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Pleasley Pit North Winding engine. Picture Source: Paul Fillingham.

Stage 5

North Winding Engine

Colliery winding engines were the machines, which provided power for to the cages (lifts) that were used to transport miners in and out of the mine. They were also used to lower huge amounts of materials and heavy equipment into the pit to establish the workings, and were subsequently used for lifting tubs of coal out to the surface.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the winding device employed by mining families working in the shallow bell pits of the period, would be a rudimentary, hand-cranked, winch. Illustrations of this device appeared in the 1842 Coal-mining Commission Report on the Employment of Children and Women in Coal-mines.

Basic hoist for shaft winding at a bell pit.

In the 18th century, horse gins were developed to harness animal power for transporting heavier loads in and out of the deeper workings – using ropes wound onto a horizontally-mounted drum that the horse could walk around. A replica horse gin is located at the Califat Colliery site, Swannington, in Leicestershire.

Replica horse gin at the Califat Colliery site, near Swannington, Leicestershire. Picture Source: David Amos.


The advent of the steam-engine during the industrial revolution allowed greater weight to be transported down much deeper mines at high speed. Most steam winding engines were horizontal like the two preserved engines at Pleasley, but some were vertical – like the preserved winding engine at the Bestwood Colliery Winding Engine House.

Steam was produced by a set of boilers. Lancashire boilers were a popular type and can be seen at Papplewick Pumping Station, in Nottinghamshire, also the location of a preserved Robey Steam Winding Engine, originally used at Linby Colliery.

The original north-winding engine at Pleasley was built by the Worsley Mesnes Iron Co, and the south winding engine by Reader Co. These were replaced by the current preserved winding engines in 1904, the Lilleshall north winding engine, and in 1922, the Markham south winding engine, respectively