Dispute – Letter from Buckingham Pope

14 January 1881

January 14th 1881.

Late Correspondence.

The Denaby Main Colliery And The Railway Rates.

Letter from Buckingham Pope


To the Editor.

Sir, – I shall feel obliged if you will kindly allow me to lay the facts of this case before the public, as much misapprehension apparently exists on the subject :-

Denaby Main Colliery is the nearest colliery in South Yorkshire to the shipping ports of Hull, Grimsby, Goole, New Holland, and Keadby, and all places to the East.

For many years, however, the advantage of the position was lost owing to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company having carried coal for collieries situated seventeen miles further to the west ( and whose coal had to pass Denaby ), at exactly the same rates as they charged to the Denaby Company.

If Denaby, however, wished to send coal to the West towards these collieries, the same rule by no means applied, as may be judged from the fact that for a distance of only one mile and a half to the west, viz., to the Midland Railway, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company have actually charged one and fourpence per ton, so that whilst carrying other peoples coal for nothing to compete with Denaby, the latter colliery´s coal was taxed at an utterly prohibitive rate in attempting to get back merely a mile and a half ( out of seventeen ) to compete in the Midland western markets. This rate has absolutely prevented Denaby, although almost on the Midland railway system, from sending a single ton of steam coal on that system for years.

Similar tactics are pursued on the canal passing Denaby, and which also belongs to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company ; the rates being charged are only one half-penny less from Denaby to the sea than other collieries situated thirteen miles further away.

It may be asked why should the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company act in this way towards Denaby ?

The reason is obvious, Denaby Colliery is solely on the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company´s railway system, and consequently has no means of access to markets except by their railway and canal.

Considering the facts I have described, it can hardly be wondered at that the depression in trade made it a matter of absolute necessity to bring this question before the Railway Commissioners. The result of that action gave Denaby an advantage of nearly sixpence per to the above aforementioned ports, and a considerable advantage to the eastwards generally.

Upon the matter being finally settled before the Courts of Appeal, the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company called a meeting of South Yorkshire coal – owners ( with the exception of the Denaby Company ), and intimated to them that in consequence of the proceedings taken by the Denaby Company they were obliged to raise the rates, viz., that Denaby was to pay to the eastwards market exactly the same rates as before the Commissioners´ decision, and that all other collieries were to pay higher rates still ; also that Denaby was to pay higher rates to the west etc.

They thus made the illegality of their previous conduct an excuse for taxing a whole district most enormously at a time, be it remembered, when collieries are closed and closing, and the whole trade is in a moribund condition.

The advance made amounts in some cases to 15% and 20%.

The works of Messrs. Meggitt, ( Pottery or Bone Mill ) are situated on the other side of the railway, almost directly opposite Denaby Main Colliery, and the distance by railway is probably forty yards. The rate for this ” forty yards ” has previously been 9d. per ton, but has now been raised to 1s. per ton.

In order to appreciate the character of this charge, it must be remembered that the legal rate for the carriage of coal is 1 ½ d. per ton per mile, and this species of extortion is indulged in by virtue of ” terminal ” charges, ” maximum ” and ” minimum ” charges etc., etc., for which acts have been from time to time quietly and unobtrusively obtained from Parliament, and piled one on the other.

An enormous rise in rates at a time in which the district cannot afford to pay the late ones, means practically confiscation of property and starvation to workmen

In a period in which prosperity is returning elsewhere, the whole of the district is on the point of collapse.

Sixty thousand miners are dependent on it for their daily bread, and are now being turned adrift, simply from the inability of the Coalowners to pay the outrageous charges levied.

Parliament (which granted a monopoly to the M.S. and L. Railway Company, and has from time to time supplemented it by granting various Acts in their favour, many of which assiduously injured, if they have not absolutely destroyed the safeguards inserted for the protection of the public in the original charter ) will not I take it, on the petition of the inhabitants of South Yorkshire, asking for an inquiry into the working of the aforesaid Acts, refused to grant a Royal Commission.

This is urgently required, and I believe that not only people interested in coal mining, but the inhabitants of the district generally, will not rest satisfied until it is granted.

I am, sir, yours obediently,

J. Buckingham Pope.
Denaby Main Colliery Company Limited.

January 11th 1881. Mexborough.