If ever anything were to prove the importance of a detailed mapping record, than my post of Wednesday last, ‘Common ground’ does just that. Whilst dredging the available mapping for the area beforehand, the 1938 draftings were unavailable in the archive for technical reasons. Thus, in the selections I chose, there was no evidence of mining to be found around my mystery shaft, near the site of the former level crossing at the top of Engine Lane, Brownhills.
I’ve had some top contributions on this subject, and, as ever, I welcome them all, but one in particular demonstrated Mr. Sod’s law to full effect. Reader Jim, rapidly developing the air of one who really knows what he’s talking about, said the following:
The area where the brick shafts are is marked West colliery (coal & fireclay) on the 1938 map Bob. It’s a relatively small spoil heap maybe it ran into problems that corner of the fields is often ankle deep in water.
So it was with great interest and no little impatience that I waited for the drafts to come online again. Finally, this afternoon they were released. Jim is quite correct, on the 1:2,500 1938 epoch 4 map for the area, there is exactly the feature he describes:
This is hugely engaging for me, and does indeed help solve the mystery. Whatever it was, it was clearly a very small operation. I will try and get to explore the area on foot in the next week or so. The building layout is not clear from the map segment, and the same date 1:10,000 scale draft of the same area complicates things more, showing an ‘L’ shaped building on the exact spot:
On the subject of the Engine that gave the lane it’s name, I’m of the opinion that it was the steam pump installed at the Cathedral Pit, which acted as a central pumping facility for shafts in the immediate vicinity, emptying into the then Norton Pool, or Chasewater. David Fellows, author of the wonderful Brownhills Past website, is particularly interested in the subject of the machinery in question. He says this on the subject:
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)
Robert Webster, who curated brilliant, but sadly lost local history site for Brownhills, wrote much on the pits of this specific area, and goes into more detail:
Now to the coalfields of Brownhills. Due to the fact that the coal seams between all the faults or cracks could not be reached from one mine shaft numerous shafts were sunk around the Brownhills area to get to all the coal seams.
Starting in the north part of Brownhills coalfields The mine that opened just to the south of the Hammerwich fault very near to the Wilkin Inn, was known as the ‘Coppice pit No 8′, or,’The Corner Pit’. The shaft was sunk around the area where the Wilkin road joins the Hednesford road. The two entrepreneurs who were responsible for developing the coal fields around Brownhills and Chasetown were, Mr Harrison and the excellent engineer Mr. J.R.McClean.
To gain access to the coal in the Rising Sun Trough, Mr Harrison sank the, ‘Cathedral Pit’, as part of his Brownhills Colliery Co. This pit was to become the main pumping pit to remove water from the pits to the north and south of the Trough. The shafts were connected by tunnels to allow the water to drain from each pit into the Cathedral pit and so be pumped out. The Cathedral Pit was in an area known as, ‘The Wyrley Common’, which was just south of the Watling Street and West of Brownhills. Many pits were opened on Wyrley common by William Harrison including the Grove, Norton and Wyrley pits Mr Harrison’s pits employed over 1,000 men in the late 1800’s.
Many other pits were opened at this time on the Wyrley Common. A little further west along the Watling Street the ‘Conduit Colliery’, was opened by the Conduit Colliery Company with the shafts, No’s 1, 2 and 3 being sunk. Conduit No 1 was a small pit employing 120 underground and 44 surface workers.Conduit No 3 was the largest and in 1896 employed 836 underground and 264 surface workers, the pits were managed by Mr W. H. Whitehouse. These shafts were sunk in the area now occupied by Leeways Ltd.Also the ,’SunPit’, ‘Hart Pit’, and the 3 shafts belonging to the Wyrley Common Colliery, which were to become known as the,’Red, White and Blue’.
South of the Rising Sun Trough on Brownhills Common, the coal was reached by the mines belonging to the Coppice Colliery Company. Numerous shafts were sunk, No 1 pit was half way between the Rising Sun and the Hussey Arms, just off the Chester road. No 2 colliery was 150 yards further south The No 3 shaft was just south of the Rising Sun in an area known as, ‘Engine Meadow’. The No 5 pit which was also a brickwork’s, was 100 yards north of Engine Lane, midway between, what was the London and North-western Railway and the tracks of The Midland Railway. The Brickworks was one of the few on the common and the people who worked the Kiln were paid in kind at the, “Tommy Shop”, which was at, Coppice Farm, which backed onto the Brickworks, William Marklew was the tenant farmer who also ran the Tommy Shop, which was reputed to be the last Tommy Shop in the UK.
This has been really illuminating for me. If you have anything to add, please do contribute. Little by little, we’re building up a picture of our history. Thank you for your help.