NORTH STAFFS MINING HISTORY GROUP
Left to Right John Burston Frank Moran
Joyce Wilson Len Ball Lloyd Boardman
John Lumsdon Kate Box
We had all been pupils of Ian Baily in his local History classes "College in the Community", which he ran throughout the city, our first meeting was at the city archive in Hanley library.
Ian explained that this was a new class where the members could do anything they wanted as long as it was to do with mining. In the first term we produced a book with such diverse subjects as “The Life and times of a Pit deputy” to the “1912 Miners Strike.” In all, the book ran to 5 chapters and 50 pages and is still selling well. The following Term we took on a far more ambitious project, it was to put together as much information on the North Staffordshire Mining Industry since it was nationalized in 1947, and to produce it in the form of a web site. The rest as they say is history. The site now runs to some 1500 pages. It is able to produce at the click of a mouse, a photograph and short history of the 21 nationalized pits and the senior management who worked there. There is information from the Sentinel relating to each mine. There are details on most of the local mining disasters; Miners’ illnesses and housing and a thousand and one other things. But without doubt our proudest boast is that we have put together the most comprehensive list of some 4,500 men and boys who have been killed while working in the local mines over the last 200 years. So, if you would like to join us, why not come along the Hanley archives on Fridays between 10:00 and 12:00, we will be glad to see you.
John Burston. (On behalf of the group)
Epitaph to a friend
By Joyce Wilson on behalf of the group
On the 14th January 2009 our group lost not just a great historian, but a good friend. Geoff Mould had been a member of our little organization since the start. He was married to Pat and had a daughter, Vicky. We were delighted when he decided to donate his lifetime work on the small mines of North Staffordshire to the web site, where it stands as a lasting memorial. We will all miss him so very much. At Geoff’s funeral, Pastor Paul Owen left us with these words. In the words of Robbie Burns in his poem,
| ‘Epitaph to a friend’
An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warmed,
Few heads with knowledge so informed;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
If there’s another world he lives in bliss;
Rest in peace Geoff.
Ex-Miner Honoured Walter Sylvester
An inventor whose device is thought to have saved thousands of miner’s lives has been honoured. A plaque recognising the life of Walter Sylvester, inventor of a safety pulling device to withdraw props in the coal mines, was unveiled on Friday 23rd April 2010. Relatives, councillors, North Staffs Mining History Research Group and representatives from the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield gathered to see the plaque unveiled on a commemorative archway by Knypersley Road.
Walter’s great-nice Valerie Whittaker, a grand mother of four from Light Oaks, said: “I’m proud of what he created. It’s nice he’s been recognised.” The plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Councillor Jean Bowers.
Walter started work at Chatterley Whitfield Colliery in about 1882 when he was a teenager. One of the perilous duties of a miner was to hammer out timber props used to hold up the roof and removing these props would sometimes lead to the roof collapsing on the worker whose job it had been to remove them. Walter’s invention allowed the miners’ to attach a chain with a hook, round the prop to be withdrawn, then anchor the Sylvester in a safe area and pull the prop out.
On October 30th 1944 at Hosten House, Pinnox Street, Tunstall, Walter, dearly loved husband of Agnes Sylvester aged 76 years. The Service will be held in the Congregational Church Tunstall, on Thursday November 2nd at 2-30pm. Internment at Tunstall Cemetery, private funeral from Hosten House. Friends desirous of attending kindly assemble at the church. This short notice in the Staffordshire Evening Sentinel gives scant regard to the achievements of this great man. So much so, that whenever a list of famous people from Stoke on Trent is compiled we always get the usual suspects, Stanley Matthews, Josiah Wedgewood, Arnold Bennett, and Oliver Lodge. However, one name is always missing. That name is Walter Sylvester. This man did more for miner’s safety than almost anyone before or since.
The mechanical device he invented known to most North Staffordshire miners as the Sylvester must have saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in mining all over the world.
The North Staffs Miners Group were invited to attend the official opening of Silverdale Community Primary school memorial garden on Thursday 7th October 2010 pictured below is one of our members, Joyce Wilson.
Silverdale memorial garden. It was a lovely time there. I was very impressed with the children. They were so polite and they seemed to enjoy the occasion very much, it is good that today s children are learning about the mining in this area. I bet the Chile miners rescue made them think about this. Joyce.
