History

The Pit was sunk in the 1870s and produced coal until 1983. It still retains its headstocks, engine-houses and steam winders. 


Pleasley Colliery is now a scheduled ancient monument and has been developed and maintained as a mining heritage museum. 

North Shaft Headstock
View of Chimney from within Engine House
Chimney

1872-1879


In 1872, a lease was granted to the Stanton Iron Company by William Edward Nightingale, the father of Florence Nightingale, the famous Victorian nursing pioneer. This lease allowed them to extract coal from the Top Hard seam and build a colliery. It's even said that Florence herself participated in the beginning stages of digging the mine. She made the first hole in the ground!

William, also known as Shore, was the lord of Pleasley Manor, which he bought in 1823 for £38,000. However, tragedy struck in 1874 when William died in a terrible accident. The manor then passed to his other daughter, Parthenon, who was married to Sir Harry Verney.

A large field on the hill overlooking the River Meden valley was chosen for the colliery. The team quickly started leveling the site and preparing the necessary infrastructure and access roads.

In 1873, they began sinking the two shafts with a diameter of 14.5 feet. The engine houses were also constructed, getting ready for the installation of two pairs of steam winding engines the following year, which were built by the Worsley Mesnes Iron Co.

Unfortunately, the sinking faced difficulties due to encountering large volumes of water in the first 150 yards. This problem coincided with a severe depression in the iron and coal trade, causing progress to be halted for several months.

To address the water issue, four pumps with an 18-inch diameter were installed in the No. 1 shaft, and sinking at the No. 2 shaft was stopped. The pumping had a significant impact, leading to wells and springs drying up over a wide area, even affecting water levels in the Mansfield quarries located about 3 miles away.

To control the water, the shaft had to be lined with cast-iron tubbing for about 115 yards. This process was slow and expensive but necessary.

Once sinking resumed below the lined section, the strata became drier, and most of the pumping equipment could be removed. Sinking continued without further problems, and in February 1877, they finally reached the Top Hard seam.

The pumps were then installed in the No. 2 shaft, and sinking recommenced there. They encountered similar volumes of water, and this shaft also required a similar length of tubbing to be installed.

Later that year, in order to raise more capital, the Stanton Iron Co. decided to become a limited company. In early 1878, they issued 5752 shares.

The sinking head frames were removed, and the main headstocks were erected. By the end of the year, the fitting-out work both above and below ground was almost complete. When they finally reached the Top Hard seam in the No. 2 shaft in February 1879, the Directors proudly announced that the sinking was finished and production was ready to begin.

1881-1890


Despite the ongoing depression in the coal trade, Pleasley's coal production began to increase steadily, thanks to its fortunate lack of major geological problems. While a disturbed fault zone was encountered to the north-east, the areas to the north and west were free from faults.

In 1881, an exciting development took place when electric lighting was demonstrated at the pit bottom and coal face to the Royal Commission on Accidents in Mines. The demonstration was conducted by an electrical engineer named R.E.B. Crompton. By October of that year, the monthly output had reached around 9600 tons, and by August of the following year, it had risen to 13,000 tons. Just two years later, in August, they achieved an impressive figure of 17,250 tons, surpassing the production of Stanton Iron Co.'s first colliery in Teversal, which had been operating since 1868.

By 1888, production had grown so much that the main winding shaft had reached its maximum capacity. To keep up with demand, the upcast shaft was prepared for coal winding, and output continued to rise. By 1890, with an average output of 1000 tons per day, it became unsustainable to rely on ponies for underground haulage of coal from the dip workings. As a solution, a groundbreaking underground rope-haulage system, driven by a 60HP electric motor, was installed near the downcast pit bottom. This innovative system, the first of its kind in the world, efficiently hauled coal up the 1 in 12 roadway from the North workings.

Over the next seven years, four more electrically driven rope haulages were installed, freeing up 44 horses and significantly increasing the daily output to 1700 tons.

Haulage signals
Gauges

A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner (1910)

This short profile of mining life from silent film studio Kineto

1899-1919


By 1899, Pleasley Pit had encountered some challenges, including a 25 ft. fault and extensive damage to the workings in the western area. However, the output was still impressive, and it became clear that the winding capacity of the upcast shaft had been reached. To address this, a decision was made to install a more powerful winder and boilers. At the same time, the old wooden headstock, which was in poor condition, needed to be replaced.

In 1900, the necessary work was carried out. To accommodate the construction, all production was temporarily shifted to the downcast shaft through two shift working. The following year, due to the deteriorating condition of the old timber frame, the headstock at the downcast shaft was also replaced. This time, it was pre-erected on the pit-top and then carefully positioned using winches.

Over the next two decades, significant changes were made on the surface. In 1904, the drum shaft on the downcast shaft winder fractured, leading to the installation of a new and more powerful winder. Older boilers were replaced with newer ones, more powerful fans were installed, and a new screening plant was erected. Additionally, turbine generators, powered by the exhaust steam from the winders, were commissioned. Finally, in 1919, work began on deepening the upcast shaft, marking another phase of development for Pleasley Pit.

1921-1938


In 1921, Pleasley Pit completed the deepening process to reach the Black Shale seam. To enable winding from this level, a much larger winder was installed, which required a complete reconstruction of the engine-house. The steam plant was also consolidated into a single range of boilers, and a new power-house was built to house a large mixed-pressure turbine generator.

