No-one is quite sure when coal mining first began up the Haltwhistle Burn.
Certainly by the mid 1600s Coal mines and seams of coal are mentioned in Lord Howard’s
(Belted Will) household books. This would have been the removal of coal from near
the surface often from Bell pits. Here a small pit was dug down to a seam and then
excavated outwards in all directions leaving a shallow depression . These can still
be seen in the fields surrounding the Burn .
By 1760 we have the names of some of the colliers working in the Haltwhistle area
and we know that by 1837 the pit at the north end of the Burn was producing coal
from galleries reached by the drift entrance which can still be seen beside the Fell
Chimney. This may also date from this period. Mining here would have involved working
in very shallow galleries, dragging out the coal in baskets, although later a steam
driven engine house was installed to pull out the coal on an endless rope hauler.
A photo from this time shows a busy little pithead with boilers and wagon-ways, the
positions of which can still be traced. The remains of the engine house still stand
to waist height and the position of the cables of the rope hauler can still be seen
leading down towards the drift entrance.
In the 1840s the coal rights were bought by two entrepreneurs, John Fawcett and Wylam
Walker, and became known as The South Tyne Coal Company. Their main workings were
reached from a drift at the big bend in the Burn, some 1Km south of the Fell Chimney.
The entrance to this mine can be seen clearly beside the Burn.
In 1906 a 500 foot shaft was sunk to reach deeper coal. Photographs of these workings,
which were about 300 metres further down the burn, show a square chimney (still standing)
and an engine house which produced steam to drive the hauler and, later, the first
electricity for Haltwhistle.
The picture to the right was taken during the sinking of the shaft.
Click on the image for a bigger picture
The picture above shows the men who sank the shaft of the South Tyne Colliery. Each
man holds the tools of his trade.
These are the jobs as suggested by the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical
The young man indicated by the number 10 has been identified as Charles Wilson,
a mason. He was the cousin of Joseph Lightfoot, a hewer, who in 1927 at the age
of 26, was “caught by a set of tubs, knocked down and so seriously injured that
he died before being brought to bank.”
The coal was taken by wagons, down the track-way, across the bridge over the road
up castle Hill and down to the screens at Town Foot. Here it was loaded onto coal
wagons and shunted into the marshalling yards ready to join a freight train on the
The South Tyne screens at Town Foot (1) and the colliery bridge across the road up
Castle Hill (2)
In 1928, the 600 pit workers were told that the pit would have to close. It was no
longer economically viable. They agreed to continue work on a day-to-day basis.
The South Tyne Pit probably during the 1920s.
On the 24th September 1931 the pit was closed with the 600 men and boys thrown out
of work. Many of these men moved east to work at pits in Ashington and surrounding
area. Plenmeller pit closed the same year resulting in around 1,00 men loosing their
jobs. The effect on the town and surrounding area may be imagined.
Larger versions of each picture can be seen by clicking on the images
In the beginning.
Find out about the Geology of Haltwhistle Burn here....
Riches from the earth.
Discover Haltwhistle’s history of brick and pipe making here...
Threads of History.
Unravel the tangled history of the woollen industry of Haltwhistle here...
Seventeen and a Half Candles
Lighting up Haltwhistle- find the story of the gas works here....
Above: The Fell Chimney today
Left: East End Pit circa 1900
Click on the picture for a bigger image and information about the installation