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The society is pleased to acknowledge Geoff Hayes’ donation of his collection of comprehensive notes, diagrams and photographs relating to Wigan collieries and associated engineering works. Most of this material, now in the NMRS Records, has been digitised and is available here.

Copyright © NMRS Records: G. Hayes Collection

Colliery Location Opened Closed
Abram Abram 1870 1933
Alexandra Whelley 1873 1955
Amberswood 1840 (c1880) Not shown on the map
Aspull Aspull 1871 1932
Bamfurlong Bamfurlong 1861 1936
Bawkhouse Haigh 1919 Not shown on the map
Bickershaw Bickershaw 1872 1992 Not shown on the map
Bickerstaffe 1899 1936 Not shown on the map
Blaguegate Skelmersdale 1850 1933
Blainscough Coppull 1865 1939
Broomfield Standish 1850 1932
Brynn Hall Bryn Gates 1859 1945
Bugle Horn Hindley 1872 1930
California Hindley 1848 1891
Carr Common Hindley 1900 1930
Chisnall Hall Coppull 1891 1967
Crawford Aspull 1840 c1928
Douglas Bank Abram 1863 1920
Duxbury Park Adlington c1876 (1917)
Eatock Daisy Hill 1882 1934
Edge Green Golbourne 1809 1928
Edith & Mabel Hindley 1891 1920 Not shown on the map
Ellerbeck Adlington 1875 1965
Garswood Hall Golbourne 1867 1958
Giant’s Hall Standish 1875 1961
Gibfield Atherton 1869 August 1963
Gidlow 1857 (1910)
Grange Hindley 1901 1937
Gypsy Pits 1894 1924 Not shown on the map
Hewlett Hart Common 1871 1931
Hindley Field Hindley 1866 1927
Hindley Green Hindley 1855 1936
Hindley Hall Hindley 1857 1920
Holland Rainford 1848 1939 Not shown on the map
Howe Bridge Atherton 1850 September 1959
Ince Hall Ince 1838 c1897 Not shown on the map
Ince Moss Ince 1863 1962
John Pit Standish 1836 1954
Langtree Standish 1857 1932
Lindsay Whelley 1850s 1931
Long Lane Ashton-in-Makerfield 1892 1955 Not shown on the map
Mains Bamfurlong 1866 1960
Maypole Abram 1860 1959
Meadow Haigh c1780 1927
Moor No5 Aspull 1848 1923
Norley Hall c1845 1914
Orrell Orrell c1834 1924
Park 1887 1960
Park Lane 1877 1962
Parsonage West Leigh 1914 1992
Pemberton Pemberton c1820 1966
Pennygate Hindley 1863 1908
Priestner’s West Leigh 1870 1934
Prospect Standish 1854 1934
Rainford Rainford c1865 1929 Not shown on the map
Rose Bridge c1830s 1941 Not shown on the map
Scot Lane Blackrod 1857 1932
Sovereign Leigh 1876 1927
Strangeways Hindley c1832 1937
Swan Lane Hindley c1864 1927 Not shown on the map
Tawd Vale Skelmersdale 1875 1923 Not shown on the map
Taylor Standish 1860s (1930)
Victoria Bickershaw 1890s 1910
Victoria Wigan 1900 1959
Welch Whittle Coppull c1865 1960
Westhoughton Westhoughton 1874 1937
West Leigh West Leigh c1870 1937
William Pit Haigh 1840 1927

Wigan Collieries and Engineering (at the end of the Nineteenth Century)

The following notes have been compiled in an attempt to set down in one place information which has been drawn from a variety of sources on collieries of the Wigan Coalfield and the closely associated engineering works.

Production from the Wigan Coalfield was at its peak or nearly so at the end of the nineteenth century. Output from the Lancashire and Cheshire coalfields as a whole peaked in 1907. This figure included a number of new collieries and new developments which had very recently come into production. From then on it was all downhill but it was to be more than eighty years before the last of the collieries finally expired.

At the end of the nineteenth century a number of collieries in the Wigan coalfield had begun to modernise their surface plant. This initially was by the installation of air compressors and ventilating fans. Some of this machinery was of impressive size. The large scale introduction of compressed air meant some reduction in heavy labour underground as small haulage engines powered by compressed air could be readily installed to replace manpower. Ventilation by fans was rapidly replacing furnace ventilation which resulted in improved safety and working conditions. However, the part that coal dust played in underground explosions was not yet understood and in spite of improved ventilation massive explosions still occurred.

