Bradford Colliery

Forge Lane, Bradford, Manchester

A Brief History (Note 1Extract from a National Coal Board Report, dated about September 1959, concerning the progress of industrial relations with the growth of Bradford Colliery.)
In the reign of James I (1603 - 1625) Bradford Colliery had an annual output of 10,000 tons and was probably supplying the entire needs of Manchester (Note 2In 1610 there were coal mines at Bradford, near Manchester, (Local Notes and Queries, Manchester Guardian, No. 173.). With the rapid expansion of the Manchester during the Industrial Revolution, the Manor of Bradford was unable to meet the demand and coal had to be brought in from mines such as those at Clayton, Moston, Worsley and Clifton. Clayton Colliery was so close to Bradford Colliery that it eventually merged with it.

In the early days, the coal was mined at shallow depths, but even so, the capital required was beyond the means of all but the wealthy and it was recorded during Tudor days that several hundred pounds had been invested at a Colliery in Bradford Manor, where one of the pits was sixty-seven feet deep.

A document, dated 21st October 1740, shows that Sir Oswald Mosley leased to John Seddon, of Manchester, '--- the mine and mines, vein and veins, seam and beds of coal kannel (Note 3Kannel (or Cannel) is a bituminous coal that burns brightly with much smoke. Cannel coal is a dialectal variant of candle coal from its bright flame.) to be found in the land around Bradford ---'. In return, Seddon agreed to pay Sir Oswald Mosley the sum of £50 per annum for such coal as was raised by ten 'gotters' (Note 4'Gotters were Hewers of Coal, that is, Coal Miners.).

Shallow workings were probably operated at Bradford until the 19th century and it is known that coal was wound in shafts from 1845 onwards.

It is clear that Bradford village supplied all the colliery's manpower until 1870. In that year Edward Bryan (Note 5Edward Bryan was killed in a mine accident in 1874.) and his six sons arrived from Pendleton to work at the pit and it is at this time we have the first evidence of a strike, since the local miners '---- were so suspicious of these strangers that they did not go down the pit until they had had a good look at them'. The Bryans remained and became 'gradely Bradford folk' themselves in good time.

When the Lancashire Miners' Federation came into being on the 19 April 1881, its first Secretary was a Bradford Colliery man, Thomas Seddon, who was also elected Secretary of the Miners Federation of Great Britain, from its inception in 1889 until 1910.

Many Bradford miners made names for themselves in wider spheres. One of the Miners' Federation representatives returned to the House of Commons in the 1910 General Election, was John Edward Sutton, a Checkweighman at the Colliery (Note 6Checkweighmen were elected and paid by the men to ensure fair payment for coal won and they worked alongside the employer's wage clerks.). John Edward Sutton (23 December 1862 - 29 November 1945) was the Member of Parliament for the Manchester East Constituency from January 1910 until 1918 when the constituency was abolished. He was a trade unionist and Labour politician. He joined Bradford Colliery, aged 14 years, where he became a Checkweighman as well as becoming Secretary of the Bradford Branch of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation. In 1894 he was elected to Manchester City Council as an Independent Labour Party Councillor for the Bradford Ward. The Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation was founded in 1897 and it was wound up in 1945. Its office was in Bolton.

Typical of many families, who served Bradford Colliery during its relatively slow growth until the end of the war (Note 7That is, World War II.), was John Bryan, a Checkweighman and Secretary of the Bradford Branch of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). A grandson of the Edward Bryan of the 1870 intruders, John Bryan was a loyal supporter of the NUM who was liked and respected by both management and men.

The labour force supplying Bradford Colliery up to World War II was mainly drawn from descendants of the pioneer miners and their progress in social and political affairs followed a pattern that was typical of mining communities throughout Britain.

The table below provides some details of Bradford Colliery between 1880 and 1945. Additionally, trade directories list the following names:1828/29 - Thomas Porter, coal owner; 1841 - John Brown, agent; 1841 - Charles James Stanley Walker; 1895 - Clegg and Thomas Livesey, coal owners; 1903 - Henry Shaw; 1909 and 1911 - G H Pybus, Henry Shaw and F L Ward.

