This is an interactive map, please click on an area to see greater detail
This region had large areas of coal, ironstone, fireclay and ganister mining. From the lowest seam (Halifax Soft Bed) to the highest (Shafton) there are some forty seams, all of which have been worked to some extent. Generally speaking, the lower seams have higher ranks (carbon content) and are likely to be coking coals, whereas the higher ones are free-burning.
Ironstone occurs from Huddersfield to Bradford and on to north-east Leeds and is intimately linked with the Better and Black Bed Coals. An extensive network of tramways and railways linked the pits to large iron works, especially at Low Moor and Bowling, near Bradford. Isolated pieces of archaeology remain between housing, industrial estates etc.
Another important area of mining for coal measures (Tankersley) ironstone was around the village of Emley, in the south-eastern corner of the region. Some of these workings, which run into South Yorkshire, may be mediæval, but other may belong to the eighteenth century.
Isolated pockets of iron ore have been worked in Namurian rocks around Baildon and Keighley.
A small area of the Lancashire coalfield has been worked at Todmorden, where fireclay was also used for making sanitary ware, especially salt-glazed pipes. Around Halifax, fireclays were used for making sanitary wares (pipes, gulleys, sinks, WC’s etc), and ganister to make firebricks and other refractory products. Many collieries in the lower part of the middle coal measures, around Leeds and Wakefield, were associated with brickworks.
The switch from town to natural gas, the replacement of steam with diesel locomotives, clean air legislation and the change to generating electricity using oil or nuclear power in the late 1960s reduced markets and forced the National Coal Board to rationalise its mines. Many of the thinner seam mines were unsuitable for mechanisation and the fairly high ash, sulphur or chlorine contents of lower coal measures seams meant that their coal was unacceptable to the large, coal-fired electricity stations. As a result a swathe of older, shallower West Yorkshire mines closed from the late 1960s and production was concentrated to the east of the M1.
Many collieries were associated with canals or railways, some of which were pioneering developments. For example, the Middleton Railway, a private, horse-drawn colliery line near Leeds, was the world’s first railway line to be authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1758 when it was extended from the colliery to staithes near Leeds Bridge. Faced with a shortage of horses during the Napoleonic Wars, John Blenkinsop, the colliery manager, worked with local engineering firms to build a steam locomotive in 1812. The resulting loco, called Prince Regent, worked on a rack & pinion system developed to cope with steep gradients, was soon joined by a second loco, named Salamanca. Similarly, the Lake Lock Rail Road Company, formed in 1796, opened what was arguable the world’s first public railway, to the north-west of Wakefield, because it served more than one colliery owner and also carried goods for all comers.
Large areas of mined landscape have been cleared for housing, industrial estates and motorways since WWII. Coal has also been extensively opencasted between Leeds and Wakefield, destroying most traces of the former industry.
Kellingley, the last large colliery, closed in December 2015, bringing to an end hundreds of years of deep mining in England. The Gazetteer of British Coal Mines (in NMRS Records) lists some 1200 coal, clay & iron mines in Yorkshire from 1854 onwards. To these must be added a large number (unknown) of older pits.
As with other coalfields, various collections of photographs and reminiscences are available on the web. The pages of the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal contain a few papers on coal related matters. Apart from general memories of specific mines and strikes, the most recent general books are Goodchild’s West Yorkshire Coalfield and Williams’s Images of Yorkshire Coal.1,2 Hill’s The South Yorkshire Coalfield: A History and Development gives a good general overview, with some detail.3 John Goodchild has written over many years about the various coal owning/working dynasties in this coalfield. Henesey’s paper on the Garforth area is also useful.4 There has been some private research and at least one community archaeology report covering mining around Sheffield.5,6
The Selby coalfield, Britain’s newest, closed on October 26th 2004 when Riccall colliery stopped coaling, but no complete history of this project has been written. Kellingley Colliery, sunk between 1958 and 1962, closed in December 2015.
