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|Walsall Wood pit 1950|
|The reason that Brownhills exsists as it does today is due in most part to coal. Brownhills lies in the northern part of the South Staffordshire Coalfield, which later became known as the Cannock Chase Coalfield.
Brownhills lies on two faults in the earth's crust one is known as the Vigo Fault, and the other is the Clayhanger Fault. The Clayhanger Fault joins the Vigo Fault just north of Watling Street. The seams of coal to the east of the main fault are over 1000feet lower than the seams on the west side.
The coal seams on the west side were fairly close to the suface, and in the early 1700's these were the first to be worked. The first workings were in the Birch Coppice and Slough areas, the coals were mined using Bell pits, where men were lowered to the workings, by man powered windlass, or later by horse powered gin.
|A survey by William Yates in 1775 mentions coal pits in the Brownhills area. As demand for more and better coal grew in the 19th century the mining progressed form Birch Coppice through to Brownhills Common. With the arrival of the Wyrley and Essington canal in 1797 a whole new market opened up, and whereas coal was once mined only for local use, it could now be transported to the national market.
Engine lane in the Birch Coppice area gets it's name from the fact that there was a pumping engine here in the 1770's. The early mine workings were collectively known as Brownhills Collieries.
A map of the shallow coal workings of 1841 shows over 60 shafts and workings in the Brownhills common and birch coppice area, although by this time many of them were worked out. By the 1850's mining technology had improved and this enabled deeper shafts to be sunk and allow access to the deeper coal seams.
In 1849 the Marquis of Anglesey whose family seat was at Beaudesert, commisioned a trial bore for coal on his lands at the base of the dam at Norton Pool (Chasewater). A depth of 500ft was reached, and four seams of coal of varying thickness were found. Work began soon after to sink the two main shafts of the new pit to a depth of 380ft. This pit was called The Hammerwich Colliery or the "Marquis". In 1854 this pit and the Uxbridge pit on the northern shore of Norton Pool were leased to John Robinson MacClean and Richard Chawner, and what would become the Cannock Chase Colliery Company was formed. This company eventually ran ten pits in the area, the last three closing in 1961.
Other companies to own pits in the area were Coppice colliery company , and Conduit collieries, who owned pits behind the Rising sun, by the Wilkin inn, just off the A5 between the Rising Sun and the Turf island, and also in Norton.
|A view of Engine Lane leading towards the site of Brownhills Colliery Wyrley common pit. This lane was the site of a pumping engine, probably of the Newcomen design, in the 1700's, hence the name.
James Brindley built a steam engine of the Newcomen design for Phineas Hussey at Little Wyrley in 1759, but I'm not sure wether this is the same one. The right hand view shows a close up of the surface of the lane, made up of pebbles for all weather use.
|The site of Wyrley common pit at the end of Engine lane.This pit was opened by William Harrison in the early 1850's. The remains of the waste heaps, still piled quite high. The tracks of one of the pit tramways can just be made out on the left hand image. The view on the right shows the view towards Brownhills from the top of one of the heaps.|
|A close up of the remains of the colliery tramway, and on the right is a view of where the buildings an shaft used to be. Some remains of foundations can still be found in the undergrowth.|
|More tramway remains|
|More views of the mounds of pit waste. The view on the right is from the top looking towards Pelsall.|
|The remains of the tramway from Wyrley common pit. This ran to the wharves on the Slough arm.The left hand view is looking towards Engine lane, and the right hand view is at the entrance to the Slough basin.|
|The Cathedral pit was opened in the 1850's by William Harrison, it served as the main pumping pit for the other collieries on Brownhills Common. Tunnels connected this pit to the others and the water was pumped out into Norton Pool (Chasewater)|
|The pit buildings today|
|The area behind the Cathedral pit buildings, once the site of the shafts and workings.|
|Site of the worst mining disaster in Brownhills history. An explosion of gas killed fourteen men on the nightshift on 1st of October 1930. The explosion occured in the shallow coal district, 1.5 miles from the shaft bottom. There was a public inquiry into the accident which returned an open verdict as there was "Not sufficient evidence to prove how the explosion occured". However it was found that five of the dead men were carrying contraband materials e.g matches and cigarettes, and as electricity and safety lamps were ruled out it was stated that somebody may have struck a light. The Grove was not known as a paticularly "gassy" pit and in most parts open lights were allowed. It was also stated that 11 of the men died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 3 from injuries caused by the blast, 12 of the men may have lived for a while after the explosion.
