A HISTORY OF BERRYHILL COLLIERY

By Jim Worgan


It is thought that coal and ironstone workings commenced in the 1840's and that the original owner was W.T. Copeland. Mr. Wynne's (H.M. Inspector of Mines) Report on the list of mines in North Staffordshire in 1875 lists W. Bowers as owner, a man prominent in the Cheadle Coalfield. Bowers apparently acquired the site from Copeland during the early 1860,s and by 1870 had erected an Ironworks on site which continued until the early part of the 20th Century. The Business was subsequently purchased by Henry Worthington in the 1880,s following the death of Bowers and the site consisted of almost 1000 acres with mineral rights existing on a further 5-700 acres. The Company subsequently erected a Brick works which continued in operation long after the Colliery finally closed in 1960. It appears that the Company went into Receivership around the start of the First World War and was eventually purchased by John Slater who in 1918 set up John Slater Ltd., which operated both Berry Hill and New Haden (Cheadle) Collieries. Slater later acquired an interest in a Holding Company to which both Berry Hill and New Haden Collieries were attached, trading as Berry Hill Collieries Ltd. Around this time Slater also purchased what appeared to be a majority of the share capital of the Holding Company which had rescued Chatterley Whitfield Collieries from oblivion following the collapse of the Chatterley Iron Company Ltd. in the 1890,s. Slater now decided to pool the buying and selling organisations of the Company's under his control which unfortunately, due to his juggling with the Finances, had disastrous consequences and his Holding Company was forced into Receivership. Shortly afterwards, however, Slater still retained control of various Company’s including Berryhill Collieries Ltd. but lost control of Chatterley Whitfield Collieries. In the early 1930,s Slater joined the Board of Settle Speakman & Co. Ltd. which marketed the coal of Berryhill Collieries, but the Company still remained independent.

In the early 1930,s a new shaft, which was eventually to become No,1 was sunk at Berryhill to a depth approaching 750 yards. But all coaling operations ceased on site and Berryhill’s allocated tonnage was transferred to New Haden Colliery. Working recommenced at Berry Hill in 1933 and all coal winding was now concentrated at the new shaft.

It might be useful at this juncture to list those shafts known to have worked at Berryhill during its lifetime: New No. 1, Ash, Broadfields, Bush (Holly Bush/Folly), Cottage, Knowles, Marl Hole, Quarry, Railway, Rose/Hill, Top/Deep.

On the 1st January 1947 the Colliery was vested in the No. 1 North Staffordshire Area of the West Midlands division of the National Coal Board. Output however gradually declined due to geological conditions and the Colliery finally ceased coal winding in 1960.

After the majority of the surface buildings had been demolished 3 decisions were taken which greatly affected the future use of the site;

a) A new Area Headquarters was built for the No. 1 North Staffordshire Area and opened in July 1966. It subsequently became the Headquarters of the Staffordshire Area in 1967 and the Western Area in 1974. The Western Area subsequently became the North West Group in January 1989 and remained in occupation until September 1989 when they moved to new accommodation in Northwich. The site subsequently became the Headquarters of the Central West Region of Opencast Executive until 1993 when Property Division, formerly Estates Department took up occupation. At present, November 1996, Property Division remains, but the accommodation is due to vacated in due course.

b) The Pit Head Baths were converted into the Berryhill (Stoke on Trent) Rescue Station in 1963 for the North Staffordshire Coalfield, ironically returning to the site of the second Rescue station built in North Staffordshire in 1913.

c) The site also housed the Area's Central Road Transport Garage which was sold to M. Nield in 1989 who finally vacated the site in 1993.

I was told by a former timekeeper at the Colliery that the Peacock Seam, which outcropped in the Marlhole adjacent to the Brickworks (which might or might not be the Marlhole and Quarry Shafts referred to above) was worked for a considerable period in the 1950,s. Indeed it formed a valuable source of fuel during the miners’ strikes in the 1970,s when it was worked by 'Coal Pickers'. Unfortunately one young man lost his life when he was buried by a fall of coal whilst tunnelling into the outcrop.

The whole area was reclaimed, following sale to the City of Stoke on Trent in the 1970's with the Berry Hill and Top Pits dirt tips (one and three quarter million cubic yards of spoil) being deposited into the Marl Hole, a portion of which still remains today. The site is now the Berry Hill Industrial Estate.

It is considered likely that the whole site will be transferred to English Partnerships, the Government Agency set up to assist in the regeneration of areas where coal mining has declined.

In a recent report in The Sentinel, a Public House, apparently called The Old Iron Cot was used to pay out wages to men employed at Berry Hill Colliery. It was still standing in the early 1900's at a time when the area was covered with lots of small pits. It is believed that the Pub was opposite The Botteslow Farmhouse which was demolished in the 1980's.

See also Old Pits By Geoff Mould

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