The western front

Some weeks ago now, I featured a British Railways Board plan I’d purchased from a map dealer, which showed the coal workings in the Yard Seam below Brownhills Common. At the same time, I bought the one featured here, too. It’s of workings from the Wilkin Colliery, operated by J&B Cox. The spoil heaps the pit created are still present in the fields behind he old Highfields Farm south of Chasewater.

Under this spoil heap – the last visible remains of the Wilkin Colliery – appear to be three shafts. Imagery from Bing! maps.

These sit well with previous drawings featured of the conduit colliery and Gerald Reece’s wonderful land plans of the Norton Branch.

One of the problems with old drawings is getting them scanned. These were particularly challenging, as they were drawn on cotton vellum paper – a fabric like, thin material that’s incredibly soft and difficult to machine feed. Imagine a drawing printed on a cheesecloth shirt. Thankfully, I found a wonderful, very competent scanning company who did an excellent job.

The plan shows how the railway path interacts with the workings below, and where the Ministry of Transport insisted supportive girders should go in the underground operations, in order not to compromise the structural integrity of the railway. This was a serious business, and was enabled under an act of parliament.

North isn’t upward on this map – it can take a while to mentally orient it. If you use the Google Earth overlay I’ve provided, that comes out oriented correctly.

Workings in the Wilkin Pit under Brownhills West, between Hednesford Road and Watling Street, as recorded in 1955. The scale is 2 chains to the inch, which is a very railway-ish scale – they still work in miles and chains today. It seems to have also been drawn by M. Fletcher, who drew the Engine Lane one, but I can’t be sure. Click for a larger version.

The Google Earth Overlay I’ve created for you to download will also work in current Garmin graphical GPS units. The original seems slightly distorted, so don’t place too much faith in the geolocation, which I guess would be to about five to six metres. Please don’t use this as a basis for anything technical. Paper stretch, optical distortions and other errors may well make this rather inaccurate in places.

If you want to have a play with this overlay, it can be downloaded at the link below. Instructions on how to use it with Google Earth are in this post – you must have installed the Google Earth application. If you haven’t, go here to get a copy. As usual, the overlay is hosted at box.

The same plan overlaid in Google Earth. Click for a larger version.

Brownhills West 1955 mining plan overlay – 9 megabytes

My thanks to the boy [Howmuch?] who did no small amount of running around for me on this one. I really must buy him more beer…

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9 Responses to The western front

  1. alvin cox says:

    hi bob, any idea who J&B COX are the reason being is that my great, great grandad moved from
    liecester to bloxwich and rumour has it that he set up his own mining company , any help would be
    appreciated , many thanks

    • Roger Webb says:

      Please see my comments re my Grandfather on the brownhills bob blog.
      He and his brother Joe Cox lived in Tipton. I understand they were born in that area, but i am in the early stages of researching my grandfather.Their two sons Harold and Ben also worked at the collieries. I understand the pits were not all nationalised in 1947 if they had less than ascertain number of men on site. I think the number was 15 but, again I have not confirmed this.
      I have a memory at aged about eight being taken to see the ponies brought up from underground and seeing them running and jumping round a field.

  2. Tina Hill says:

    my mom and dad lived in the coal board cottages opposite chasewater entrance on the a5

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    Hello Alvin
    I can’t find anthing obvious in the old censuses, but more information would help.
    In 1918 J&B Cox owned Wednesbury Oak Colliery (No. 22), Princes End Tipton. 1945 an A Cox was manager of:
    – Pool Lane Colliery, owned by J&B Cox;
    – Old Wilkin No 8 owned by C&F Collieries Ltd.; and
    – Wilkin Colliery Co. (1927) Ltd.
    These were in the same ownership in 1940, but the manager is not listed.
    Source: Coal Mining History Resource Centre (CMHRC).
    I am happy to help more, but names, dates, places would help – ideally someone who was alive in 1911.

  4. Roger Webb says:

    Hi all
    My name is Roger Webb And my maternal Grandfather was Benjamin Simeon Cox. He and his brother Joeseph Cox were the owners of the Wilkin colliery etc mentioned above.
    Grandpa lived in Tipton and I can supply details and pictures if needed. I came across this most interesting detail by feeding in the Wilkin colliery details in to google whilst I was researching my grandpa’s details. I know that they were involved with works at Princes End Tipton on land opposite the Tipton Harriers sport centre and I was told these were Swarf factories between the wars. But your details of Wednesbury Oak Colliery make more sense. There used to be a canal or railway bridge on the road next to the supermarket just above the sports centre and locals know this as Cox’s Bridge. grandpa was born in 1878 and died in 1960 I was 15 at that time. Some months ago I drove down Wilkin Road but could not recognise anything these details are so useful. If I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me

    • Andrea Anstey says:

      Hi Roger, I believe we must be related. I don’t have many details to hand but I do know my grandfather, Joseph Cox’s family owned this colliery. I would love to hear more about the Cox’s, I don’t know if BB can give you my email address rather than posting it here?
      Would be really interested to hear from you.
      Many thanks

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