Jim is a member of the North Staffs Mining History Group
Started work with the National Coal Board as a junior clerk at Hem Heath colliery in 1957 ending as a senior admin officer at the Western Area H.Q. in Fenton in 1989. He was Curator at Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum from 1989 until its closure in August 1993. A founder member of the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield, he is its current chairman. He was also actively involved in various other organisations and is also chairman of the North Staffordshire District British Coal Retired Staff Association. He is the great grandson of James Worgan, manager of the old Hayeswood Colliery in Halmerend.
The article below is a presentation in 1883 given by Jim’s great grandfather
North Staffs Institute of mining and Mechanical Engineers
An ordinary meeting of the members of this Institute was held at Stoke-on-Trent on Monday evening 10th of June 1883 when Mr. F. Silvester, one of the vice presidents occupied the chair.
Mr. James Worgan of Burslem read a paper on “The Mining and Working of Coal Mines in North Staffordshire.” After some introductory remarks, he said with regard to engines for winding he preferred the horizontal coupled, for the simple reason that they could be cleaned, oiled, inspected or repaired more easily than the vertical engines, besides being more compact and every part being under the engineman’s eye should any defect arise.
As to pumping engines, the ordinary ram or bucket lifts could be applied in most cases to do very useful work, but generally at a very heavy cost; but circumstances must to some extent assist in determining the power and form of machine required. The pit banks should be laid out and every thing arranged so as to cause as little delay and breakage of coal as possible and he required pit wagons with steel wheels.
Referring the question of sinking, he said in this district they often had to pile though sand which was a difficult and costly operation and speaking of the advantage of the tubbing process for keeping back the water which would other wise have to be pumped at considerable expense, He said he knew it was thought by many to be impossible to tub all of the water out in this district, but he was sanguine that the time was very near when all the waster except that made by the seam in actual work would be tubbed back. He instanced the Shire Oakes Colliery, where tubbing had been successfully applied and submitted what had been done could be done again, and must be done again, or the prestige of the English mining engineers would be lost.
Having described the system contrived by Mr. Triger in France as far back as 1845, and more recently the process adopted by Mr. Chaulron for dealing with water in sinking, he urged that the subject was one which should gain the attention of English engineers.
Amongst other things to facilitate sinking to a depth, of say 20 yards, the pulsometer, was a very useful pump as it was quite portable, easily fixed, would pump very dirty water, give off no exhaust steam, required no oiling or skilled attendance, and very seldom got out of order. Mr Lovekin, who had one working at Tunstall, had assured him that it was everything that could be desired in a pump to the depth named. From what he (Mr. Worgan) had seen of it, he thought it might be used in deep working under ground, where the vertical height did not exceed its power. The shaft having been sunk to the intended depth the seam had to be pierced and the levels started and all the necessary openings made.
In driving the headings there was great waste caused by the seam being hewed to slack instead of making coal, Mr. Hedley, reading a paper before the North of England Institute on mining on “Mining in North Staffordshire” in 1853 said; “A more sluggish race of pit men never came under my notice?” He (Mr. Worgan) could not endorse that entirely, but still there was even now too much slovenliness, with regard to North Staffordshire miners. To secure the least cost strict discipline must be enforced and the so called practical miner must not be left to his own way and without cultured judgement to direct his movements, to destroy more half the produce of his labour. The men must be shown that to make large coal holing and cutting must be done to a depth or distance proportionate to the nature and thickness of the seam. If blasting was to be permitted, the position of the shot holes should be marked out by the competent man whom the law required to fire the shot. No blasting should be allowed where there was any quantity of gas. The use of the wedge in coal-getting ought to be better understood, so that it might be more judiciously used, and then from headings more than half and from opening workings more than three quarters of large coal might be got. Most of the seams in North Staffordshire district might be so holed that the coal would come down with its own weight and the natural pressure of surrounding strata, but the difficulty was to find holers.
