Fig 1: Gedling Colliery in the late1980’s. Photo Credit: Malcolm Fletcher.
Gedling Colliery: The Pit of Nations (1899-1991).
Gedling Colliery, in the Nottinghamshire coalfield, closed thirty-years ago in early November 1991 due to deteriorating geological conditions in the Main Bright seam. Sunk by the Digby Colliery Company from 1899 to 1902, it later was known as ‘The Pit of Nations’ because of its diverse workforce in the 1950’s to 1980’s period. Many different nationalities worked at the colliery at one time or another during this period.
Fig 2: Digby Colliery Co details in the 1935 Colliery Year Book and Coal Trades Directory.
The colliery was sunk by the Digby Colliery Company from Giltbrook, near Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. Twin 18 feet diameter shafts (5.5 metres) were sunk initially to the High Hazels seam at a depth of 368 yards (337 metres) and the Top Hard seam at a depth of 458 yards (419 metres). No 1 shaft became the downcast shaft and No. 2 the upcast shaft. The pit bottom areas and associated roadways were completed in 1904 with the High Hazels being designated No. 1 Pit and the Top Hard No. 2 Pit. Initial production was from the Top Hard and Main Bright seams, but workings in the latter were soon abandoned. Other attempts were made at mining the Main Bright seam from 1933-38 and last off from 1989 – 1991.
The colliery was sunk adjacent to the Great Northern Railway’s Derbyshire and Staffordshire Extension Line which ran from the nearby railway complex of Colwick to join the North Staffordshire line at Egginton Junction, Derbyshire. The twenty nine mile line was completed in 1878 and a halt was constructed alongside the colliery for the miners ‘paddy trains’. The section running alongside Gedling Colliery closed in 1960 due to Gedling tunnel being closed because of mining subsidence. Rail freight for Colwick marshalling yards was diverted via Nottingham Victoria until the closure of the Derbyshire extension line in late May 1968. Colwick loco shed and marshalling yards closed in April 1970.
A strike of ganger lads occurred in 1917 which resulted in all of them being fined at Nottinghamshire Shire Hall for being absent from work. Maximum manpower of 3,746 was achieved in 1923 with 3,188 being underground and 558 on the surface. In 1936, the colliery became part of BA Collieries (Bestwood Amalgamated), a merger of the Babbington and Bestwood Coal Companies, which acquired the Digby Colliery Company.
Fig 3: Wilfred Miron unveils the NCB sign at Gedling Colliery as part of the Vesting Day celebrations, 1st – 4th January 1947. Photo Credit: Coal Authority
NCB Days at Gedling Colliery
At Vesting Day on 1st January 1947, Gedling Colliery went into the National Coal Board (NCB) East Midlands No. 6 Area, HQ being at Bestwood. A major modernisation programme took place at the colliery in the early days of nationalisation and from 1952 to 1966, Gedling hit the million tons mark every year except one in 1966/67. Maximum output at the colliery was 1,156,995 tons of coal in 1963.
NCB Mining Review Film: A Pit is Reborn – Gedling Colliery, 1948.
Fig 4: Gedling Colliery NCB motty. Photo by MuBu Miner
In the NCB reorganisation of April 1967, Gedling became one of eighteen collieries in the NCB South Nottinghamshire Area. Electric winding engines replaced steam winding in 1970, the two electric winders coming from the closed Wellesley Colliery in the Fife coalfield, Scotland. The colliery there had closed in 1967. On installation of the new electric winding engines, skip winding was introduced as No. 1 shaft, replacing the mine car system. By this time, Gedling was producing coal for industrial and domestic purposes rather than ESI (Electricity Supply Industry) coal for power stations.
Fig 5: ‘Motorway’ Roadway at Gedling Colliery c1983. Photo Credit: Coal Authority
Fig 6: Underground overhead electric trolley loco at Gedling Colliery in 1983. Photo Credit: Coal Authority
Gedling Colliery: The Final Years.
In the 1979, a ‘motorway’ roadway was began to gain access to a new area of coal in the A50’s area (Fig. 5). When finished, it was equipped with a high-speed overhead electric trolley loco system that speeded up travel to the coalfaces. The underground loco was capable of speeds up to 25 MPH. but in reality, it operated with a maximum of 15 MPH (Fig. 6).
