The Methley area has a long history of coal mining which can be traced back over 650 years, when, according to the book. “The history of Methley” a written record states that at the Manor Court in 1341, One Hugo Wyland was accused of digging up coal without a license, he claimed he wasn’t aware that he needed one and he was fined half a mark.
Coal has lain in our area for over 300 million years and as we know the area is synonymous with the industry. Methley is no exception.
As with most coal mining areas, coal was mined locally and in Methley, records show that the Foxholes pit and Parlour pit had been in existance since the 14th century to service the domestic needs of the village.
However, from the 18th century there was an intensification of activity. Initially Bell pits and drill mines were used to increase production and by the mid 19th century the demand for coal increased rapidly. Deep coal mining began in Methley in the 19th century, with the sinking of the Junction Pit, Savile Pit and Newmarket Pit.
These developments led to an influx of workers and their families into the area, population levels rose dramatically. The housing and supporting infrastructure required to accommodate the influx radically changed and the village was moulded around its growing mining industry.
Junction Colliery – disputes & lock outs.
The mine was sited at the top of Junction Hill. It’s tall chimney was a local landmark. Benjamin Burnley commenced sinking in 1845 and the pit started production in 1851. Eight years later, Burnley sold the colliery to Briggs & Co. By the 1860’s relations between the owners and workers had broken down due to cost cutting steps imposed by Briggs & Co and the resulting hardship suffered by the coal miners and their families in Methley and Whitwood. The build up to the dispute began in the June of 1863 when the men, having had to accept a wage cut then refused a later request to riddle (screen) the coal before filling the tubs.
This then resulted in the men being locked out and subsequently evicted from their homes along with their wives, children and belongings. The dispute rolled on for 6 months with workers only reported to be returned to regular work by January the following year.
One such interesting fact was the Bay Horse Inn in Methley was used for meetings during this dispute and became a foundation of the developing Miners Association –
After experiencing flooding problems around the start of the 20th century the pit was modified and used only for ventilation for the near by Whitwood and Savile mines. The pit was closed in 1958.
Newmarket Colliery – manpower strong.
Newmarket Colliery was one of the oldest working pits in the country. It was sunk in 1837 by the Fentons who at the time owned many pits in the area and was later owned by the Charlesworths.
Production was initially by hand pick, shovel and wedge, filled into small corves (a small basket for carrying coal) or tubs by children.
In the 1920’s an air compressed coal cutter was used in the Silkstone seam. This seam was mined until the 1940’s. Later developments included conveyor systems, cutters and use of explosives. Amazingly though the hard task of using pick and shovel lasted 120 years and only came to an end when power loading was introduced in the late 1950’s.
Newmarket closed in 1983 after being phased out over an 18 month period after being classed as being no longer economical. The 600 men who helped produce 4,000 tons of coal were almost all offered redeployment in the Selby coal fields. At the time of closure, Newmarket was the second oldest pit in the area.
Savile Colliery – changed a skyline.
In 1874 two 14ft. diameter shafts were sunk to the Haigh Moor seam at a depth of 430 foot. The colliery was owned by Briggs & Co until Nationalisation in 1947 and was located at the west end of Main Street, Mickletown.
The village population grew rapidly from just over 1000 at the beginning of the 19th century to over 4,000 by 1901 due solely to the influx of people who sought work at the colliery. What was once a scenic, rural village with an agricultural existance, became a semi-industrial area with a chimney spouting black smoke dominating the sky line.
The Colliery existed for another 100 years until 1983 when the mine was scheduled for closure. The NCB stated the combination of geological problems and the exhaustion of all workable seams signalled the mine should cease production. The mine eventually closed two years later after receiving a short stay of execution caused by the national miners’ strike of 1984 on August 23rd, 1985,
A workforce of once around 400 had been scaled down to 270 at the time of its closure. Many of those left in the August of 1985 were redeployed in the Selby coal fields.
* images courtesy of the Methley Archive