King Coal
First published: March 2012
Author: David Cook, Priories Historical Society

The industrial revolution had a major effect on our area, the canal brought small industries and as time progressed coal became an important commodity for land owners to fuel the industrial towns such as Sheffield and Manchester.

Manton Colliery was commenced in 1898 when the Wigan Coal & Iron Company Ltd leased land from the Duke of Newcastle.  Due to England’s geology coal measures sink deeper towards the east so a deep shaft had to be dug to reach the coal hidden under layers of
Sherwood Sandstone and Lower Magnesian Limestone.  The shaft reached the seam known as ‘Top Hard’ 723 yards below the surface on 3rd June 1904.  The engine house was built in 1905 and the mine commenced full operational status within a couple of years. three shafts were constructed: No.1 to removal water whilst Nos.2 and 3 were used to extract coal and for the movement of miners to the workings. Manton Farm was used to house pit ponies used to pull coal from the seam face so it could be hauled to the surface, as
technology progressed the need for ponies diminished and they were retired in the early 1960’s.
The main problems faced by the new colliery were a natural aquifer and methane gas build-up.  An agreement was made with Clowne District Council in 1911 to distribute water for home usage after Worksop Municipal Council declined. The method of extraction was via troughs up to Joseph Evans pumps, used until 1940 and replaced by ram pumps before an electrically driven centrifugal pump was installed during the 1960’s. The water then went to two tanks on Sparken Hill before being driven through pipes via Hodthorpe Pumping Station to the main ‘eggcup tank at Barlborough built by Hodsons Engineers, Loughborough. It was possible to extract up to 20 million litres a day with any excess being passed through to the river Ryton.  Water extraction from Manton ceased after 2004 when Severn Trent Water moved to a new facility at Manton Sewerage Treatment Works. The methane was used to provide electricity for the pit.

Worksop was a small rural town and a new model village was built, to house the new families from the Wigan area, called Manton, after the original hamlet removed due to its proximity to the workings.  The massive increase in population drastically altered the town’s landscape and nearly 50% of the town’s male population eventually worked at the colliery; in 1923 2,657 worked there reducing to 1,810 in 1933.  By 1939 the Wigan Coal Corporation Ltd had fourteen collieries on its books and had taken on a further 70 miners underground at Manton.  The last manager whilst in private hands was F Sharpe, with over 1900 staff were on the collieries books.  After nationalisation the NCB placed Manton in South Yorkshire region rather than Nottinghamshire.

In 1948 a new shaft was sunk and No.2 shaft was extended to the Parkgate seam 950 yards below ground level. Manton became a high production pit extracting a million tonnes of coal in 1979 from the seams four faces.  Coal was taken via train to Cottam Power Station near the Trent. Flockton was the last seam dug and was started in 1979 and coal reached in August 1990. 

At the start of the 1984 strike Manton voted to keep working but when miners from Silverwood Colliery turned up to picket the colliery no-one crossed line, thus times of hardship and police brutality ensued. On 8th June, 156 miners were cleared to enter Manton by the NUM to carry out essential maintenance work.  Families were given £2000 by Bassetlaw District Council on 15th June to help with food. The strike was not without its internal battles though - several miners served a High court writ against the NUM that October against the ‘illegal’ strike (it was deemed illegal because the union ballot was vetoed). On 1st October police and pickets collided on Retford Road after a police vehicle had concrete thrown through its windscreen - 23 arrests were made.  On 20th November the strike breakers started mining coal again at Manton. Suspected strike breakers houses were attacked with bricks and death threats were made. In May 1985 the strike at Manton ended (it was elongated due to another local strike).

The colliery had railway connections throughout its existence to the Sheffield to Lincoln line.  Initially it had its own wagons later replaced by the standard British Rail 16 ton wagons until modernisation brought along Merry-go-round trains.  By the end of operations the colliery had two shunters: No.5 (ex-British Rail D2229) and Hudswell-Clarke ‘Manton No.20’. The colliery even had Class 58 locomotive 58047 named after it in April 1992.  D2229 is now preserved at Peak Rail,Matlock; ‘Manton No.20’ is at the Midland Railway Centre, Butterley whilst 58047 was exported to Spain in 2008 to work ballast trains on the AVE high speed line.

Coal mining is a heavy industry and accidents frequently occurred. The first death at the mine was on 23 October 1903 when James Millington, a sinker from Wigan, was killed after a misfired detonator exploded after being hit with a pick, four other men were hurt. The biggest killer however was industrial disease such as COPD and emphysema and during the 1990’s huge amounts of compensation was paid out after the government admitted they knew about the affects as long ago as the 1950’s.

Closure came on February 11th 1994 with the loss of 550 jobs despite the colliery still making a profit with final demolition by the end of the year. Most of Europe’s mining industry has suffered a major decline and now with more green resources available the chances of our coalfields re-opening have waned.  The site now lies below the B&Q warehouse and Bannatynes Health Club.  Time moves on but signs of the colliery still remain; the spoil heap now provides a great view of the town as well as woodland area for wildlife; a memorial on Retford Road demarcated by half a pit wheel and of course the Manton Colliery Athletic Club and Institute charity who do great
things for our local community.