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National Coal Board - 1977

Stoke-on-Trent handbook - 1977 page 17


The North Staffordshire Coalfield

The North Staffordshire coalfield is one of the richest and most compact in Europe. On average there are more than 20 workable seams of power station, general purpose and coking coals. The seams have a total thickness of about 100 feet and range down to a depth of more than 4,000 feet.

The earliest records show that there was coalmining in the area in the 13th century—yet there are still vast reserves of high quality coals to be exploited. This is why the coalfield is playing an important role in the Coal Board's ten year "Plan for Coal" and why some large scale capital investment schemes are under way at local collieries.

The "Plan for Coal" was launched in 1974 after the Government, the Coal Board and the mining trade unions had examined the industry's prospects following the steep increases in oil prices and the uncertainty of future supplies. The Plan, which is officially sponsored by the Government, means an investment of £1,400 million (at 1974 prices) to increase the industry's capacity by sinking new collieries, extending existing collieries and increasing opencast mining production.
Good progress has already been made towards the Plan's ultimate aim of a total annual output of 135 million tons a year by 1985 with the possibility of further increases to meet a potential demand of 150 million tons.

The Coal Board has shown its faith in the future of the North Staffordshire coalfield by giving the coalfield a larger share of the capital investment than any other coalfield of similar size.
The North Staffordshire coalfield has six collieries which employ a total of 7,000 men and produce about four million tons of coal a year. All the collieries have been extensively modernised in recent years and produce coal by the most up-to-date methods of machine mining.

Hem Heath Colliery, for example, was completely rebuilt and reconstructed on the site of an old colliery and this scheme was completed in 1958.

In May 1974 work began on an £18 million scheme to merge Hem Heath with its neighbour, Florence Colliery, to form a giant mine complex with a combined output of 2i million tons a year. The scheme is known as the Trentham Project and will link the two collieries, which are two miles apart, underground.
The project also involves the driving of a 2,833 yards drift from the surface at Hem Heath to underground and the building of a new coal preparation plant and rapid loading system at Hem Heath. All the coals from both collieries will be taken to the surface at Hem Heath which is next to the main railway line.

The three shafts at Florence Colliery were sunk from 1874 to 1916. From 1950 to 1964 there was a £7 million modernisation scheme. One shaft was deepened to serve the lower horizons to exploit coking coals while the other two shafts were enlarged in diameter. The surface facilities were also renewed. Under the Trentham Project the shafts at Florence will continue to be used for manriding, materials transport and ventilation.

Another big capital development scheme is in progress at Silverdale Colliery, near New-castle-under-Lyme, which first began to wind coal in 1830. In May 1976 the National Coal Board approved a £20 million project to exploit further reserves by the construction of a new mine on the site of the present colliery.

A £1½ million scheme was completed in 1975 when a 1,260 yard drift was driven from the surface to underground. All the coal is now brought to the surface via the drift. A return drift 940 yards long for ventilation was also driven. The surface was modernised by the installation of a rapid loading system for power station trains.
The new mine project involves the driving of two further drifts, each 4,000 yards long to provide access to 50 million tons of additional reserves in the Keele-Hanchurch area. The existing surface drift will be lengthened to 3,200 yards and a new coal preparation plant is being built.

Wolstanton Colliery, Newcastle-under-Lyme, is a concentration of four collieries and has the deepest workings in Britain. A major reconstruction scheme between 1951 and 1964 merged Wolstanton with Sneyd and Deep pits and a new 24 feet diameter shaft was sunk to 1,139 yards. The existing shaft was deepened to 1,145 yards. By 1975 Wolstanton had been connected underground with Chatterley Whitfield Colliery and the merger was completed in 1976.

Holditch Colliery, Chesterton, Newcastle, was sunk from 1912 to 1918 and was reorganised after nationalisation. In 1974 the colliery was given special treatment to improve the appearance of the surface. Since July 1976 the Colliery has been supplying methane gas from underground (which formerly went to waste) to fire the kilns at the nearby brickworks of G. H. Downing and Co. Ltd.

Victoria Colliery, Biddulph, is the most northerly in the coalfield and was sunk between 1850 and 1860. In 1975 a major surface reorganisation was completed.

The North Staffordshire collieries form part of the Western Area of the National Coal Board which administers 22 collieries in Staffordshire, Shropshire, Lancashire, North Wales and Cumbria. The Area is planning to sink a new two million tons a year colliery east of Stafford, between the North Staffordshire and the Cannock Chase coalfields.
The Area has its headquarters at Staffordshire House, Berry Hill Road, Stoke-on-Trent, and is also responsible for the distribution of coal. The Board's marketing services—including technical advice on industrial and commercial heating plant, district heating and home improvement schemes— are available from Staffordshire House.

'The technical and domestic consumer services of the Solid Fuel Advisory Service are available from the Board's sales district office at Piggott House, Tontine Square, Hanley.

The headquarters of the Central (West) Region of the Coal Board's Opencast Executive are at Ash Hall, Ash Bank, Stoke-on-Trent. There are a number of prospective sites in the Newcastle/ Kidsgrove area where coal reserves, suitable for opencast mining, have been proved.

Stoke-on-Trent handbook - 1977



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