When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947, there were 156 collieries in Yorkshire; now there is just one. Pits to close since the millenium are: Prince of Wales (2002), Gascoigne Wood Drift (2004), Riccall (2004), Stillingfleet (2004), Wistow (2004), Rossington (2006), Maltby (2012), Hatfield (2015) & Kellingley (2015)
- Goodchild, J. West Yorkshire Coalfield (Stoud: Tempus, 2000)
- Williams, P. Images of Yorkshire Coal (Ashbourne: Landmark Publishing Co., 2005)
- Hill, A. The South Yorkshire Coalfield: A History and Development (Stoud: Tempus, 2002)
- Henesey, A. “The Gascoignes and the Garforth miners in the nineteenth century” British Mining No.90 (2010), pp.74-89
- Battye, R. The Forgotten Mines of Sheffield (Especially around the Upper Don, Loxley and Sheaf Valleys) (Sheffield: The author, 2004)
- Kennett, P. Mining & Quarrying in the Porter Valley: Delving into the Past (Unpublished report by the Friends of the Porter Valley, 2006)
Collieries after Nationalisation in 1947
|Allerton Bywater||Allerton Bywater||1854||March||1992|
|Allerton Main, Victoria Pit||Swillington||1854||1947|
|Barley Hall||Thorpe Hesley||1886||May||1974|
|Birkenshaw||Birkenshaw||1910||–||(1954)||Merged with Gomersal|
|Birley, Beighton Pit||Beighton||1907||1947|
|Bramley Hall No.2||Handsworth||1938||1947|
|Bullcliffe Old Lane||Bretton West||1925||1947|
|Bullcliffe Wood||Bretton West||1948||August||1985|
|Bullcroft Main||Carcroft||1908||(September||(1970)||Merged with Brodsworth|
|Dearne Valley||Little Houghton||1900||March||1991|
|Denaby Main||Denaby Main||1856||(March)||(1968)||Merged with Cadeby|
|Denby Grange, Caphouse||Overton||1828||October||1985|
|East Ardsley||East Ardsley||1876||January||1968|
|Ferrymoor||Grimethorpe||1915||(April)||(1973)||See Ferrymoor Riddings|
|Ferrymoor Riddings||South Kirkby||1973||March||1988|
|Fitzwilliam Main||Fitzwilliam||1876||(July)||(1967)||Merged with South Kirkby|
|Gascoigne Wood Drift||South Milford||1977||October||2004|
|Grange Ash||Grange Moor||1871||August||1966|
|Gregory Spring||Upper Hopton||1921||(August)||(1962)||Merged with Shuttle Eye|
|Hemsworth||Fitzwilliam||1876||(July)||(1967)||Merged with South Kirkby|
|Hickleton Main||Thurnscoe||1892||(January)||(1986)||Merged with Goldthorpe|
|High Hazels Nos 1 & 2||Darnall||1940||1947|
|Houghton Main||Little Houghton||1873||December||1992|
|Ingham, Bye Pit||Thornhill||1884||1947|
|Kirkby Riddings||South Kirkby||1987||March||1988|
|Kiveton Park||Kiveton Park||1866||October||1994|
|Manvers Main||Wath upon Dearne||1868||March||1988|
|Monckton Main Nos.1, 2 & 5||Havercroft||1875||1947|
|Monckton Main Nos.3 & 4||Havercroft||1913||1947|
|Monk Bretton||Monk Bretton||1867||April||1968|
|New Monckton Nos.1, 2 & 5||Royston||1948||1951|
|New Monckton Nos.1 & 2||Royston||1875||1966|
|New Monckton Nos.1, 2 & 6||Royston||1958||December||1966|
|New Monckton Nos.3 & 4||South Hiendley||1948||December||1966|
|North Gawber||Mapplewell||1854||(December)||(1985)||Merged with Woolley|
|Norwood Green||Norwood Green||1929||April||1959|
|Park Mill||Clayton West||1877||(December)||(1988)|
|Prince of Wales||Pontefract||1869||August||2002|
|Riddings Drift||South Kirkby||1969||(April)||(1973)||See Ferrymoor Riddings|
|Rothwell Haigh, Beeston Pit||Rothwell||1870||1947|
|Rothwell Haigh, Fanny Pit||Rothwell||1867||1949|
|Shuttle Eye||Grange Moor||1856||April||1973|
|Silkstone Common||Silkstone Common||1923||(January)||(1961)||Merged with Wentworth Silkstone|
|South Elmsall||South Elmsall||1924||(March)||(1968)||Merged with Frickley|
|South Kirkby||South Kirkby||1876||March||1988|
|Thorncliffe||Thorncliffe||1854||–||(1954)||Merged with Smithy Wood|
|Toftshaw Moor||East Bierley||1913||August||1950|
|Wath Main||Wath upon Dearne||1873||March||1988|
|West Riding, Fox Pit||Altofts||1885||1966|
|Wharncliffe Silkstone||Pilley||1860||(June)||(1967)||Merged with Rockingham|
|Wharncliffe Woodmoor Nos.4 & 5||Carlton||1925||July||1970|
|Whitley Clough||Grange Moor||1884||1947|
|Woolley Edge||Woolley Edge||1932||June||1966|