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South-side Pit Top. Picture Source: Paul Fillingham.

Stage 8

South Side Pit Top

This area is the mouth of the south side shaft, which was 822 meters when it was deepened in 1920 to access other coal reserves. It was a hive of activity when coaling was taking place, with tubs or minecars full of coal coming up the shaft every minute. Following the closure of Pleasley Colliery in December 1983, the south side shaft was kept open for ventilation purposes for nearby Shirebrook Colliery until 1992. When the latter closed in 1993, the Pleasley south side shaft was filled in.

Pleasley Pit, south-side shaft area in 2023.

The centrepiece of this area is the cage (lift) which went up and down the shaft to take miners and materials into the pit and bring the coal out. There were two cages in a shaft travelling simultaneously up and down. The coal initially came up the shaft in tubs, a type of narrow gauge rail truck, examples which can be seen in this trail.

Pleasley Pit mine cars.

Tubs and Minecars: Getting coal out of the pit

Two full tubs per deck on the cage came up the pit per draw, each holding 13.5 hundredweight (cwt) of coal. At the same time, empty tubs would travel in the other cage back into the pit.

In the 1950’s, 3 ton minecars replaced the tubs to bring coal out of the pit. One minecar per deck would travel the shaft. An example of a minecar is on the visitors centre side of the south side shaft. The minecar system operated at Pleasley until May 1979 when the coal was re-routed via underground conveyors to the surface drift at nearby Shirebrook Colliery.

Coal in both the tub and minecar systems was wound up the shaft at very fast speeds. The cabin on the vistors centre side is the loader cabin and this was where the banksman was located in charge of getting the tubs / minecars coming out of the pit. 55 to 60 draws (runs) per hour would be the norm at most local collieries. Just think, the cage would travel the 900 yards in the Pleasley south side shaft in around one minute! Manriding was at a slower speed than coaling because of safety implications

Video

The Tippler

When the tubs / minecars full of coal came off the cage, they went to a tippler, which turned them upside down in order to empty the run of mine coal onto a conveyor to take it to the Coal Preparation Plant for washing and screening. Once this was done, the saleable coal was dispatched by rail and road to customers. The empty tubs ran around a track circuit ready to be sent back underground for some more coal.

Banksman (right) checking miners for contraband before they are allowed to descend the shaft.

The Banksman

The twin-deck cage at Pleasley was formerly located at Annesley Colliery and could hold 12 miners per deck, two decks giving a maximum of 24 per draw. The mannequin standing at the side of the shaft is the Banksman and his job was the get the miners and equipment in and out of the pit at the mouth of the shaft. He worked in liason with the winding engineman and the onsetter in the pit bottom. Communication between the winding engine, pit top and pit bottom was by means of a system of bell codes. From the 1950’s most local collieries, one shaft was devoted to getting the coal out and the other for transporting equipment and miners.

Pleasley Colliery mottie.

Motties

When a miner went on shift he was allocated two brass motties, also known as checks or tallies. The mottie had the miners check number embossed on it and the name of the colliery. This was for a system of timekeeping but more importantly for safety purposes.

When miners were ready to descend the shaft at the start of the shift, the banksman would collect a mottie from each miner and they would go back to the time and wages office to be placed onto a deployment board.

Cage full of miners about to descend the shaft. Picture Source: The Coal Authority.

In the event of an underground incident such as an accident, fire or explosion, it would be known which miners were working in that part of the pit by consulting the mottie deployment board.

Pleasley Pit mottie board.

At the end of a shift, a miner would give his second mottie to the banksman to show he had cleared the pit and finished his underground shift.

Miners coming off shift at Desford Colliery in the 1960’s. The banksmen can be seen collecting the miners motties on both decks to the left of the photo. 

Most former coalminers would remember their check number for the rest of their lives. Time and wages clerks working at very large collieries – (some employing over One-Thousand men) could even identify individual miners by their check number!

Detaching hook attached to the cage at the Pleasley Pit south side shaft area.

Detaching Hook

One of the risks involved in transporting men and materials at speed using a steel winding rope is that of an overwind – where the cage rises too quickly, potentially crashing into the top of the winding wheel. To mitigate this risk, a detaching hook allows the cage to separate from the steel winding rope, leaving it suspended safely at the pit top.

Adjacent to the south side shaft is a display of cage equipment, which includes detaching hooks. 

Inventor of the Detaching Hook – local mining engineer, John King.

One type of detaching hook was invented by local mining engineer, John King, from Pinxton. The increased acceleration brought about by steam power in the 1870’s meant that overwinds were happening more frequently, with disastrous effects. If an overwind occurred it was said to have ‘Kinged’.

John King’s invention saved countless lives and was adapted by collieries worldwide. Another common type of detaching hook used at British collieries was the Ormerod device.

Advertisement for a King’s Hook, steel rope, detaching device.

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