As old as coal?


Aldridge Colliery in the 1920s – a large local employer and a very busy pit. Image from Walsall Local History Centre.

An interesting enquiry has been sent in by Philip Cooper, and this one has me puzzled – in mining culture and history, mounted (and often polished) pieces of coal as mementoes and memorials are quite common – but there’s a very curious aspect to this I’m hoping some of the more knowledgable contributors here can help with.

Philip wrote:

I was introduced to your blog by a relative who lives in Brownhills and as it seems to be a followed by knowledgeable crowd, I wondered whether someone may be able to throw some light on a mystery?

When my mother a life long resident of the Wood, died some ten years ago aged 89 she left behind (amongst other things) a small cardboard box about 4 inches x 4 inches x 2 inches in which was a piece of coal together with a note written in ink in copperplate writing saying as follows :-

‘Taken from Leigh’s Wood pit on the night of Tuesday the 9th September 1924’

Now my mother would be 6 at the time so I doubt that it had anything to do with her directly, but my limited research into Leigh’s Wood colliery failed to find any useful information. Was there anything significant happening on this date?

If anyone can throw any light on this I would be grateful to know.

Philip Cooper.

Thanks to Paul for a lovely and interesting question.

Obviously, I welcome all views on this as ever, but one aspect of this is really bothering me. I thought Leighswood Colliery had closed by 1924?

It says at the History of Aldridge Site here:

Until the 1930s, coal mining was an important industry in the area, although it did have its ups and downs. By 1881 Leighswood Colliery had closed, putting a lot of people out of work, and resulting in about thirty cottages at Leighswood being left empty. There had been unrest at the colliery for some time, and many withheld their labour when they thought they would be working for a contractor rather than the colliery company, because a previous contractor had failed to pay their wages in full.

So, this begs the question did the mine reopen, or was there more than one? Is there any reason why the pit may have been re-asessed for coal, and this may have been a first piece of coal?

I know the Aldridge History text has proven controversial here before and look forward to Peter Cutler’s response particularly.

Please, if you can help, do. Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com


Mounted coal as souvenirs are quite common. This image was posted on Facebook by Peter K. Langston of such an item owned by his father -. He said ‘My Dad had a couple of these, both different, ours now. He collected the samples from various seams/collieries over the years. Prior to being mounted he could tell one from another blindfolded by the smell of the sample !’

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16 Responses to As old as coal?

  1. Pedro says:

    The definitive guide to the Cannock Chase coalfields (not my words) says Leighswood (1874-1881-1930) In 1881 it was acquired by the Aldridge Colliery Company…the colliery went into liquidation in 1930 to avoid amalgamation and merger proposed in the Coal Mines Act.

  2. Pedro says:

    In 1900 Queen Victoria’s train was returning to Windsor and stopped for a short time at Wolverhampton station. She consented to receive a gift from a little girl; a medallion representing the bust of the Queen herself, carved by a collier with a clasp knife. One report says that it was produced around 1881 by a collier from Parkfield Colliery. I have seen a picture, but cannot now locate it!

  3. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    the History of Aldridge site’s “note” is remarkably similar to Gould’s , in his book, Men of Aldridge, page 119 ..featured on this blog.
    Rollins book,”Coalmining in the north east section of Walsall Met Borough”, published 2006,pages 63 to 66 give a more complete history, up to the pit’s ultimate closure in 1930. The mine was also known as Aldridge no2 or Dry Bones( page 63 ) .
    kind regards

  4. aerreg says:

    I have been looking through my arkives on cannock chase collierys it may be of know use but it could be a wild card one pit is listed as cannock and LEACROFT I noted the coal on plinths were cannock chase collieries

  5. philcburton says:

    Hi Reg, I think Cannock & Leacroft Colliery Co. were Mid Cannock and Leacroft Collieries. Cannock Chase Colliery Co were Numbered 1 to 10, 1 to 7 were Chasetown / Chaseterrace area No 3 being most famous having a coal washing plant so nicknamed The Plant also The Plant Pub fronting it. No8 was on Cannel Mount and No’s 9 and 10 between Dugdale Wood & Splash La

    • Geoff Watterson says:

      Th cannel mount was the spoil from Cannok Chase No 6 pit, 8s was just south east about 500 yards I started work at 8s in 1952!

  6. aerreg says:


  7. aerreg says:

    HI PHIL just a touch of humour dont forget wembley i can still see the look of shock on the face of the new fourteen year old when he was told he had got to go to wembley on his byke for a glass ommer and a left hande screwdriver because the only wembley the poor lad knew was london happy days god bless

  8. ian says:

    Hi Bob
    The colliery consisted of two pits, No.1 and No.2. No.1 pit was also served by the Midland Railway via a spur from the Walsall Wood Branch.
    The Leighswood Branch of the LNWR arrived from Leighswood sidings on the South Staffs line, south of Pelsall, via Stubbers Green. The branch was just over a mile in length and served brickworks at Atlas and Empire Works before arriving at Coppy Hall Colliery where Barnett’s siding was situated. Shortly after the branch divided into two with the right-hand line serving Aldridge Colliery No.2 and the left-hand curving tightly away towards Aldridge Colliery No.1. As it was doing this a line came in from the left from a siding laid from John Beddows & Sons, who owned an another brickworks.

