A series of small areas of coal has been worked in Nidderdale below Pateley Bridge, but it is difficult to be certain at what horizon the seams occur because modern geological mapping in not available. They do, however, appear to be below the Cayton Gill Shell Bed, which suggest that they were working the Woogill Coal in the Red Scar Grit. These workings were near Smelthouses, Darley and Birstwith.

Coal was mined around Swarcliffe, to the west of Birstwith, and Hampsthwaite parish register records the burial of “Mr James Car, steward to ye colliery at Swarcliff” on April 7th 1743. The nearby place-name Cinder Hills may refer to iron smelting or coke making.

Wreaks cotton spinning mill, to the east of Birstwith, was opened in the 1790s by Messrs Arthington and Blessard, but the latter sold out to Mr Willet, who went bankrupt a few years later. In 1805, the mill was bought by a Keighley cotton spinner, John Greenwood, who ran it in partnership with William Ellis. The mill remained in the Greenwood family, which was also connected with coal mining near Keighley, for over fifty years. According to William Grainge

“Coal has been often obtained in this neighbourhood, but of indifferent quality. About the year 1820, a shaft was sunk near Meg-yate [SE237593], and the workings continued for some time, but were eventually given up as not profitable. In the year 1830, a company was formed for the purpose of winning the coal here; they sunk three shafts, and put up an engine; but all was in vain – the seam would not pay the cost of working. After the capitalists had abandoned the undertaking, a collier named Bill Ward, without purchase of royalty or other useless ceremony, worked the seam in the river bank below the mill, and his customers fetched away the results of his labour in baskets and barrows. The river sometimes drove him away from his works, and finally the owner of the land drove him away; and with him ended the coal trade of Swarcliffe”.

Grainge’s dating is supported by the following advertisement in the Leeds Mercury, from May 12th 1832:
“To be sold very cheap, an excellent new steam engine, situated at Birstwith near Harrogate; it is of 18 HP fitted up with pumps, and every apparatus for drawing coal out of a pit fifty yards deep, in most excellent repair, it is no longer wanted, may be bought on very advantageous terms. Apply to Mr William Robinson at Birstwith”.

Gill, M.C. “Great Dales Coalfield, Eastern Areas” British Mining No.86 (2008), pp.68-108

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