A fit of Peake?

I had this one in a couple of days ago from Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, who continues his dogged research into local mining history, and the relationship between those above ground and those whose labours they depended upon beneath them.

Peter was uncomfortable to no small degree with the reporting and documentation (some of it recent) of the Wimblebury Pit Accident in which two men died in 1927; and during his research into that incident, he came upon the role of Captain T.V. Peake, who seems to be a company man through and through.

Peter is keen to expand his knowledge of the Captain, and requests anyone that has any information please join in the debate. We both realise this is a huge and possibly controversial subject, but like Harrison, Peake casts an interesting shadow over the mining history, and it would be interesting to shed some light upon the darkness.

My thanks to Peter for yet another great article. Fantastic stuff.


Wimblebury Colliery – this was harsh country. Image from CommunityArchives.

Captain T.V. Peake: A man with a short memory?

In the article concerning the 1927 Wimblebury Pit cage disaster, it was the General Manager of the Cannock and Rugeley Collieries, Captain T.V. Peake, who spoke to the Lichfield Mercury stating that the affair was a pure accident, due probably to the admission of steam to the engine when the cage was within about 5 feet from the bottom. An official of the Colliery Company also stated that none of the men were in a critical condition. ‘A slight over wind caused the accident,’ he said ‘work procceded immediately afterwards.’

Jack Harrison, in his book the King of Norton Canes, actually has the Captain present at the time of the accident, and afterwards encouraging the men to descend the shaft. Jack also says that the Inspector’s report instructed that no men should travel the shaft until a period of six months had elapsed.

In trying to find out a little about the Captain, it seems that at times he seems to have a short memory!

In June 1932 he was elected to Hednesford Council, not having previously taking part in political work. He had considerable business experience, and was contenting himself with advocating economy combined with efficiency. He was past President of the National Colliery Mangers Association and had been a resident of the area for 30 years. Amongst many things he has been in command of the local Territorials, on committee of the Hednesford Accident Home, President of the Colliery Cricket Team, and Chairman of the Hednesford War Memorial Committee. He had become General Manager of the Cannock and Rugeley Collieries succeeding Col R.S.Williamson.

Untitled 6

The Grange, Rawnsley: pretty sure this is the place in question, now apparently a care home. Not a bad gaff for the Captain. Image from Bing! Maps.

By 1936 he had become Managing Director of the Company, and living at The Grange, Rawnsley, and in 1940 Commander of the Cannock Battalion of the Home Guard and a Director at William Harrison Ltd.

But it is the last part of this report of the Lichfield Mercury, for the 20th of October 1933, that is interesting,


‘Bad Day for Workmen’ says Mr T. V. Peake. 

At a meeting in Birmingham on Monday Captain T.V. Peake, General manager of the Cannock and Rugeley Collieries, Hednesford was elected President of the South Staffordshire and Warwickshire Institute of Mining Engineers, and where, he asked, were they to find the supermen lo run the amalgamations. 

Many of them were wondering what was going to happen with Part II. of The Coal Mines Act respecting amalgamations, said Captain Peake. It appeared that if the Railway and Canals Commission approved of a scheme brought forward they would have to do as they were told, and he was afraid it would be a bad day for many workmen who were bound to he thrown out of employment if amalgamation was forced.

Personally he thought the time was not ripe for amalgamations. If they were to have these large amalgamations it was a great question as to whether they had the supermen to run them, and then the next step to amalgamation was nationalisation, which had been tried In many ways and had never shown good results.

The cost of production was coming coming down, but he was convinced it could come down still further.

Machine mining was only in its infancy, but the methods and machinery were being improved every day. To his mind the greatest difficulty with all machine mining was to get the coal filled on to the conveyor belt.


Speaking of Acts of Parliament, Capt Peake said there was one which had done good work for the miners, and that was the outcome of the Welfare Levy which had produced the pithead baths.

