Figure 1: Bagworth Colliery, Leicestershire Coalfield – Photo Credit: Coal Authority
End of an Era for Leicestershire Coal Mining
Bagworth Colliery closure – 30 years on.
Thirty years ago, in February 1991, Bagworth Colliery closed, ending deep coal mining in the north-west Leicestershire coalfield. From 1986 to 1989 it was part of the Bagworth / Ellistown complex in the British Coal Corporation’s Central Area. Ellistown Colliery closed in February 1989. At 166 years old, Bagworth was by far the oldest colliery still operating in Britain at the time, the initial shafts dating from 1825.
Figure 2: Bagworth No.4 Shaft around 1920 complete with Cornish style beam engine. Photo Credit – Coal Authority.
A Brief History of Bagworth Colliery (1825 – 1991)
Initial sinking of twin shafts began in 1825 by George Williamson, an experienced mining engineer from Church Gresley on land belonging to Viscount Maynard. Coal was initially reached in the nine feet thick Stone Smut seam at a depth of 360 feet and the Swannington seam at 373 feet. Owen states that little is known about the output, employment and technical development of the colliery in its early years. The shafts were deepened later to the Upper Main and Lower Main seams at depths of 724 feet and 942 feet respectively. Bagworth and Ibstock were the only centres of coalmining south of Coalville until the 1860’s.
Figure 3: New Bagworth Coal Company Ltd – 1935. Source – 1935 Colliery Year Book.
Bagworth and New Bagworth Colliery Companies
Viscount Maynard died in 1866 and the lease of the colliery passed to executors acting on behalf of his great granddaughter, the Countess of Warwick, until 1870. The colliery then passed over to the Bagworth Colliery Company until that went into liquidation in 1880. The New Bagworth Colliery Company was formed in 1882 and revamped the coal operation. A new third shaft, known as Jacky, was sunk in 1885-1886 and a fourth shaft, complete with a Cornish style beam engine, was added later for minewater pumping purposes. The new third shaft became the new No. 2 shaft with the original No. 2 shaft reverting to No. 3. This shaft and fourth pumping shaft were filled and capped in 1948 and 1963 respectively. A brickyard opened in 1885 and remained in private ownership at nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947 but closed in 1956.
Seams worked at Bagworth during the long life of the colliery included: Upper Main, Lower Main or Roaster Spires, Middle Lount, Nether Lount, Yard Coal, High Main, New Main, Lower Main, Five Feet and the Minge seam.
Figure 4: NCB East Midlands No. 7 Area – 1952-53.
NCB Days at Bagworth Colliery
At nationalisation in 1947 the colliery initially went into the NCB East Midlands No.8 Area. This later merged with the No.7 area to form one regional Area (No. 7) for the Leicestershire and South Derbyshire coalfields with the Area HQ being at Coleorton Hall. A pit canteen opened in the 1940s and major surface reorganisation took place in 1956 which included the buildings of a new surface medical centre and pit head baths.
In the NCB reorganisation of 1967, Bagworth went into the NCB South Midlands Area which included collieries in Leicestershire, South Derbyshire, Warwickshire and Kent! The year previous saw an underground connection completed with nearby Nailstone Colliery. From that time, winding of run of mine coal up Bagworth shafts finished and from 1967 all production went by underground conveyor to the coal preparation plant at Nailstone via the new surface drift. In 1971 Ellistown Colliery also became part of this colliery merger arrangement.
Figure 5: Bagworth No. 1 shaft Steam Winding Engine in 1970. Photo Credit: Coal Authority
A Jewel in the Leicestershire Crown
The steam winding engines where replaced by electric winding in 1970. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Bagworth was the ‘Jewel in the Leicestershire Crown’, generating a profit of £8.5 million in 1982-83.
Bagworth production figures – NCB days
|Output (tons)||Manpower||OMS (cwt)|
Source: Griffin, C. The Leicestershire Miners, Volume 3, (1945 -1988), p. 1.
Figure 6: Bagworth Rapid Loading Bunker Photo Credit – unknown.
The Bagworth Rapid Loading Bunker (1979-1990)
A 3,000 tonne Rapid Loading Bunker for loading up Merry Go Round (MGR) coal trains, was installed at Bagworth in 1979. Ironically, from this time coal travelled underground to be prepared at Nailstone and then travelled back along a one-mile surface conveyor to the Bagworth Rapid Loader!
Figure 7: British Coal Central Area collieries and works in Leicestershire and South Derbyshire 1987 Source: Guide to the Coalfield 1987.
Figure 8:36’s coalface at Bagworth Colliery in 1987. Photo Credit – Mike Conibear
British Coal Corporation – final years at Bagworth.
In 1986 Bagworth fully merged with nearby Ellistown Colliery to form the Bagworth / Ellistown complex, being part of the newly formed Central Area of the British Coal Corporation. Following the closure of Whitwick and South Leicester collieries in the same year, the Bagworth / Ellistown complex had the distinction of being the last deep coal mines operating in the north-west Leicestershire coalfield
Figure 9: 1991 Judson and Veacy postcard to commemorate the end of deep coal mining in the Leicestershire and South Derbyshire coalfields. Photo Credit: SDMPG
End of an Era
The complex became a million tons a year operation, working at the highest rates of productivity and in 1988 it was estimated there would be around five years on economical coal reserves left. In reality it would be three years. The Ellistown part of the Complex finished production in February 1989 with final production at Bagworth being in February 1991.
IA Recording filmed footage at Bagworth Colliery and the Nailstone Coal Preparation Plant in February 1991 as deep coal mining in Leicestershire ended. Copies of the DVD can be obtained at; https://www.iarecordings.org/compilations/c23.html
Figure 10: Members of the Leicestershire Industrial History Association on a field trip in 2011 at the Bagworth coal-mining memorial. Photo Credit: Bill Pemberton.
Bagworth Colliery – post coal era
The Bagworth Colliery site is now a large housing development with the adjacent pit-tip being landscaped, becoming Bagworth New Wood.
A coal mining memorial of a collier on a stone plinth, in a hewing position, is situated near to the former colliery site.
Amos, D & Braber, N Coal Mining in the East Midlands, (2017).
Gilliver, K. Round and Round A lot more coal still underground: The Collieries of the Eastern Basin of the Leicestershire and South Derbyshire Coalfield, (2009).
Griffin, C. The Leicestershire Miners, Volume III, (1945-1988), (1989).
Guide to the Coalfields, 1987
Healey Hero website www.healeyhero.co.uk
Leicestershire Industrial History Society website www.lihs.org.uk
National Coal Board, Safety – East Midlands Division No. 7 Area, 1953.
Nigel Tout website (Bagworth Rapid Loader) www.nigeltout.com
Owen, C. The Leicestershire and Derbyshire Coalfield 1200 – 1900, (1984).
The Colliery Year Book and Coal Trades Directory – 1935.
Posted by David Amos
Heritage Resources Officer
24th February 2021