Coal mining records

A guide to records of the Derbyshire coal mining industry (written March 1993, updated June 2020).

Development of coal mining in Derbyshire

There has been coal mining in Derbyshire since the medieval period.  Mining initially took place along the eastern edge of the county, around Dronfield, Chesterfield, Alfreton, Ripley and Heanor, where the coal seams occur close to the surface.  Production was not large, as charcoal was widely available as a source of domestic fuel, and the extent of coal mining operations depended on the interest of the private landlords under whose estates the seams lay. 

The demand for Derbyshire coal increased from the 18th century.  Local lead was now being smelted using coal fired hearths, whilst the construction of the Derbyshire canal network and subsequently the rail network, meant that both lead and coal could be distributed to wider markets far more cheaply than had hitherto been possible.  The incentive of profit attracted entrepreneurs into the coal industry and led to the formation and growth of large colliery companies.  In 1790, the partnership of Benjamin Outram, Francis Beresford, John Wright and William Jessop bought the freehold of the Butterley Hall estate (see comment below), from which they shortly took the name The Butterley Company, and began mining for coal and iron-ore.  See D503 for the large archive collection for the firm.

Coal Mining Archive Collections

Derbyshire Record Office holds a number of private family and estate collections relating to to coal mining on private lands:

  • D1881 Coke of Brookhill
  • D76 and D187 Hallowes of Glapwell
  • D2535, D126 and D513 Hurt of Alderwasley
  • D517 Miller Mundy of Shipley
  • D2536 Oakes of Riddings
  • D1763 Palmer-Morewood of Alfreton Hall
  • D255 Ray of Heanor Hall
  • D505 Rodes of Barlborough
  • D1000 Sitwell of Renishaw
  • D551 Strelley of Denby Old Hall

In some cases  these landlords worked the coal themselves, as part of their estate, in other cases they leased the right to work the ground in return for mineral rents.

The main coal mining archive held at the record office was received from the National Coal Board (NCB) in various consignments.  The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 transferred the ownership of all coal mines from the private colliery companies to the State.  The NCB records are public records, and whilst they do contain some post-1946 material, the bulk of the archive is made up of pre-vesting material inherited by the NCB from 80 collieries and colliery companies, including 1,400 plans and hundreds of photographs.  The records of each colliery and each company have not been kept together but were split up by the NCB and much material has been lost. Over 2020 and 2021 we are cataloguing and conserving this collection as part of the Wellcome Trust funded project Mining the Seams, in partnership with Warwickshire County Record Office, who are also cataloguing their coal mining records.

Between 2016 and 2017, the large archive of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Derbyshire Area was also catalogued with funding from the Wellcome Trust.  As part of the project, it is now possible to search and download our anonymised data about coal miners’ occupational ill health and accidents in Derbyshire on the Miners’ Health and Welfare Project website.

A list of archive collections for coal mining companies can be found via the online catalogue, as can a partial list of Local Studies items relating to coal mining.

Coal Mining Records

Title deeds: large number of title deeds have survived both in the family collections and amongst the records of the NCB.  The purpose of the title deed is to show proof of ownership of the mine.  In many cases there may be a whole series of  title deeds for the same plot of land, tracing its ownership back to the Middle Ages.  In such cases it is unlikely that the early deeds will even mention coal.  Many colliery companies leased the right to work the local seams from the owner of the land and lease documents are likely to survive.

Other family and estate records: if the family worked the mines on its own estates then there may be accounts relating to the amount of coal produced and the costs incurred.  If however, the family leased the mines to a private company there may be accounts relating to the amount of mineral rent received.

Company records: by the late 19th and early 20th century colliery companies were producing a huge amount and variety of records, as the industry became the subject of increasing regulation.  The researcher may find sales ledgers, letter books, production figures, minute books, managers reports, equipment inventories, and even the occasional register of pit ponies.  For those attempting to trace an individual miner there are a limited number of staff registers, signing-on books, accident report books and pay records for several Derbyshire companies.

