PDF South Yorkshire Mining Disasters: Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century: 19th Century v. 1

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The National Archives does not hold mining or quarrying personnel records. Information about individual miners and other staff, if it survives, is more likely to be found in records deposited in local record offices. This guide will direct you to the most appropriate records for researching government involvement in the mining industry up to and including the 21st century. The guide includes information on records relating to nationalisation, welfare, accidents, labour relations and general policy and administration.

The National Archives has so many files relating to the mining industry that this research guide can only highlight particular record series that may be useful. If you can use Discovery, our catalogue , to search by keywords and dates you will find many more useful documents than we can list here.

For advice on searching the catalogue see the Discovery help pages. Many mines and quarries were on land owned by the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall. The National Archives holds records of these as well as some privately owned mines and quarries. References to mines are often made within the body of a document and are not obvious from the description in the catalogue. Some of the key record series where this is the case are shown below.

Situation Critical - S01E12 - Coal Mine Disaster

In , the Auditors of the Land Revenues took over from the Court of Augmentations the responsibility for managing the Crown lands. From they worked in conjunction with the Surveyor General of Land Revenues, whose task it was to survey and value royal estates. Between and these functions were carried out by the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues, and subsequently by the Commissioners of Crown Lands and the Crown Estate Commissioners.

It is worth noting that rentals relating to mines including iron, tin and fireclay mines, and stone quarries are accounted separately. Specifically, records in CRES 55 royal gold and silver mines may be relevant. For all these series of records you can identify relevant papers by using the indexes to the printed Calendars in The National Archives in Kew. You may find the research guide Treasury Board letters and papers useful, as well as the guides on State Papers domestic for the periods , , and F 17 contains material on ironstone mining and stone quarrying in the Forest of Dean.

Other relevant files previously held in F 3 , F 16 and F 26 were transferred to Gloucestershire record office in During the First World War the government increased its control over mines and mineral resources. The Mines Department was created in Search our catalogue within department code POWE. After the First World War, authority over the exploitation and supply of certain mineral commodities was divided among a number of government departments. Search our catalogue using the names of specific commodities as keywords to identify relevant documents.

Search our catalogue using keywords and specifying a date range to find relevant records. In particular try searching the record series below:. In , the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry or the Samuel Commission recommended the amalgamation of small mines. The Coal Mines Act of created the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission to try and achieve this, but colliery owners blocked the scheme and the Commission was dissolved in The Coal Act of nationalised coal deposits and created the Coal Commission to take over the role of the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, but the outbreak of war in prevented any progress being made.

The record series listed below are particularly relevant:. Prior to the Second World War, responsibilities for sources of power and energy had been split between several government departments. In June these were brought together under the new Ministry of Fuel and Power to manage the demand for energy supplies. The following record series may be particularly useful:.

Other departments worth searching in our catalogue include:. Search the catalogue using keywords and specifying a post-war date range. To narrow your results search within specific departments or topics such as those mentioned below. Reports from the National Coal Board can be found on the Parliamentary Papers website this is an institutional subscription website and is free to access onsite at The National Archives in Kew as well as other archives and libraries.

The National Archives holds a considerable amount of material on industrial relations in the coal industry. Search our catalogue using keywords and dates. You can narrow your results by searching specifically within records from the departments listed below. Local archives are the best source of information about individual mines and quarries. The National Archives does hold some information but it is not the best place to start.

To narrow your results try searching within specific department codes such as those listed below. This requirement applied to mines of all description except coal for which legal obligation already existed under the Coal Mines Inspection Act , stratified ironstone, shale, salt and firestone.

The Home Office files in HO 45 include a few plans of abandoned mines. Plans deposited under this and earlier statutes were distributed to local record offices in the s. Enquiries concerning them should now be directed to the appropriate local record office. The National Archives holds many maps from before , when working mines became legally obliged to provide them. Early examples include 16th century maps showing open-cast mines. Restrict your search to specific departments such as those listed below to narrow down your results.

Narrow your search by entering a date range or specific government department codes such as those listed below. Compensation for industrial diseases was administered by the Home Office until and then by the Ministry of National Insurance PIN and its successors.

Relevant files series are shown below. The National Archives has a number of files relating to the Aberfan disaster of The records below may be of particular use. Reports on many major mining disasters have been printed as Parliamentary Papers online access is free at The National Archives. Other useful record series are shown below. The record series listed below may particularly useful. There are many policy, administration and finance files relating to mining at The National Archives.

Search our catalogue using keywords and dates to find relevant files some very recent records are already available. Narrow down your results by searching within records from specific departments such as those listed below. Search our catalogue using keywords to identify records relating to overseas mining.

