Monday 15 December 2003

Turton Moor Colliery: Briggs & Walsh - 1861

Extract from Lost Industries of Turton Moor by Peter M. Harris, pages 26-27

Chapter 5 - Briggs & Walsh

After Andrew Knowles gave up mining the area lay unworked until 1861 when a Turton Moor Colliery once again appears in the official list of mines; this time under the ownership of Briggs and Walsh. The mine continued to appear in 1862 and 1863, but now apparently under the sole ownership of John Walsh. However in January 1863 the company, calling itself Walsh and Briggs, wrote to the rating assessment officer at Turton as follows:- ‘We first raised coal for sale on Turton Moor on 1 March 1862, and we have sold 21 hundred tons from 1 March to 31 December at an average price of 5/4d per ton. We have eight men getting coal. You’ll be as easy as you can in the assessment. You will see from the statement that we are getting a very small quantity and there are no profits but a loss.’

It seems odd that the company should achieve so little output in the first 10 months of operation. The capital outlay involved in sinking new shafts would have been considerable as would that for the winding and pumping engine and other items needed for the new colliery. There would be an urgent need to recover this money as soon as possible, an objective unlikely to be achieved from the efforts of only eight men. Either something was wrong with the mining operation, or there was little demand for the coal and production had to be restricted. Whatever the reason, the unhappy situation seems to have come to a head the following year when the whole operation including the lease, colliery and all the equipment was put up for auction in an event advertised in the ‘Bolton Chronicle’ of 30 January 1864.

Nineteenth century advertisement for mining equipment

The sale was scheduled for 18 February 1864 at the Green Arms Inn, the nearest inn to the colliery, and was conducted by Mr William Sailsbury. It included, the mine, engine, boiler, working plant and ‘all beds of coal under certain lands belonging to Arabella Penelope Eliza Hoare (Lord of the Manor) at or near Turton and commonly known as Turton Moor, comprising 248 acres and 27 perches or thereabouts’. Also in the sale was ‘the boiler house, smithy, pumping and hoisting fixtures, smith’s working tools, fittings and gearings, ropes, chains, weighing machine, coal boxes, wagons etc. Also rails and sleepers from the pit to the cart set situated near the machine house and weighing machine adjoining the turnpike from Darwen to Bolton’. The colliery was described as being ‘a short distance from the turnpike near the Green Arms Inn, Turton’. The mines of coal were held on a 15 year lease dating from 24 June 1858 at a yearly rent of £80 or £50 for each 7840 sq. yds of coal of one foot thickness per year or a pro rata amount for greater or lesser quantities. Further information could be had from John Walsh, farmer, Grainings, Over Darwen or Mr Ainsworth, solicitor, 32 Clayton Street, Blackburn.

The lease of 248 acres, held by John Walsh, was obviously larger than that originally worked by Andrew Knowles and most of it must have been to the south side of the original lease, where the coal seam extends in depth.

The existence of a tramway extending from the colliery to a weighing machine near the main road is surprising, at this early date, as it is not shown on any map and there is otherwise little sign of its existence, although a tramway was specifically included in the 1866 colliery rating valuation. The situation of the colliery, described as being a short distance from the Green Arms Inn is rather inaccurate since both the old and new colliery sites would be about a mile away from the inn. Also it is not absolutely clear, from the notice, which of the two collieries is being referred to, although the existence of pumping equipment suggests that it was the new pit, and the tramway provides confirmation. Otherwise it would be necessary to envisage almost a mile of tramway, of which there is no trace, to a colliery already served by a well engineered cart track, built by Andrew Knowles, that is still in surprisingly good condition. Official confirmation of the new shaft is provided by the first geological survey map which confirms that a new shaft, absent in 1849, was in existence before 1869.

The sinking of a 174 feet deep shaft or shafts, installation of pumps, construction of over half a mile of tramway and generally bringing a new colliery into existence seems an ambitious undertaking for a man like John Walsh, who regarded himself primarily as farmer, and so it proved. However he does deserve the credit for establishing a new colliery that lasted, in one form or another, for over forty years.