    The Private Siding Agreements (PSA’s) are both numerous and detailed and below are a flavour of some of them. They are most useful in determining and dating the use of the pits.

    On examination, the only possibly clue they yield regarding the 9th Sept. 1924 date is that it just might be around the time that the new screens, picking belts, etc:- came into operation?

    As usual, hope my rambling notes may be of some help.

    Aldridge Colliery:
    1892 1 July Handwritten note on Private Sdg No. 784 map, dated 10 March 1925, regarding Agreement at Aldridge No. 2 Colliery for coal shoots, filling shed.
    1893 7 April Revised Agreement with “Aldridge Colliery Co” for maintenance of sidings at No.1 pits. Shown on 1912 map. New Private Siding Agreement No. 2186 – Aldridge Colliery Co., Leighswood Branch. License to use Siding for clay materials. Rent 2s 6d per annum. 2186 (7788, 7881)
    1897 4 Oct Agreement for Rly. Co. engines to work over the siding. Private Siding Agreement No. 2435 – Empire Brick & Tile Co. Ltd – Leighswood Branch. Siding. Rent £1 per annum. Other payment of 4s 6d per annum. 3 months notice 2435 (7838, 7881)
    1899 15 July Agreement with E.H. Barnett for use of Coppy Hill Siding. , shown on Private Sdg map dated Jan 1910. Agreement with J.N. Beddows for Private Siding – Atlas Brickworks , shown on Private Sdg map dated Jan 1910. Private Siding Agreement No. 2379 – Barnett E.H. – Leighswood Branch. 2379 (7788, 7893)
    1923 31 Dec Agreement for shoots, filling sheet, shakers, picking belts on Rly. Co. land at Aldridge No.2 Colliery. Shown on Private Sdg Diagram No. 784 map, dated 10 March 1925
    1925 10 Mar Private Sdg Diagram No. 784 map – Leighswood Branch Revised map with additional handwritten notes and agreements for 1923 & 1931. Issued by “Divisional Engineer’s Office, Crewe – ref:- No.31895”
    1931 26 June Agreement letter transferring interests of “Aldridge Colliery Co. Ltd” to “Aldridge Brick, Tile & Coall Co. Ltd. (ref:- Ap2/12980/31). Shown on Private Sdg Diagram No.784, dated 10 March 1925.
    1930s Commenced tile manufacturer and distribution from Aldridge brickworks.
    1937 Oct Letter from Divisional Engineer’s Dept. confirming removal of sidings at Aldridge Colliery, both sites to proceed.
    1944PSA plan shows reduced sidings at No.1, with the colliery completely gone and at No.2 site a single siding, again with no sign of any buildings, screens, etc:-

  9. aerreg says:

    how true peters comments about his father recognising the pit where his coal came from and wow were the comments if there was a lot of bats in it and it always had to have some raykers in it at tis point i apolagies for some of what some folk think of my ecentric comments i asure you there is a serious side in my life but what would life and history be without laughter it helps through good and bad times god bless keep sending my morning fix they are a tonic

  10. Perhaps the answer might lie with Pedro’s post, which gives the opening as 1874. Fifty years later – 1924? Just a thought and possibly a useless one

  11. Phil says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you and your associates for your interest in this matter. I fear that this is a problem that is not about to be solved. I like MOB’s idea but can!t think of why anyone would be that bothered.
    Many thanks to you all.

    Phil C.

  12. Helen Gilbert says:

    Hi, Can I ask the location of Aldrige no 1 and 2 collieries please. as I always thought that one was near the Anchor Meadows by the health centre is now, but it is not visible on photos of the old Aldridge railway station. Was one of the collieries called the Speedwell mine and was the other the Leighswood colliery? Thanks, just trying to locate them in relation to modernday Aldridge. Kind regards, Helen

  13. Leanne Weekes says:

    According to my grandfather’s memoirs, the Leighswood Colliery closed in 1927, as it never recovered after an explosion in the boiler house. He survived but he doesn’t say if anyone else didn’t or what year it was. Maybe this is a clue?

    • Pedro says:

      Leighwood Colliery 1874-1930, also known as Aldridge N°2 or Dry Bones Pit. The Colliery went into liquidation in December 1930 to avoid an amalgamation and merger as proposed in the 1930 Coal Miness Act and the mine was not worked after this date.
      (Cannock Chase Coalfields, CCMHS)

      Can’t find any evidence of an explosion.

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