Denaby & Cadeby Miner’s Memorial Chapel – Chapter 1 Coal comes to the Area

Chapter 1 Coal comes to the Area

Coal was mined as a surface outcrop at Denaby in mediaeval times, and in 1487 there is a reference to a close there called Colepytes. In the early eighteenth century wooden waggon ways were constructed for the transport of hand hewn coal, from sites near the present swimming baths, to the river. At Engine House Farm, Old Denaby, coal was also being dug, from a seam, known as the Shafton seam.

The coal was used mainly for burning limestone to produce the lime, which was in turn mixed with other products such as horsehair for the mortar used in the building industry. The Fullerton Estate Plan shows evidence of such deposits, but it was not considered viable to extract them on a large scale until much later into the nineteenth century.

It was in July l863 that John Buckingham Pope, a London coal factor, and George Pearson a railway contractor, leased land from the Fullerton family of Thrybergh Hall, for the extraction of coal, from the previously mentioned eighteenth century Shafton seam to provide fuel and power for the sinking of a colliery shaft to the Barnsley “bed”.

The sinking proved to be a long and risky undertaking, despite the use of equipment considered very advanced for that day and age. Since the site was low lying, and the shaft was below the level of the river, there was a great deal of water to contend with. At 449 ‘/2 yards, the shaft proved to be the deepest in Yorkshire at that time. It was not until the end of 1868 that coal was finally produced on a commercial basis, and the colliery was fully working. By 1869 a manager had been appointed at a salary of £150 per annum plus a house, and by 1873 the success of the undertaking was such that his salary had been raised to £400 per annum.

Since the colliery had been sunk in a rural area and there had had to be a large influx of workers for the project, this meant that transport, housing, medical, social, educational, and religious and many other facilities had to be provided for these workers.

The first priority was housing, beginning with the construction of Thrybergh Terrace, or Cross Row as it was first called. These houses were the only colliery houses built with separate washhouses, and were therefore considered superior to some of the later ones. By 1868 half of Annerley Street then known as Annerley Buildings, the lodging houses in Woodside View, part of Doncaster Road (Pit Row) as far as Breeze´s Shop, and housing from the Reresby Arms to Kirby´s Hill had been completed.

Gradually, what had begun as a quiet, rural area, orientated to agriculture, became one of grime, smoke and soot, due to the industrialisation. Following the creation of new jobs and opportunities to develop new skills, workers flooded into the area from all over the British Isles. They worked not only at the colliery and glassworks, but also on roads and railways, waterways and service industries.

In 1861 the population was only 203. By 1871 it had risen to 695, of whom 166 were miners, living in 100 colliery built houses, only 10 of these men were born in Yorkshire. Over the next 10 years these numbers had increased to 1,631.

It seems ironical given the 1861 population of 203, that over the 100 years of production at Denaby Main Colliery there were 203 fatal accidents.

The development of a new pit at Cadeby resulted in the formation of Denaby & Cadeby Colliery Co. By 1893, the ten feet thick Barnsley bed of coal had been located and production began. The colliery was the largest and deepest in Yorkshire at 770 yards. By 1899 there were 3,500 men employed by the company, 2,600 of whom worked underground. Output per day was 1,600 tons, this, despite the fact that the colliery was not as yet at full capacity, having still a mile of coal face opened upon which no coal getting had yet been done. It was estimated that at full working capacity, output would be close to 5,000 tons per day.

It was described as the most modern pit in the country, arousing interest among mining engineers from other areas who came to see the new machinery installed there. The “Humboldt” washer had a capacity of 1,500 tons of coal per day Chambers patent screen could handle 1,000 tons, and the Schile ventilator produced half a million cubic feet of air per minute. Great interest was shown in the coke ovens and modern by-product recovery plant. The production from both Denaby and Cadeby collieries continued to increase with large amounts of washed steam coal being shipped overseas to Europe, South America´s ports and also the Baltic States. As the years passed, ownership of the collieries passed into other hands, however in 1947 “Nationalisation” was introduced and private ownership ceased.

It can be seen that the collieries were the magnet that attracted the original inhabitants to the village, seeking the work created there. The majority of these workers and their families would be strangers to each other, coming from diverse stratas of society, to fill the various jobs required. There were architects, clerks labourers, doctors, joiners, blacksmiths, bricklayers and coal hewers, all thrown together into the melting pot to form a new community around the two mines. There can be little wonder that some conflicts arose, at work, at home, and at leisure. It is remarkable though, how in times of trouble, there was a great unity of spirit. The history of the collieries is one of drama, courage and deprivation, coupled with good comradeship, stubbornness and humour.