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24 September 2014
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Mining in Shropshire
Cruckmeole colliery
Cruckmeole Colliery
Much of Shropshire's ore deposits were to be found in the south of the county in the area around the Stiperstones, and this mining helped shape the landscape.
WEBLINKS

Coalbrookdale Coalfield: A general overview and history of the coalfield.

Shropshire Mining: Another site covering various stories, accidents, incidents and recollections surrounding Madeley's Meadow Pit.

Gresford Mining Disaster: Information on the 1934 disaster at this pit near Wrexham where 266 men died in an explosion and fire.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

SEE ALSO

Mining introduction

Mining communities

What remains today

Mining competition

Breathing new life into an old canal As a new golden age of canals is heralded, we look at the past of the derelict Shrewsbury & Newport Canal - and the plans to restore it to its former glory.

FACTS

Mine accidents were so common that most passed unnoticed except in the communities affected. Miners died in ones and twos almost on a daily basis and only major incidents in which many died would be reported nationally.

Fortunately for Shropshire's miners, no record has yet been found of any incident involving the loss of more than 12 lives, although one of Britain's worst ever mining disaster occured only just over the border in Gresford, near Wrexham, in 1934. In this accident almost an entire shift - 266 men - were killed in a huge underground explosion and collapse.

Miners used caged canaries to detect gas in mines and give them some degree of warning over gas underground. The canary, being more succeptible to gas than people because of its size, would die in the presence of explosive gases, giving miners enough warning to evacuate the area.

Canaries were used rather than any other bird because their bright colour allowed them to be seen in the murky pit conditions. But they had to have their claws cut, otherwise when they died they would grip their perches in rigor mortis - and appear to be alive!

The area today consists mainly of moorland, woods and rocky outcrops, with farms and villages dotted between.

Mining in Shropshire

But a closer look will also reveal other man made features which give a clue as to how this place must have looked 125 years ago, when the entire area was heavily industrialised.

In fact, in 1875 this small area produced more than 10 per cent of the UK's lead ore and up to 1914 it was responsible for a quarter of the UK's barite production.

Mine buildings
Tankerville Mine in about 1870

The Romans were here first - in 1796 a pig of Roman lead dating from the 2nd Century was found nearby - and they mined by digging level tunnels into the valley sides.

Lead, of course, has always been valuable and it was mined in the area during the Middle Ages, but as all the lead near the surface was exhausted, the miners had to go deeper to get it, as well as face the problem of keeping water out of their freshly-dug tunnels and shafts.

At first a windlass would have been used for mine drainage. This used horses to power a winch to bring barrels full of water to the surface.

But by 1800 steam engines had made an appearance and engine houses, along with their tall chimneys, began springing up next to the mines.

These engines operated pumps to keep the mines dry, the winding gear to wind coal or ore as well as miners to the surface and ore dressing machinery, and it's the roofless skeletons of their engine houses which often remain when most other obvious traces of the mine have gone.

In the latter half of the 19th Century lead production reached its peak - but by 1885 a flood of cheap imports caused the price to fall by 50 per cent and many of the smaller mines went out of business.

By 1900 even the larger mines were finding it tough and had switched to mining barites to make ends meet. The last large ore pit, Huglith Mine, shut down in 1947.

 

 
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