The History of Coalmining in North Warwickshire
The Romans burnt coal 2000 years ago and the monks at Merevale Abbey left coal ash, but it was not until the 16th. Century that people started to burn coal to heat their homes, to melt iron and in the manufacture of glass and lime.
At places like Baddesley Common where the coal occurred on the surface, families dug into the seam and carried the coal away digging along the measure and forming a drift mine. Sometimes they dug out the coal until a large bell-shaped chamber was left which would then collapse inwards if it was not propped up by timber.
With the Industrial Revolution of the 18th. Century the demand for coal increased and prospectors spent large amounts of money establishing the extent of the Warwickshire Coalfield which they found went from Tamworth to Coventry where the coal seams joined to make a seam 24 feet thick.
Although there is no coal under Atherstone mining was a major employer in the town for over 100 years.The pit at Baddesley was first sunk by the Dugdale family of Merevale Hall in 1850. Apart from a set-back in 1882 when there was a disastrous accident (see aol.hometown, Baddesley/Baxterley Pit Explosion 1st - 2nd May 1882) it was a profitable pit until it was nationalised in 1948. It finally closed in 1989, although there is still coal there and there have been attempts to mine from the surface by Matthew Dugdale the current resident at Merevale Hall.
Government Census reports show the number of Atherstone men earning a living from mining. A typical entry in the 1891 Census showed that Nelson’s Yard in Atherstone (now the Bus Station) had 12 houses, colliers families lived in 3, a similar number earned a living in hatting and there were 3 agricultural workers. Farming was the first of these traditional occupations to go after the Second World War followed by hatting and mining. Now the pit sites are being built over and soon there will be very little left to remind us of the Warwickshire Coalfield. Two memorials have been erected dedicated to the men who worked in the pits. They take the form of half a winding wheel, one is on Baddesley common, the other is in Baxterley, by the side of the village pond. The “Paddy Line” which brought the coal from the pits to the canal and railway sidings on the A5 just outside Atherstone is now a walkway. Until the 1970s an engine brought full trucks down to the wharf to be exchanged for empty trucks brought daily by British Rail.
The area still has one mine, Daw Mill in the Warwickshire countryside, employing over 500 miners but the days are gone when the pit buses disgorged dozens of miners at Atherstone at the end of every shift. Steve Adnett, local historian and working miner, has compiled a history of Warwickshire Collieries and can be contacted through the Friends of Atherstone Heritage.
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