…And the birds in the trees sang their requiem to the Coppice Pit

A great quick post here from the ever-resourceful Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler who’s found some absolute (black?) gold in the British Newspaper Archive.

This article, published in the Birmingham Post in 1964, records the end of the last production shift at Walsall Wood Colliery, published almost 54 years ago to the day on Saturday, 31st October 1964.

Walsall Wood was the last pit in the immediate area to close, although I think (but am by no means certain) that the Grove in Lime Lane held on until 1968. Clarification welcome on that.

Thanks as ever to Peter for sterling work, I really couldn’t do this without him, and all the wonderful contributors to the blog.

If you have anything to add, please do: Comment on this post, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tap me on the shoulder on social media.

The end of an era – production ends at Walsall old Colliery in 1964 as recorded by the Birmingham Post in 1964. Image from original archive, found by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler.

Last day at the ‘Coppice?

By Bill Pemberton Birmingham Post Walsall Staff

THE lift cage at Walsall Wood Colliery slid into position smoothly at the top of the 400-yard-deep shaft.

Metal doors clanged loudly In the strangely silent air. Two blackened figures emerged blinking Into the half-light of a smoggy autumn afternoon.

With no more ceremony than that, which has been enacted daily for nearly a century, the colliery known more familiarly locally as the “Coppice”— closed down for ever yesterday.

It was as though the elements were aware of what was hap­pening. The grey light pene­trating an overhead fog bank was appropriate to a dismal occasion. Birds in the trees sang their requiem to an audi­ence more concerned with the future than the past.

In the words of 53 year-old Mr. Arthur Aldridge. of New Haven, New Road, Brownhills, last of the deputies to come from the final day shift: “You can’t work at a pit for 40 years without feeling something In your heart when the moment comes to part.”

48 yeas’ service

Their was olao Mr. Pat Hession. 41-year-old deputy of Watllng Street, New Town, whose last 19 years hare been spent at the “Coppice” daily quipping with Mr. Edward Penton, of High Street. Brownhllls, who first entered the pit 48 years ago.

Mr. Penton is one of 100 men who will stay on for the time being doing salvage work. The other 207 miners, including Mr. Aldndge and Mr. Hession have already been found employment at Lea Hall or other Chase pits.

At one time the “Coppice” was among the moat progressive mines in the Midlands, and It has produced millions of tons of high-grade household coal In its 90 years’ serrlce. Now it is “worked out.”

“There la a big difference to­day from when I first started as a boy at the pit.” Mr. Ald­ridge said.

“Then It was known as a ‘donkey’ pit. and eyerythlng had to be done by hand. It was real hard work, with periods of unemployment.

As these old-timers whose lives have been spent gathering black diamonds walked with the unmistakeable gait of the face-man towards the colliery office for the last time they could not help but look back over their shoulders.

The pit shaft and cage wheel stood straight, proud and unmoving—but those who had served with It for generations moved on.

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11 Responses to …And the birds in the trees sang their requiem to the Coppice Pit

  1. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Pedro brings us some amazing history. Thanks to some of his previous wonderful research I had an answer to a question . What became of the pit poneys, whose only fresh air had been during the two weeks summer close-down when they were bought up to the surface , their eyes blindfolded , and put in the field by the former Institute?

    When the mine closed down I understand that the poneys were taken to a special sanctuary somewhere in Cannock Chase, to live out the rest of their lives,to run, jump, hear birds singing, feel the wind on their faces and graze to their hearts content.

    many thanks, Pedro,
    kind regards


    The Grove ceast to draw coal a long time befor Walsall Wood, the screens & washery was kept in use, fed by a belt from Harrisons number 3, which did not have a screening plant, on a later note, the track of the old belt was suggested as a possible link route to carry the Lichfield, Hatherton restoration link from Churchbridge to the Grove basin, but met whith objection

  3. the last day at the c0ppy brings back my younger days at 114 dad worked at coppy and my mothers brother who lived with us worked at jeromes over the end of meal to sound posh ha ha tons and tons of coal was verbaly moved from monday to friday and i must somtimes with a bit of pit langwidge and banging the table the names mentioned ring a bell often ime asked did i work at the pit the answer NO because i worked dow n the pit mentaly every tea time the pony the gob afternoons nights the back shif
    t the fireman the deputy snappin cuts and bruises yes the world of the pick and shovell miner was a proud legand bless them in my mind i remember it well GOD BLESS UM

  4. ray share says:

    in my last year at school went to look down the pit not for me i said went on the building instead it was not good in the mines the miners paid a big price in health for poor wages

  5. Ian says:

    Hi Bob
    The Grove ceased drawing coal in 1950 but continued as a washery and screening plant for Wyrley No.3 “The Sinkin” until June 1963 when No.3 connected with Mid-Cannock (underground) and thereafter the tube line between No.3 and the Grove became redundant . However, I believe that the Grove continued to send out coal by rail until around May 1964. It then continued for some years as a landsale site and also retained some offices for admin purposes. At around the same time Five Ways Coiilery “The Fair lady” also ceased production and the branch line from Conduit Junction closed. Cannock Wood, Hilton Main and Littleton Collieries continued coal production well after the closure of Walsall Wood; Littleton being the last survivor in the Cannock Chase Colafield.
    KR Ian

  6. quite right ian i have a list of pit closures in my archives on cannock chase and surrounding disrticts confution arrives with the word merge which gives two dates closure and merge in humour i can recall my past chats with old miners and those good old words yome rung reg coniquently it became tred softly because they all loved their pits the most sombere one the grove disaster

  7. Tina Hill says:

    My Dad worked Dow the copie. He was a fitter. When it closed he went to work at mckechines. He had a love for one of the pit ponies called dobin. Also, my Graddad drove the train, The Lord Kitchener.taking the coal.

  8. Clive says:

    Hello Tina. In my next book “Rambling of a Local Historian” there’s a photo of the Lord Kitchener loco at Coppy pit and the crew standing by her. The book should be ready in time for this Christmas.
    Best wishes Clive L Roberts

  9. David Evans says:

    Hi Clive
    may I pre order three copies of your book please
    many thanks

  10. Clive says:

    Hi Dave. Yes mate no problem.

  11. Gordon Higham says:

    My Grandfather Cyril (real name Frank) Higham worked at Walsall Wood pit for many years. He ended up being the union convener and knowing him he probably gave the mine manager a hard time! My Father Gordon Higham also worked there for a while before leaving to become a maintence engineer. As a child I remember we were never short of coal or very large white towels that the mine used to issue.
    Gordon Higham

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