Andrew Knowles & Sons was a coal mining company that operated on the Manchester CoalfieldPart of the Lancashire Coalfield. Some easily accessible seams were worked on a small scale from the Middle Ages, and extensively from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until the last quarter of the 20th century. in and around Clifton, in the historic county of Lancashire, England. The company was founded by Robert Knowles, who died in1780. He started pits in Eagley Bank and Sharples, north of Bolton, which were inherited by his descendants, Andrew (1735–1810), Robert (1756–1819) and his great grandson Andrew (1783–1847). The family had an interest in this area until 1870.[1]

Andrew Knowles was born in 1783 into a family whose mining interests began in Elizabethan times, and whose descendants dominated the industry at the end of the Victorian era. Before 1810 Knowles operated in Bolton, Darcy Lever and Great Lever and subsequently bought leases in the Irwell Valley near Clifton. In the late 1830s Knowles took his four sons into partnership. Andrew Knowles died in 1847, and a son, John, died in 1852 leaving Robert, Thomas and James Knowles to continue the business. Little Bolton Colliery on Slater Lane near the River Tonge in Bolton was owned by the company between 1853 and 1863.[2]

Limited company

The third generation joined the firm after a disagreement in 1872, and Andrew Knowles and Sons Limited was formed in 1883.[2] By the end of the 19th century the company had almost 4,000 employees and grew to be the largest on the Manchester Coalfield.[3]

The two shafts of the first Agecroft Colliery, which operated until 1928, were sunk in 1844[4] and two more shafts were sunk in 1894.[5] In 1896 the company also owned Clifton Hall Colliery in Lumns Lane, Clifton, Foggs Colliery in Darcy Lever, Wheatsheaf Colliery in Pendlebury and Pendleton CollieryFormer colliery that operated on the Manchester Coalfield from the late 1820s. It was a major employer but was subject to water ingress, which ultimately bankrupted its owner. in Pendleton. By then Rivin Colliery in Little Lever and Allens Green and Green Lane in Radcliffe had been abandoned.[6] In 1929 the company became part of Manchester CollieriesCoal mining company with headquarters in Walkden, Lancashire, formed in 1929 by the merger of a group of independent companies operating on the Manchester Coalfield. .[7]

The output of Knowles’ collieries was initially for local use and was moved by horse and cart. Some collieries were close to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal, on which the company operated a fleet of boats, and by 1850 some pits had access to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s Manchester to Bolton line. Clifton Moss Colliery employed up to 300 men before 1891, when it closed.[6]


In 1866 all workers who had joined the forerunner of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain were locked out of the Knowles pits, and the company defeated attempts to unionise the workforce. The company’s intransigence towards unions continued until 1891, when a strike left miners little better off, but the firm was forced to negotiate with a union it had up to then refused to recognise.[8]