By Jim Worgan

Sinking of the Colliery, also known as `Dukes Pit', commenced in 1873 (completed in 1876) to work the Blackband ironstone and seams in the upper coal series. The Colliery was owned by the Stafford Coal and Iron Company Ltd, whose main shareholders were The Duke of Sutherland and C.J. Homer who came to the Company from Chatterley Whitfield. The shafts, known as `Homer' and `Sutherland' were later deepened to gain access to the richer coking coal series. The Company had purchased the Great Fenton Estate from John Bourne together with the mineral rights and to smelt the ore into pig iron. The Company erected brickworks in 1874 and 2 blast furnaces in July 1876 from which it proposed to produce some 500 tons of iron per week.

A new blast furnace was erected in 1890 and increased to 4 by 1900. At the same time a Plant was installed to recover tar, pitch and sulphate of ammonia which was in operation by 1901. Following severe operational difficulties, the Furnaces and By Products Plant closed in 1931. The brickworks continued in operation, albeit under private ownership until the 1960's. In 1936, financial control of the Company passed to Settle Speakman, and at nationalisation, the leasehold area covered 7,000 acres worked from the No.1 shaft at Hem Heath Colliery, sunk in the 1920's, as well as from the `Homer' and `Sutherland' Shafts, which had the last 2 vertical Steam Winding Engines in North Staffordshire.

With the gradual rundown of the Colliery due to geological problems a decision was taken in the early 1960's to transfer all Coal Preparation activities to Hem Heath Colliery. From this time all locomotive activities for the two Collieries were undertaken from a purpose built engine shed at Hem Heath Colliery. For many years, the Colliery had a Wharf on the Trent and Mersey Canal which, in the late 1950's was the scene of a major incident when the canal bank collapsed. 2 o 3 employees who were in a barge or on the bank itself were lucky to escape with their lives. The Colliery was never easy to work due to severe geological problems and closed in 1968 with most of the men being transferred to Hem Heath and Florence Collieries. Surplus methane was disposed of via the gas grid.

See also Old Pits By Geoff Mould (Great Fenton)