By Jim Worgan

The Staffordshire Sentinel reported that the Duke of Sutherland on Wednesday 30th July 1924 inaugurated a great industrial development in North Staffordshire by cutting the first sod of a new colliery at Hem Heath, Trentham, for the Stafford Coal and Iron Company Ltd. At this time the Company had the mining rights over an area of 4,345 acres of which 2,000 were being worked from Stafford and Kemball Collieries with the remainder allocated to the new colliery at Hem Heath. Two boreholes had been completed, one in 1896 at Newstead which had proved the measures down to and including the Great Row Seam (Upper coal measures). A second borehole at Trentham, sunk by Messrs Simon-Carves Ltd of Manchester had also proved all coal seams down to and including the Great Row. In addition it had also proved the existence of the Black Band Ironstone series, which in view of the rapid depletion of the iron ore resources in North Staffordshire was considered to be most welcome. Despite this I have no evidence to suggest that Ironstone was ever worked from Hem Heath Colliery.

The sinking of the No. 1 Shaft was seriously delayed by a very fast flowing underground stream, which it was necessary to freeze before sinking operations could be resumed. Although originally it was proposed to deepen the No. 1 Shaft and sink the No. 2 Shaft with the colliery eventually employing up to 2,000 men this never took place. Before Nationalisation and for many years after the second means of egress from the Colliery was via an underground connection to Kemball Colliery

Concern was felt as to how the Colliery would affect the `Charm' of the picturesque village of Trentham but in formulating the proposals it had been decided to process the coal at the Stafford Colliery site some 1,100 to the North. The site was therefore basically a green field one with only the No. 1 Shaft, boilers, general offices incorporating ambulance room and lamphouse together with workshops and stores. Ventilation of the workings subsequently became very difficult and hindered attempts to increase output which remained static at 250,000 tons for many years.

At Nationalisation in 1947, the existing shaft capacity was hopelessly inadequate to deal with the rich resources of the colliery, where boring operations had revealed total reserves of some 250,000 million tons down to 4,000 feet with a further 30 million tons below 4,000 feet. A major reconstruction scheme was implemented with the first sod of the No. 2 Shaft being cut by Sir Ben Smith Chairman of the West Midlands Division of the National Coal Board on the 25th January 1950. Problems were again encountered with the fast flowing underground stream which had to be frozen causing delays to sinking operations yet again. At the same time the existing No. 1 shaft was deepened and both shafts eventually produced coal from the 612 yards and 1062 levels with service levels, connected by staple shafts, at 462 yards and 912 yards. The No. 2 shaft with its distinctive `A' fame headgear became the main coal drawing shaft in August 1956 with one side being equipped with a ground mounted electric winding engine down to the 462 and 612 yards levels with the other being equipped with a ground mounted Koepe electric winding engine down to the 912 and 1062 yard levels. The original steam winding engine from the No. 1 shaft was replaced by a tower mounted Koepe electric winding engine directly above the shaft winding to all 4 levels as the service shaft. The original steam winding engine house was retained as a store and still remains in use (1996). At the same time, the administrative block, pithead baths, canteen, workshops, stores and coal preparation plant were also commissioned.

In the late 1950's, the underground roadway to Kemball Training Centre was deemed surplus to requirements and, after the then Colliery Manager, Evan Mawdsley, made a final inspection in company with the Colliery Surveyor and actually travelled underground to Kemball, it was finally sealed at both ends. Around the same time, a major incident occurred when two cages collided in the No. 2 shaft which resulted in 3 of the 4 cages plunging to the bottom. Fortunately no one was travelling the shaft at the time and no injuries were sustained. During the period the No. 2 shaft was out of commission the mobile winder was utilised at the colliery and the men deployed to development work.

In the early 1960's coal preparation facilities for Stafford Colliery were concentrated at Hem Heath. (See Stafford Colliery)

In the early 1970's it was announced that Hem Heath and Florence Collieries were to be merged to form a giant mine complex with a combined output of 2.5 million tons per annum, to be known as the Trentham Project. The official turf cutting ceremony was performed by Mr. D.J. Ezra, Chairman of the National Coal Board on Friday May 24th 1974. The main provisions of the scheme were the driving of a 2,837 yards long drift at 1 in 4 from the surface at Hem Heath, an underground connection with Florence Colliery and the construction of a new Coal Preparation Plant. The necessity for the connection between the 2 mines was because of the need for a new Coal Preparation Plant at the railhead which was Hem Heath. The alternative would have been to build two new Coal Preparation Plants and the upgrading of the mineral line from Florence Colliery to the railhead at Hem Heath which was considered uneconomic. Although all coal was brought to the surface at Hem Heath Colliery, both Collieries remained as separate management units until the late 1980's when they became one mine known at Trentham Colliery (Hem Heath became Trentham West whilst Florence became Trentham East.) The Colliery produced the fastest 2.5 million tons in Europe in 1991/2 by which time roadways had been driven through the massive Apedale Fault to the New Area to the South of the existing Silverdale Colliery take. In the same year, however the Colliery was deemed as `Not required' by British Coal and last produced in October 1992, finally closing in October 1993 on a` care and maintenance' basis. Surplus methane was disposed of, and still is, via the gas grid.

The Colliery was subsequently taken over by Coal Investments who promptly closed down the Florence section and concentrated solely on Hem Heath. At the time of writing the Colliery is in Administrative Receivership but it is hoped that a buyer can to found to enable production to continue.

See also Old Pits By Geoff Mould