What lies beneath

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Over six feet long, drawn on velum, the workings in the Robbins Seam at Walsall Wood Colliery as they affected the railway line between Walsall Wood and Brownhills. A remarkable document. Click for a larger version, or see the full detail scan below.

Way back at the beginning of August, I shared a partial scan of a document I’d acquired – a mining plan of how workings in the Robbins coal seam under Walsall Wood, Clayhanger and Brownhills affected the railway line above.

Well, I’ve finally got this 6 feet long plan scanned for all to ponder over.

A full resolution scan – all 45 megabytes of it – can be downloaded by clicking this link.

Around fourteen inches wide, and six feet long. It’s a plan, on velum, of the progress of coal extraction in the Robins seam from under Walsall Wood and Clayhanger up until the early 1960s. The map is hand drafted. The red areas show where coal was extracted.

There’s lots to see here, included exploratory digs that entered from sees above. It’s a fascinating thing, to be sure.

I’ve created a Google Earth overlay for readers to orient the plan. Because it’s on fabric, it’s only geometrically well aligned at the Walsall Wood end, however it’s good enough at the Brownhills end to give a reasonable idea.

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The plan overlaid on Google Earth – note Walsall Wood, left, and Brownhills right. At the right hand side the alignment is poor. You can’t accurately maintain geometric with a fabric plan this long! Click for a larger version.

You can download this overlay to use in Google Earth by clicking the link below – it can also be used as a basemap in Garmin GPS devices. Instructions on the use of this in Google Earth can be found in this post.

Walsall Wood Colliery Plan Google Earth overly 5.8 megabytes

Please note that this is an indication only; this plan could be wrong, or metres out. Please don’t use it for anything serious. It’s for information only.

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The plan shows where the main shafts were to Walsall Wood Colliery. Note how one lies beneath a building the the yard of the former Veolia/Effluent Disposal works; this was the sluice-house where industrial waste was tipped into the former workings in the 1970s and 80s. Click for a larger version.

Note the shafts are marked, and one is under the building that was constructed as the sluice house for tipping the chemical waste into the mine after it’s closure in 1964.

Think about the fact that these are the workings in just one seam – there were several others – so it goes to illustrate the huge number of voids and their span that existed below our area where the black gold was dug out. Most of this was backfilled with spoil after the mine ceased production; after that, the remainder was filled with industrial waste.

Consider also that this huge area would have been dug either by hand, or fairly minimal mechanisation; by the time Walsall Wood Colliery closed in 1964, it was not modernised and it didn’t employ the modern cutting machinery that other mines did.

This is local history gold – and bear in mind this is only one seam: there would e separate drawings for each one.

Please do comment or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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12 Responses to What lies beneath

  1. Clive says:

    Great maps Bob, thank you

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Fascinating stuff. As you say, local history gold.

    I notice some roads in the four foot seam are shown. In Brian Rollins book, Coal Mining in Walsall Wood, Brownhills and Aldridge, pages 43-44 summarise the various seams. The four foot seam was Wyrley Yard coal and just 12 feet below Bottom Robins, with the intervening strata being friable and causing roof problems.

    The titles and dates of workings are intriguing. The top heading says London, Midland & Scottish Railway, but the earliest date I can see is 1950. LMS had ceased to be by that time. Therefore, I speculate that the base map is pre-nationalisation (1947), but provided a convenient base for recording progress of workings subsequently. I also wonder if there was an earlier vintage showing workings from 1874, though from experience I know that information about old workings is often scarce and unreliable.

    I looked in the newspaper archive for roof fall incidents and, while no information is given about which seam was involved, found this:

    From Lichfield Mercury 28 June 1889
    ACCIDENT AT WALSALL WOOD COLLIERY – … inquest was held … on the body of Charles Tallis of Burntwood, who died on Wednesday the 19th instant, from injuries while at work at the Walsall Wood Colliery Company … It appears … that while deceased was engaged loading a tub a piece of coal fell out of a slip in the roof and crushed him against the side of the tub. … Her Majesty’s Inspector of Mines … found the props set in accordance with the rules. … “Accidental death”.

    • Pedro says:

      “workings from 1874,”

      The book by Brian Rollins for the CCMHS (2006) gives a reasonably detailed account of Peter Potter’s report to the Earl of Bradford concerning royalties, from the proposed workings.

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    But this one gives more precise information
    From Lichfield Mercury 24 March 1899
    John Blundell (36), miner, of Catshill Road, Walsall Wood was killed when a piece of rock about 3 or 4 cwt (approx. 150-200 kg in today’s money) fell on top of him. This occurred in no. 70 road in the yard coal seam.

    • Peter says:

      Andy, Hi. I don’t know much about the history of the old Walsall Wood Colliery and its troubled later history with effluent disposal etc as I didn’t live in the area at the time, but what is interesting is Catshill Road being described as being in Walsall Wood.
      Would this description be accurate for the time? And if so did that mean that Walsall Wood bordered Ogley Hay? Today Walsall Wood doesn’t stretch that far at all!
      Would love to hear what you think.
      All the best

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    super maps and so many details to ponder and questions they raise…..seemingly the Earl of Bradford’s initial restrictions re;- proximity of mining to the Turnpike Road were lost.. in time of war, and perhaps no longer applied to NCB post 1947?
    And the amazing superimposing of the map on to Google Earth!
    Most impressed it is that I am. Cap doffed.
    kind regards

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Today’s Lindon Road used to be Catshill Road, running from Streets Corner (though I think the Walsall Wood end was Brownhills Road) to Anchor Bridge. Nowhere near the current Catshill Road.

    Generally speaking, I think the Shire Oak area was considered – officially – to be in Walsall Wood, but this probably had more to do with parish boundaries than people’s perceptions of their locality. Back in the 19th century, for example, the houses on Watling Street between (say) the Rising Sun and Newtown were shown as being in Norton Canes, Hammerwich, Ogley Hay or Cannock Chase, neither of which was really true.

    I was contacted by someone looking for Webb’s Row, Hammerwich. They had driven round the village to no avail and went back home to Chesterfield disappointed. Webb’s Row was in the parish of Hammerwich, but stood on Castle Street, Brownhills!

  6. Pingback: Quality is important – What lies beneath once more | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  7. Ben Kilhams says:

    Hi Bob,

    I am a geologist doing some fun research on the side of my day job. I want to build a 3D model of the subsurface for Pelsall Hall Colliery. I find various borehole reports from the British Geological Survey but I dont know where to look for the kind of plans you mention above. British Coal Board? Local archives? Lost in time? Do you have any tips?

    All the best,


  8. Clive says:

    Hi Ben. Try Walsall Local History Centre. phone 01922 652212, only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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