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Astley Green Colliery headgear
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The Manchester Coalfield is part of the Lancashire CoalfieldThe Lancashire and Cheshire Coalfield in North West England was one of the most important British coalfields. Its coal seams were formed from the vegetation of tropical swampy forests in the Carboniferous period more than 300 million years ago.. Its coal seams were laid down in the Carboniferous Period. Some easily accessible seams were worked on a small scale from the Middle Ages, and more extensively from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until the last quarter of the 20th century. The Coal Measures lie above a bed of Millstone Grit and are interspersed with sandstones, mudstones, shales and fireclays. The Lower Coal Measures occupy the high ground of the West Pennine Moors above Bolton and are not worked in the Manchester Coalfield.[1]

The coalfield is affected by the northwest to southeast aligned Pendleton FaultGeological fault stretching for about 20 miles (32 km) from Bolton in Greater Manchester in the north along the Irwell Valley through Pendleton and south to Poynton in Cheshire. along the Irwell Valley and the Rossendale Anticline. The Coal Measures generally dip towards the south and west. Numerous other smaller faults affect the coalfield.[2] The Upper Coal Measures are not worked in the Manchester Coalfield. The most productive of the coal measures are the lower two-thirds of the Middle Coal Measures, from which coal was mined from seams between the Worsley Four Foot and Arley mines. The deepest and most productive collieries were to the south of the coalfield. The earliest coal pits were dug to the shallow seams where they outcropped, particularly in the Irwell Valley and in Atherton. The early collieries were adits, bell pits and ladder pits. Deeper mines could be sunk after steam engines were developed to pump water from the workings.

Exploitation of the coalfield was limited by poor transport but accelerated after the Bridgewater Canal was built by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater in 1760 and linked to his underground levels. The underground levels also drained water from the shallower seams.[3] The demand for coal increased rapidly and by the 1860s deeper shafts had been sunk, some of which survived into the mid-20th century.[4]

Most collieries to the east of the Pendleton Fault had closed by 1929, when a group of independent companies amalgamated to form Manchester Collieries.

Coal seams of the West Manchester Coalfield

In this part of Lancashire a coal seam is referred to as a mine and the coal mine is a colliery or pit. The beds of coal in the Coal Measures are separated by layers of gritstones, sandstones, shales and mudstones of varying thicknesses. The seams were frequently named after their thickness – Yard, Three Quarters – or given local names in the areas in which they were first worked.

The Worsley Four Foot mine, also known as the Pendleton Four Foot is the Parker mine in central Manchester. As the shallowest coal seam west of the Pendleton Fault, it was exploited from the early days of mining from adits, bell and ladder pits and was accessed from the Delph at Worsley. It is from 3 feet to 4 feet in thickness and was used as steam coal. The seam was wet because of the layer of permeable sandstone above it.[5] It was worked westwards from Worsley to Bedford Colliery.[6] The seam is known as the Parker mine in the central coalfield under Manchester where a series of coal seams, the Bradford Group, was worked above it.[7]

The Bin mine, known as the Top Five Quarters in Radcliffe, has a maximum height of 3 feet 9 inches. Its coal was mainly used by industry.[5] Above the Bin mine the sandstones contain a layer of ironstone.[8]

The Crombouke or Crumbouke mine was named the Shuttle in Pendlebury, the Albert in Pendleton, Top Yard in Radcliffe and Roger mine in central Manchester.[2] The Crombouke contains from 2 feet 6 inches to 4 feet 6 inches of good quality coal in the west. At Worsley the seam thins out.[9]

The Brassey mine, also known as Brassey Bottoms and the Little at Newtown, is thickest around Tyldesley at 4 feet.[5]

The Rams mine, known as the Seven Foot at Walkden and Six Foot at Tyldesley, has a minimum thickness of 4 feet and average thickness of 6 feet west of the Pendleton Fault. To the east it is up to 9 feet in thickness. The high quality coal was mined to considerable depths under Pendlebury and Salford.[5] At Atherton it was good quality steam coal.[9]

The Black and White mine is a double seam with 7 feet 5 inches of workable coal. The top coal is the White mine and bottom coal is the Black.[10] It outcrops at the south east corner of Hulton Park, in Little Hulton[11] and across Gibfield and Chowbent in Atherton where it was mined in shallow ladder pits or drifts.[12] The seam measured 7 feet 10 inches in Atherton town centre[13] where it was called Great mine. It corresponds to the Seven Foot at Tyldesley, The bottom coal was called the Gingham mine and the top coal the Ten Foot in Bolton and Little Lever, east of the Pendleton Fault.