He showed by diagrams the methods most adopted in North Staffordshire, the post and wall and the long wall and pointed out their advantages and disadvantages. He believed the long wall system under all ordinary circumstances could be applied with most advantages because it would yield a much larger quantity of saleable coal from a given area than any other system, it would be better ventilated, and workmen were less liable to accident in working it than the other system. He also showed diagrams representing modes of driving out headings and working the coal in various ways, and gave explanations with respect to the same. He also gave sketches from memory of long wall working at Bilston and in Yorkshire and urged it should be tried where ever it could be adopted conveniently.
The chairman said with regard to Mr. Worgan’s remarks respecting horizontal and vertical engines, both had their advocates, and what was approved at one place might not be regarded as suitable at another place.
Mr. J. Richard Haines, the secretary, said Mr. Worgan’s remarks had been of general character rather than applying it to the winning of the mines of North Staffordshire in particular. In the 4th figure in which their attention had been called, Mr. Worgan spoke of the method of working the long-wall homewares. Mr.Worgan was aware that most of the mines in this district lie at a considerable angle and he, (Mr. Haines) would like to know at what angle he would recommend the working homeward on that system. He thought it would be difficult on that system.
Mr. G. Hunter said he had seen mining in as many countries as most and work carried on in all forms, and he did not believe that any one system would suit all places. He had seen places where long-wall would be suitable and other places where board and pillar would be better. It was impossible in some instances to work long-wall. They might do it where they had easy gradients but not where the coal was nearly standing on end. It was simply a question of circumstances under which they worked. He was no great believer in a mixture of long-wall and pillar, but there were circumstances in which a mixture of the two, or what was some times called “long-wall limited” was necessary, though he had not seen it work very well.
Mr. Gordon said he would like to know Mr. Worgan’s reasons for saying iron pit wagons were the cheapest. They lasted very well for a length of time; but when they began to require repairing it was almost impossible to do it. He thought Mr. Hedley had been wrongly informed as to the North Staffordshire miners. Mr. Heath said he had been in mines both in North Staffordshire and the North of England and he maintained that the workmen in the former at the present time were very much better than those in the latter.
A North Country man would not hole or cut more than half the distance that a North Staffordshire collier could. The North Country man generally only cut a hole over one shoulder, while the North Staffordshire collier would turn his pick over both and out double the depth that the other would. He thought Mr. Worgan had not found holing done 6ft or 8ft in the North of England and it was not practicable to do it in every case in this district.
If he did it in 6ft in some seams he would find the seam as little liable to fall as when he commenced to hole it. Often, if he got it to such a wide breadth, the roof would come with it. The Winghay coal would remain the same. If he holed it 6ft the roof would break from the front of the coal, so that it would be quite impossible to bring it down by its own weight, or even by wedges. Again in driving straight work the collier who could cut a hole best would make the best coal. Those who could cut deepest and narrowest would be able to make the best coal out of narrow work. He had seen men from almost all counties in England, but he never saw colliers who could cut a hole in narrow places like the men of North Staffordshire. He should reserve any further remarks until the paper had been printed.
Mr B. Woodworth thought that they might abandon the idea of compressed air in sinking because the pressure that could be used was too limited. It could be only be suitable for shallow places. The highest pressure was at the East River Bridge, Caisson, which was from 30 lb to 35 lb; and there were a great many places of serious injury to the constitution through it.
Mr. Worgan said with respect to the question put by the secretary, the roof and floor and other circumstances being suitable, as stated in the paper, the method he named might be applied to deep but not rise workings of seams in any great inclination. He could not at present say at what inclination it was capable of working. Mr. Haines: Do you mean driving brows? Mr. Worgan: Yes. The chairman said thought the remarks made thirty years ago with regard to the sluggishness of the North Staffordshire colliers did not apply to the men of that district at the present day. The pulsometer was a good thing down to a certain depth, but below that it was more costly than the ordinary pumping arrangements.
He moved a vote of thanks to Mr. Worgan for his paper, and that the paper should be printed. Mr. Heath seconded the proposition, which was carried.
Presentation of two volumes on the North Staffs Coalfields by the North Staffs Mining History Group to
Apedale Heritage Centre
North Staffs Mining History Group used their Community Grant to pay for the printing
of copies of their books to donate to Staffordshire libraries.
L to R Back Row Chris Latimer, (City Archivist) Lloyd, Boadman, JohnBurston, Len Ball,
L to R Front Row. Bob Burdon. Joyce Wilson. Jim Worgan.