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 where 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.
Sometime around the turn of the century (1900) 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
coal was taken by wagons, down the track-way, across the bridge over the road beside
Mill Lane and down to “the drops” on the haugh-land below Town Foot. Here it was
loaded onto coal wagons and shunted into the marshalling yards ready to join a freight
train on the main line. These routes can be walked and traced on maps from the 1860s.
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.
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. It was a grim time for Haltwhistle.
How We Used To Live : The life of a miner and his family.
Field trip visiting the archaeological remains of each of the pits, wagon-ways and
Photographs of East End Pit, South Tyne Colliery, Marshalling Yards and Pitmen.
Militia lists 1769
Census data from 1841 onwards.
Transcripts of document giving mining rights to South Tyne Company .
Data from the Durham Mining association Web site giving lists of output, manpower
and names of key management.
Ordinance Survey maps from 1860
Plans of pit workings 1837 and 1931
Information leaflet giving details of mining history (good for staff background and
precise dates etc.)