Screen stars

Last Sunday, I put together a dog-end of a post that had been making me think for a while about the lost coal conveyors of Anglesey Wharf, near Chasewater. Readers will recall that I was after information or pictures about the nature of this machinery. To be honest, I considered the subject a bit obscure, and didn’t expect much of a response.

I should have known better, and how wrong I was.

I present below all the contributions I received by email. I’m still interested in anything else anyone has – Gerald Reece mailed me and offered me a photo, too, which I’ll contact him about this weekend. I really am bowled over by reader generosity. Thank you all so much.

I include all contributions as they came to me, for clarity. This is local history gold.

For anyone wondering, they were called screens, or screening conveyors, because they could perform a grading function. Coal was shaken over a grid to ensure the nuts were either above or below a particular size. As you’ll no doubt know, the size of coal ‘nuts’ was varied for different purposes. The grids were interchangeable for flexibility.

First up is a great find by Tony Martin:

Hi Bob,

When you mentioned wanting a picture of the loading screens at Anglesey Wharf, it rang a bell.

This photo, excuse the scanning, is from a book called Narrow boats at work, by Michael E. Ware published by Moorland, 1980.

I hope the picture and caption are helpful to you,

Tony Martin

Scan kindly supplied by Tony Martin, from ‘Narrow Boats at Work’ by Micheal E. Ware. Click for a larger version.

 Next, I had this lovely, helpful email from reader Fred Butler, over in Chasetown:


I read with interest your article regarding the conveyor system on the canal near Chasewater.

I remember back, it must have been the early 60’s a large maroon coloured ‘bridge like’ construction that straddled the canal, you could climb up it and cross the canal by this method, I think this may be what you are referring to. It could have been used to transoprt coal across the canal or drop it half way across into a waiting barge below.

Do you know Carl or Tina Downs who live in the houses by the dam wall, I am sure if you ask one of these 2 they will explain a little more, and this may well be the device you are refering to.

Love your stuff,


Fred Butler – Chasetown

Andy Dennis, resourceful as ever, came through with these two fine photos and some of his father’s reminiscences – note the absolute dearth of trees. This is how Brownhills in general must have looked for years.

Hello Bob

Re On the conveyor?

Here is a picture I found online ages ago. Not great quality and I can’t remember where it came from. Dad referred to these contraptions as screens. I suspect the picture is from the end of their life as there is so little canal traffic. Dad told me that he could remember when there would be a ‘constant stream of boats with hardly a boat length between them’.

My impression, though I may be completely wrong, is that the wagons or tubs came out of an adit from No. 2 (Fly) pit and were emptied onto the conveyor, which lifted coal onto the screen to be dropped into boats.

I also attach a picture of Anglesey Wharf. Probably from the same source.


Picture kindly sent in by Andy Dennis. Click for a larger version.

Picture kindly sent in by Andy Dennis. Click for a larger version.

Next came a whole tranche of stuff from ex-Brownhillian marooned in Australia Dave Fellows. Dave created the site ‘Brownhills Past’ website which I mentioned in my original post. Dave’s site, alone with that of David Hogkinson, was a seminal influence on me and this blog. Dave has continued to find great interest in the question of the Engine Lane pump and Anglesey Basin, for which I thank him profusely.

A link to Dave’s site can be found on the sidebar, but beware, it’s pop-up laden at the moment, and I don’t recommend it without rubber gloves and something for the weekend. Or a flamethrower.

Dave mentions the drift shaft, whose portal was at the wharf. This is a very misunderstood feature, which was never a mine shaft in it’s own right. It was solely an access shaft, with a tramway in it, that ran at a fairly shallow angle into the deep mine workings at the north end of Chasewater Dam. The geology enabled this, as did the topology of the area. Remember that the Wharf is a good bit lower than the dam and Chasetown, so a convenient angle could be subtended. The tramway could then be winched easily, with greater traffic flow than through a cage lift like other deep pits.

It’s my belief that there were no workings under the dam itself – absolutely, there were under the lake, but not, I feel, directly under the dam. Bear in mind that the geology changes significantly over the site and that on the south shore at Highfields, the coal was very shallow.

Hopefully, I can expand on the physical geography and geology of Chasewater and Anglesey Wharf in a later post.

