This is a partial glossary of common coal mining terms used in the United Kingdom. Some words were in use throughout the coalfields, some are historic and others are local to the different British coalfields.


  • Adit: an underground level or tunnel to the surface for access or drainage.[1][2]
  • AfterdampDamps is a collective name given to all gases other than air found in coal mines in Great Britain. The chief pollutants are carbon dioxide and methane, known as blackdamp and firedamp respectively. : the mixture of gases that replaces atmospheric air after an explosion.[2] Its composition depends on the conditions and circumstances of the explosion, the amount of firedamp present and whether it took place in the relatively fresh air entering the pit or at the end of the ventilation cycle, it typically contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or both,[3] as well as other gases including nitrogen, hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide.


  • Bank:  the area at the top of the shaft, also known as the pit bank or pit brow.[4]
  • Banksman: someone employed at the pit bank to dispatch the coals, and organise the workforce. The banksman is in charge of loading or unloading the cage, drawing full tubs from the cages and replacing them with empty ones.[2]
  • Bevin Boys: men conscripted to work in the coal mines  during the Second World War in a scheme introduced by Ernest Bevin.[5]
  • Bell pit: a type of coal mine in which coal found close to the surface was extracted by sinking a shaft and removing coal from around it until the roof became unstable. It was then abandoned and left to subside.[6]
  • Blackdamp: a suffocating mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen produced after an explosion.[2]
  • Blower: an outburst of firedamp at pressure from fissures in the coal.[7]
  • Brattice: a strong canvas sheeting coated in tar to make it air-tight, used to make partitions to deflect air into particular areas of a mine or divide a shaft to improve ventilation and dilute flammable or noxious gases.[8]
  • Butterfly: a safety link or detaching hook above the cage attached to the winding rope to prevent the cage from being over wound. It was invented by Edward OrmerodEnglish mining engineer and inventor who worked at Gibfield Colliery in Atherton, Lancashire where he devised and tested his safety device, the Ormerod safety link or detaching hook. .[9]


  • Cage The cage is the iron framework in which men and coal tubs are wound up and down the shaft.[10] It could have one or more decks to increase its capacity.[11]
  • CannelType of bituminous coal. is a type of bituminous coal with a hard dense structure, and is rich in hydrogen. It produces much gas and burns easily with a steady flame and for this reason is sometimes called “candle coal”.[a]from canwyl, a candle[12]
  • Check-weighman A check-weighman was appointed and paid by the miners to check the weight of the coal tubs at the pit top.[13]
  • Coal is composed of vegetable matter which has been changed by chemical and physical processes over millions of years into a fossil fuel. It is a friable black rock that burns with a flame and smoke. It is principally made up of carbon (74–97%), and has a specific gravity of between 1.3 and 1.5. A cubic foot of solid coal weighs between 74 and 82 pounds. Seams of coal lie between strata of shales, clay and sandstone.[14]


  • DampDamps is a collective name given to all gases other than air found in coal mines in Great Britain. The chief pollutants are carbon dioxide and methane, known as blackdamp and firedamp respectively. is gas, derived from the German word dampf meaning vapour.[15]
  • Dataller A dataller, day wage man or day-man was paid on a daily basis for work done as required. Dataller’s work included building and repairing roadways.[16]
  • Davy lamp A Davy lamp is an early type of safety lamp named after its inventor, Humphry Davy.[15]
  • Day hole A day hole is an adit, heading or level from the surface into the workings.[17]
  • Downcast The downcast is the shaft by which fresh air descends into the mine.[15]
  • Drawer  A drawer, putter, hurrier or waggoner is a person, usually a boy or young man who pushed tubs of coal from the coal face to the pit eye.[15][16] Before 1842 woman and girls did this type of work in some coalfields.
  • Drift A drift is an underground road between seams.[15]
  • Dust explosion Dust explosions occur when coal dust is mixed with small amounts of firedamp.[18]


  • Engine pit The engine pit is the shaft where the pumping engine was located.[15][19]
  • Eye The eye or pit-eye is the mouth or top of the shaft.[20]


  • Face: the coal face is where coal is cut from the coal seam, either manually by hewers or mechanically by machine.[15][20]
  • Fall: a roof collapse in the underground workings. Immense falls follow explosions of firedamp.[21]
  • Fan: a centrifugal mechanical ventilator driven by steam power. Fans exhaust spent air out of the mine and fresh air is sucked in.[21]
  • FiredampDamps is a collective name given to all gases other than air found in coal mines in Great Britain. The chief pollutants are carbon dioxide and methane, known as blackdamp and firedamp respectively. : explosive, flammable gas consisting predominantly of methane (C2H4). It has a light specific gravity and is always found in the highest parts of the workings, cavities in the roof and goaves. It fires when mixed with four or five times its volume of air.[2][22]
  • Fireman: someone employed to examine the underground workings with a safety lamp to ascertain whether gas is present and by checking the doors, bratticing and stoppings maintains efficient ventilation.[23] The first firemen, covered by sackcloth soaked in water, crawled into the area where gas was present on their bellies holding a long pole with a candle attached to explode the firedamp before the miners began their shift. They were sometimes called the “penitent” because of their ragged appearance.[24][25]
  • Furnace: used in the 19th century to ventilate the underground workings. The furnace was usually at the bottom of the upcast shaft, which acted as a chimney, creating airflow throughout the workings.[15]


