Pendleton Colliery in 1870 (Illustrated London News, 20 October 1877)
Wikimedia Commons

Pendleton Colliery 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. from the late 1820s on Whit Lane in Pendleton in Lancashire, England. The colliery was started by John Fitzgerald. The colliery was a major employer close to the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal. It was subject to water ingress, and closed in the 1840s after a major flood that ultimately bankrupted Fitzgerald. Andrew Knowles & SonsAndrew Knowles and Sons was a coal mining company that operated on the Manchester Coalfield in and around Clifton, in the historic county of Lancashire, England. bought the mineral rights in 1852 and sank new shafts.

The colliery became part of Manchester Collieries in 1929 and new headgear was fitted to No. 1 shaft in 1931. The colliery closed in 1939 when coal was exhausted and its site was used by the Manchester Oxide Company to process spent iron oxide.

Fitzgerald era

John Purcell Fitzgerald, Member of Parliament and estate owner, sank shafts to the Three Foot and Worsley Four Foot mines on his estate at Whit Lane, Pendleton in the late 1820s.[1][2] The shafts were on the west side of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal.[3] Robert Stephenson (1788–1837), supervised operations as manager and engineer until his death in 1837.[4] In 1832 the Four Foot seam had been reached.[1]

The first shaft was sunk to around 650 feet (198 m), and in the first half of 1832 the colliery produced almost 27,000 tons of coal.[4] The shaft was closed after flooding in 1834. In 1835, Fitzgerald formed the Pendleton Colliery Company, with George Stephenson as a director, and leased nearby land from the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1836, the colliery supplied at least 215,000 tons of coal to Manchester by road, 24 per cent of its total demand.[5] Robert Stephenson supervised the sinking of two eight-feet diameter shafts to deeper, drier seams below the Worsley Four Foot in 1836–37[4] and a steam engine of around 40 horsepower was installed. A new shaft was on the east bank of the canal where a short branch terminated in the pit yard. In 1840 the shaft reached coal at 1392 feet (424 m).[3] The new workings were expected to generate profits of £14,000 per annum, but the colliery suffered from problems caused by water ingress throughout its existence.[1][2]

By 1840 the coal faces of the Albert and Crombourke mines were 1,400 feet below the surface.[4] More flooding in 1843 caused the pit to close when it employed nearly 1,000 people and was producing 1000 tons of coal per day.[6] The lower sections of the new shafts, which were around 1,590 feet deep, were lined with cast iron tubbing in an attempt to restrain water ingress. A design flaw was being rectified when the flooding occurred, which newspapers attributed to the closure of two nearby pits that had shut down because of flooding and the absence of their pumping mechanisms had increased the volume of water present. Newspapers reported that Fitzgerald’s losses as a result of the ingress – which was initially termed a “destruction” by the Morning Post – were at least £50,000.[2] By the end of 1843 a beam engine with a 75-inch stroke had been installed to clear the water.[3] The colliery was still closed in June 1846, by which time more than 157 million gallons of water had been pumped out and the coal lay 100 yards below the water level.[7] Mining operations recommenced in January 1847 and were marked with a celebratory procession through the streets of Manchester and Salford[8] but the disaster had ruined some of the company’s directors and in 1848 Fitzgerald filed for bankruptcy. His son noted in 1843 that “My father, after spending £100,000 on a colliery, besides losses by everlasting rogues, runaway agents, etc., has just been drowned out of it … So end the hopes of eighteen years; and he is near seventy, left without his only hobby! … [H]e is come to the end of his purse.”[1][a]The bankruptcy hearing for Fitzgerald concluded that the Pendleton Colliery Company partnership had amassed losses of more than £140,000.[1]

Jack Nadin says that the colliery was closed in 1848[2] but D. R. Fisher says Fitzgerald continued mining somewhere, and newspaper advertisements after 1848 list the address of Fitzgerald’s agent, Hugh Higson, as being that of the colliery. Under the provisions of bankruptcy, the lease was offered for sale in 1852, the year that Fitzgerald died. The lease covered approximately 280 acres (113 ha) of land, associated mineral rights and plant and machinery. At that time the seams being worked were the Albert, the Binn, the New Six Foot and the Seven Foot.[1]

Andrew Knowles and Sons

Andrew Knowles and Sons bought the mineral rights in 1852.[9] The company sank new shafts on the east side of the canal in 1857 to access the Rams mine at 1,545 feet and the shafts on the west side of the canal were abandoned.[3] As the coal was worked from seams that dipped at 1-in-3, Pendleton became the deepest coal mine in the country when the workings reached 3600 feet (1,097 m), at which depth the temperature at the coal face reached 100 ºF (38 ºC).[4]

Andrew Knowles and Sons relined the upcast shaft in 1872 reducing its diameter to 7 feet 2 inches, giving Pendleton the narrowest shaft.[4] In 1891 the company started sinking two 16 feet-diameter shafts but water from old workings broke through causing flooding and subsidence and they were abandoned.[4] A screening plant and wagon loading facility built on the canal’s west bank alongside the Manchester and Bolton Railway line were linked to the pit by a bridge built in 1894.[10] A small engine shed and sidings were built to connect with the railway by January 1895. A saddletank locomotive supplied by Manning Wardle in 1901 was named Knowles.[11]

In 1896 Pendleton Nos. 1 & 2 pits employed 441 underground and 126 surface workers[12] and in 1933 employed 272 underground and 117 on the surface.[13]

The colliery 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. in 1929 by which time the Albert and Crombouke mines were exhausted. The new owners fitted new headgear to No. 1 shaft in 1931.[11] The colliery closed after coal in the Rams mine was exhausted in 1939, at which time it employed 291 men underground and 140 surface workers.[4][14] The colliery site was subsequently used by the Manchester Oxide Company to process spent iron oxide.[11]


Two disastersMining disasters in Lancashire in which five or more people were killed occurred most frequently in the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s. at the colliery resulted in the deaths of more than five men. On 4 February 1870 an explosion occurred when powder was blown out of a shot firing hole, killing six men.[15] Ground upheaval in the Rams mine caused five deaths in 1925.[9][16]


a The bankruptcy hearing for Fitzgerald concluded that the Pendleton Colliery Company partnership had amassed losses of more than £140,000.[1]