Price lists and Wage agreements: the early 20th century saw disputes over miners’ pay claims which culminated in the strike of 1926.  The NCB archive (formerly reference N3) contains much contemporary material relating to this issue, including a large number of price lists and wage agreements.  The price list is a printed list, published by the colliery company, detailing the amount the company is prepared to pay the miner for different types of work on a particular seam.  The prices paid are normally per ton of coal produced, or per yard mined, and will vary from seam to seam.

Maps and Plans: particularly of underground workings.  These can be difficult to use, especially when they do not show many (or even any) surface working to which the underground tunnels can be related. 

White Hall Memories

Christmas is a time for catching up with old friends and reminiscing.  If you ever visited the White Hall Outdoor Education Centre near Buxton, cast your mind back to your experiences there as you put your feet up over the holidays…  If you have a tale to tell, 2019 is the chance for you to share that story with more than just friends and family.

Derbyshire’s White Hall Outdoor Education Centre is remarkable for being the first local authority run outdoor education centre in the country.  It’s still going strong after nearly 70 years and has just been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to celebrate its history.

D7786 whitehall 000002 small

Image from the White Hall Centre archive at Derbyshire Record Office

The White Hall Outdoor Education Centre – A People’s History project has just launched an appeal for people’s memories of visiting the centre over the last seven decades.  Local students will turn the stories that are collected into a film, which will form part of a display that will tour around the county.

If you have a story to share, you can let the project team know by emailing my.whitehall@derbyshire.gov.uk, and you can find out more about the project on Derbyshire County Council’s website.

 

 

Derbyshire Remembers Exhibition at Sudbury Hall

Children from two primary schools (Derby City and Derbyshire) and volunteers have curated an exhibition about the First World War, which is being launched at Sudbury Hall on Friday 6 March 2015 at 1pm.

Derbyshire Remembers is a project run by award-winning theatre company Fifth Word in partnership with the National Trust, Derbyshire Record Office and Derby City Local & Family History Library. The exhibition uncovers the story of how the First World War changed the lives of people across Derby city and Derbyshire. This project has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Over a period of 6 months local volunteers received training and prepared a list of archive materials at Derbyshire Record Office, Derby Local & Family History Library, National Trust properties and local museums.

volunteers researching

From this research, child friendly archive cards were created as a starting point for working with schools. Fifth Word Theatre led two, week-long intensive school sessions where pupils worked ‘in role’ as expert museum curators tasked with the responsibility of designing a brand new exhibition for Sudbury Hall. Using specialised drama techniques, the children delved deeper into what really happened in Derby during the First World War and selected the themes and sources they found most interesting.  At the end of the sessions each school created mock exhibition panels and presented back their ideas to be realised by a professional designer.children from Dale School

Year 6 pupils from Dale Primary school in Normanton transformed their classroom into an office where they were known as ‘Dazzling Designs’. As ‘experts’ they researched the effect the war had on the home front in Derby City and the families who were left behind. They explored the Zeppelin raid (which happened only minutes from their school) and the plight of the munitions workers from across Derbyshire. With help from the archives and volunteers, the children were able to analyse and interpret images, objects, newspaper cuttings and Art to tell the story of life on the home front a hundred years ago.

The second design Team came from Sudbury Primary School. Their class were known as ‘Super Sudbury Designs’ and their detective work enabled them to delve into personal letters, soldiers’ diaries, memoirs and official documents such as call-up notices and killed-in-action telegrams.  They imagined what it might have been like to be in their shoes and used the expertise of drama practitioners to build up a picture of life on the frontline during the ‘War to End All Wars’.

The exhibition is open to everyone and will be housed at Sudbury Hall from the 6 March- 17 May.  It will transfer to Kedleston Hall from 23 May – 3 September 2015 and will then travel to local schools across Derby and Derbyshire.  A digital resource pack for teachers will be available online to provide a rich resource for local studies and First Word War teaching and learning across primary schools.

If you’re planning to visit the National Trust properties at Sudbury or Kedleston do keep an eye out for the exhibition!