After inspecting the deeper seams, it was decided to focus solely on mining the Deep Hard coal at that point. A ventilation drift, inclined at a ratio of 1 in 2, was driven from the Top Hard seam, serving its purpose to improve airflow. Mining operations began in three longwall faces within the 3 ft thick seam. However, due to economic challenges during the recession, it became impractical to continue, and production in that area ceased in 1927. The focus shifted entirely to the Top Hard seam, which was now extensively worked. As the coal reserves to the north of the River Meden were mostly depleted, mining efforts were directed towards the reserves located to the south.

By the late 1930s, the southern reserves were also dwindling. Exploration was initiated to investigate two underlying seams, namely the Dunsil and 1st Waterloo. In 1938, Pleasley Pit employed 1,261 miners underground, with an additional 283 workers on the surface. Although electric coal cutters had been in use since the early 1900s, coal was still being loaded by hand onto conveyor belts at the coal face, rather than directly into tubs. The newly explored seams were thinner compared to the 5 ft thick Top Hard seam, which meant a higher amount of smaller-sized coal would be produced. To process this coal, a washery plant capable of handling 150 tons per hour was constructed a few hundred yards southwest of the pit. This plant played a crucial role in subsequent years when mechanized loading was introduced and the demand for small coal, especially for power generation, increased significantly.

Drivers seat
North Winder
South Engine

Watch Coal Mining Today on BFI Player.

Trainees are busy learning "a career rather than a job" at the world's first Mines Mechanisation Training Centre in Sheffield. (1946)

player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-coal-mining-today-1946-online 

1945-1951


After World War II, the mining of the Dunsil and 1st Waterloo seams picked up pace, and attention returned to the Deep Hard seam. However, there was a shortage of available workers. In 1945, there were 281 men on the surface, but only 895 underground. Despite the labor constraints, Huwood power loaders were now being used on the coal face, and the washery plant proved to be highly valuable.

In the late 1940s, after nationalization, a significant development program was initiated. The use of tubs was replaced by 3-ton mine-cars, and on the surface, compact circuits were constructed. These circuits featured fully automatic pneumatic systems that controlled the movement and emptying of the mine-cars.

At the downcast shaft, a new pit-bottom and mine-car haulage system was built in the deeper 2nd Waterloo seam. The shaft itself was deepened by driving up from below. Additionally, at the upcast pit-bottom, a compact mine-car circuit was created, allowing the coal to be transported almost to the shaft-side using powerful trunk conveyor belts.

In 1951, the final face in the Top Hard seam concluded, located more than three miles south of the pit bottom. However, the primary output from the downcast shaft had already shifted to the Dunsil and 1st Waterloo seams. At that time, the Dunsil seam was being worked to the southeast of the shaft, while the 1st Waterloo workings were in the northwest. Meanwhile, in the Deep Hard seam, redevelopment efforts were ongoing, with production focused on the north side.

1957-1983


In 1957, an enclosed tunnel was introduced in Pleasley. This tunnel carried the trunk conveyor from the main intake airway to a return airway near the pit-bottom. Interestingly, the miners humorously named it "Sputnik," but its official name has been forgotten over time.

Around the same period, cross-measure drifts were being driven down to the underlying Piper seam, located south of the pit-bottom. A new mining face was established in this seam, progressing below the previous workings in the Deep Hard seam until it reached a point beyond their final working area. Initially, there was a separation of about 10 yards between the Piper and Deep Hard seams near the pit-bottom. However, as the mining face advanced, the distance between them gradually reduced until they were only a short distance apart. At this point, short drifts were created to connect with the Deep Hard seam, and new mining faces were opened in that seam. Within a short distance, they were extracting coal from a combined thickness of about 2 to 2.5 meters. Two additional faces were opened closer to the pit-bottom in the Piper seam, but no further development occurred in that seam except for a parallel one heading back towards the pit-bottom.

By this time, production had ceased in both the Dunsil and 1st Waterloo seams, as well as in the Deep Hard north-side districts. All subsequent coal output now came from the combined Deep Hard/Piper workings in the southeast. Although the projected output was high, the surface infrastructure at Pleasley was showing signs of age. Consequently, a decision was made to redirect all output to nearby Shirebrook colliery, which involved sinking a large surface drift and constructing new coal processing facilities. With the discontinuation of coal-winding operations at Pleasley, the colliery had reached the end of its mining activities. However, it continued to be used for transporting workers and materials until its eventual closure in 1983.

Dusk
Colliery Headstock By Moonlight

1983-Present


The upcast shaft at Pleasley Colliery underwent a conversion to supply air to Shirebrook's workings for a number of years. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a fortunate turn of events. The process of filling the downcast shaft and the removal of various facilities like baths, washery, and screens took time. During this period, the local authority recognized the historical value of the remaining structures and gave them a preservation listing just before they were scheduled for demolition in 1986.

However, the site remained in a state of uncertainty for several more years until 1995 when a preservation group called Friends of Pleasley Pit was established. This marked the beginning of restoration efforts. In 1996, Pleasley Colliery was officially designated as an Ancient Monument, and plans were set in motion to develop it into a mining heritage center.

Significant progress has been made in the restoration project. The two headgears, the roof of the engine-house, and the chimney have been renovated by Robert Woodhouse Ltd. The regeneration efforts have received recognition through several regional and national awards, including the English Heritage Angel Awards in 2011 and the EMCBE Constructing Excellence Heritage Awards. The restoration of the two steam winding engines, which are special features of the pit, has been carried out by dedicated volunteers who are members of the Friends of Pleasley Pit.