine vibration was minimised, visible dust was virtually eliminated and breathable dust was cut by half. The 222 metres driven during the 28 week long test was hardly better than rates achieved by drilling and blasting, but no doubt the company got valuable information on its product.

In 1986, the steam winder on No.1 Shaft was replaced with an electrical one. The steam winder on No.2 Shaft was left in place, however, and was said to be Britain’s last on a working mine. Coal winding was switched to No.1 Shaft, which was fitted with skips, as part of the electrification scheme. This made most of the tub, previously used for moving coal, redundant. A new headgear was built around the old one, to allow the winding of men and materials to continue throughout much of the work. The old headgear was then dismantled.

The workforce was also reduced by around 400, or 50%, in 1986 and by February 1990 the manager was lauding the men for recently breaking three output records. During January 1990 Sutton Manor had made an operating profit of £157,000, with net profit after capital charges of £46,000. By the end of that year, however, output had fallen and British Coal had put the colliery back into the ‘Reconvened Review Procedure’.

Weeks later British Coal deemed Sutton Manor to be unviable, claiming a loss of £23 million over the previous five years, and scheduled it for closure in June 1991. It finally closed on the 24th May 1991.

Seams worked at Sutton Manor:
1910-1960, 1975, 1985-1990 Higher Florida
1910-1964, 1980 Lower Florida
1910-1950 Potato Delf
1915-1947 Ravenhead
1915-1940 Rushy Park
1915-1925, 1935 Little Delf
1920-1940, 1950-1952, 1961-1970 Trencherbone
1920-1935 Queen
1935-1947 Higher Delf
1935, 1947 Ravenhead Main Delf
1935, 1947-1970 Yard
1952-1970 Crombouke
1952, 1961 Plodder
1955-1970 Wigan Five Feet
1960-1961 Ince Seven Feet
1961-1964, 1975-1985 Wigan Four Feet
Date bought 1907
Drum diameter 16 ft
H.P. Cylinder Diameter 28″
L.P. Cylinder Diameter 46″
Length of Stroke 60″
Horsepower 1200
Date bought 1914
Drum diameter 17 ft
H.P. Cylinder Diameter 33″
L.P. Cylinder Diameter 55″
Length of Stroke 60″
Horsepower 1870
Date bought 1910
Capacity 600,000 cu/ft. free air
R.P.M. 106
Diameter H.P. Cylinder 23″
Diameter L.P. Cylinder 36″
Diameter Driving Pulley 16 ft
Diameter Driven Pulley 11 ft
Ropes Cotton No.14 2.125″ Cotton
Stroke 3′ 6″
Horsepower 520

5.000 cu. ft./min. COMPRESSOR – MAKE: WALKER BROS

Date Bought 1912
H.P. Cylinder Diameter 25″
L.P. Cylinder Diameter 41″
Length of Stroke 48″
Horsepower 345

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