A HISTORY OF HOLDITCH

By Jim Worgan


Work on shaft sinking (2 shafts) was commenced by the Brymbo Steel Co. of Wrexham, North Wales during the latter part of the First World War originally for ironstone. The shafts eventually reached a trough in the coal seams formed by the Apedale fault to the West and the hundred yard fault to the East. It was therefore possible to mine not only the Red Mine Ironstone, but also the high quality coking coals. In fact, the Holditch Moss seam was the highest quality coal mined in North Staffordshire. Towards the end of the 1920's owing to severe financial difficulties, John Summers & Sons of Hawarden Bridge Steel Works, Shotton, North Wales, who at this time also owned the entire Capital of the Shelton Iron and Steel Co. Ltd of Etruria, became interested in Holditch as a possible source of both iron and coal to feed the Shelton Blast furnaces. On the 11th January 1930, a new private limited liability company, Holditch Mines Ltd. was formed, with output and development being shared 2-thirds to Shelton and 1-third to Brymbo, which subsequently went into liquidation in June 1931. Eventually on 5th February 1932 Shelton bought out the Brymbo share from the Receiver and the Colliery Company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Shelton Company.

The original Downcast (coal drawing) Shaft (No.1) was converted to man riding and materials in the 1970's whilst a fully automatic electric winding engine complete with a skip winding system was installed in the smaller No. 2 upcast shaft. Following the closure of Parkhouse Colliery in 1968 a major pumping system was installed to protect the colliery whose workings on the Western side had been limited for many years by flooding from the long closed Collieries in the Apedale Valley (Watermills, Burley, Apedale, Sladderhill and many more).

The Colliery consistently drained more than 6milliom Therms of methane a year making it one of the gassiest in Britain. It became the first Colliery in North Staffordshire to sell gas, 1.25m. Therms a year (equivalent to 4,000 tons of Coal) to local industry by supplying the Chesterton Works of the then G.H. Downing & Co. Ltd commencing in July 1976. It was also connected to the North Staffs Gas grid.

Although extensive reserves were available to the Colliery, by the late 1980's it was mining the very thin seams which although of high quality were highly unproductive. It was closed in 1989 and is scheduled to become the Holditch Business Park. The site has long association with the Roman occupation of Britain, and local archaeologists were give permission in February 1996 to carry out trial boring to determine what further evidence of the occupation might remain prior to Development.

A major explosion occurred on the 2nd July 1937 which resulted in the death of 30 men. For his heroism in the rescue attempts, the Captain of the Holditch Colliery Rescue Team, Azariah (Ezra) Clarke was awarded the Edward Medal which was later exchanged for the George Cross. The medal was presented to the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum by his widow and was purchased by Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council in 1994 following closure of the Mining Museum. It is currently on display at Newcastle Museum together with a Sevres Vase presented to the Holditch Colliery Rescue Team by the President of the French Republic to commemorate their exploits in the Rescue operations following the explosion. For many years the vase was on display at the Berryhill (Stoke on Trent) Rescue Station.

See also Old Pits By Geoff Mould

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