Coal Mining – Deep, Dark and Dangerous
The Age of Steam demanded coal and Nottinghamshire sits over a rich seam of it. Hucknall’s two mines played their part in supplying it. In the 19th and 20th centuries coal fuelled the growth of Britain’s economy and the massive growth of Hucknall’s population.
Carbon Capture: People have been taking coal out of the earth in Nottinghamshire since the Middle Ages. But it was the vast quantities required to feed a Victorian world driven by the steam engine which made it worth the money and effort to sink deep mines. By the mid-20th century the steam engines were the turbines producing electricity in the huge power stations of the Trent Valley. At one time there were more than 60 deep mines and Hucknall had two of them.
‘Top Pit’: Hucknall No. 1 pit was sunk in 1861 on Watnall Lane by the Hucknall Colliery Company owned by John E Ellis. The deep shaft reached coal the following year. Coal would be mined there for over 60 years, stopping in 1943. But Number 1 pit would stay open until 1960 providing ventilation and services for Number 2 pit.
‘Bottom Pit’: Hucknall Colliery Company sank Hucknall Number 2 in 1866 on Portland Road. By now J E Ellis had sunk a fortune into his two pits and needed to recover the money quickly. The men and boys worked 12 hour shifts, the longest in the country. Nevertheless the prospect of work brought new settlers to Hucknall and in the 20 years after the first pit was sunk the population more than tripled from 2836 to 10000.
Lost Boys: The ‘Bottom Pit’ (Hucknall No. 2) closed in 1986 ending 125 years of deep mining in Hucknall. The cost of taking coal can also be counted in lives lost ; 96 men died in Hucknall’s two mines. The first was John Richards in 1862; aged 22, he was killed in a gunpowder explosion. The last was Robert Griffiths in 1978; aged 26, he was crushed by a locomotive. The oldest was 71 and the youngest, just 13. A memorial to the miners lost at Hucknall and nearby Linby was unveiled in 2014.