That was the finest thing that had been done for the men for many years. He only wished the whole of the fund could be used for that purpose so that every pit could be provided with baths at once.


Littleton Colliety pinhead showers, from Staffordshire Past Track. I’m really having trouble believing miners voted against these, but one has to take the report at face value, I guess.

At one of his company’s pits three to one of the men voted against pithead baths, but the company carried on and built them, and within the first six weeks they had 80 per cent of the men using the baths. 

Some of the most bitter opponents had told him how much they and their wives appreciated the benefits derived from them.


In his address, Captain Peake said many important questions were from time to time discussed by the Institute, and he suggested that at present the question of overwind control gear, to prevent the cage hitting the bottom, was a matter that should be discussed, because the provision of such gear, if a law was passed making it compulsory, would be quite a serious expenditure for many collieries. The question of lighting was also important, and it was bound to be brought forward before long, as the two years’ grace had nearly expired. When the Mines Department recommendations were published he considered they should be fully discussed at their meetings, together with to matters relating to mines legislation.

He became president, said Capt. Peake, when the industry was in about as bad a position as it had ever been. They were beginning lo see signs of improvement in other industries, and there were slight signs that their own exports were increasing, which would help their districts more than anything else.

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19 Responses to A fit of Peake?

  1. Pedro says:

    Just to clear up something that may appear a bit confusing.

    In the report of the accident the Lichfield Mercury uses the initials TB, as shown in the article. I think this is a printing mistake, and should read TV Peake.

  2. Caz says:

    Did this man have any connection with Walsall Woods Coppy pit and if so Is this the same man that Peake Cresent and Peake Rd were named after ??

  3. Pedro says:

    In the article The Far Pavillions concerning Walsall Wood FC around 1935, a Mr FG Peake appears as the Managing Director of the Walsall Wood Colliery. Could he be a relation to TV Peake?


  4. Pedro says:

    Hi Bob,

    Somewhere I have read about the question of pit head showers, but can’t locate it at the moment. There is much more in this than hygiene!

  5. David Evans says:

    HI Pedro
    some problems with my internet connection..but I have sent Bob some info re Walsall Wood colliery and a Mr Peake which you might find useful. The family is Copson Peake, I believe.
    thanks for your research and for this article..also thanks to Bob, of course.
    kind regards..

  6. Pedro says:

    When reading of the pit head baths you can be misled into thinking they were provided by the benevolence of the employers.

    An extract from George Orwell’s “The Road to Wigan Pier” around 1935

    “Moreover the pithead baths, where they exist, are paid for wholly or partly by the miners themselves, out of the Miners’ Welfare Fund. Sometimes the colliery company subscribes, some-times the Fund bears the whole cost. But doubtless even at this late date the old ladies in Brighton boarding houses are saying that ‘if you give those miners baths they only use them to keep coal in’.”


  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    ancestry first trawl. Not able to find reference to Capt TV Peake in First World War service. In 1893 Army ranks I have found a Capt G A Peake, volunteer engineers, Gloucester; Lieutenant J R Peake 1st nottinghamshire foresters; and a Capt W A Peake in the Leicsetr yeomanry Cavalr,.
    I wonder if other readers can help..I may have missed Capt TV Peake’s records somewhere in the labyrinth that is precious ancestry…dear,too!

  8. David Evans says:

    HI Pedro
    British Army WW1 medal rolls card index;-
    “Thomas Vowe Peake, captain, 5 South Staffs regiment
    Vicory and Star medals SWB A list
    served in France
    date of entry 27/2/15
    application for medals 22/10/22
    Rawnsley House, Hednesford”

    I know that some service records were lost during the WW2 bombing..I will have another trawl to see if there is anything.