Dave had the following to contribute:

G’day Bob

That area of the canal has always fascinated me, particularly the drift mine, part of the workings of which still remain.

I’ve attached some photos of the conveyor and wharf, they’re not the best quality, scanned them few years ago out of a book from the library called ‘Old Chasetown’ I think. Not sure of the date of the photos but late 50’s rings a bell. There must be some more knocking about somewhere.

Will get round to re-doing that website at some point!


P.S. there’s a video worth tracking down called ‘Last coal from Anglesey’ got mine from the Black Country museum a few years ago, does a bit of a recreation of loading coal from the scuttles into a barge at the wharf.

Image generously supplied by Dave Fellows, possibly from a book called ‘Old Chasetown’. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Dave Fellows, possibly from a book called ‘Old Chasetown’. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Dave Fellows, possibly from a book called ‘Old Chasetown’. Click for a larger version.

A short time later, Dave also sent me the following fascinating image and explanation:

Came across this while finding the conveyor stuff, it’s a photo of the opening of the drift mine in 1923.

Below is the text of a email from a few years ago when I was tying to find out more info on the system .

David, Alan Dead has passed on your email re ‘The Drift’ to me, presumably since together with Brian Rollins I am a co-author of the section of the book being done on ‘Cannock Chase Colliery Company’.

You are quite correct in what you say that the drift was opened in 1923, primarily to drawn coal from the No. 2 pit area, which enabled the shafts to be dispensed with from a coal drawing point of view. As to when the drift closed is a very debatable point, since our research has found out has found out a number of contributory points as to the date of it’s closure.

In 1923 the Washery and new screens were installed at No. 3 as well as a new steel headgear at 3’s and overland transport from 8’s to 3’s was installed where the coal could be washed and screened at the new plant.In addition N0 9 colliery closed for coal drawing in 1923 and coal was taken underground via 8’s, 3’s and 2’s to the drift. No 9 re-opened in 1935.

My own jiudgement is that the drift was primarily used for the coal from 2’s, since it was driven from the ‘Bass seam’ pit bottom a distance of some 945 yards although in the early years it was used from other pits by the underground linkages. As you correctly said 2’s closed in 1940, which meant that the workings in the area of Chaes Water were exhausted, and this was when the drift fully closed.

As a closing comment, when I was employed as a surface mechanic at number 3’s in the late 1950’s one of my jobs was maintaining the tipper at Anglesey Wharf, which was used for tipping coal from the rail wagons transported from 3’s. If I find any more information I will pass it onto you.’

Peter Barker’

[Bob’s note: I don’t think that’s the same PeterBarker as the Crown Affair, but I could be wrong!]

Hope that’s some use. I could find very little on the conveyor system. If I recall correctly, there was a winch house at the end of the drift, which can be seen on the map. Which hauled the coal , but not sure how it connected to the conveyor. Must have been quite impressive to have seen it all in action.


Image generously supplied by Dave Fellows, source uncertain. Click for a larger version.

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10 Responses to Screen stars

  1. Pedro says:

    Hi Bob,

    As an aside you mention “physical geography and geology”.

    Some readers who have iPad or iPhone can download the excellent free App called igeology.

    Regards Peter

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Great work everyone!

    The pictures show only one screen, but there are two sets of abutment remains. I wonder if there were two screens for peak production, for example in wartime, but one was dismantled as mines were worked out and supply dwindled.

    Does anyone know where the portal to the adit was?

  3. Dave Fellows says:

    Great article!
    In regards to the drift mine, the concrete retaining wall, that ran down to the entrance still remains (it’s been a few years since I was last there, and it was quite overgrown), but if you followed it down, you can see where the entrance was. Filled in now, but there was a lot of broken up concrete where the entrance was.
    The wall can be made out in the distance, on the left hand side of the photo of the basin as a long white mark.

  4. Andy Dennis says:

    Thanks, Dave. Nearer the canal than I had thought. Looking at an earlier post A Cartographic History (27 Nov 2011), the 1951 map shows a line ending due east of the old house on the dam (the highest, rendered building) at very approximately GR 404200 307400. This is somewhere near to and east of the rough path from the end of the canal to Paviors Road, about half way down the slope.

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