Bradford Colliery
YearMine
Shaft
ManagerUnder-ManagerMen
Below
Ground
Men
Above
Ground
1880Deep†Edward Williams
1896DeepH L WoodGeorge Bentley404125
1908DeepGeorge BentleyJames Parkinson644146
Parker‡Chris Nurney38853
1918DeepT H DixonJ Garner675113
ParkerM Lomas498122
1923DeepF H FisherT F Radford745186
ParkerM Lomas284
1945Not givenJ F CarrR Mullin642218

†Deep Shaft (No.1) sunk in 1854.
‡Parker Shaft (No.2) sunk in 1906.

The names of the owners of Bradford Colliery during Victorian times and a reliable timeline are elusive. Descendants of the Livesey family recorded on the 1841 Census eventually became owners and in time it became the Bradford Coal Company. Somewhat bizarrely, it was later bought by the 'Fine Cotton Spinners' who considered that they should own one of the mines that supplied them with the coal used to power their mills. The identity of the 'Fine Cotton Spinners' is obscure but one possibility is that it was the 'Fine Cotton Spinners and Doublers Association'. During this period of ownership the mine retained its Bradford Coal Company name. At this time, the Parker and Crombouke seams were being worked. The 'Fine Cotton Spinners' were aware of the existence of the rich Roger seam but as they knew nothing about coal mining and had insufficient resources, they were unable to mine it. Eventually, the 'Fine Cotton Spinners' sold out to Manchester Collieries Ltd who had both the resources and mining knowledge to work the Roger seam.

The Livesey surname crops up again in records for 1896/97 when Richard Johnson Clegg Livesey and Thomas Livesey, along with F L Ward, of Bradford Colliery are listed as being members of the Federated Institute of Mining Engineers.

The two Livesey brothers, Clegg and Thomas, once owned Black Mine Colliery (also known as Bredbury Colliery) in Bredbury, Cheshire. It was alleged that they fraudulently sold this mine to John Stott-Milne and the case went to court between 1879 and 1881. In 1881 Clegg Livesey was living at Woodley House, Bredbury.

Up until 1934, the colliery was known as Bradford Colliery Company and sometimes as the Bradford Coal Company. Between 1935 and 1947, when it was nationalised, it was under the control of Manchester Collieries Limited and the seeds of reorganisation were sown in the deepening of Parker Shaft (No. 2) to the 900-yard level of Deep Pit Shaft (No. 1). Following nationalisation, Bradford Colliery came under the control of the National Coal Board (NCB). Vesting day was on the Wednesday, 1 January 1947.

Manchester Collieries Ltd
In 1940 Manchester Collieries Ltd owned 14 mines in the Lancashire Coalfield, these being: Astley Green (Astley), Bedford (Leigh), Brackley (Little Hulton), Bradford (Manchester), Chanters 1 & 2 (Hindsford, Atherton), Gibfield (Atherton), Gin (Astley), Howe Bridge (Atherton), Mosley Common (Boothstown), Newtown (Clifton), Nook (Astley), Sandhole (Walkden), St Georges (Walkden) and Wheatsheaf (Pendlebury).

At this time, the Managing Director was J T Browne FGS and the two District Mine Managers were Sir (Edward) Humphrey Browne CBE and John Brass Jnr. Following the nationalisation of the coal-mining industry on the 1 January 1947, Sir Humphrey Browne was appointed as the Director General of Production for the National Coal Board and in 1957 he was appointed Chairman of the Divisional Board of the West Midlands Division. Sir Humphrey was born in Nuneaton on the 7 April 1911 and he died in Wrekin, Shropshire, in February 1987, aged 75 years.

A Profile of Bradford Colliery (Note 8Published by the Western Area Public Relations Department of the National Coal Board and dated about September 1968.)
The first modern shaft at Bradford Colliery was sunk in 1854 and this was Deep Pit Shaft (No. 1) and it was reputed to be the second deepest in British coalfields. A second shaft was sunk in 1906 and this was Parker Shaft (No. 2) (Note 9The two shafts initially had wooden headgear, which was later replaced by more modern steel headgear.).