The Doe or Dow mine has two coals separated by a dirt parting. At Newtown the seam was liable to spontaneous combustion. The lower coals of this mine were worked around Tyldesley as the Yard mine, near Bolton the top coal was worked as the Bancroft mine.[14] The seam outcrops on either side of the River Irwell at Clifton where the seam was worked at the Ladyshore Colliery.[15]

The Five Quarters mine is the Yard in Atherton. The seam was worked extensively east of the Pendleton Fault around Radcliffe. The seam was split by a dirt band and the coal was used as steam and household coal.[14]

The Hell Hole mine was known as the Victoria and the Foor Foot in Atherton. The seam varies in thickness between 2 feet 6 inches and 4 feet and was used for coking and gas making and household use.[14]

The Trencherbone mine was extensively worked throughout the coalfield and reputedly produced the best coal. It outcropped at Stoneclough in the Irwell Valley.[15] It was 3 feet to 4 feet thick at Astley and Tyldesley and up to 8 feet elsewhere.[16] The seam outcropped between Schofield Lane and Bag Lane in Atherton.[12]

The Cannel mine, also known as the King and Cannel, was on average less than one foot (0.3 m) thick. Cannel coalType of bituminous coal. burns easily with a bright light, and leaves little ash. This was the lowest coal seam worked east of the Irwell Valley. Cannel was used to make coal gas.[16]

The Sapling mine is thickest in the west but reduces to 9 inches further east. The coal is poor quality but where mined was used for industrial steam raising.[17]

The Plodder mine was named the Ravine in Atherton. The Plodder mine contains seams of fireclay and shales. The coal seam was 2 feet 8 inches but thicker at Newtown. It was contaminated with iron pyrites. At Sandhole Colliery the seam was liable to spontaneously combust. It was poor quality but used as steam coal.[17]

The Yard mine or Haigh Yard had a height of 5 feet at Tyldesley. The coal seam was divided by a dirt parting of sandstone.[17]

The Half Yard mine or Bone a thin seam of coking coal with a maximum height of 20 inches.[17]

The Three Quarters or Smith mine had a maximum height of 2 feet and was worked, where the thickness of the seam allowed, to produce coking coal.[17] It was worked at Chew Moor, Deane Moor and Farnworth.[18]

The Arley mine, known as the Dogshaw at Bury and Daubhill in Bolton is the deepest of the seams of the Middle Coal Measures. It outcropped at Red MossWetland moss and local nature reserve between Horwich and the M61 motorway in Greater Manchester. near Blackrod where it was 2 feet (0.61 m) thick, and at Chew Moor, Westhoughton and Daubhill, Bolton.[18] Its average thickness was 3 feet to 4 feet. It produced excellent quality coal for coking, house and steam coal. The Arley mine was worked throughout the coalfield and around Tyldesley was a hot mine.[17]

Central Manchester Coalfield

The eastern part of the coalfield under Manchester is isolated from the rest. The sequence of coal seams corresponds more closely with that of the Oldham Coalfield than the rest of the Manchester Coalfield. Workable seams are close to the surface and coal from the deep Roger mine was considered to be of the highest quality. The Upper Coal Measures above the Worsley Four Foot mine, known as the Parker mine, are worked in this part of the coalfield and known as the Bradford Group, above which is the Ardwick Group.[7]

The coal seams of the Bradford Group are the Two Foot, Doctor, New, Yard, Bradford Foor Foot, Three Quarters and Charlotte mines, the Charlotte being closest to the surface. The Openshaw mine above the Charlotte was worked for fireclay. Below the Bradford Group and the Parker mine are the Top, Middle and Deep mines and 60 feet below them, the Roger mine. The Top, Middle and Deep mines correspond to the Major, Bland and Ashton Great mines in the Oldham Coalfield. The Crumbouke mine in the western coalfield is the Roger mine in central Manchester.[19]