The pit was opened in 1857 by William Harrison, who also sunk the Cathedral and Wyrley common pits.The pit closed in 1952.
|Two large loading wharfs remain, joining the Cannock extension canal . The right hand wharf has the remains of one of the pit buildings|
|Anglesey Basin situated at the foot of Chasewater dam contains some of the last remains of Brownhills once booming coal industry.
The Anglesey Branch canal was built by the Marquis of Anglesey in 1849-50, on the line of the exsisting feed channel from Norton Pool to the Wyrley and Essington canal at Ogley locks. This gave his newly sunk mines access to the main canal routes. A mineral railway line from the pits ran though here to Anglesey sidings to connect to the main line of the South Staffs Railway.
This area remained active in the getting and transport of coal for over 100 years, until the last of the Cannock Chase colliery company pits closed in 1961.
|The site of the Hammerwich or No 1 colliery was where the houses stand now.
By 1850 the deep seam was being mined at 205ft The Pumping engine was built by Thorneycroft &Wareham of Burton on Trent .(Beam Condensing type). The engine could be used for winding and pumping.It was transfered to No 7 pit at Chase Terrace when No1 closed in 1856 and was still at No7 when that pit closed in 1961.
First recorded loss of life was on 31/7/1857. John Waters 24 of Burntwood, was killed by an explosion of firedamp. Ceased operation by 1856. Possibly because of a fault running at right angles to the seam.
|Remains of the managers house, built in 1850.|
|Due to the economies involved in lifting the coal up the shafts of No2 pit, loading it onto railway wagons, then to the wharf, it was decided to convert this pit to a drift mine.
This ran from the haulage way at the bottom of No2 at 200ft depth, to the surface at Anglesey Basin, a distance of 1 mile.
It took 2 years to build by a team of men working 3 shifts a day, digging by hand.
It opened on the 16/4/1923, No2 then ceased to be a drawing pit.
Coal tubs were attached to a continous haulage rope running on surface rollers powered by a 120 hp engine.
The engine house was situated to the left of the end of the concrete wall which was built by the side of the drift as it surfaced by the basin.There were
Screens at the canal side for grading, and a overhead conveyor.
Eventually Coal from No.9 in Hednesford was taken underground via pits 8, 3, 2, to the suface at Anglesey via the drift, a distance of 4.5 miles.
All that remains today is the concrete wall that ran alongside the drift as it surfaced.
|The entrance to the drift, now filled in, and the start of the incline of the concrete wall leading to the canal side conveyor|
|More views of the wall showing the reinforcement in the concrete|
|Remains of the pulley system for the haulage rope, and looking back down the drift towards No2 pit at Chasetown>|
|All that remains of the overhead conveyors are the bases. The coal loading tipplers at the wharf. these would originally have had wooden sides. The last coal carrying barge left here in 1967.|
|Situated just off Lindon road, and next to the canal.
Shafts were begun here in 1874, and when finished were the deepest and widest at that ti me in the Cannock Chase Coalfield.
The two shafts were 15ft in diameter and were sunk to a depth of 1600ft.
The pit was very successful, it was in production for 90 years, finally closing in 1964, the last major pit in the area.
The workings extended as far as Aldridge to the east,under Brownhills as far as St James church, and Clayhanger.
After closure the shafts and workings were filled with effluent disposal by Leigh Environmental.
The site is now an industrial estate, but a few of the pit buildings remain.
|This pit was situated to east of Pool Lane, which runs from the A5 to Chasewater. Pictured here in the late 1930's,when it had been reopened .This pit had originally been mined in the mid 1800's. It was a shallow pit that mined high quality coal. Apparently you could hold a conversation with the miners at the shaft bottom from the shaft top! (according to an old relative). Abandoned in the 1950's, Chasewater trotting track was built on it in the 1970's. Now that too has been demolished.|
|The site of Pool lane pit today.|
|This picture shows the re-opening of the Wide pit, which was on the opposite side of Pool lane at the rear of Highfields Farm.The pit was re-opened in the 1930's, although the original workings dated from the early 1850's.|
|The site of the wide pit today. The spoil heaps still remain.|