Fig 1: Closure of Donisthorpe / Rawdon Complex reported in local press – April 1990. 

End of Deep Coal mining in South Derbyshire – 30 years on.

Closure of Donsithorpe / Rawdon Complex – April 1990. 

The closure of the Donisthorpe / Rawdon Complex on 12th April 1990 saw the end of deep coal mining in the South Derbyshire Coalfield. It was the last operating colliery in the Western Basin of the Leicestershire / South Derbyshire coalfield. At the time of closure, it was in the Central Group of the British Coal Corporation (BCC), and the first of twenty-two newly planned coal-faces had just started production. Despite this, the Complex was deemed uneconomical and closure was announced. 

Fig 2: Donisthorpe Colliery in the late 1980’s.  Photo Credit – SDMPG

The two collieries were originally separate entities but merged in 1986 to form the Donisthorpe / Rawdon Complex. All coal surfaced at the Rawdon site, just south or Albert Village, near Church Gresley. Other underground links were to nearby shafts / collieries at Oakthorpe and Measham


Fig 3: Rawdon Colliery site in the late 1980’s. Photo Credit – SDMPG

Rawdon Colliery consisted of two sites, Marquis and Rawdon , both originally belonging to the Moria group of collieries. Shafts were originally sunk on the site in the early nineteenth- century and by the 1870’s Rawdon became the downcast shaft with Marquis being the upcast. 

Fig 4: British Coal Corporation – South Derbyshire Coalfield – 1986. 

At the National Coal Board (NCB) reorganisation in 1967, Donsithorpe and Rawdon collieries both went into the NCB South Midlands Area. From 1980 all the coal from Donisthorpe travelled underground by conveyors to the Rawdon site and surface via a newly commissioned 2,200 metre surface drift. Last production at the Rawdon side of the Complex was in 1989. 

Fig 5: Donisthorpe Colliery Steam Winding Engine – April 1990.  Photo Credit: SDMPG

At the time of closure, Donisthorpe was one of only two collieries nationwide still operating a steam winding engine. It was steamed on the final day of production and a video recording was made by I.A. Recordings.

Fig 6: Final Merry Go Round Train (MGR) leaving the Rawdon Colliery site – 1990.  Photo Credit: SDMPG

The Marquis site at Rawdon Colliery is now the site of the Conkers Discovery Centre, a family and visitor centre for the National Forest. The South Derbyshire Mining Preservation Group (SDMPG) have a permanent coalmining heritage display there (see video clip below), reminding people in the twenty-first century of the sites coal mining past.  The SDMPG meet regularly on Tuesday morning (10.00am – 12 Noon)  at their Gresley Old Hall HQ, Castle Gresley. More details at


Fig 7: South Derbyshire Mining Preservation Group’s coal mining exhibition at the Conkers Discovery Centre – Photo Credit: MuBuMiner

Video Clip – South Derbyshire Miners Preservation Group’s exhibition at Conkers Discovery Centre – 2019. 

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