Bradford Colliery, 1910.

Reorganisation and reconstruction of the pit was completed in 1958 when four faces were in operation in two seams; three faces in the 6-feet thick Roger Seam and one face in the 3 feet 8 inch-thick Crombouke Seam. The two shafts, now both 900-yards deep, had insets at 730 yards. From each of these, two level horizons were driven, one pair in a northerly direction below Newton Heath and into the Moston area and the other pair westerly below Holt Town and Ancoats (Note 10The new concrete winding tower and associated buildings for shaft No. 2 were actually built and developed between 1949 and 1962 by A Monk & Company Ltd of Warrington at a cost of £1,048,891. The concrete tower was known as a Koepe Tower and Winder and this was installed in 1954. It used an endless rope, to which two skips were fixed, instead of two ropes coiled over a drum.).

Shaft No. 1 served as a 'downcast' to carry air down into the pit and this was equipped with a cage for winding men and supplies. Shaft No. 2, fitted with a Koepe-winder installation, was the 'upcast', which extracted stale air. This had two skips each of 12-ton capacity and all coal was brought to the surface in these. The winding time from the 900-yard level was 97 seconds (Note 11A speed of 19 miles per hour.), the capacity of the shaft being up to 400 tons per hour.

The seams lay in a gradient of 1 in 1½ to 1 in 2½ and were worked so that roadways were level. Every face was fully mechanised, coal being won by a 150hp BJD Anderton shearer, cutting a 30-inch wide slice of coal on its run from the lower level main gate to the higher level tail gate. On the return journey it ploughed the coal into the face conveyor. The faces were supported by hydraulic props and link bars. The pit had long been connected to the nearby CEGB (Note 12Central Electricity Generating Board.) coal-fired power station in Stuart Street by means of a tunnel containing a conveyor belt to transport coal directly to the boilers. Besides this, there were two horizon tunnels, one connecting to Ashton Moss Colliery and the other to Moston Colliery. The purpose of these was to enable coal from both collieries to be transported to Bradford Colliery for washing and grading.

Although about £8M was spent on the pit after nationalisation, its life was cut short, due to severe geological conditions, and in September 1968 Bradford Colliery closed (Note 13On Friday, 6 September 1968.). In its last year the pit produced 538,808 saleable tons of coal at an overall productivity rate of 31.8 cwt per manshift. At the time it was employing 1,556 men and about half of these were found jobs in neighbouring pits or other areas.


Bradford Tithe Map, 1845.

Postscript
Although Bradford Colliery closed in 1968, it was not until 1973 that major demolition work started on the site. The steel headgear of No. 1 shaft was dismantled and in contrast the relatively new concrete Koepe tower and winder of No. 2 shaft were blown up.

Even though there were still substantial reserves of coal in 1968, the underground workings were causing a great deal of subsidence and in particular large areas of Bradford and Miles Platting were being affected. Houses and factories alike were reporting structural damage and even one of the large gas holders at Bradford Gas Works was touched by subsidence. The expansion plans for Bradford included working seams below Collyhurst, Cheetham and Ancoats with the attendant risk of more subsidence. Consequently the NCB decided that they had no alternative but to close the pit down.

Early Fatalities at Bradford Colliery
DateName and Details
21 Nov 1622Ffrancis Taylior of Bradford killed with a fall to ## coale pitte, was
buried at Manchester Collegiate Church (Manchester Cathedral).
16 Jan 1661 or 1662 Thos. son to John Hilton slaine at Bradford coal pitt.
10 Nov 1664Thos. Greene slaine at Bradford coal pitt.
 

Late on Monday night, 14 January 1878, two men lost their lives and another four had a narrow escape due to flooding of the underground workings. The deceased were Stephen Amos, aged 35 years, and Joseph Hall, aged 19 years.

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A miner hewing coal.

Note the timber pit props and lintels supporting the roof.
Miners drilling coal.

Note the narrow-gauge waggonway used for the removal of coal.
Mine rescue team, 1920s.Bradford rooftops in the 1930s.
 

Photographs: Author's Collection