In the 1890’s the first tentative steps were being taken towards the use of electricity in the Wigan Coalfield. Because of the interest of Ludovic, the then Earl of Crawford, in electrical energy – he was a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers – the development of electrical power in the Wigan

Coal & Iron Company’s collieries was quite rapid in the early twentieth century. Whilst these notes are intended to present a picture of the Wigan Coalfield at the end of the nineteenth century, for completeness, where information has been available, the subsequent developments in the twentieth century have been included.

Readers will probably get the impression that many collieries in the Wigan Coalfield had become very old fashioned even by the standards of the time, at the end of the 1890s. Some of them certainly remained so and their demise came fairly soon. Modernised or not, the main decimation of the collieries came in the 1920s and 1930s when dozens were closed. In spite of the modernisations referred to the collieries were still very labour intensive. Even a small colliery would employ 200 to 300 persons. As an example, the very modestly sized Westhoughton Coal & Cannel Co. Ltd. employed 920 persons for an output of 200,000 tons per annum. The extent of social deprivation caused by these large scale closures can well be imagined. The local textile industry was also in a similarly depressed state.

The principal player in the Wigan Coalfield was the Wigan Coal & Iron Co. Ltd formed in 1865 from an amalgamation of the Kirkless Hall Coal & Iron Co., The Earl of Crawford’s Collieries, the Standish & Shevington Cannel Co. and Broomfield Colliery. John Lancaster, already involved at Kirkless and Standish, was appointed Chairman. A secondary but important player was the Pearson & Knowles Coal & Iron Co. Ltd who extended their influence in 1907 by the acquisition of controlling interests in the Moss Hall Coal Co. Ltd and the Wigan Junction Colliery Co. Ltd. In spite of the formation of these major concerns there were nevertheless still a large number of other companies operating in the coalfield.

The peak of prosperity was in the years immediately before the First World War but as an indicator of the subsequent rapid decline after the War, the Wigan Coal & Iron Co. Ltd. were suffering heavy losses year on year in the 1920s. In order to survive, the coal interests of the Wigan Coal & Iron Co. Ltd and Pearson & Knowles were amalgamated to form the Wigan Coal Corporation in 1930. The bankrupt Cross, Tetley & Co. Ltd. (Bamfurlong and Mains collieries) was absorbed in 1934. The iron and steel components of the two companies were amalgamated with the Partington Steel & Iron Co. Ltd, Irlam to form the Lancashire Steel Corporation. This resulted in the immediate closure of the Kirkless ironworks.

Most collieries in the Wigan Coalfield invested in improved surface plant in the period 1900 – 1914 and much of this must have had a very short working life in view of the wholesale colliery closures in the 1920s and 1930s. About twenty five collieries in the Wigan Coalfield survived to become Nationalised in 1947. A substantial amount of investment was put into the coalfield by the National Coal Board. This upsurge in the fortunes of the coalfield was but temporary and the final demise was rapid after 1960. At the end of the decade only two collieries had survived.

In this compilation, the boundaries of the Wigan Coalfield have been taken as the LNWR Bolton – Kenyon Junction railway in the east, Garswood and the Great Central Railway Lowton – St Helens line to the south and Coppull to the north. To the west the isolated small Skelmersdale coalfield has been included with the western boundary formed by the massive Boundary Fault west of Skelmersdale.

Not all of the collieries that were operating at the end of the nineteenth century have been described due to the lack of technical information. However, these were relatively small concerns. Likewise with a number of engineering shops and foundries which made a respectable living on the coalfield.

On digesting the following notes, the reader may be able to conjecture the industrial scene in the Wigan Coalfield. Noise, dust and smoke, the last being emitted from literally hundreds of boiler fires. Not least was the sulphurous contribution made by the colliery waste tips – the “pit rucks” – which had a habit of catching fire due to spontaneous combustion.

Landlords & Colliery Companies

The full story of the coal owning landlords and those individuals, partners and companies who exploited the Wigan coalfield is complex and very long, stretching back as far as the 14th. Century. As may be imagined the story has a goodly share of intrigues, fortunes made and also many bankruptcies.

The following notes are a very (extremely) brief overview of the estate owning lords and other gentry and those who worked the collieries. Commencing north of Wigan the coverage rotates in a clockwise direction using Wigan as the centre and describing segments of the coalfield in turn. The detached Skelmersdale district has a small section of it’s own. This part of the coalfield seemed to have more than it’s fair share of financial failures.

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