  9. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    another trawl, using the above data, this time through enlistment and service records Nothing found, I am afraid.A few Thomas Peakes in various regiments, full details, campaigns, medical etc, but no record of any such Thomas Vowe Peake, ..at least none that I have been able to find.
    The service records are compiled contemporaneously during the soldier’s military service, and show campaigns, postings with dates,, transit, injuries, hospitalisation, promotion records, disciplinary actions, and medical records ( in great detail! ), and give an accurate picture of the person’s active military career.
    kind regards

  10. Hi Folks

    Sorry, I’ve been out. Now, it’s not the same Peake, but may, I guess have been the same family. The Peake of Walsall Wood Colliery was not, as far as I can tell, a certified engineer, and more of a maverick, self made man, who was also committed to the community.

    I could well be wrong, but I think he was instrumental in the adoption of new technology at Walsall Wood – never a Harrison pit – but I can’t lay my hands on the detail right now.

    In contrast, TV seems to be a staunch establishment man of the Harrison mould.

    These are my impressions, and I invite correction and clarification.


  11. Pedro says:

    FG Peake died in 1953. From the report of the funeral he was the son of Henry Copson Peake who was also involved with Walsall Wood Colliery. He was a JP for Aldridge in 1929, had 12 years on the BUDC.

  12. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Cue Brian Rollins book, “Coal Mining in the north east section of Walsall met Borough”.. , Walsall Wood Colliery pages on..”Koepe winding system..first and last system in Canno72 on Chase Coalfield..Thornewill and Warham winder photograph, 1893..after steam driven winders initially..1899 a steam winder made by Yeadon of leeds installed..first coal cutting machines in England were installed..steel headframe replaced wooden one in 1916..1916 twin steam turbine generator power plant..and winding changed from single rope to two winding ropes..and the drum strengthened with steel plates . new winding engines installed in 1927 during easter layoff..of eleven Lancashire boilers in a row between the twin winders etc.” .Thank you, Brian!

  13. Clive says:

    Newspaper dated 3 July 1953; The late MR. Francis G Peake.
    Mr Francis Gordon Peake JP, of St John`s House Lichfield, former managing director of Walsall Wood Colliery who died on April 13th. aged 75 years, a bachelor, left £80,133, 2s 2d, gross.
    Maybe of use to someone!
    Nice work Pedro

    • Hi all, cheers for your work on this

      From what I can tell, F.G. Peake was very well respected locally, and within the industry. He was certainly a pillar of the community in it’s most traditional sense.

      After all, not many men locally had *two* thoroughfares named after them!


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  15. Jenny Stevens says:

    My grandfather is one of the people in the picture of Wimblebury colliery. He is with his brother and their mother who is the lady at the front looking directly at the camera. They are gleaning coal. Life was tough. When this picture was used for a booklet about Cannock Chase he was very surprised to see himself, though he recognised his mother first.

  16. Pedro says:

    Robert Smilie was President of the Miners Federation in 1912 when he visited the USA, and this is comes from a biography “Labour of Love”…

    Smilie tells of a trip in 1912 to an America for a conference (he was the president for the Miners Federation. He visited a pit in Illinois where they had hot baths and drying rooms. He later found that this was universal in a Germany and France.

    “Back home in Britain, in spite of frequent demands made by our Federation, miners were much less well provided for in this respect. Little wonder that, in the public perception, the miner is a dirty workman, as black as any chimney-sweep covered in coal dust and grime.”

    “….While delighted for the American miners with their ‘washing and drying’ areas, I was suffused with rage on behalf of the British miner. For years, before and during my membership of the Federation Committee, I had fought for baths and drying-rooms at the pitheads so that miners should not be forced to walk home in their wet and filthy clothes; so that they could feel the dignity of simply being human. In my naïveté, I had originally thought that simply advertising this affront to human dignity would be enough to bring about a remedy. Years later, I was still fighting for the same thing!”

    And yet in 1933 Peake…Speaking of Acts of Parliament, Capt Peake said there was one which had done good work for the miners, and that was the outcome of the Welfare Levy which had produced the pithead baths.

    That was the finest thing that had been done for the men for many years. He only wished the whole of the fund could be used for that purpose so that every pit could be provided with baths at once.

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