Coal, Community and Change at Pleasley

Fig 1: Nottingham Trent University English students on a site visit at Brinsley Headstocks, January 2023. Photo Credit – James Walker

Brinsley Colliery tandem headstocks demolished


The iconic wooden tandem headstocks at the Brinsley Headstocks site were demolished during the week commencing 11th December 2023. It is thought they were the only remaining wooden tandem headstocks in Britain. They had been fenced off earlier in 2023 due safety concerns following its annual inspection.


Fig 2: Demolished Brinsley Colliery tandem headstocks, 20th December 2023. Photo Credit – Ian Castledine

In September 2023, the two headstock wheels were taken off and put in storage and another inspection revealed further deterioration of the wooden headstocks structure. A statement on Broxtowe Borough Council’s website states that options for the site are being considered and a decision will be made in 2024. It is thought these include a replica replacement, either wood or steel, or a mining memorial.


Fig 3: Brinsley Colliery circa 1913. Photo Credit – Coal Authority, Rev Cobb collection.

The tandem headstocks date from the redevelopment of Brinsley Colliery in the early 1870’s by the Barber Walker Co. Arthur Lawrence, father of author and poet, DH Lawrence, worked there from 1875 until circa 1910, the majority of his time as a Mining Contractor or Butty as they were known locally. The Butty system was a sub-contracting method of winning the coal on longwall coalfaces. The colliery and nearby coalmining community of Eastwood featured in the photography of the Rev F.W. Cobb, Rector at Eastwood St Mary’s church from 1907 to 1917. He was a keen amateur photographer and his iconic photographs are part of the coal collection at the Coal Authority and National Archives.


Fig 4: Brinsley Colliery in the late 1960’s. Photo Credit – Coal Authority

Coal finished being turned up the Brinsley shafts in the early 1930’s but they continued to be used for man-riding access to coal faces at nearby Moorgreen Colliery until 1950. From 1950 until the late 1960’s the shafts were used for ventilation purposes for other local underground workings but were surplus to requirements by 1970.  In 1960 the site was used as a location in the film version of DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. In 1970 the headstocks were moved to the Lound Hall Mining Museum, adjacent to the NCB North Nottinghamshire Area Training Centre near Retford, Nottinghamshire and featured in a 1981 NCB Mining Review film.


Following the closure of the Lound Hall Mining Museum in 1989, the headstocks were relocated back at the former Brinsley Colliery site in 1991 as part of a local heritage and nature trail. The Friends of Brinsley Headstocks group was formed to promote the Broxtowe Borough Council owned site. 


Fig 5: 2015 Brinsley Coffin walk at Brinsley Headstocks.

Fig 6: Requiem for Nottinghamshire Coal event at Brinsley Headstocks, 9th August 2015. Photo Credit – David Amos

In August 2015, the Brinsley Headstocks site featured in the ‘Requiem for Nottinghamshire Coal’ event following the closure of Thoresby Colliery on 10th July 2015, the last deep coal mine in the Nottinghamshire coalfield. This ended deep coal mining in the county after seven hundred years. As part of the Requiem event, a symbolic walk by three miners dressed in pit togs, followed by dozens of people, went from Brinsley Headstocks over the fields to the Breach House, the Lawrence’s second Eastwood home, which featured in Sons and Lovers. This was a walk Arthur Lawrence would have been very familiar. In 2019, Eastwood Collieries Male Voice Choir used the headstocks as a backdrop to their official centenary celebration photograph. 


Fig. 7: The My Trail landscape digital trails initiative by Mine2Minds Education.

In 2022, Mine2Minds Education, put together a landscape digital trail at the Brinsley Headstocks, the site being chosen as the proto-type for the My Trial digital trails initiative. Following demolition of the headstocks, this now acts as virtual presentation of what was.


Blog by David Amos

Posted by Mining Heritage admin – 27th December 2023.