Ifton Colliery was situated north of the village of St Martins, Shropshire. The main shaft at Ifton was originally called Gertrude Shaft and was part of Ifton Rhyn Colliery.
By 1912, the company that operated Brynkinnalt Colliery in Wales (W Y Craig & Son) were working towards Ifton and decided to develop it further. The Gertrude Shaft, about 1 mile southeast of Brynkinnalt Colliery, was 135 yards deep at this time and it was decided to take this over and deepen it. The workings in Wales and England would then be connected.
In March 1912, a German company was employed to start sinking and by 1914 they were 415yds down. Due to the war, the Government stepped in and stopped the sinking but the colliery company formed an inset at this level and got the coal by driving two tunnels, one north and the other south. The tunnels reached coal in 1921 and 1923 respectively and, during the years of development, Brynkinnalt Colliery continued to produce coal. The old workings and new shaft were connected in 1921 and for some years both Brynkinnalt and Ifton produced coal until Brynkinnalt was closed for coaling in 1928. It then became the upcast and emergency shaft for Ifton Colliery, which was a single shaft site. At this time, production was about 1,000 tons per day with 1,357 men, the largest mine Shropshire was ever to have. In 1940, it was decided to deepen the shaft by a further 75 yards to cut out the two sloping tunnels put in temporarily in 1914 when sinking had previously been stopped. The principal problem was that the Ifton shaft was an all-purpose shaft and could not be used for the deepening activities themselves. The solution was to drive a tunnel back from the workings in the lower seams under the present shaft and then to “sink” upwards to the shaft bottom.
A borehole, commencing at 18 inches diameter, was put down from the base of the existing shaft to the full depth of 75 yards without interfering with production but there was no guarantee that it was truly vertical. The borers gave a guarantee, however, that it would be less than 2ft out and later it was found to be less than 1ft 10ins. To do the boring, it was necessary to make a small engine house in the shaft side. Work was done on the night shift and at a rate of 4-6ft per shift, the hole being completed in 2 months. The deep-level tunnel reached the position beneath the existing shaft and located the borehole in May 1942. The cavity for the new pit bottom was then formed and bricked 2ft thick, 16ft high and 15ft wide to accommodate the new 15ft shaft. It was then necessary to sink downwards from the new pit bottom for 20 yards using conventional methods to form the new sump. After the sump was completed, shaft “raising” commenced.
The company used its own employees, partly as they felt the work needed careful treatment since they would be driving upwards to connect with their working shaft. The shaft raising method used was fairly conventional and it is described in “Iron & Coal Trades Review” for September 14th 1951. The drawings accompanying that article show the method clearly. The work of raising continued without affecting the shaft operations above until a point had been reached where only 10 yards remained solid. From here, all work was carried out at night when the shaft winding operations above were at a standstill. The shaft was completed in August 1944 and the total cost of the new shaft, which was done entirely by one chargeman and two men including the borehole, worked out at 47-4s-0d per yard. A shaft about half this diameter 80 years before on the Titterstone Clee Hill cost this much. Before full-depth winding could commence, a larger winding drum had to be fitted to take the extended rope. Ifton Shaft was now 482 yards deep.
Ifton Colliery was one of the more profitable collieries of the National Coal Board in North Wales. The workings were very steep and the seams were liable to spontaneous combustion with underground fires a constant problem.
The headgear at Ifton was transferred from Brynmally in 1937. In 1947, the colliery was nationalised along with its neighbour in Wales, Black Park Colliery only 1 mile away. At that time Ifton Colliery, then still known as Brynkinnalt although this was now only a ventilation shaft, had seen its number of employees fall to 974, while Black Park had 402 employees. In 1949, it was decided to close Black Park and to work the remaining coal from Ifton. By 1960, the modernised Ifton Colliery had a manpower of 1,250 and a daily output of 1,750 tons. Gertrude Shaft was the only shaft at Ifton Colliery, however, with Brynkinnalt Colliery at Chirk acting as a ventilating shaft. This proved very restrictive for both the winding capacity of coal and of materials. In 1966, a 910 yards long tunnel was driven at over 1 in 5 gradient to connect the underground workings of Ifton and Black Park, which was then used to assist with the ventilation. In 1968, Ifton was closed because of the constant threat of fire (due to spontaneous combustion) and the loss of markets, resulting in a stock of 134,000 tons of coal being stockpiled at the colliery surface. Within two months of the closure however, this stock of coal had all been sold. (Ithel Kelly & Ivor Brown)
Brynkinallt Colliery was situated on the western edge of the town of Chirk in the county of Wrexham, it is the most southerly colliery in the North Wales Coalfield and sits just 800m north of the England-Wales border. As such the underground included working coal on both sides of the border.
It was sunk during the 1860s by a Mr Blakewell, an eminent mining engineer who owned the Brynkinallt Coal Co Ltd. The mine was purchased in 1893 by Mr William Young Craig (formerly the MP for North Staffordshire) of Alsager. From the beginning, Mr Craig had a very good relationship with his workmen and disputes and strikes at the pit were a rare occurrence. In 1912, when all the mines in Denbighshire were out on strike, Brynkinallt Colliers continued working. Soldiers were sent to Brynkinallt to protect the working miners and the mine property during the 1912 strike. The Brynkinnalt miners feared that the pit might be ‘boxed up’, ie wagons and other items might be thrown down the pit shaft by the striking miners to prevent repairs being carried out to roadways and water being pumped out of the mine. If this occurred, there was a danger that the pit would not reopen when the dispute was over.
There were 600 men from the Royal Suffolk Regiment, 400 men from the Royal Fusiliers and the Royal Welch Fusiliers, 50 men of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry as well as 50 additional police from Caernarfon and Merioneth assisting the local police at the colliery and they camped in Brynkinallt Park. On one occasion, demonstrators from Cefn Mawr marched towards Brynkinallt Colliery, described in the national press as an armed mob but the smiling faces (of both miners and policemen) and the presence of youngsters in photographs suggests that this was an exaggeration. As the crowd approached the colliery, they were met by the elderly owner, Mr William Craig. He explained to them that his workmen already had the concessions which the remainder of the North Wales miners were on strike for and as he was not a member of the North Wales Coal Owners Association, his men were not in dispute and were continuing to work. He urged the crowd to return to their homes; at which point the crowd dispersed.
In 1913, when the Gertrude Shaft at Ifton was sunk, the Brynkinallt shaft became the ventilation shaft for the new colliery. In 1937, the wooden headgear on the No.1 Shaft was replaced by the steel headgear from the Queen Pit at Brynmally, the work being supervised by Bert Johnson,
the Surveyor at Brynmally. It closed in 1968 when Ifton Colliery ceased. (Ithel Kelly)
Black Park Colliery
Black Park was located at Halton near Chirk in the county of Wrexham and was one of the oldest collieries in North Wales. It produced coal from 1863 until it closed in 1949 on the grounds it was no longer economic. It worked mostly the Two Yard and Main seams. The shafts were filled with boiler ash and capped with cement. In 1966 one of the shafts was reopened as a ventilation shaft for Ifton Colliery. This involved the installation of a new fan and winding engine. The colliery was finally closed in 1968.
The plans below have been prepared by Lee Reynolds and used here with his permission.
Composite plan of all seams
Top Yard Seam
Two Yard SeamReturn to previous page