Alternatively, browse the specific record series shown below. From the middle ages the Crown was entitled not only to gold and silver mines, but also to any other mines where gold and silver were found — such as those producing copper, tin, iron or lead. The Royal Mines Act revoked royal rights to these other mines, but duties on the ores produced there continued to be levied. The Exchequer, and subsequently the Auditors of Land Revenues and the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues, administered the revenues from royal mines and quarries, and their records are rich in relevant references.

The direct involvement of the State with mines and quarries began in with the Mines Act, under which inspectors were appointed to regulate employment conditions in mines. Following the Quarries Act , mines inspectors were given responsibility for all quarries, whereas previously factory inspectors had been responsible for quarries using steam power. From the end of the 19th century, the Board of Trade was concerned with both the industrial and the economic aspects of mines and quarries, and in the first state organisation exclusively concerned with them, the Mines Department, was set up as a department of that Board.

Since then, a long succession of government departments has exercised general responsibility for mines and quarries and related matters.

The history of coal mining goes back thousands of years. It became important in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was primarily used to power steam engines, heat buildings and generate electricity. Coal mining continues as an important economic activity today. Compared to wood fuels , coal yields a higher amount of energy per mass and can often be obtained in areas where wood is not readily available. Though it was used historically as a domestic fuel, coal is now used mostly in industry, especially in smelting and alloy production as well as electricity generation.

Large-scale coal mining developed during the Industrial Revolution , and coal provided the main source of primary energy for industry and transportation in industrial areas from the 18th century to the s. Coal remains an important energy source because of its low cost and abundance compared to other fuels, particularly for electricity generation. Britain developed the main techniques of underground coal mining from the late 18th century onward, with further progress being driven by 19th century and early 20th century progress.

By the late 20th century, coal was, for the most part, replaced in domestic as well as industrial and transportation usage by oil , natural gas or electricity produced from oil, gas, nuclear power or renewable energy sources. By , coal produced over a fourth of the world's energy, and by it is expected to produce about a third. Since , coal mining has also been a political and social issue. Coal miners' labour and trade unions became powerful in many countries in the 20th century, and often, the miners were leaders of the Left or Socialist movements as in Britain, Germany, Poland, Japan, Chile, Canada and the U.

Early coal extraction was small-scale, the coal lying either on the surface, or very close to it.

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History of coal mining

Typical methods for extraction included drift mining and bell pits. As well as drift mines, small scale shaft mining was used. This took the form of a bell pit, the extraction working outward from a central shaft, or a technique called room and pillar in which 'rooms' of coal were extracted with pillars left to support the roofs.

Both of these techniques however left considerable amount of usable coal behind.

History of coal mining - Wikipedia

Archeological evidence in China indicates surface mining of coal and household usage after approximately BC. The earliest reference to the use of coal in metalworking is found in the geological treatise On stones Lap. Among the materials that are dug because they are useful, those known as coals are made of earth, and, once set on fire, they burn like charcoal. They are found in Liguria The earliest known use of coal in the Americas was by the Aztecs who used coal for fuel and jet a type of lignite for ornaments.


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Excavation has revealed coal stores at many forts along Hadrian's Wall as well as the remains of a smelting industry at forts such as Longovicium nearby. After the Romans left Britain, in AD , there are few records of coal being used in the country until the end of the 12th century. One that does occur is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year when a rent including 12 loads of coal is mentioned. This commodity, however, was not suitable for use in the type of domestic hearths then in use, and was mainly used by artisans for lime burning , metal working and smelting.

As early as , sea coal from the north-east was being taken to London. As a result of this, a Royal proclamation was issued in prohibiting artificers of London from using sea coal in their furnaces and commanding them to return to the traditional fuels of wood and charcoal.

In , Sir George Bruce of Carnock of Culross , Scotland , opened the first coal mine to extract coal from a "moat pit" under the sea on the Firth of Forth. The technology was far in advance of any coal mining method in the late medieval period and was considered one of the industrial wonders of the age. During the 17th century a number of advances in mining techniques were made, such the use of test boring to find suitable deposits and chain pumps , driven by water wheels , to drain the collieries.

North American coal deposits were first discovered by French explorers and fur traders along the shores of Grand Lake in central New Brunswick, Canada in the s. Coal seams were exposed where rivers flowed into the lake and was dug by hand off the surface and from tunnels dug into the seam. About the French made their fur trading post at the mouth of the Saint John River their main post in Acadia and started construction of a new fort.

The main residence at the fort was designed with two 11 foot wide fireplaces which were stocked with wood and coal from up river. As early as , the French were sending coal and other supplies to the British colony at Boston. The Industrial Revolution , which began in Britain in the 18th century, and later spread to continental Europe , North America , and Japan , was based on the availability of coal to power steam engines.

