Since covering the anniversary of The Grove Pit Disaster – the worst such event in our area’s mining history – I’ve only peripherally touched on the subject of the local mines. After some prompting by readers, I’ve decided this week to feature the Walsall Wood Colliery in the ‘Pictures from the Past’ feature.
I’m very wary of glamorising or sanitising the history of mining; I’m aware that it’s a sensitive issue locally, and I have nothing but respect for those hard, proud people that worked in such a harsh, deadly industry for very poor pay. Those who would regard this industry with misty eyes behind rose-tinted spectacles outrage me. The history of mine worker pay and conditions doesn’t shadow that of the general British workforce; their occupation remained regularly deadly long after others were made safe. Former miners continue to this day to fall due to respiratory diseases caused by the atrocious conditions they endured to fuel our industrial boom.
Please study these images, think about where the mine stood – on the corner of Coppice Road and Linden/Brownhills Road – and reflect on the changes since the pit closed. When you pass the site, try and imagine the slag heaps and filth that marked out the mine and it’s community. Try and conceive, if you will, how our life compares to those who worked that hole in the ground.
As ever, I pay tribute to the fine books these images originated from, and in particular, to Brian Rollins, who works tirelessly to evoke, commemorate and document the works and workforce he was once part of. The value and contribution of the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society of which Brian is a leading light, cannot be underestimated.