Minnie Pit Opening Ceremony 1885

The successful completion of the important addition to the Podmore Hall Colliery, known as the Minnie Pit was celebrated on Friday evening October 30th when Mr. Craig, his general manager, Mr. W.H. Wain, invited to a supper the whole of the men employed at the Minnie Pit with those who have taken part in the erections &., and the officials. The supper, to which 108 sat down, was served in the National schoolroom, Halmerend, kindly lent for the occasion. The purveyor was Mr. Thomas Richardson and the catering and waiting was all that could be desired.

Mr. W.H. Wain presided on the occasion, and was supported on the cross table by Mr. S.E. Craig, the revs. J. Pauli, and j. Simpson, Mr. & Mrs. J. Bird, Mr. & Mrs. J. Fox, Mr. & Mrs. Dimelow, Mr. & Mrs. Thompson, Mr. & Mrs. J. Corbett, Mrs. Marsh, Mrs. Young, Mrs. Robson, Mrs. G. Smith, and Messrs. P. Marsh, J. Young, W. Radcliffe, J. Parker, G, Smith, Robson and H. Radcliffe took positions at the head of the side tables, ample justice having been done to a sumptuous repast.

The Chairman proposed the loyal toast, “The Queen” the Halmerend Glee Party (employees of Messrs. Craig,) gave “Life’s a bumper. The Bishop and Clergy of all Denominations was given by Mr. J. Dimelow and suitably responded to by the Revs, Pauli and Simpson. Next followed songs, “The Old Brigade” by Mr. J. Jervis and “Sailing” by Mr. Parker, “Young Musicians” by the Glee Party and a solo on the concertina by Mr. G. Nixon. M. G. Smith proposed “The Health of Mr. & Mrs. Craig and Family;” this was received with much applause and musical honours. Mrs A. bird sang with exquisite taste “Queen of the Earth,” after which Mr. S.E. Craig responded on behalf of his father and family in brief and felicitous terms. The glee “Celia’s aboar” was given by the Glee party and Mr. Parker recited the “Baron’s Banquet.” The next toast, “success to the Minnie” was given by Mr. Young, ex-manager.

He referred in touching terms to the kind provision Mr. Craig had made for him in his old age, after his servitude of over 15 years. Mr. W.H. Wain, the general manager of the colliery, in responding referred to the great difficulties with which he had to contend since the commencement of the “Minnie” two years ago last April, when Mrs. J. Craig christened the new undertaking after turning the first sod.

The diameter of the shaft was commenced at 18 feet, but coming in contact with marl and 30 yards of quicksand yielding an immense volume of water, the sliding tubbing in some of the segments gave way. Consequently the work was stopped for some time. When resumed with renewed vigour, an inner ring of 16 feet diameter was got down, it taking 6 months of incessant labour to get through the quicksand. The shaft being sunk to a depth of about 369 yards a bell-mouthed turnout was constructed of 23 feet in diameter, the insets being constructed in a manner which would practically defy resistance. But the difficulties did not end here. It was intended to form a connection for air with an existing shaft at a distance. The work lay through unknown ground, and here Mr. Wain paid a high compliment to the skill of Mr. Parker, the mining surveyor, as an engineering feat which would be a credit to him so long as he lives. On the very day predicted the connection was made and the current of air obtained. Since then the driving had so far been successful that two splendid seams of coal each 8 feet thick have been discovered, the quality being excellent. Mr.Wain referred with due praise to the energy and skill of Mr. Ratcliffe, under whose immediate superintendence the immense engines and head-gearing have been erected.

The bank or basement around the pit, upon which the head-gearing stands is formed of outside retaining walls, consisting of brick-work, with an inner lining of masonry (loose rock laid in lime); an filled with rock and bass. The number of bricks used in these walls and also in the pillars on which the back sprags rest is500.000, and when finished will make a total of 700.000. The front legs of the head-gears stand upon a solid mass of masonry, with n outer lining of brick-work, and the whole rests on a base of concrete. The number of bricks used in the construction of engine-house, boiler-house, and stack was one million, and the whole of the bricks used have been made at the colliery. The engines are coupled, the work of the Lilleshall Company. The cylinders are 36 inches, stroke 6 feet, and drum 16 feet. Steam is supplied from four Adamson’s patent steel boilers. The head-gearing is 55 feet high, and weighs 70 tons. It was raised to its position, a total height of 100 feet, and the whole completed and the engines got to work without the slightest injury to anyone. It is hoped that when in full swing, the machinery will in 8 hours be able to land from a 1.000 to 1.200 tons, an amount equal to all that has been hitherto done at all other pits combined.

Mrs. Bird next sang “Thady O’Flinn” and being encored, gave “Tit for Tat.” Mr. Parker followed with, “Jack’s Yarn,” and in response to an encore sang “Nancy Lee.”

The toast “The Officials” was given by Mr. G. Wood, Mr. March in a neat speech responding. The Glee Party next gave their completion piece as sung at Manchester viz. “Discord Dire Sister”; Mr. Dimelow sang “Hearts of Oak” Mr. G. Smith proposed “The Visitors” and Mr. Corbett replied; Mr Parker gave “The Chairman”  which was received with vociferous applause and musical honours and after a reply, the Glee Party sang “The Letter and “Farewell.” The National Anthem terminated the proceedings of which will be a red letter day in the annals of mining enterprise in the Audley district.

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