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.
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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.