International trade expanded exponentially when coal-fed steam engines were built for the railways and steamships during the Victorian era. Coal was cheaper and much more efficient than wood fuel in most steam engines. As central and Northern England contains an abundance of coal, many mines were situated in these areas as well as the South Wales coalfield and Scotland. The small-scale techniques were unsuited to the increasing demand, with extraction moving away from surface extraction to deep shaft mining as the Industrial Revolution progressed.

As steamships traveled overseas from the industrialized countries of Europe their need for coal served as trigger for coal mining to start at various locations across the globe. An example of this is the coal mining in Zona Centro Sur , Chile, that began as a response to the arrival of steamships to Talcahuano.

Although some deep mining took place as early as the s in North East England , and along the Firth of Forth coast [19] [20] deep shaft mining in the UK began to develop extensively in the late 18th century, with rapid expansion throughout the 19th century and early 20th century when the industry peaked. The location of the coalfields helped to make the prosperity of Lancashire , of Yorkshire , and of South Wales. The Yorkshire pits which supplied Sheffield were only about feet deep. Northumberland and Durham were the leading coal producers and they were the sites of the first deep pits.

In much of Britain coal was worked from drift mines , or scraped off when it outcropped on the surface. Small groups of part-time miners used shovels and primitive equipment. Scottish miners had been bonded to their "maisters" by a Act "Anent Coalyers and Salters". A Colliers and Salters Scotland Act , recognised this to be "a state of slavery and bondage" and formally abolished it; this was made effective by a further law in Before a great deal of coal was left in places as extraction was still primitive. The use of wooden pit props to support the roof was an innovation first introduced about The critical factor was circulation of air and control of dangerous explosive gases.

At first fires were burned at the bottom of the "upcast" shaft to create air currents and circulate air, but replaced by fans driven by steam engines. Protection for miners came with the invention of the Davy lamp and Geordie lamp , where any firedamp or methane burnt harmlessly within the lamp. It was achieved by restricting the ingress of air with either metal gauze or fine tubes, but the illumination from such lamps was very poor.

Coal was so abundant in Britain that the supply could be stepped up to meet the rapidly rising demand. In the annual output of coal was just under 3 million tons. After output soared, reaching 16 million long tons by at the height of the Napoleonic War. By this had risen to over 30 million tons [23] The miners, less affected by imported labour or machines than were the cotton mill workers, had begun to form trade unions and fight their grim battle for wages against the coal owners and royalty-lessees.

Use of women and children at a fraction of the cost of men was common until abolished in an Act of August In South Wales, the miners showed a high degree of solidarity. They lived in isolated villages where the miners comprised the great majority of workers.

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There was a high degree of equality in life style; combined with an evangelical religious style based on Methodism this led to an ideology of egalitarianism. They forged a "community of solidarity" - under the leadership of the Miners Federation. The union supported first the Liberal Party, then after Labour, with some Communist Party activism at the fringes. The need to maintain coal supplies a primary energy source had figured in both world wars. Much of the 'old Left ' of British politics can trace its origins to coal-mining areas, with the main labour union being the Miners' Federation of Great Britain , founded in The MFGB claimed , members in Although other factors were involved, one cause of the UK General Strike of was concerns colliers had over very dangerous working conditions, reduced pay and longer shifts.

Technological development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries helped both to improve the safety of colliers and the productive capacity of collieries they worked. In the late 20th century, improved integration of coal extraction with bulk industries such as electrical generation helped coal maintain its position despite the emergence of alternative energies supplies such as oil, natural gas and, from the late s, nuclear power used for electricity. More recently coal has faced competition from renewable energy sources and bio-fuels.

Most of the coal mines in Britain were purchased by the government in and put under the control of the National Coal Board , with only the smaller mines left in private ownership. The NUM had campaigned for nationalisation for decades and, once it was achieved, sought to work with the NCB in managing the industry and discouraged strikes. Under the chairmanship of Alf Robens , pit closures became widespread as coal's place in energy generation declined.

The NUM leadership continued to resist calls for strike action, but an unofficial strike began in after a conference pledge on the hours of surface-workers was not acted upon. This was a watershed moment that led to increased spending on the coal industry and a much slower rate of pit closures, as well as the election of more militant officials to the NUM leadership. Under the government of Ted Heath, an official strike in won increased wages after the Wilberforce Commission. Less than two years later, Heath called a general election over another official strike, called after an overtime ban had led to a Three Day Week in Britain, and lost the election to the Labour Party.

The wage demands were then met and spending on the industry continued to increase, including the establishment of the new Selby Coalfield. By the early s, many pits were almost years' old and were considered uneconomic [28] to work at then current wage rates compared to cheap North Sea oil and gas, and in comparison to subsidy levels in Europe.

