Coal mining in Leicestershire spanned a timescale of eight centuries from about the year 1200 to 1991 when the last colliery, Bagworth, closed.

What may be termed the Leicestershire coalfield proper lay to the east of the Boothorpe Fault. This part of coalfield was often referred to as the Eastern Basin. The eastern boundary of this basin was formed by the reversed Thringstone Fault. To the north, the boundary was the outcrop of the Kilburn or Heath End coal seam, so named after the village of Heath End. The southern boundary was the incrop of the same coal seam below the New Red Sandstones which lay unconformably on the coal measures for about three fifths of its area.

The Boothorpe and Thringstone Faults trend generally NNW – SSE and the Eastern Basin of the coalfield was further divided by the Ashby Anticline whose axis trended in the same general direction as the two major faults. To the west of the Boothorpe Fault the Western Basin in the direction south to north, the coalfield merged into the South Derbyshire coalfield of which the Leicestershire Western Basin was an extension. It was always regarded as being part of the South Derbyshire coalfield. On the western side of the Western Basin the coal seams incrop below unconformable New Red Sandstone. In the south, the lowest seam, the Kilburn, incrops below the cover of New Red Sandstone measures.

Coal seams in both East and West Basins were liable to spontaneous combustion.

In the northern part of the Eastern Basin, the presence of old (c.1625) longwall face workings were discovered when the area was being worked opencast in the late 20th century. These are believed to be the oldest longwall workings in the world.

From the mid-19th century there was a steep rise in coal output which reached a peak in 1913 and the years immediately afterwards, thus following the U.K. national trend at that time. Following on from this, the output declined in a very irregular manner until 1947.

After Nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, the then National Coal Board began to initiate the introduction of fully mechanised coal getting and loading in which the Anderton disc-shearer machine played a major part. This policy was vigorously pursued in the East Midlands. In Leicestershire and South Derbyshire, thick coal seams and especially in the Eastern Basin of Leicestershire, moderate dip of the seams and little faulting were ideal for mechanisation. Coal production sharply rose to a peak in the latter 1950’s. In the Eastern Basin output reached 4.5 million tons in 1957. This had the effect of virtually exhausting the coalfield. Output thereafter declined in an erratic manner until about 1985 after which time there was a precipitous drop to the end of production in 1991.

Some local Vernacular – The Introduction would not be complete without some reference to the English Language as it was modified for use in the mining districts of Leicestershire.

Bagworth Baggerth  
Calcutta Colliery Cutter Pit
Coalville Cow-vill
Coleorton Colliery Bug and Wink Pit (*)
Good-bye my Friend Tar-rah mi Duck!
Heather (village) Heether
Oakthorpe Colliery Who’d a’ thowt it! (often abbreviated to “thowt it”.)
Snibston Colliery Snibby
South Leicester Colliery South
Whitwick Wittick

(*) This nick-name may have originated as a result of the colliery management being notoriously adept in the art of humbug and hoodwink when negotiating pay with the miners .


Colliery Guardian

Colliery Guardian – Guide to the Coalfields

Colliery Engineering

The Leicestershire and South Derbyshire Coalfield 1200-1900. Colin Owen 1984

The Leicestershire and South Derbyshire Miners 1840-1914. Colin Griffin 1981

The Leicester & Swannington Railway, C.R. Clinker 1977

Mining and Industry in South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire on old picture postcards. Mike Bown 1992.

Groundwater rebound in the Leicestershire Coalfield, J.A. Smith and J.J. Colls. Journal of the Institution of Water and Environmental Management. 1996.

The Surveyor, 1986. Article on an underground fire, Oakthorpe. Graham Ridout.

Califat Colliery, Swannington Common. Peter Neaverson, Transactions, Leicestershire Archaeology and History Society, 2000.

History of New Lount Colliery – Leicestershire Colliery & Pipe Co. Ltd.

Swannington: One Time Railway Centre, Charles E. Lee. The Railway Magazine, July 1939.

The Coalfields of Great Britain, Trueman 1954.



My sincere thanks for their generous help in compiling the following notes are given to:-

Roy Etherington, Raymond King, J.K. Outram, James L. Wood, Gillian Wood, Brian Hillsdon and lastly, but by no means least, to my wife Naomi, for her dedication to the task of reading the proofs.

Geoff Hayes

Copyright © NMRS Records: Geoff Hayes Collection


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