World War One saved Ingleton colliery

Wray historian David Kenyon takes a look at the New Ingleton Colliery and the history surrounding it.

By Michelle Blade
Thursday, 11th June 2020, 3:45 pm
The New Ingleton Colliery, March 1914. The middle frame work is a temporary screening plant used to move coal waste and dug out waste from between the coal seams to nearby surface heaps.Photography courtesy of Bernard Bond.
The New Ingleton Colliery, March 1914. The middle frame work is a temporary screening plant used to move coal waste and dug out waste from between the coal seams to nearby surface heaps.Photography courtesy of Bernard Bond.

The new Ingleton Colliery Company was registered in October 1909 with a capital of £37,500 in £1 shares, to acquire certain collieries and seams of coal, cannel and fire-clay in Yorkshire.

The mining engineers knew beyond doubt that there was coal in the area and it had been mined in a small way in several places around Ingleton.

In 1913 they boredinto the ground to find the seams, and satisfied with their survey, they excavated shafts.

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The locomotive 'Queen Victoria' built in 1901, took away the spoil from the coal mine and made some considerable changes to the Ingleton landscape. From left: John Thomas Bradley (tip end man), Joe Walker (greaser), Billum Wilcock (labourer), Thomas Whitham (labourer(), Anthony Noble (killed April 1915), Joack Gott (ganger) and W.L.Routledge (loco driver). Photography by W.L.Routledge.

This was the start of Ingleton Colliery, an industry which was to live fitfully for less than 25 years and then die.

Two shafts were completed in 1913. They went down 300 yards and coal was found, more than the engineers had anticipated.

Seams of a depth of 10 feet and nine feet which had previously escaped notice made the mining possibilities at Ingleton brighter, but they had not reckoned with the trickery of the Craven Fault.

This great earth upheaval which created a scene of impressive beauty was eventually responsible for the closing down of the colliery.

Miners tag circa 1919, found in the land clearance of the New Ingleton Colliery site.

The seams which had not been detected during the early days, and which held out so much promise, were deceptive.

They lay in a geological ‘saucer’ and one morning miners working down the ten foot seam came suddenly across white rock.

The manager told his men to blast it away in case there was coal beyond.

When the smoke was cleared coal was found, but it was the nine foot seam taking a downward turn.

The photograph shows the foundations being laid for Ingleton's swimming pool. As part of the pool was set in the riverbed, some said it would not withstand the destructive force of the rover. Photograph taken from the book 'Old Ingleton' by kind permission of John Bentley. Photography by Anthony Brown.

The First World War saved the colliery at Ingleton when cold economic winds were blowing. The government took over the mines of the country and guaranteed the Ingleton owners a seven and a half per cent profit.

The colliery developed and the numbers of workers rose sharply until about 500 men were employed between 1917 and 1920.

In one week more than 2,000 tons of coal were lifted. There were different grades of coal in the pit, the 10 foot seam yielding coal suitable for the railways, much better coal was obtained from the four foot and six foot seams.

A ton of coal cost 18s and local people could fill a handcart for 2s.

Unveiling the memorial to Ingleton's coal industry. From left: John Bentley, Phil Walker (chairman of the parish council) and Bernard Bond who Phil Walker stated, had with determination and perseverance unearthed the history of mining in the area which culminated in the creation of the memorial to serve as a visual reminder of the coal mining industry. Photograph: Craven Herald and Pioneer, June 2004.

In 1921 came the general strike of the coal miners, the Ingleton pits were closed and did not re-open for two and a half years.

In 1923 fresh money was available to finance the colliery and the pits were re-opened. When the New Ingleton Colliery was opened miners came from many parts of the north including Newcastle, south Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire.

This influx of miners caused a housing shortage in Ingleton so the colliery owners entered into a contract with a Mr Green of Chesterfield to build 100 brick houses for the miners. This New Village as it is now called stands one side of the A65 opposite the colliery, sadly the pits closed before all the houses were built, with the builders eventually taking over the houses again. Today most of the houses in Ingleton’s New Village are owned by their occupiers.

There were three shifts at Ingleton Colliery they were 6am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm, and 10pm to 6am, and a hooter blew when the shifts changed.

Some of the miners had to travel up to 700 yards to the coal face.

Ponies pulled the laden tubs, and in addition there was an endless chain to which four or six tubs were connected.

The ponies did not see the sunlight for long stretches and some spent ten years or more down the mine.

When they were brought up, they were run on the fells, they were always well cared for all through the day and night.

Working conditions in the pit varied, with some part of the workings containing water and roofs whose strength was uncertain.

Around 1932-33 when a new iron bridge was being built over the river Greta, the surveyor of the bridge offered his services in planning a swimming pool for Ingleton, provided that voluntary labour was forthcoming.

The miners supported the plan and during a long hot summer they toiled, carrying out the surveyor’s instructions. By the river there is a fine swimming pool which did not cost a penny apart from the money spent on materials.

Today the modernised and heated pool is still in use, a credit to the miners and citizens of Ingleton who worked so hard many years ago.

Work continued on and off until 1937 when the colliery was closed down for good.

A certain amount of machinery was removed together with valuable timbers, orders were given for the pump to stop, and the miners descended in the cage on day to find the workings knee deep in water.

This was the last party of miners to descend.

Although thousands of pounds worth of machinery and equipment still remained underground, the shafts were sealed and the mine buildings demolished or fell into ruin.

When the mines closed down a few miners found employment locally, but most of them left the district, with the result that only 40 of the miners houses were occupied just before the Second World War.

When the war started, however, families evacuated from large towns and cities set up house at the New Village and a new community came into being. In the years after the mines closed down, many of the coal miners and their families would return to the scene of their labours for holidays and weekend visits.

Today the New Village houses built for the miners are neat and well cared for, and a memorial to Ingleton’s coal mining industry is situated at the junction of LaundryLane, across the A65 from the site of the New Ingleton Colliery.

The plaque reads: Erected in 2004 to commemorate the contributionmade to the community by the Ingleton coal mining industry for over 300 years until its closure in 1936.

There were at least six other coal pits in the district apart from New Ingleton Colliery. Wilson Wood, Dolands Main, Grove Pit, and earlier Maggie Pit, Gin Pit and Moorgarth Pit. Wilson Wood closed in 1887.

Around the early 1960s I was working for Mr Parker Foxcroft, the Wray joiner and builder. We were doing repair work at The Three Peaks transport cafe situated on the former Colliery loand near the A65 trunk road.

Behind the cafe was a mine shaft covered with timber sleepers , at one side was a small hole down which you could drop stones, this took an age to clatter down to theshaft bottom.At a later date the shaft was properly concreted over by the National Coal Board.

Next door behind a pair of large iron gates which formerly guarded the colliery entrance was the scrap yard of Bill Huck. Today where the transport cafe and scrap yard stood, is a modern filling station and shop.

*Information taken from an article by William R. Mitchel, by kind permission of the Dalesman Publishing Company.

Thanks also to Bernard Bond for loan of the Colliery photographs.