Along with Calverton and Cotgrave collieries, Gedling was seen by the local NCB as being a long life colliery in the early 1980’s. Miners transferred from other local closed collieries during the 1980’s. Gedling still had a workforce of around 1,400 for most of the decade but this was halved in 1988 in an attempt to try to make the colliery viable. At this time work had recommenced in the Main Bright seam again but geological problems were soon experience. The last coal face, MB3’s, started production in May 1991 but soon encountered geological problems and a decision was made to close the colliery. The last production shift was 8th November 1991.
Fig 7: Gedling NUM Branch Banner: Brothers beneath the Surface: Photo Credit: Paul Fillingham.
The Pit of Nations
Gedling Colliery was known locally as the ‘Pit of Nations’ because of the diverse nature of its workforce from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Because of the colliery’s proximity to the City of Nottingham, many migrants worked at the colliery. They included many from East Europe and the West Indies. One side of the Gedling NUM Branch Banner portrays this diversity with the title ‘Brothers beneath the Surface’ (Fig. 7). Alan Beales, Mining Historian and former Gedling NACODS Branch Secretary, commenting on the workforce diversity at the colliery said “everyone seemed to get on fine”.
Fig 8: Meeting of the Miners of African-Caribbean Heritage Project at St Anns, Nottingham, in 2016. Photo Credit: Nottingham News Centre
Miners of African Caribbean Heritage Project
In 2016 Norma Gregory, the daughter of a former Gedling miner, started a project entitled ‘Miners of African Caribbean Heritage: Narratives from Notts’. The project recorded accounts of former African Caribbean coalminers who worked in the Nottinghamshire coalfield, many of them at Gedling Colliery. In 2018, the project was extended to look at black miners who worked throughout the British coalfields. Details of the project can be found at https://www.blackcoalminers.com/
Fig 9: Pit of Nations mural at the 1899 café, Gedling Country Park. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
In March 2019 a Pit of Nations mural was unveiled at the 1899 Café at Gedling Country Park (Fig. 9). The mural depicts Gedling Colliery and is surrounded by thirty flags of nations where migrant miners originated from who worked at the colliery. The café opened in January 2019 as part of the Gedling Country Park. Arthue Cole’s poem, ‘Pit of Nations: Gedling Colliery’, appears in the 2021 publication, ‘Coal in the Blood: An East Midlands Coal Mining Anthology’, edited by Natalie Braber and David Amos.
Pit of Nations - Gedling Colliery
Fig 10: Gedling Country Park in 2019. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
Fig 11: Gedling Colliery Information Board at Gedling Country Park. Photo Credit: Denis Hill.
Gedling Country Park
Gedling Country Park is situated on the former colliery spoil heap, which was one of the largest in the Nottinghamshire coalfield. Following the colliery’s closure in 1991, a tip recycle process took place until 2001 and 200,000 tonnes of coal were recovered from the pit tip. Following this, the former colliery pit tip was landscaped to form a country park and for housing.
Fig 12: Gedling CollieryMining Memorial in December 2020. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
Gedling Colliery Mining Memorial
A mining memorial in the shape of a flame safety lamp was unveiled in Gedling village in 2010 to commemorate the one hundred and thirty-five fatalities which occurred at the colliery during its working life (Fig. 11).
Blog by the MuBu Miner
Posted: 27th November 2021
Beales, A. A History of Gedling Colliery 1898-1991, unpublished, 2012.
Braber, N. and Amos, D. Coal in the Blood: An East Midlands Coal Mining Anthology, 2021.
Braber, N and Amos, D. Coal Mining in the East Midlands, 2017.
British Coal, Nottinghamshire Area, Welcome to Gedling Colliery, 1986.
Gregory, N. Jamaicans in Nottingham: Narratives and Reflections, 2015.
Howard Anderson, P Forgotten Railways: The East Midlands, Second Impression 1979.
Perrandin, F. How Britain’s black miners are reclaiming their place in history, The Guardian, 24th October 2016.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U46-ZFvpaU&t=10s A Pit is Reborn: Gedling Colliery, 1948