Bretby Colliery’s Connection to Tutankhamun

Bretby Colliery near Swadlincote once formed part of the Bretby Hall estate, run by the Stanhope family, who were Earls of Chesterfield. Upon the death of the George Stanhope, the Seventh Earl, in 1871, the earldom passed onto a third cousin but Bretby Hall and its estate stayed in the hands of his widowed mother, Anne. It was through Anne that her grandson, George Herbert, Fifth Earl of Carnarvon inherited the estate, but still allowed her to live there.

Carnarvon actually never lived on the estate, choosing to remain at the Carnarvon’s main estate at Highclere Castle in Hampshire. However he was known to hold shooting parties there. Despite not living in Derbyshire, he took an active role in running the estate and the colliery, often alongside the Dowager Countess of Chesterfield.


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Bond of indemnity from the Earl of Carnarvon to indemnify Humphrey Trafford and Harold Russell Nadin, 1882 (NCB/H/NAD/4/22)

Following Carnarvon’s decision to fund Howard Carter’s archaeology expeditions in Egypt, he needed funds in the early 1920s. As he didn’t use the Bretby estate, it was an easy asset to sell on. It was at this point that the colliery and the rest of the estate was split up. The Hall and its related estate was sold onto John Wragg, an industrialist from Swadlincote, until it was eventually brought out by Derbyshire County Council and turned into a hospital. The colliery itself was sold onto Halls Collieries Ltd, but was seen as a difficult colliery to run. It closed briefly in 1928 but was later reopened. It carried on working well past nationalisation until it finally closed in 1962.


Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon (1922), Wikimedia Commons

When looking into the history of Bretby Colliery, I must admit I wasn’t expecting to find that it actually helped find Tutankhamun. Sometimes it’s really is surprising to find these unexpected connections that are linked to Derbyshire’s colliery past.


‘Bretby Colliery Closed After 86 Years’,

‘Bretby History’, Bretby Parish Council,

‘Bretby Hall’, Historic England,

Mining the Seams is a Wellcome Trust funded project aiming to catalogue coal mining documents, originally held by the National Coal Board, so they can eventually be viewed by the public. Alongside the Warwickshire County Record Office, the project aims to focus on the welfare and health services provided to miners. 

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