A HISTORY OF SILVERDALE COLLIERY

By Jim Worgan


The earliest evidence of mine workings in the Silverdale area was the finding of fossils in the coal shale’s by Sir Robert Eggerton in 1763. The Silverdale Company was formed on the 6th April 1792 to exploit both the Silverdale and Leycett Areas. Ironstone was worked and supplied to Ralph Sneyd's Ironworks at Knutton Heath. Coal was wound at Silverdale as early as 1830 to provide fuel for the Silverdale Ironworks which was about 300 yards North West of the present coal drawing shaft. The main coal drawing shaft, No.17, originally called the Comet shaft was sunk for the production of ironstone in the mid 1870's and was deepened for coal production in 1923. Winding operations were originally by water tank and basket method, using a hemp winding rope and an iron chain tail rope. Later i n the 19th century the gin ring method was in operation using 3 or 4 horses.
The single cage tandem system was also used which is still in evidence at No. 14 and 15's upcast shafts. No. 16 shaft was constructed as a furnace ventilation and pumping shaft and was never used to transport men or coal. Consequently, the small cage installed would only be used for inspection purposes, with the furnace situated at the bottom of this shaft. Two engines were used in this shaft, one of which was built by John Warner of Hanley in the 1920's which had three drums and was believed to have been used for both surface and underground haulage systems together with coring the water pipes. The writer was directly responsible for this engine being taken out of service for reasons which I will not disclose. It was subsequently taken to the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum where it was installed in the Platt Winding Engine House under the direction of a gentleman named Bill Shenton, with able assistance from a former N.C.B. Mechanical Engineer, George Bath, and restored to working order. At the time of writing I believe it is still there. The cage in the No. 16 shaft was very small as previously stated and the engine used to wind it was made from the cylinders and motion of a colliery shunting locomotive, possibly Manning Wardle 0 - 6 - 0 `Silverdale' under the direction of the noted Silverdale Colliery Engineer G.T. Minshall around 1860. A building close to the 16'shaft Winding Engine House was said to have housed a beam engine, but I have never been able to determine this either by recollection of old miners nor by documentation. The 4 shafts collectively were also known by the name of Kent’s Lane Colliery.

At this point it might be prudent to show why the Colliery had 4 shafts numbered 14/15, 16 and 17. Records in my possession show that in 1892, the Colliery was owned by the Butterley Company of Derbyshire, which is still in existence on 1996. The shafts were numbered as follows:
Nos 1 & 2 Nabbs Pit
No.6 Sheriff
Nos 8 & 9 Scot Hay
Nos 12 & 13 Holly Wood
Nos 14 & 15 Kents Lane
Nos 16 & 17 Kents Lane

To date I have not been able find any information in respect of Shafts Nos 3,4,5,7,10 or 11, although in 1875/1881 the Company was working Pits at Apedale, Park House (as distinct from the Parkhouse Colliery previously referred to) Crackley Knutton, Oak and The Grove. It is possible therefore that these are the missing shaft numbers.
The original Silverdale Company appears to have closed around 1815 and Walter Sneyd of Keele Hall, as Landowner, took over the running of the Company and on his death in 1829 the Sneyd Estate and Company passed into the hands of his Son, Ralph Sneyd, who left their management to his Agent, Samuel Peake. Peake died in 1848, by which time the affairs of the Company had become very complicated. By December 1848 a new Company, The Silverdale Company had been set up and Sneyd granted a Lease to Francis Stanier, his Solicitor, who acted as Manager. Stanier realised the need for good transport communications, and because it was considered that the North Staffordshire Railway was using delaying tactics, Sneyd and Stanier undertook construction of their own Railway to the Pool Dam area of Newcastle. The Railway which was completed in 1850 was known as the Silverdale and Newcastle under Lyme Railway, the first standard gauge railway in North Staffordshire. The Company prospered under both Stanier and his son, who took the name Stanier-Broade and eventually went into partnership with Robert Heath. Ralph Sneyd died in July 1870 and thereafter the fortunes of the Company declined. The Company was leased to the Butterley Company in the 1880's who ran it until the lease was terminated in January 1901. With the departure of the Butterley Company, the Ironworks, Forges and Mills closed and a new Company, Silverdale Colliery Company Ltd., was formed to work the remaining coal mines, with limited success until the next takeover in 1918. Agreement was entered into between Col. Ralph Sneyd and the Shelton Iron & Steel Company who leased the mineral estate and purchased the Property of the Silverdale Company. All shafts apart from 14/15, 16 and 17 were closed as at this date.
The Colliery contributed greatly to the mechanisation of the North Staffordshire Coalfield under the National Coal Board by the successful operation of the Meco Moore cutter loader. However the fortunes of the Colliery really took off by the successful introduction of the Shearer loader in the early 1960's and output more than doubled over the next 20 years. In the 1970's a Surface Drift was driven at a gradient of 1 in 4 to connect with the existing working level in order to avoid congestion at the shaft. Following the boring which proved the existence of the new coalfield to the south, this drift was extended with a further 2 being driven at the same gradient to end at a point some 2500 yards from the surface where a new pit bottom was constructed in the vicinity of the Keele Motorway Service Station. In effect a new Colliery was constructed on the site of the existing Silverdale Colliery which obviated the need for a planning enquiry. The success was maintained and the Colliery continued to produce high levels of output throughout the 1980's and early 1990's. Surplus methane was disposed of via the gas grid. This was not to last, however, as British Coal decided to close the Colliery and the last coal, under their ownership was drawn in December 1993. Silverdale was therefore the last deep mine to operate in North Staffordshire. This however was not the end of the Colliery, because in 1994, Coal Investments leased the Colliery from British Coal and production recommenced later that year. At the time of writing, Coal Investments is in Administration, but the Colliery is continuing to produce high output of around 20,000 tonnes per week and there is every hope that it will continue. It subsequently closed on the 31st December 1998
The Colliery site was owned by the Trustees of The Sneyd Estate and was only purchased by the National Coal Board in the late 1970's early 1980's.

See also Old Pits By Geoff Mould

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