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13 November 2014

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You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > Down the mine - first impressions

Hem Heath Colliery

Down the mine - first impressions

Nottinghamshire miners recall the very first time they went underground.

Although there are few pits left in Nottinghamshire just a couple of decades ago they were still one of the main sources of employment in the county.

For many it was a case of leave school one day, head down the pit the next.

Memories of a Nottinghamshire Coalfield is a book by David Bell that, among other things, asks miners what it was like going underground for the first time.

First impressions

Author David Bell says the memories that stayed with miners weren't so much the darkness or the enclosed atmosphere of the mine but the journey down there.

Clipstone colliery by Jon Rouston

Clipstone colliery by Jon Rouston

"If the engine winders knew they had somebody going down on their first trip they sent the cage down a little faster to acclimatise them."

It's an account backed by Walter Green from Kirkby-in-Ashfield. His first colliery experience came at the age of 14.

"My first day down the mine was February 1935. I went down with my dad the first day and they took you down a bit faster.

"But I stayed at Bentinck pit 46 years. I took voluntary early retirement in 1981. By then I was training officer at the colliery."

A scary experience

Mick from Clifton worked at Clifton colliery in Nottingham.

"I was terrified," he says.

"When they put you in that cage and it went dark, oh dear. I was 16. This was back in 57/58 and they still had ponies down there."

last updated: 14/10/2008 at 14:33
created: 14/10/2008

Have Your Say

Do you remember you first time down the pit?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Alun Nelms
In 1965 I was 18 and had a summer job at llanharry iron-ore mine. The first time I was sent underground I should have realised somethig was up when the two men in the ´cage´ got out and let me go underground by myself. The descent was much faster that I expected and the feeling of weightlessness scared me so much that when I came back to the surface I went straight to the winder and swore at him for dropping the cage. He calmly told me that if he had let the cable go slack I would be dead. But thinking of it still makes my pulse race.

Frank Taylor
Ears popping as the cage descended to the pit bottom. Squashed like sardines in total darkness coming to an abrupt halt with a bounce.then exiting the cage stumbling in the light and being hit by warm dust laden air. A far cry from school for 16 year old apprentice, fresh to working life.

Richard Bullock
I was unusual because I was an Administrative Assistant or management trainee and as part of the training was sent to Bestwood pit under the Training Officer Ron Price. I did my basic underground training at Hucknall Number One which was always known as "Top Pit" I left Oxford on Friday and went down the pit four days later which was a great surprise to my father all my uncles and cousins who worked there but thought I had escaped !! I remember the warm blast of wind, the dust, and dark but above all the banter camaradarie and the amazement that a college lad was working down there instead of at a desk - and of the sharing of my snap as the cost of help !!

Pete limb
I went down at 16 in 1980 and was introduced to a strange black man who turned out to be my dad.I had 14 years down there and loved every minute even though I feared for my life almost every day.

Chris Bradley
My first day at the pit when I was 16 was on the 30th July 1973. At that age I was unaware of much in local and national news but it happened to be the day that the Markham Colliery cage disaster occurred. I have often thought in recent years what my mother must have been feeling knowing she would have heard about the disaster and her 16 year-old son starting at the pit on the same day.

Simon Wright
Blidworth Colliery 1979 as a 16 year old, one day a schoolboy the next in a mans world !!

Sue Rogers(nee Brown) ex coal queen
I went down Sherwood pit twice. The first time was with my dad, Pete and the pit manager Mr Baker. I wanted to experience what it was like to work down a mine before I represented the Nottinghamshire miners at Blackpool at the final of the National coal queen competition. The second time I went down was after I won the competition. I had photo's taken down the mine with my dad and the men he worked with. I sat on the machine used to cut coal. I remember it being very hot down there and dark at first but your eyes soon get used to it. I admire the men who worked down the pit, and it was an honour to represent them.I'm proud to be a coalminers daughter

arch denovellis
i did my training at bestwood pit in 1958 going down for the first time was gentle but scary after my training i went to gedling pit and stayed for 12years serry what an experience but i enjoyed it but many scarey moments especially when we mined under the river trent

Nigel Kirk
My fist time underground was in 1979 at the age of 17 at Sherwood Colliery. My memories were of the smell from the stables where the ponies used to be. The warm dank air which had been all the way around the mine and the contrast of brightness at the pit bottom to the pitch blackness of a two mile walk to the coal face. I never thought of it being a dangerous place because all those who worked there subconciously looked after each other, a unique experience i have not come across since.

David Shorthouse
Bilsthorpe 1979, aged 16, now in South Africa, 30 years later and still going underground, Platinum mine now

David Collins
I was 17, back in 1978, going down Cotgrave pit, was excited untill the cage got to top speed, wow

Kevin Booth
I started Bentinck Colliery as a fitter age 20 in 1979. I did 2 weeks training at moorgreen pit that was my first experience on the cage! Yes terrified! You just never tried to think about it or you would have never gone back the next day. I then went to Benticnk Colliery and completed my training. I Stayed at Bentinck for 13 years finally being made redundant at Sherwood pit in 1992.I have very fond memories of my mining days but not realising until later in life how dangerous that job was "never again" Kevin Booth (check number 558)

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