The Miners' Strike of failed to stop the Conservative government's plans under Margaret Thatcher to shrink the industry, and a break-away Union of Democratic Mineworkers was founded by miners, mostly in the Midlands, who felt that the NUM had broken its own democratic rules in calling the strike. The National Coal Board by then British Coal , was privatised by selling off a large number of pits to private concerns through the mids. Because of exhausted seams, high prices and cheap imports, the mining industry disappeared almost completely, despite the militant protests of some miners.

The coal was exhausted. Kellingley Colliery was the last deep coal mine in operation in the UK and its last coaling shift was on 18 December when coaling operations ceased with the loss of jobs bringing deep coal mining in the UK to an end in its entirety, a skeleton team of men will remain to service the colliery until it is finally dismantled. Coal mining was never a major industry in Ireland, apart from a spell in the midth century when east Tyrone collieries were at their peak. Deerpark Mines was the largest opencast site.

In it got rail connections and reached peak production in the s. Anthracite or "hard" coal , clean and smokeless, became the preferred fuel in cities, replacing wood by about Bituminous or "soft coal" mining came later. In the mid-century Pittsburgh was the principal market. After soft coal, which is cheaper but dirtier, came into demand for railway locomotives and stationary steam engines , and was used to make coke for steel after Total coal output soared until ; before , it doubled every ten years, going from 8.

The Great Depression of the s lowered the demand to million short tons in Lewis , the United Mine Workers UMW became the dominant force in the coal fields in the s and s, producing high wages and benefits. At the same time steam engines were phased out in railways and factories, and bituminous coal was used primarily for the generation of electricity. Employment in bituminous peaked at , men in , falling to , by and 70, in UMW membership among active miners fell from , in to only 16, in , as coal mining became more mechanized and non-union miners predominated in the new coal fields. In the s a series of mergers saw coal production shift from small, independent coal companies to large, more diversified firms.

Several oil companies and electricity producers acquired coal companies or leased Federal coal reserves in the west of the United States. Concerns that competition in the coal industry could decline as a result of these changes were heightened by a sharp rise in coal prices in the wake of the oil crisis. Coal prices fell in the s, partly in response to oil price movements, but primarily in response to the large increase in supply worldwide which was brought about by the earlier price surge. During this period, the industry in the U.

In Wyoming became the largest coal producing state. It uses strip mining exclusively. Wyoming's coal reserves total about In , competition was intense in the US coal mining industry with some U. Coal is used primarily to generate electricity, but the rapid drop in natural gas prices after created severe competition. In Australia surpassed the US as the world's largest coal exporter. One-third of Australia's coal exports were shipped from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, where coal mining and transport had begun nearly two centuries earlier.

Coal River was the first name given by British settlers to the Hunter River after coal was found there in In the Sydney-based administration established a permanent convict settlement near the mouth of the Hunter River to mine and load the coal, predetermining the town's future as a coal port by naming it Newcastle. Today, Newcastle, NSW, is the largest coal port in the world. Now the state of Queensland is Australia's top coal producer, with its Bowen Basin the main source of black coal, and plans by miners such as Gina Rinehart to open up the Galilee and Surat Basins to coal mining.

The United States has been a major supplier for the industrial regions of Ontario. S while Eastern Canadian ports import considerable coal from Venezuela. Coal was found by French explorers and fur traders along the shores of Grand Lake where rivers and erosion had exposed the coal. Small amounts of coal were dug from surface deposits and tunnels dug into the coal seams, and this coal supplied Fort Saint Marie, built by the French about at the mouth of the Saint John River.

The French sold coal to the British colony at Boston as early as Coal mining expanded after the British took control of the area in the mid s and encouraged permanent settlements in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario by British Loyalists. Beginning in , over 11, Loyalists settled in N. Approximately , tons of coal were dug at Grand Lake between and using surface collection, vertical shafts and the room and pillar system. By , the use of draglines and other modern equipment made strip mining possible and the privately owned Grand Lake area mines produced over , tons per year.

Most of this coal was used by the railroad and large businesses. By , a coal burning electric power generating plant at Newcastle Creek was operating with two 33, volt lines going to Fredericton and one 66, volt line going to Marysville. By , coal production at Grand Lake often reached 1 million tons per year. In , all the privately owned Grand Lake area coal companies and approximately 1, employees were consolidated into one provincial government controlled company named N.


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In , the increasing availability of oil and environmental concerns with coal use caused the closing of the Grand Lake coal mines and New Brunswick's coal mining industry. The first coal mining in Nova Scotia began in the 18th century with small hand-dug mines close to the sea at Joggins, Nova Scotia and in the Sydney area of Cape Breton Island.