A 19th century coalmine
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coal mine

At the pit-head, coal was cleaned and sorted. This was a job for women and older or injured miners who could still work.

Coal was dumped into railway trucks to be taken away by a never-ending stream of trains. Waste stone piled up on the slag heap.

 railway

 

 

 Shaft

Digging coal
 Fitting timber props

coal
seam

 by hand

 cage

 pit ponies
 women & children

 

Deep mines
Pits in the North were 500 to 1,200 metres deep. Miners went down the shaft in a “cage” - a primitive lift dropped on a long cable, wound up by a steam engine. They walked sometimes miles to the coal-face. This travel was in their own time, since they were only paid for the coal they dug. Gangs of men hacked out the coal by pick and shovel. Deep below ground it was hot, dusty and wet - though steam-engines worked night-and-day pumping water out of the mines.

Women and children underground

 
1. Cleaning and sorting the coal. 2. pit pony hauling coal trucks - scenes from Mining History Centre, Lewarde

Women and children loaded coal into trucks, which were hauled to the shaft by miserable pit ponies that lived and died underground. Until 1874, miners' children started work in the pit aged 8 - then a law made the minimum age 12. Every few days, the miners had to shore up their tunnel with timber pit props. They lost money because they were not digging coal. If they hit a break in the coal seam - there are many geological faults in this coalfield - they would lose more money while they dug tunnels to find the coal seam.

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www.theotherside.co.uk Last revised 26th February 2000 © Copyright Invicta Media 2000