  • Gannister Gannister is hard, compact, siliceous fireclay found in the floor of some coal seams which can be used to make firebricks.[26][27]
  • Gate A gate is a tunnel serving the coal face, the maingate is where fresh air enters and the tailgate is where spent air exits.[27]
  • Gin A gin or horse ginHorse-driven engine used in lead and shallow coal mines. is a drum and framework with pulleys used to raise coal from shallow depths. A gin pit is a shallow pit shaft worked by a gin.[28]
  • Goaf  The goaf, gove, gob, shut or waste is the void from which all the coal in a seam has been extracted and where the roof is allowed to collapse in a controlled manner.[2][27]
  • Gob fire A gob fire occurs by spontaneous combustion caused by the oxydisation of iron pyrites by moisture in the goaf. [29]


  • Headframe The headframe, headstocks or headgear is the framework holding the winding wheel over the shaft.[30]
  • Heave Heave refers to the floor of a roadway lifting as a result of ground stresses, reducing the roadway height.[15]
  • Hewer A hewer is a coal face worker who digs coal, loosening it with a pick.[31]
  • Hoppet A hoppet is a large bucket attached to the winding rope that was used to remove spoil during shaft sinking and in place of the cage when it had been damaged in pit disasters.[32]
  • Hurrier A hurrier (Yorkshire), putter (Northumberland), waggoner or drawer (Lancashire) was the historic local term for the person who brought empty coal tubs up to the coal face and took loaded tubs to the pit bottom.[16]


  • Inbye Inbye means going away from the pit shaft towards the coal face (opposite of outbye).[2][27]
  • Incline or inclined plane An incline is an underground roadway driven at an angle to the horizon.[33]


  • Jig or Jig brow A jig is a self-acting incline worked by ropes attached to a drum or wheel [34]
  • Judd and Jenkin Judd and Jenkin refers to the block of coal undercut cut by the hewer at the coal face ready to be got down.[15]


  • Koepe Koepe is a system of winding, using the friction between the winding ropes and the drive pulley.[35] It was developed in Germany and introduced to England by the National Coal Board.


  • Longwall A longwall face is a coal face of considerable length between the gates, from which the coal is removed.[2]


  • Maingate The maingate is the intake airway and the conveyor belt road to move coal from the face to the shaft.[15]


  • NACODs NACODs is an abbreviation for the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers.


  • Outbye Outbye means going towards the pit shaft from the coal face.(opposite of inbye).[2]
  • Outcrop The outcrop is where the coal seam is exposed at the surface.[15]


  • Pillar A pillar is a section of unworked coal supporting the roof. Unworked pillars of coal are left to prevent subsidence to surface features such as churches. The shaft pillar is left to prevent damage to the shafts from the workings.[2]
  • Pit A pit is the shaft, although it can refer to a colliery.
  • Pit Brow Women Pit brow womenFemale surface labourers at British collieries. They worked at the coal screens on the pit brow (pit bank) at the shaft top until the 1960s. Their job was to pick stones and sort the coal after it was hauled to the surface. worked at the coal screens at the pit top up to the mid-1960s, mainly in the Lancashire and Cumberland coalfields.[15]
  • Props Props or pit props are timber or hydraulic supports holding up the roof.[15]
  • Putter A putter (Northumberland), hurrier (Yorkshire), waggoner or drawer (Lancashire) was the local term for the person who brought empty coal tubs up to the coal face and took loaded tubs to the pit bottom.[16]


  • Rescuer A rescuer is a member of the mines rescueSpecialised job of rescuing miners and others who have become trapped or injured in underground mines because of accidents, roof falls or floods and disasters such as explosions caused by firedamp. team or colliery rescue team who has been trained in first aid and the use of a respirator. The first rescuers were volunteers or, after the Coal Mines Act 1911, members of an area’s permanent Mines Rescue Brigade.[15]
  • Return The return is a roadway along which foul air travels from the face on its way out of the mine.[15]
  • Ripper Rippers are men who remove the rock above the coal seam and set rings (arches) to raise the height of the gate or road as the coal face advances.[15]


  • Screens The screens at the pit head is where coal was sorted from dirt before washing.[15] Women worked at the pit brow until the 1950s. 
  • Shaft A shaft is a vertical or near-vertical tunnel that gives access to a coal mine accommodating the cage and providing ventilation.
  • Shotfirer A shotfirer is a colliery official qualified to detonate shots or explosive charges.[15]
  • Sinker A sinker specialises in creating new mine shafts
  • Sough A sough is a drainage tunnel to take water from coal mines without the need to pump it to the surface.[2] An example is the Great Haigh SoughTunnel or adit driven under Sir Roger Bradshaigh’s Haigh Hall estate between 1653 and 1670, to drain his coal and cannel pits. .
  • Spoil A spoil tip is built of the accumulated waste rock removed during mining.
  • Stinkdamp Stinkdamp is sulphuretted hydrogen gas which is lethal following brief exposure.[15]
  • Stythe Stythe is carbon dioxide[b]old name carbonic acid gas found in shallow badly ventilated mines and after explosions.[36]


  • Trapper A trapper was a child employed (before 1842) to open and close ventilation doors in roadways along which the coal tubs were transported.[16]
  • Tub Tubs or coal tubs are wooden or iron vessels to carry coal.[16]


  •  Upcast The upcast is the shaft by which spent air is expelled after ventilating the mine workings. It is a type of chimney.[16]


  • Viewer A viewer is an 18th century term for the agent appointed by the owner to manage the colliery.[16]


  • Whitedamp Whitedamp is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.[16]
  • Winder The winder is either the winding engine that raises or lowers the cages in a shaft or the man who operates it.[10]


Yard Yard could refer to the pit yard and its surrounding surface buildings or the name of a coal seam.[15]


a from canwyl, a candle
b old name carbonic acid gas



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