Opening Huthwaites influential mine started full productive coal winning from 1878. The New Hucknall Colliery Company extended over 70 years of private management, accessing most major seams before 1947 Nationalisation of an entire coal industry. Although manually exhausting 3 seams before that National Coal Board take over, a total 8 levels were worked over an entire 103 years at Huthwaite pit.
The following chart is designed to clearly display all seams by descending depths when fully spaning New Hucknall's full working lifetime. Marking 1947 managerial changeover indicates how the National Coal Board inherited just 3 working layers. Re-opening a previously unprofitable Piper seam in 1945 may have been timed by war efforts, but under NCB years this pit shows prolonged reliance upon that single layer of fossil deposits while introducing face machinery to vastly improve productivity.
Initially found at depths of 144 yards came a Top Hard seam. Production began after sinking a second ventilation shaft, allowing this seam to be continually worked by hand until exhausting those reserves by 1905. Still exploring further depths, at 359 yards a Deep Hard seam plus a lower 412 yards Tupton seam best offered additional coals. By privately sinking the collieries third pit shaft these levels allowed further output to began in 1887. The Deep Hard did encounter problems becoming first abandoned in 1931 but the Tupton remained operational through NCB takeover. Whilst production finished from the initial Top Hard seam, work then also transferred onto a previously found Second Waterloo seam in 1906. Found at depths of just 203 yards this consisted of 2 coal layers separated by a dirt band, but it turned out coal for 28 years, before the thickening dirt band finalised any further viable working.
At levels of 372 yards the First Piper seam was tapped in 1924 but progress simply proved unprofitable after 5 years. Digging commenced off a Dunsil seam in 1940. Coal output lasted just 6 years before that shallow 166 yard depth encountered severe water problems leading to its abandonment just prior NCB takeover. The last seventh seam privately opened in 1942 was a Deep Soft level at 318 yards. Persisting for 7 years, work was abandoned by NCB authority after encountering walls of dirt. Deepest Yard seam measuring 446 yards stored serious water problems, remaining unworkable until ultimate years.
Underground mechanisation had gradually been introduced here towards 1950. By that year the Deep Soft was abandoned, being classed unprofitable and the early Tupton coal seam finally expired soon after. With advanced equipment the early Deep Hard level was reopened several years after closure, but ventilation problems offered just 3 years work. A more successive attempt was undertaken much later to retrieve final reserves by 1979. Similarly the Deep Soft was reopened in 1967 after 18 years had elapsed since first being abandoned through uneconomical viability. Dangerous roofing conditions gave 12 months work second time, but a 1975r attempt helped again raise falling production figures.
Coal mining begun as a highly labour intensive industry, including women and boys before underground use of pit ponies. Family workers were known often starting aged 12 years, before national schooling lengthened boyhood upto when 14 year olds more regularly started long dark shifts. New Hucknall once privately employed over 1500 hands at Huthwaite, however under NCB management this modern village colliery maintained consistent annual manpower levels averaging 650 men.
The last underground pit ponies who worked here below Huthwaite were retired around 1960, when conveyor belts began carrying more machine extracted material away from the single Piper seam. While legal working ages were further raised, coal miners still remained relatively poorly paid compared to most other industries.
Uniting a Miners Federation of Great Britain massed one huge workforce. Reformed starting 1945, the National Union of Mineworkers initially consisted of 533,000 members. They raised safety issues to improve dangerous working conditions, while industrial reliance for coals led government demands in raising productivity targets. Representing one of Britains lowest paid labour force, miners obviously sought better pay rewards and official NUM led strikes were found capable of crippling the country.
Graphed production figures show a steep 1970 fall, when difficulty becomes encountered extracting coal off the single Piper seam. Bigger dips mark 1972 and 1974 may exaggerate falling output but are probably relational to those miners strikes called by NUM leaders. Wages do significantly improve enabling underground miners to claim some of the highest workers earnings. Some reward is offered for achieving greater output targets, so although this Huthwaite mine largely survives from reopening previously abandoned seams, modern mechanised productivity again raises coal output figures.
Profitable reserves at New Hucknall again become harder to locate however, and Huthwaite miners must faces ultimate pit closure into 1980. Exploration had revealed an unworked eighth coal seam at the lowest depth of 446 yards. Evidence proved this level was greatly troubled by water difficulties, additionally caused by flooding and leakage from closing other nearby collieries. This deepest layer however offered best last hopes for extending New Hucknalls working life and in 1979 the Yard seam was first tapped. Developments offered 2 areas less affected by water, but coal recovery ended at Huthwaite last off the Y7 face in December 1981. Achieving a final record annual output of 503,071 tonnes was proudly reached by clearing every coal storage area before meeting ultimate site clearance. The total output recorded by the National Coal Board from New Hucknall reached around 12million tonnes
Written 27 Aug 03 Revised 08 May 09 © by Gary Elliott