Our family walks through the early 1970's used to annually sight a couple of Huthwaite pit ponies enjoying a few days holidays in fresh air. One stabled below Bentinck Colliery in the 1950's is where New Hucknall Colliery Company owners in 1935 are claimed to have used 111 ponies working just down that pit alone.
Laden rail tubs once hauled by ponies still transferred coals to be raised above ground, although conveyor belts finally managed to mechanise majority of that very long journey all the way from a working coal face.
Adding to the time it took descending a mile below surface, it would be no surprise to find some Huthwaite miners eventually had a longer walk underground getting to the coal face than they did between home and work. Chancing penalty and dangers of taking a ride back sat on the conveyor belt was not unheard of, until equipping New Hucknall Colliery with one of the latest underground passenger trains called a manrider.
Providing miners with breathable fresh air was one main reason why deeper collieries used two pit shafts. Most basic method was keeping a fire burning beneath one shaft, which would draw air through the other.
Use of steam powered ventilation fans was the modern solution, until superceded by even more powerful electric motors. And when tunnelling greater distances beneath Huthwaite, additional booster fans shown from 1959 NCB archives work alongside existing safety precautions against the high risk of underground fires. Ensuring trap doors like these were always reclosed used to be one job previously given children.
Date stamped by New Hucknall Colliery in 1967 are photographs of one worked coal seam little more than two foot high. This presumably had been extracted still using the age old method of hand pick and shovel.
Next stage demonstrates drilling a bore hole to insert an explosive charge. That highly skilled job is simply aimed at bringing down the unwanted layers above to gain safer working access to a thin coal seam below.
Mechanising the actual process of coal getting must have been the industries greatest advancement. Vast machines had to be finally assembled in situ, and while they replaced the age old need for back breaking manpower, the modern miner became a highly skilled operator or a qualified maintenance crew specialist.
Written 24 Aug 14 Revised 05 Nov 14 © by Gary Elliott